Though your hairstylist might make it look otherwise, a salon-quality blowout is no easy feat. If you've ever tried to replicate their professional skills at home, you already know this to be true. Tugging, tangling and tired arms — we've all been there.
In hopes of making at-home blowouts more attainable for all of us, we sought out the advice of a slew of hair experts. Here, they break down how to achieve professional-level blowout in the comfort of your own home. Consider this your comprehensive, step-by-step guide to the perfect DIY blowout.
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Step 1: Start in the Shower
Any good blowout begins with a shampoo — your hair has to be wet before you blow it dry, after all — followed by conditioner (which should generally only be applied onto only the lengths and ends of your hair). According to hairstylist Adir Abergel, the type of shampoo and conditioner you choose will definitely impact how well your blowout turns out. "A great blow-dry is about the right foundation," Abergel says. "It starts right at the beginning, in the shower."
It might sound obvious, but this means choosing a shampoo and conditioner duo that's formulated to address your own hair type and concerns (i.e. frizz, volume, split ends, color-treated hair, etc.).
Step 2: Prep
After hopping out of the shower, there are two important sub-steps you'll want to take in order to prep your hair for heat styling. First, remove excess moisture. You want your hair to be damp before you pick up your blow dryer in order to minimize the amount of time your hair is exposed to heat; too much exposure will not only cause frizz but can also cause damage over time. Less time spent blow-drying also means the overall process will be speedier, and therefore your arms and elbows will be less likely to get fatigued. Bottom line: Never try to blow-dry soaking-wet strands.
Instead, twist your hair up into a super-absorbent towel, such as the Aquis Rapid Dry Lisse Hair Turban (great for all hair types) or Devacurl's Anti-Frizz Microfiber Towel (ideal for curly hair), right out of the shower — these microfiber hair towels absorb more moisture than a traditional cotton towel and are also gentler on your hair.
Once your hair is no longer sopping wet, "Take [your] hair down and comb through with a wide-tooth comb," to detangle hair, says hairstylist Kiki Heitkotter. You can also opt for a detangling brush depending on your personal preferences. Two tried-and-true options are The Wet Brush's Pro Deluxe Detangler and The Tangle Teezer Original. Either way, be gentle — start from the bottom of your hair and gently work through knots without tugging or pulling.
Step 3: Apply Heat Protectant
Once your hair is damp and detangled, it’s time to apply a heat protectant. "Heat damage over time can cause breakage throughout and frayed, undesirable ends — sometimes to an extent that cannot be repaired," Abergel explains.
Heat protectants essentially work to seal off the hair's cuticle and thus help protect it against damage. "Picture your hair as a single strand, with little stems of hair — which we call your cuticle — open in a 'V' shape from the root to the ends," explains hairstylist Kristen Shaw. Heat protectants shut down this 'V,' creating smoothness, shine, and a protective barrier to prevent breakage.
This step is important for everyone, regardless of your hair type, though it's particularly crucial for helping to maintain both the health and hue of color-treated hair. In addition to the aforementioned damage, "Direct heat to hair with no heat protectants will cause the color to fade and turn brassy," says Madison Rae Garrett, a master colorist at Spoke & Weal salon in New York City.
Just like with shampoo and conditioner, you'll want to seek out a heat protectant that's suited for your hair type. In simple terms, "Your hair texture and type will determine what type of protectant you use — cream, spray, or oil," Garrett explains. For example, someone with fine hair wouldn’t want to grab a heavier, oil-based protectant, she says. "Always ask your stylist what type they recommend for your hair."
If you can't make it to your stylist, here are some top recommendations: Aveda’s Brilliant Damage Control Spray works for all hair types and is great for helping detangle hair while preventing heat damage, Garrett says. Another great option for all hair types: It's A 10 Miracle Leave-In, which is formulated to simultaneously heat-protect and smooth, detangle and help prevent breakage. For fine to medium-textured hair, try Virtue’s Create 6-in-1 Styler, Tresemme's Thermal Creations Heat Tamer Spray or Oribe’s Royal Blowout Heat Styling Spray.
Those with thick hair can try a thicker heat protectant, such as a cream or oil. Favorites include Living Proof’s 5-in-1 Styling Treatment and Briogeo’s Farewell Frizz Blow Dry Perfection Heat Protectant Crème.
Curly hair types generally benefit from using a heat protectant with smoothing qualities, such as Bumble & Bumble’s Straight Blow Dry, Not Your Mother's Curl Talk Leave-In Conditioner or Oribe's Straight Away Smoothing Blowout Cream.
If your strands are particularly dry or damaged to begin with, use a product that's equal parts heat protectant and hair treatment, such as Davines Oi All In One Milk, Mizani's 25 Miracle Milk Leave-In Conditioner or Kerastase Nutritive Blow-Dry Primer for Dry Hair.
Step 4: Rough Dry
Before grabbing your brush and attachment nozzle (which, as we'll explain, you should absolutely not just toss out or disregard), the next step is to rough dry hair on medium heat until your hair is about 60 to 70 percent dry, Heitkotter recommends. This basically means using your fingers and a medium or low heat setting to give your hair an all-over dry before you begin to work in sections.
Step 5: Choose the Right Tools
Once your hair is at least 70 percent dry, it's time to break out your barrel brush and concentrator nozzle and get to work. The concentrator nozzle, though often left off by DIY blow-dryers, is the real key to achieving salon-level results. "It concentrates the air and aids in directing the airflow exactly where you want it to go," Abergel explains. "It's one of the most important accessories when blow-drying your own hair, especially when you're trying to get into those hard to reach areas." This concentrated air flow also helps make “the cuticle of the hair lay flat so that it will be shinier and less frizzy,” Heitkotter explains.
The type of hair brush you use is also important. Though this often comes down to personal preference, boar bristle brushes are generally considered to be the gold standard. "Boar bristle brushes are great because they smooth the hair more than a plastic or synthetic brush," Shaw explains. If you opt for a round brush (the type your stylist likely uses at the salon), note that the size of the barrel will also affect your results. "The smaller the round brush, the tighter you can get your wave or curl," Shaw explains. "The larger the round brush, the larger your waves will be and the more volume you can get."
Some of our favorite, fool-proof round brushes, in order from largest to smallest barrel, include Moroccanoil's Ionic Ceramic Thermal Brush, Drybar's Round Ceramic Brush, and Conair's Quick Blow Dry Pro Porcupine Round Brush.
In terms of the actual dryer, "When blow-drying curly hair, use an ionic dryer," Abergel recommends. "If you have finer hair that needs more volume, use a traditional blow dryer, not ionic.” A few of Allure editors' all-time favorite blow dryers include Harry Josh Pro Tools' Pro Dryer 2000 (it offers both ionic and nonionic heat — you can toggle between), Conair's Infiniti Pro 1875 Watt Salon Performance Dryer (ionic and very affordable), and if you're up for a splurge, Dyson's Supersonic Hair Dryer never disappoints — and also works on all hair types.
Step 6: Section and Style
"I like to start my blow-dry in the front of the head," Heitkotter says. Part your hair into one-inch sections (clips come in handy here) and dry each section with the concentrator nozzle pointed downward in order to keep the cuticle of the hair smooth.
If you're using a round brush, "Roll the section [of hair] around the brush and apply heat," Abergel explains; keep the round brush in and wait to remove it until that section has cooled down." Then, patiently repeat this process section by section around the head until you've finished, Heitkotter says. Easier said than done, we know.
For your entire blow-dry, Abergel advises not to use the highest heat setting on your dryer. "If you use high heat, you’ll overstretch the hair, and you won't get any bounce out of it,” he explains. Instead, opt for medium to cool air, which helps keep the cuticle sealed and also allows for more natural texture and movement.
Step 7: Apply Finishing Cream
Once all of your hair is beautifully blown-dry, apply a dime-sized amount of finishing cream onto your lengths and ends to seal in moisture and ward off any frizz. A couple of favorites: Leonor Greyl’s Èclat Naturel Styling Cream, Organix Penetrating Moroccan Argan Oil and SachaJuan’s Finish Cream.
Et voilà! Your DIY blowout is complete. If the thorough nature of this guide feels intimidating, just remember that practice (and patience) always makes progress.
More on hair tools and styling:
- The 21 Best Hair-Dryers That Pro Stylists Swear By
- The 21 Best Flatirons and Hair Straighteners at Every Price Point
- 11 Simple Protective Hairstyles For Natural Hair To Do At Home
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Originally Appeared on Allure