I feel like a part-time model!
November 14, 2011 12:15 PM   Subscribe

I just received my first professional blow-out, and holy crap my hair looks amazing! How can I do this to myself? And without it taking approximately forever?

I am a girl with thick, sort of wavy, kind of coarse hair, which I am usually pretty bad at wrangling. Usually I just let it air-dry, slap some product in it, and hope it doesn't look like a hair explosion.

Every previous time I have gotten my hair cut, the post-cut blow-drying was purely aimed at, uh, drying my hair off so that I wouldn't have to leave the salon with wet hair. I didn't really think there could be any more to it.

Turns out I was wrong. I went to a new salon, they asked "will you want your hair blow-dried?", I said "er, yes?". I didn't realize it was a whole extra service. (This was my first NYC haircut experience, and I think blow-outs are more of a 'thing' here?)

Well, long story short, I'm amazed. The blow-out took longer than the actual haircut did, and at the end of it, my hair was smoother and shinier than it has ever been, ever. It's crazy. I look like a different person. A person with awesome hair.

How can I- a person who has historically been absolutely hopeless at taking care of my hair- approximate this awesomeness at home? I have a big round ceramic brush (which I have never used) and a totally unremarkable hairdryer. I have a willingness to learn, alongside a desire to not spend 45 minutes doing my hair every other day.

I'm going to the gym later, and I'm so sad about the shower I'll have to take tonight. Help me help my hair!
posted by showbiz_liz to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (24 answers total) 63 users marked this as a favorite
I have this (the UK version is called the Babyliss Big Hair, but it's identical to the one in the link). It's transformed my hair. I told my hairdresser about it and he didn't believe me when I said it was as good as a professional blow-dry, so I took it into his salon and dried my hair with it to show him. He was astonished.

To get the best results, you have to use 'product' (I find mousse is best, or Frizz Ease 3-day Straight), and I section my hair with clips, and dry the lower part first, then the upper part. My hair stays smooth, swingy and bouncy all day. It now takes me about 10-15 minutes to dry with this dryer (my hair is fine, but naturally curly), now I'm more adept with it.
posted by essexjan at 12:25 PM on November 14, 2011 [16 favorites]

I'm sorry to say that it is extremely hard to replicate a salon blow-out at home. I don't even bother anymore, and just enjoy straight hair for a few days after my twice-yearly trims. Some things you can try*:
1. Get a concentrator nozzle for your hairdryer, like this. This will keep your hair from blowing all over the place while you dry it.
2. Use a straightening balm to protect your hair from the heat and help loosen the wave. You could call the salon and ask them what brand they use, since you had such great results.
3. Divide your damp (not sopping wet!) hair into manageable sections. Twist up the sections you aren't drying, and keep a little spray bottle of water handy to re-wet them when you get there. Your arms will get tired, and it is extremely difficult to do the back of your head. You might need breaks.
4. Dry the roots first, then the length. Using the brush, guide the hairdryer down the whole length. It's easy to neglect the ends in this process, and they can end up looking weird at the bottom of sleek sections.
4. Blast your hair with cooler air after heating. Supposedly this helps "set" the straightness. I can't vouch for this one, but it gets repeated a lot.
*Some stylists have recommended that I dry my hair all over, and then do the straightening with a flat iron, to cut down on time. I think that's too damaging for my hair, but you might want to do that sometimes.

Also, check your salon for straightening lessons, or see if other ones advertise them. I've never done it, but I would imagine it's extremely helpful for beginners.

Good luck and have fun!
posted by swingbraid at 12:36 PM on November 14, 2011

I have a cheaper, not rotating version of the one essexjan mentioned. It does a lovely job.
posted by 26.2 at 12:38 PM on November 14, 2011

I have hair that's the exact opposite of yours, and I still can't duplicate a salon blow-out. I come closest by drying my hair to damp-dry and putting big velcro rollers in. Putting the rollers in takes about ten minutes, and I can do other things for half an hour while they're in. That gives me the same volume and brings me closer to the glossy straightness my stylist manages to get.
posted by gladly at 12:48 PM on November 14, 2011

It's hard, if not impossible, to get a full-on salon-level blow-out at home, because you can't apply the amount of tension that another person can while you hold your arms above your head. However, things that help:
1) A good hairdryer. I used to have a CHI, although now I have a Philips that I think works as well. According to my former stylist, you want it to blow hot, not hard.
2) A great flat iron. Again, CHI is a good brand, but you can get a cheaper one as long as it gets really hot. In my experience, this is more important than the hair dryer.
3) Silicone serum. I used to use Biosilk, and sometimes John Frieda Frizz-Ease, which I think is a bit cheaper. However, after years of using silicone serum, I switched to L'Oreal Hot Straight and I think it works better. But I'm not sure you can get it in the States (or it might have a slightly different name).
posted by neushoorn at 12:51 PM on November 14, 2011

In my experience, you can have a FAST blowout, and you can have a GOOD blowout, but both at the same time are tough at home. I can never get the back right. That being said, essexjan's routine is the one I use, too, and it gets the closest.

For special events, you can always go to DryBar (I think they just opened one in NYC) or the like -- they're salons that JUST give blow-outs. I love the DryBar in LA.
posted by Countess Sandwich at 1:00 PM on November 14, 2011

I also have wavy unmanageable hair. What I do is just straighten it with a flat iron to get the smoothness. To save time in the morning I take a shower at night and just let it air dry, then straighten in the morning. I haven't used my blow dryer in ages.
posted by daydreamer at 1:01 PM on November 14, 2011 [3 favorites]

1. Quality hairdryer with power.
I love my Elchim. It is fantastic and it's not expensive. Whatever hairdryer you buy make sure it has decent wattage (over 1400) and has a nozzle attachment so you can direct air where you want it instead of blowing your hair all around into a big mess.

2. Products

You must try argan hair oils if you have not already. Some good one: Agadir (personal favorite), Christophe (really good, makes my hair look awesome, and shortens drying time), and Moroccan Oil.

There are also many products that are formulated to achieve straighter, sleeker hair. Examples:

Redken Straight

Straight Fixation

Garnier Sleek and Shine


3. Sectioning

You need clips.

4. Tutorials on YouTube

Tame it with Oil video tutorial

Agadir Oil vs. Moraccan Oil video

Blow Out tutorial

6 tips to a salon blowdry
posted by Fairchild at 1:27 PM on November 14, 2011 [3 favorites]

daydreamer: "I also have wavy unmanageable hair. What I do is just straighten it with a flat iron to get the smoothness. To save time in the morning I take a shower at night and just let it air dry, then straighten in the morning. I haven't used my blow dryer in ages."

I have thick, wavy hair, and this method doesn't work for me; it just doesn't get as smooth and sleek, even using a really great flatiron*, so I blow dry my hair straight and then touch up with the iron as needed. I hate to tell you this, but my hair is a jaw-length bob, and this process still takes 30 min. This is why I wash my hair as little as I can get away with.

My method:

- Section hair and secure with clips (I do 5-6 sections). I make one section for the back, making vertical parts at the ears. I divide sections before the ear into 2-3 sections, one above the next. (My bob is angled, so there's a lot less hair at the back of my head. YMMV.)
- Use a large-diameter, natural-bristle brush on damp, not soaking-wet hair. I use a round brush for volume, but some people prefer a paddle brush when it comes to making the ends hang straight and not curl under.
- Starting at the back, point the dryer downward and, holding the brush vertically, push hair back and forth until it's mostly dry. I do this in the back because it straightens my hair better than pulling it taut with the brush held horizontally when I can't see what's going on.
- Then dry the lower sections by slowwwly pulling the brush horizontally down the length of the hair. Follow the brush with the dryer. Don't forget the ends or they'll dry funny. You can curl the ends under with your brush, or just sort of run the brush to the ends and let the hair drop off the brush.
- Repeat on the section above the one you just finished. When you're done, use the iron to touch up any bits that aren't behaving.

You'll probably want product when you're done. I won't make recommendations, since I don't know if you want shine, frizz control, etc. Don't be discouraged if it takes a few tries! It definitely took me a while to get a routine down.

Other tips: Always point the hair dryer down, not up. This prevents flyaways. You can dry your bangs with the side-to-side method as well if you want them straight with a little bend -- just hold the bangs to the side when they're very very nearly dry, and then blast them with the cool air setting on your dryer.

* I got a great deal on my T3 flat iron on eBay -- it was less than a third of the retail price. Upon reflection, that seems a little sketchy, but there you go.
posted by runningwithscissors at 1:52 PM on November 14, 2011

You'll never get it that perfect yourself, but there are some things that can help:

- Good product. (I used to love Farouk Silk Therapy but I'm allergic to it).
- Good blowdryer. I thought the whole "Ionic" thing was crap until I tried my mom's Chi Turbo dryer. It gets very hot but not loud, which is nice.
- Straightening iron. Again, love my Chi!
posted by radioamy at 2:38 PM on November 14, 2011

I am with you on the awesomeness of a professional blow-out. You can see videos on YouTube with instructions how to do it yourself but you will spend at least 30 minutes attempting it, your arms will hurt to death, and the end result will only be mediocre. It takes a lot of practice to get good at it.

Alternatively, I hear Brazillian keratin treatments achieve the same silky, shiny result. A Puerto Rican friend of mine in NYC with ordinarily completely unmanageable hair says this is the answer to her prayers. The thing to look for is stylists who first use curlers to dry the hair, then the flat iron.
posted by Dragonness at 2:52 PM on November 14, 2011

I had the same question last year. I asked my stylist after she'd cut my hair, but before she dried it, what I could do for the same effect at home - telling her that I had a wedding to go to where I wouldn't have access to a stylist for a blowout beforehand (lies - I'm too cheap!) but would be in family photos. She spent the blowout tutoring me on how to do it. Yes, it takes forever, and yes, the results are better if a professional does it, but having that in-the-moment lesson was incredibly helpful - and my hair looked damn good in those family photos! So, augment what the internet can tell you by asking the next time you go in for a cut and see what goodies they bestow upon you.
posted by AthenaPolias at 2:59 PM on November 14, 2011

I'm just going to second what Fairchild said. The most important thing is to get a great hairdryer. I cut my drying time in half when I switched from a Conair to a T3. Totally worth the money (although I did get it for 20% off). I asked my hairstylist the last time I was there and her hair dryer is a Solano and she swears by it. So if my T3 ever dries, that's what I'll get next (it's cheaper).

The second most important thing is product - silicones are not necessarily the healthiest in the world for your hair, but they do get it smooooth.

Also, my hair stylist uses a flat brush to dry my hair, and I haven't figured out how she does it, so I stick to my big ceramic round brush and I do just fine.

And finally, you tube!! I've learned all sorts of new things on youtube, like how to do my makeup for my wedding and how to use curlers in my hair (even though I haven't bought them yet). I'm sure there are a million blow drying tutorials.
posted by echo0720 at 3:20 PM on November 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

What do you mean by "wavy"? I feel like people mean drastically different things by that. My sister describes her hair as wavy; I would call her hair straight, with, like, one wave. But the replies your getting seem to be using that definition of wavy. I consider my own hair wavy, but people often call it curly. Only the bottom half is at all curled, and they're loose curls, not ringlets. Wavy hair in my definition likes to separate out into "tendrils", even if these tendrils don't curl all the way into ringlets like curly hair does. If you have hair like mine, you should never brush it when it's dry, only comb it when it's wet. But honestly I find that people mean a huge range of things by "wavy," and then that you call it thick and coarse makes me think it's like mine (my sister's is thick, ish, but very smooth in a way I associate with straight hair.) But even just my confusion over the definition of "wavy" is making me wonder if it's at all possible for us to give you hair advice over the internet without seeing a photo of what your hairs like (even if it's not of you, just a person with similar hair).

That said, the best hair drying advice I got was to do it somewhere NOT HUMID. Like, not the bathroom where you just showered, but another room that isn't full of water vapor. This cuts down on frizz a lot, and makes the drying process faster in general.

The next time you get a haircut, ask your stylist how he or she styled your hair! My hair loves being conditioned with oils (there are, like, coconut oil avocado oil blend things just for hair) that I thought would make my hair greasy, but with my hair type and in correct quantities, makes my hair sleek and soft. I learned this from my stylist the last time I got a haircut and it's helped me maintain the look I like.
posted by fireflies at 3:34 PM on November 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

Any chance you could either share a few pics showing your ideal new hair, or describe exactly what you liked about the blow-out, aside from smoother and shinier (if there is anything!)? I say this because I have fairly thick loose curls that look mostly fine air-dried with product, but air-dried with no product look pretty fluffy (my grandmother uncharitably said my hair looks "like a bush"). And I had good - and by good I mean amazingly unbelievably fantastic - results with ceramic flat iron. Blow drying my own hair always resulted in fluffy frizzy hair, and was a huge pain in the ass to do by myself, taking over half an hour and resulting in sore arms from holding sections up etc. The flat iron led to very sleek and smooth hair, albeit with a bit less volume (or pouff) than I'm used to. This lack of pouff may be a good thing, as I can imagine that this may be one of the things you liked from the blow-out. If this sounds like what you're looking for in terms of results, you might want to try it. One of my friends at school had very coarse, thick, tight curls, and one or two quick passes with the ceramic iron led to glossy straight hair - it was really unbelievable. I don't do it much at all anymore, partly because I'm too lazy, partly because I'm in the process of trying to make peace with my appearance as it is, and partly because I worry about hair damage. However I also don't blow dry my hair either, and I can't imagine that it's worse than blow drying, so...

The next ceramic straightener I'm about to get is this one, as an example. You can apparently save time by using a wet-to-dry straightener, which you can use on wet hair without having to air-dry or blow-dry first. I've never used it so can't endorse it myself, but it sounds like it might be a good option for you to try if you're looking for a step analogous to blow-drying but faster.
posted by UniversityNomad at 3:51 PM on November 14, 2011

Hello, crazy-haired girl here who only recently figured this out (I'm in my early 30s).

First, it will never be as good as the salon.
Second, n-thing blow dry your hair in a room without humidity is essential

As far as technique, small manageable sections. I dry from the bottom up in layers.
Second - this was key for me - aim the blow dryer down toward your hair and away from your scalp. Essentially, 'with the grain' of your hair. If you do it the other direction, you get the opposite of smooth. Make sure the sections are completely dry before moving on.

Also, depending on the actual texture and dryness of your hair, products may help. I can't remember the exact explanation, but basically your hair is porous. If you fill it with a hair gloss (professional or at home) or with color, your hair will be smoother because the holes are essentially filled in.

This is why a Brazilian blowout is so awesome (saving my $$ as we speak!!). It's expensive, but basically fills the holes in your hair with more hair (keratin) and it lasts longer than daily product or hair color.

Just to add more anecdotal data, going through the blowdry/iron process, which I do, is still a big pain. I even cut my hair significantly shorter and it only cut out like 10min of primp time. So definitely growing my hair back out and saving my money for the brazilian blowout.
posted by getmetoSF at 5:17 PM on November 14, 2011

Oh I meant to add that my stylist doesn't use an iron on my hair, but when I go through the blow dry process at home, I use an iron afterwards to get pretty close. I mostly prefer a big curling iron to the flat iron but that's just a matter of preference.
posted by getmetoSF at 5:21 PM on November 14, 2011

I flat iron my hair (my hair is pretty wavy, so just going straight makes it look much sleeker)... The key for me was getting it super hot. I ignore the directions and turn my flat iron right up to the highest temperature, which is supposedly only for use on wet hair. I also do my bottom hair first, in big sections because my bottom hair is normally well behaved anyway. Then I do small sections and take more time on my top hair.
posted by anaelith at 6:07 PM on November 14, 2011

I have thick curly, difficult to manage hair. And I've been drying it straight since I was 12. That first time took me four hours, with a crappy hairdryer, no serum, and a silly brush. The result was, of course, appalling. But I got better.

Definitely get the latest hardware and software, but there is no substitute here for practice, practice, practice!

Don't ever expect to be as good as a hairdresser. The force and angles are impossible to replicate.

I loved my Brazilians (get one! It changed my life!) but only have them infrequently - the industry is not properly regulated. Google it first.

I now have regular blow drys at a salon. It totally depends on what your hair is like, and how much it means to you to get it looking smooth all the time. Me, I swore during those long evenings in my hairdryer-smoke filled bedroom that as soon as I had any spare cash at all, I would spend it on my hair. and that's what I do. I buy fewer clothes, and buy only a little (good quality) make up. But I wouldn't change this for a moment.

So you have options! Be more well-adjusted than me and stay natural. Or a blow dry only on special occasions. Get a Brazilian as well, just google it first. And most of all, practice, practice! Good luck!
posted by dimon at 7:37 PM on November 14, 2011

Just as a counterpoint, I got the Brazilian straightening thing and it did nothing for me. I had smoother, straighter hair for the 4 days before I was allowed to wash it again but affer that, the difference was negligible to zero.

I've found it much easier to master straightening with a flat iron or a large (at least 1-3/4") curling iron than a blow dryer. It looks pretty good but I still can't replicate the blow-out.
posted by otherwordlyglow at 8:08 PM on November 14, 2011

Ask over at The Long Hair Community if you're White or if you're Black (or maybe even Hispanic) over at Long Hair Care Forum.
posted by Ms. Moonlight at 12:18 AM on November 15, 2011

To everyone who is saying you can't get it as good as the salon at home - I have to disagree, because the dryer I linked to above is getting me salon-style results, to the extent that when I go into work at 7am with my hair looking fantastic people ask me "did you go to the hairdresser on your way in today?"

The rotating brush gives the hair that polish and smoothness that no other combination of dryer, smoothing product and normal hairbrush has ever been able to do. I couldn't recommend this product any more highly if I worked for the company that made it!
posted by essexjan at 12:45 AM on November 15, 2011

I also meant to add that using a flat iron makes my hair straight but also flat, without any body or bounce.
posted by essexjan at 12:49 AM on November 15, 2011

Here's what I used to do when I used heat on my hair: I'd let my hair air dry with a thermal protectant in it (Kerastase Ciment Thermique), then, starting from the top, I'd flat iron using a GHD. I started from the top because after I straightened each section I'd wrap it around a big velcro roller. I'd do my whole head, let it chill for about 10-15 minutes, then take it out. That was how I avoided the dreaded ironed to death look. I can't blow dry by myself, it's really sad. Good luck!
posted by nerdfish at 6:57 AM on November 15, 2011

« Older Is this a reasonable test of registry cleaner...   |   Help Me Substitute Without Ruining Everything! Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.