Education, Physical Health, Wellness / Self-Care

How to correctly use a Hair Dryer

And some key terms and functions you need to understand.

words by: Adam Hurly
Sep 23, 2021

One of the best ways to have a good hair day every day is to use a hair dryer. It gives you so much more control over how your hair settles into place—but it’s also easy to mess up. But, continued hair dryer use can yield significant damage on your hairs if you aren’t careful about your approach.


On top of all that, there are certain terms you need to know about hair dryers—like ionic, ceramic, wattage, and even functions like nozzle attachments and that little cold-air button. Understanding these things will benefit you in the long haul, and ensure that you’re using the hair dryer properly.


To use your hair dryer properly, follow our advice below to get the most out of your device, and to ensure that you have a good hair day on the regular.


5 tips to follow

1. Have clean (or freshly rinsed) hair

You don’t want yesterday’s hair product interfering with today’s style—or any buildup of grease and grime. So, rinse it away, and consider shampooing (followed by conditioning) if it feels necessary for the day.


2. Don’t apply product immediately—except for heat protectant

Once hair is towel dried, you’re ready to start blow drying. However, don’t apply your product just yet, unless it’s a heat protectant oil or cream. This is typically not going to impact your final style, and will instead coat your hairs to protect them from heat damage. Next, blow dry the hair into place (your desired style) using as much heat or pressure as needed. When it is still slightly damp, you can add a product like paste, pomade, or cream that applies better to wet hair. After this, you can continue drying everything in place. However, if you prefer a dry-application product like clay or fiber, then you’ll want to wait until nearly the end of the drying process (once hair is entirely dry) and apply the product as a finishing touch.


3. Use attachments as needed

It can be difficult to dry hair if you blast air without any real intention or direction—which is especially difficult with the open-end of the blow dryer gun. Instead, add a nozzle attachment to the end of the gun, like a diffuser (or curlier styles) or a concentrator to deliver smoother, cleaner results.


4. Blow dry against the grain (and upside down) for volume

If volume is the goal, then you want to get extra lift at the roots. Aside from using a round blow drying brush to help promote texture and lift as you dry, you should also blow dry your hair upside down and against the direction of the style, to help elevate the hair at the root. You’ll comb it back into place afterwards. The same goes for blow drying it for just a few seconds against the grain of the style, to promote some extra elevation at the base of the hair. If you use a dry style product, you’ll apply it after all of this is done, to coach it back into place.


5. End with a blast of cold air

That cool air button (addressed below) helps lock in your style at the very end of the session. (Kind of like how a cold-water splash helps close up your pores at the end of a warm shave.)


Functions of the hair dryer

Besides stepping up the heat and speed, these are the important attachments and functions to know about on your dryer.


Concentrator: This nozzle directs all heat into a straight, narrow direction, allowing you to concentrate the drying efforts along a hair part or to help build volume at the root of the hairs, as opposed to blasting hair uniformly and aggressively from the bare dryer gun itself.


Diffuser: This attachment allows thicker, curlier types to dry their hair by diffusing the intensity of the air around the head while its fingerlike ends also help build volume by lifting hair at the roots.


Cold Shot Button: The cool-air button on your dryer (sometimes simply a snowflake icon) shoots a blast of cold air through the gun, and helps lock in your hair at the very end of your styling process. While the warmth of the dryer helps mold hair into place and activate hair products, the cool air locks it in. You can also use it for gentler, longer drying sessions, if preserving your hair from heat damage is of any concern.


Other hair dryer terms

Here are a few other key terms that should help you understand your hair dryer—or help you pick the right one.


Watts: More watts mean more power, and a higher number typically means that the dryer will work faster and hotter. That’s not always a good thing for your hair’s health, which is why the next two terms are more important to watch for. Typically, you want higher watts for thicker hair, and lower for fine/fragile hair. (1200-1500 for fine hair, 1300-1800 for medium, and 1500-2000 for thick/coarse.)


Ionic: An ionic dryer sends out neutralizing negative ions that help prevent frizzing, fraying, and frying. They dry the hair from the inside out, and prevent damage to the hair cuticle itself.


Ceramic: Ceramic dryers have a clay casing inside of the drum. They create a type of infrared heat that also helps safely dry the hair shaft from the inside out.


Heat Protectant: While it’s not part of your hair dryer, heat protectant sprays/oils/creams are an important part of the hair drying process. Apply them prior to hair drying in order to coat each strand and protect hairs from heat damage (breakage, frizzing, frying, etc). This is imperative if you blow dry frequently (more than a couple times a week).


If you don’t know where to start when it comes to actually purchasing a hair dryer, here are 5 of the best hair dryers for men.


We also recommend the following articles related to hair:
How to thicken and volumize thinning hair
A three-step guide for curly and wavy hair
How to deal with oily hair
5 hair products for a slick look


Photo via The Manual