How to | Hair Drying Philosophy

If you’re like me, the drying of the hair is a very long process. My hair is currently 3 feet long from the crown of my head landing just above my waist. BUT. What’s the best way to dry it that’s going to cause the least amount of damage but won’t take an hour to dry? Is it low heat, high speed; low speed, high heat or any one of the thousand of ways hair can be dried. Let’s test it out.

Theory of Drying

There’s two things to consider when drying your hair: Heat and Speed. Heat is pretty straight forward. We need the heat to dry it faster but we want to apply the least amount of heat as is possible. Speed gets a little more philosophical. The theory goes that if you use a lower speed to dry your hair you get less tangles during the drying process therefore less damage due to stretching and knotting. But that lower speed can greatly increase the drying time. To counteract that some want to increase the heat to max; however, that increases heat damage. So what’s the combination?

The Test

For this test, I’m using my Dyson Supersonic hair dryer (3 years of points saving and birthday money!) with the Gentle Air Attachment. The Gentle Air Attachment does focus the air stream more but nowhere near what the concentrator does. The Gentle Air Attachment also cools the air down somewhat noticeably. I’m not using the Concentrator due to skill level but I’m also not trying to style my hair while I dry it. If I’m doing that I’m going to use the Revlon Hot Air Brush. The purpose of this is to just dry my hair.

The hairdryer has 3 heat settings and 3 speed settings. I went with each combination (listed below) for 3 days and evaluated the general feel of my hair after drying, how long it took dry, the drying process. For the purpose of this I’ll refer to the three settings as low, medium, and high.

Because of the outdoor nature of my job, the 100F/40+C daytime highs, and pollen content, I have to wash/moisturize my hair daily. I’m not sleeping in the dust, pollen, and who knows what else is in my hair all night.

Hair is shampooed and conditioned like I normally do. I use a variety of shampoos on my hair based on need but also rotation. Since I have seborrheic dermatitis I rotate through 4 shampoos regularly (Tea tree oil based shampoo, Neutrogena T-gel, Pantene Pro-V, and Drybar’s Charcoal Scalp Scrub) . For conditioners I use a deep conditioning treatment twice a week and Redken’s Extreme Length Conditioner or Ion Brilliance Luxe Conditioner between deep conditioning.

Once done with the shower my hair is wrapped in a TurbieTwist for 5-10 minutes then 2 pumps of Kerastase’s Elixir Ultime Hydrating Hair Oil Serum (no longer available but have linked something similar) is used starting at the ends then moving up to mid-shaft while avoiding my roots as much as possible.

As a note: I do have medium hair strands but a lot of it.

Tested Combinations and Averaged Times

I repeated each combination for 3 days so I could include 1 deep conditioning treatment in that average. When deep conditioning, hair tends to take a little longer to dry.

  1. Low Speed/Low Heat : 8 min 30 secs – Hair felt supple, fewer fly aways, generally smooth hair but it did take nearly 10 mins.
  2. Low Speed/High Heat: 3min 52 secsmore frizz in wavy areas of hair, root and mid-length felt supple, ends felt noticeably dry. Added more oil to bottom 2inches of hair and slept in a satin cap to help smooth it. That seemed to help all 3 nights. Ends were still drier in the morning than they’d been for the low speed/low heat combination.
  3. Medium Speed/Medium Heat: 4min 32 secs – Hair wasn’t too bad. It wasn’t as supple as the low heat/low speed and needed more help getting my roots exposed so it would dry those areas of my hair properly.
  4. High Speed/High Heat 2min 13secs – My hair is a mess. I don’t see how you can do this without brushing it and trying to control the hair a little bit more instead of directing it with your fingers. If you use a hair brush it’s going to pull on the hair causing damage. The hair around the nape of my neck were tangled and my hair felt dry. But it did dry very quickly I just get to spend an extra minute brushing everything out gently. Not sure I gained anything.
  5. High Speed/Low Heat 4min 36secs – hair felt surprisingly good. Definitely more tangling on the ends due tot he high speed. Roots took forever to dry and really had to get the dryer into that area. Air also felt cooler than it did with low speed.

You will notice I’m not testing every possible combination because that would take forever. Medium heat/medium speed took about as long as the higher speed/low heat which was a bit of a surprise. Generally, I dry my hair on a medium/medium setting.

Take Home Message

If you have color treated hair (bleached, relaxed, etc), I’d recommend a low heat to prevent further heat damage but a higher speed may be needed to get that hair dried. If you’re hair isn’t processed or you use a demi hair color, you’re probably ok to use a little more heat and go with a low speed.

If you have thin hair – Low speed/low heat. You don’t need a fast stream of air to penetrate to the root and that extra heat can fry the delicate thin hair strands.

Thick hair – low heat/medium or high speed. You need that air to penetrate through your hair in order to dry it. Otherwise you’ll look a bit like Willow (I whip my hair back and forth, I whip my hair back and forth). Sadly, you’re gonna be there awhile anyway because thick haired gals just have a lot of dry. If you use a high absorbency towel for about 20 minutes, it cuts the dry times i posted down by about half.

If you have curly hair. Throw all these recommendations out because I didn’t use a diffuser and that’s a different ball game entirely.

Hopefully this makes sense. Write a comment down below if you’ve found a different combination that works best for your hair.



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