Air-Dry Your Hair Like This, and People Will Think You Spent £100 at the Salon

Regardless of your hair type—coily, thick and wavy, fine and short—mastering the art of the perfect air-dry is, in fact, an art. Sure, blow-dryers, straighteners and curling irons can throw plenty of arm-breaking curveballs your way, but mastering the au naturel, step-out-of-the-shower-and-go aesthetic is an intimidating beast in and of itself. With so many potential variables like climate, products, application timing and hair texture, things can go awry quickly, and there definitely isn't a one-size-fits-all prescription.

Air-drying your hair with celeb-level finesse can be a bit risky, but we're here to change that. Enter a course in Expert Air-Drying 101, courtesy of one of the best hairstylists in the industry, Cynthia Alvarez

Working with clients with a wide variety of lengths and textures (her regulars include Shakira, Maye Musk and Dascha Polanco), Alvarez knows a thing or two about styling every kind of strand situation—with or without tools. To stock up on all of her must-know intel, we asked her to provide a step-by-step breakdown of how best to air-dry an assortment of different hair types. But we didn't stop there. Alvarez is also sharing all of her must-have products, top tips, and, perhaps most importantly, the most common mistakes she wants each hair type to avoid. With spring almost upon us, it's the perfect time to put your favourite hot tool into retirement (at least for a few months) and embrace your natural texture. Keep scrolling! 

If You Have Coily Hair…


(Image credit: @yarashahidi)

Top mistake: Since coily hair can take a long time to air-dry, Alvarez says the most common mistake people make is taking down their hair before it's dry, which can cause frizz and an uneven curl pattern. 

Top tip: For those with super-thick or coily hair texture, incorporate rich, natural oils like olive oil, avocado oil and Jamaican black castor oil to seal in moisture and lots of shine. 

Step One: Use a Co-Wash

Step Two: Apply a Leave-In, Hair Oil and Styling Cream

Step Three: Choose Your Style & Add Shine

If You Have Straight or Fine Hair…


(Image credit: @katebosworth)

Top mistakes: "Most people with straight hair tend to touch their hair while it’s air-drying, which will cause it to frizz," warns Alvarez. "Once you’ve applied your styling products, comb through your strands just one time so your hair can begin setting in that form."

Another common mistake? If you have straight hair that's not overly fine, not applying enough product for fear that their hair will be weighed down can cause issues if you're air-drying. Instead, Alvarez says the real key is finding the right products to achieve maximum volume and movement. 

Top tip: For fine hair, however, Alvarez says you should lessen the amount of product recommended on the packaging. If your hair is a bit thicker, feel free to use a tad more. Either way, she says to make sure to rake the product through thoroughly and evenly. 

Step One: Use a Volumising Shampoo & Conditioner

Step Two: Towel Off Before Adding Mousse & Smoothing Cream

Step Three: Spray Volume Powder for a Midday Lift

If You Have Medium or Wavy Hair…


(Image credit: @oliviaculpo)

Top mistake: Touching your hair while it’s still in the drying process. "If you’re worried about defining your wave or natural texture, try loosely braiding your hair while it’s damp or pulling it up into a loose bun," Alvarez advises.

Top tip: "The routine below actually can work for fine hair that's wavy too—another great styling cream option would be Kevin Murphy's Motion Lotion Curl-Enhancing Lotion (£23). If your hair is thicker and wavy, I suggest using a heavier cream like Moroccanoil's Curl Defining Cream (£25)."

Step One: Choose a Hydrating Shampoo & Conditioner

Step Two: Add a Dry Oil & Moisturising Leave-In

Step Three: Depending on Your Climate, Add Hair Gel

If You Have Thick or Curly Hair…


(Image credit: @emmy)

Top mistakes: According to Alvarez, there are a few. "Using products that are too dense and thick tends to flatten curly hair, and brushing curls in a downward motion will stack your curls on top of one another, which allows no room for volume."

Top tip: Fluff your curls! Using a wide-tooth comb once your curls are completely dry, fluff the roots without touching the rest of the hair. Alvarez says this technique results in maximum lift and movement.

Step One: Use a Sulphate-Free Shampoo and Conditioner (or a Co-Wash)

Step Two: Layer a Leave-In & Curl Enhancer

Step Three: Brush Your Hair at a 90-Degree Angle

Beauty Director

Erin has been writing a mix of beauty and wellness content for Who What Wear for over four years. Prior to that, she spent two and half years writing for Byrdie. She now calls Santa Monica home but grew up in Minnetonka, Minnesota, and studied writing, rhetoric, and communication at University of Wisconsin, La Crosse. She studied abroad in Galway, Ireland, and spent a summer in L.A. interning with the Byrdie and Who What Wear family. After graduating from UW, she spent one year in San Francisco, where she worked as a writer for Pottery Barn Kids and PBteen before moving down to L.A. to begin her career as a beauty editor. She considers her day-to-day beauty aesthetic very low-maintenance and relies on staples like clear brow serum (from Kimiko!), Lawless's Lip Plumping Mask in Cherry Vanilla, and an eyelash curler. For special occasions or days when she's taking more meetings or has an event, she'll wear anything and everything from Charlotte Tilbury (the foundations are game-changing), some shimmer on her lids (Stila and Róen do it best), and a few coats of the best mascara-type product on earth, Surratt's Noir Lash Tint.