IN THE THROES of summer heat, few beauty rituals are more masochistic than blow-drying your hair. And with the humidity index at its highest, trying to achieve smooth, straight locks can be futile. But the alternative, air-drying, comes with its own frustrations and risks. The following strategies—easier than daily blow-drying, we swear—make it less of a gamble.
First, the cut makes a difference. Blunt or all-one-length ’dos usually need an assist from heat to look good. “A layered style will air-dry quicker and more evenly,” said celebrity hairstylist Chuck Amos. “The strands that lay on top…are lighter and shorter so air circulates throughout better.” Bonus: Lightweight layers around the face are flattering. Teddi Cranford, a stylist at New York salon White Rose Collective, evocatively calls them “Bardot bits.”
A skilled stylist can also remove weight according to your hair’s pattern of growth, which helps create a more uniform and manageable air-dry. “When you’re air-drying, you’re not manipulating the root of the hair so whatever direction it moves toward is where it’s going to go,” said Wes Sharpton of New York’s Hairstory Studio. This technique can cajole it into behaving.
Next, for the best air-dry results, strategize your shower. A moisturizing shampoo and conditioner can reduce frizziness—the bane of many air-driers’ existence. Shampooing your hair less frequently will also help. Alternatively, you can try a conditioning wash, which Mr. Sharpton calls the “smartphone of hair-washing” for its multitasking prowess (delivering all-in-one cleansing, conditioning, detangling and repairing). Mr. Sharpton helped create Hairstory’s product “New Wash” designed to do all of the above.
Applying a leave-in conditioner immediately post-shower, said Mr. Amos, also tames frizz, keeping straight or fine hair light and airy, and leaving curly or wavy hair with curls intact. Try Verb’s Leave-In Mist for fine hair and Living Proof’s Curl Leave-In Conditioner for thicker locks.
Another cool tip: Upgrade your towel. To fast-track air-drying—and avoid the frizz that traditional terry towels impart—invest in a microfiber towel like those from Aquis.
The final step is applying a styling product and coaxing hair into a desired shape. Alcohol-free mousse is ideal for wavy or curly tresses, while straight and finer textures need just a dab of styling cream rubbed into the ends. Very processed hair can even handle an oil, alone or mixed with styling cream. To encourage “beachy waves”—as the ne plus ultra of summer styles is reverently known—Mr. Sharpton advises weaving wet hair into a loose braid. For night-owl hair washers, he said, sleeping with a silk scarf wrapped around your head also cuts frizz.
Ultimately, you may need to experiment to find what works for you. It took Los Angeles fashion stylist Djuna Bel some time to settle on her combination of volumizing spray, dry shampoo and twisting her very long, straight blond hair in four high buns as she gets herself ready for the day. A bun quartet is admittedly more work than one, but in the end, she said, it’s worth the effort: “I do love a blowout, but it’s the last thing I want to do in the summer.”