How I Air-Dry My Hair to Make It Look Like It Was Heat-Styled

It takes the right combination of products and a not-very-tricky trick.

There seems to be two rules to doing things: If you want it done right, you've got to do it yourself, and anything worth doing is worth doing right.

I live for that perfect "lived-in hair" look coined by guru of That LA Look™, Anh Co Tran, but if I heat-styled daily or even every-other-daily, my bleached hair would break off into a pixie within weeks.

So one must adapt. This kind of adapting requires a rotating cast of hair products, some trial-and-error technique, and patience (unfortunately).

IGK is a fairly new hairstyling brand from four dudes, one of which is responsible for Jared Leto's ombre man-bun. Thematically stationed in NYC, LA, and Miami, their products have a city motif and are named either to be furiously smart-alecky or cleverly gimmicky. Case in point: this coconut oil gel meant for facilitating a smooth and nourished air-dry, named Rich Kid (a play on "rich girl hair" perhaps?).

I can't get enough coconut oil for my thick hair, but this is for people with fine to normal hair so they can benefit from coconut oil without the heavy grease factor. This one is great for that half-way drying point to getting to the finish line smooth and frizz-less but also crazy soft.

The Skinfood Extra Virgin Olive Essence is basically a silicone-based hair serum with olive oil that is excellent for smoothing, silkening, softening, and making my hair smell really, really nice. This comes into play as a really light styling product for dry hair to give it shine and softness.

Bumble and bumble Don't Blow It was obviously made for air-drying. It's quite lightweight. It's basically like what skin tint is for your face, but for your hair: it gives you your natural texture sans unpredictable fly-aways or mild mischief.

That almost empty bottle in need of a refill is my Shu Uemura Wonder Worker, a sprayable styling lotion for air-drying (or facilitating blow-drying, too). It's super-conditioning and hydrating despite being really light, so it's become my go-to "hair primer" for whatever kind of re-styling I do — perfect for getting rid of unwanted bedhead kinks and lumps (because actual bedhead is gnar sometimes).

And that Surf Infusion is Bumble and bumble doing Gourd's work by updating their Surf Spray to make it conditioning, because I love the texture from salt sprays but hate how dry, sticky, and brittle it makes my hair feel.

But what are tools unless you know how to use them? Here's what I do: After towel-drying washed hair or spritzing my dry hair damp with water to re-style it, I'll brush it out with one of those wet-hair brushes or a wide tooth comb and distribute a thicker styling product in it evenly from mid-shaft to ends.

And then here comes the not-that-tricky part:

Splitting my hair down the middle, I create four twists on each side — two on top and two beneath.

When you've got your four, twist those around each other as well to create one mega-roll and pull it back like some sort of hair croissant.

Once you've got your two mega rolls, it helps to cross them around one another as if they are crossing their arms like "hmph!" — and then clamp it. The longer your hair, the more twists you can do. If you have butt-length hair, it'd probably be best to twist them back into a cinnamon-bun-like formation.

This is the part where you go about your morning/day doing whatever it is you do while your hair is air-drying in a strategic manner. My hair takes forever to dry, so I tend to do the twists when it's halfway dry. Know your hair!

When the time has come — generally when you need to get going and leave the house — it's time to unfurl.

Release and zhuzh. This is also the part where you can finger-style some styling cream to give separation to those waves as well as some hairspray or other texture-encouraging product like salt spray or Ouai Finishing Creme — you know, fodder for "cool girl hair" or whatever.

Et voila — you have texture, you have bounce, you have uneven yet aesthetically-pleasing waves with no damage. Sure, it took a while longer, but your hair will thank you (by not leaving your head).

  • Any staunch air-dryers?
  • Got any heat-styling horror stories?
  • What other products do you love for air-drying?