Getting a blowout, or simply blow drying your hair, is somewhat of a double edged sword. On one hand it helps tame the hair, making it shinier and reducing frizz instantly, but exposing your hair to heat constantly will cause more damage, breakage and frizz in the long run – especially so if your hair is curly.
You’ve also probably been told at least once in your life that you need to avoid blowouts and other heat styling methods not only because they are damaging, but also because they might ruin your curls permanently.
And there is some truth to that. It’s also true that curly hair is much drier than other types of hair and therefore also more fragile and prone to damage. In order to understand why that is, we need to talk about how hair curls in the first place.
How does hair curl?
The hair consists of two parts: the follicle (which is the “root” of the hair and lies beneath the scalp) and the shaft (the visible part of the hair that grows from the scalp). Your hair type is determined by both of them.
A round follicle will result in a straight hair shaft that grows pretty much vertically out of your scalp. The flatter the follicles are, the more the hair shaft will twist when growing, which results in curls. If you have flatter follicles, the hair will also not grow vertically out of the scalp, but more at an angle and that is also the reason why curly hair tends to be dryer than straight hair.
There are glands in your scalp that release natural oils, which nourish, moisturise and protect the hair. These oils have a harder time distributing along the hair shaft if it grows at an angle. So the tighter your curls are, the drier they’ll also be, simply because it’s harder for your scalp to keep the shaft moisturised.
Do blowouts ruin curls?
The shaft helps determine your hair type too, and that happens thanks to the protein bonds in the cortex of the shaft (the inner part of your hair). The amino acids in the cortex bond with other amino acids on the shaft of the hair. The hair curls up between each of these bonds, creating curls. And the more bonds there are, the more your hair will curl.
These bonds are very sensitive to heat and when exposed to it frequently they will break, which indeed will alter your curling pattern. It is basically how chemical relaxers work – chemicals are applied to the hair, with the intention of breaking those bonds, leaving your hair straight.
Blow drying causes damage and split ends
The difference, however, is that heat isn’t quite as aggressive and will not impact your curling pattern immediately and drastically. Heat is damaging, but the key factor here is how often you expose your hair to heat, to how much heat, and how you protect it while doing so.
Blow drying also removes surface moisture as well as hydration from within the hair shaft. This worsens the dryness you already experience because of the shape of your hair follicles that we discussed earlier. It causes your cuticles to dry out, becoming brittle, which again leads to breakage.
How should I dry my hair if it’s curly?
So does all of this mean that the blow dryer is your hair’s worst enemy and should be avoided at all costs? Not really. Even though it is damaging, and more so if your hair is curly, there are some things you can do to keep your hair safe while blow drying it.
The first and most important part is keeping the heat as low as possible, so find a good hairdryer with low heat settings and also try to not use it every time you are washing your hair. Remember, heat damages over time, so the less you use it, the less your curls will suffer.
Prepping curly hair for blow drying
The next step is prepping your hair. In order to minimise the damage done, you want to keep your hair moisturised and protected. This starts with a gentle shampoo and good conditioner. Once your hair has been properly cleansed and conditioned, you’ll want to follow up with a heat protectant.
These contain various substances that coat the hair and protect it from the heat applied. Heat protectants can be creamy leave-in conditioners or light sprays. Which one you’ll need, depends on your hair structure. For tighter curls, a richer texture might be better, while waves or looser curls might do better with lighter sprays.
So should you blow dry your curly hair? Of course it’s better if you can let your hair air dry, but if you keep the heat low, and invest in good products to protect your hair, it won’t be the end of the world if you blow dry it once in a while.