A Definitive Guide for How to Blow-Dry Curly Hair


@aysha.sow / Design by Zackary Angeline

Learning how to blow dry curly hair is no easy feat—it takes a little bit of time and skill to master. Thankfully, achieving perfectly defined curls, volume, shine, and bounce all in one—without having to wait for your hair to air dry—is possible. We scouted hair experts Stephanie McLemore, Diane C. Bailey, and Natasha Hickman to break down exactly how to blow-dry curly hair. And as it turns out, your blow-drying method makes all the difference on your curls.

Stylists Say This Is Exactly How to Blow Dry Curly Hair

Byrdie | Design by Zackary Angeline

Meet the Expert

  • Stephanie McLemore is lead hairstylist at Carol’s Daughter.
  • Diane C. Bailey is a celebrity stylist and SheaMoisture’s beauty ambassador.
  • Natasha Hickman is Artistic Educator for HairClub. She is based in Atlanta.

Keep scrolling for step-by-step instructions on how to blow dry curly hair.

How to Prep Hair

Before we even get to the ins and outs of blowdrying a curly mane, we first want to emphasize the importance of hair prep. According to Hickman, "Prepping curly hair to blow-dry straight starts with a good shampoo and conditioner. Once your hair has been properly cleansed and conditioned, you'll want to follow up with a leave-in conditioner to protect your hair from the heat of the blow-dryer." Ultimately, your curl texture will determine how you prep damp hair, notes Bailey. Applying a leave-in detangler, starting at the ends and working toward the scalp, will seal in moisture—especially for those with tight coils.

When possible, try to shield your hair from heat damage. One way to do this is by using heat protectants, but Hickman also advises that you air dry your hair after detangling and sectioning. "This will reduce the amount of heat required for your final style," she says.

How to Blow Dry Curly Hair

For starters, you'll need the right hair dryer for your curl type and hair density, plus the right products to help you get the best blowout. "A ceramic, porcelain, or ionic blow-dryer will help reduce static, eliminate frizz, and enhance shine," Hickman tells us. Using a diffuser also doesn't hurt. And while you may be tempted to blast the heat on "high" to speed up your blowdrying time, McLemore recommends keeping the dryer heat on "medium" to "low" to help minimize frizz and prevent breakage and heat damage. Follow her regimen to blowdrying a curly mane below:

  • Squeeze excess water out of the hair.
  • Apply product sparingly by using a scrunch method.
  • Lightly place curls on the claw of the diffuser.
  • Put the diffuser close to the scalp, and gently lift hair at the root to add volume.
  • Dry hair 80% of the way and allow 20% to air-dry. This will keep your hair from drying out and getting frizzy.
  • To finish, gently scrunch your hair to shape and form your style.

Bailey also let us in on her blow-dry routine for curly hair:

  • Start by reducing moisture in hair after you shampoo by gently blotting hair dry with a micro-cotton towel or T-shirt.
  • Section hair into four equal parts.
  • Secure each section with a clip and dry with a diffusing blow-dryer on a cooler setting until each section is 50% dry.
  • Start in the back and divide sections into smaller subsections.
  • To diminish frizz and help prevent thermal damage, apply a small pea-size amount of oil and your go-to blowout cream from roots to tip.
  • Dry each section with the diffuser, scrunching hair as you go.

More Blow-Drying Tips For Curly Hair

Blow dry curly hair

While there are general guidelines for blowdrying curly hair, customizing your routine to fit your curl type is the golden rule. "The coilier the texture, the more product is needed to achieve the right moisture," comments McLemore. Adding extra moisture to your hair with a leave-in treatment will soften hair and improve style manageability while it's damp. Hickman's advice? "Attachments are a must!" she stresses. "Be sure to use a concentrator or a comb attachment when using your blow-dryer to straighten curly hair. These attachments ensure that the cuticle of each hair strand is being dried in the same direction. Blow-dry the hair in small sections directing the blow-dryer down the hair strand. This will reduce frizz and cause the hair to become smoother, faster." 

Shop Hairstylist-Approved Blow-Drying Products For Curly Hair

Carol's Daughter Hair Milk
Carol's Daughter Hair Milk $18.00

It's essential to keep the right curly-girl products nearby to achieve the best blowout. McLemore relies on Carol's Daughter Hair Milk. "It's a lightweight formula that will assist in getting deep moisture and shine while defining and adding bounce to your curls," she says.

Maxxam hair product
Maxxam® Nutrient Maximizer $18.00

Hickman counts this leave-in conditioner as one of her favorite products for managing a curly mane. It's packed with antioxidants and silk amino acids that work to strengthen and protect hair. The results? Fewer flyaways, knots, split ends, and most importantly, bad hair days.

Devacurl Devafuser $50.00

Shaped like a hand, McLemore and Bailey love this diffuser which brings you one step closer to achieving perfect curl form. Its ceramic core speeds up drying time without drying out strands. No wonder it earned the "Best Overall" pick among our favorite diffusers for curly hair.

Maxxam Chrome Dry Hair Oil
Maxxam® Chrome $21.00

Hickman tells us that this hair treatment achieves maximum moisture and perfect curls. With key ingredient, argan oil, it's rich in antioxidants and nutrients that promote healthy hair, enhancing shine and soft texture. Best of all? Its lightweight formula hydrates and defines coils without weighing them down.

Key Ingredients

Argan oil is a plant oil extracted from the kernels of the fruit pit of the argan tree (aka Argania spinosa) which grows in Morocco. The ingredient is rich in antioxidants and fatty acids. It also provides anti-inflammatory and moisturizing benefits.

Jamaican Black Castor Oil
Sheamoisture Jamaican Black Castor Oil $11.00

Bailey depends on an oil and a cream made specifically for blow-drying. "My favorite blowout product for curly and kinky hair is the SheaMoisture Jamaican Black Castor Oil, which is enriched with certified organic shea butter to intensely hydrate hair, reduce frizz, and improve manageability. Black castor oil aids in smoothing the cuticle, preventing split ends, and soothing scalp irritation," she says.

Maxxam Flash Hairspray
Maxxam® Flash Hairspray $18.00

It's no secret that curls hate humidity. Whether it's because humid weather makes them frizz up, fall flat—or both—investing in the right styling product can help. Hickman recommends trying this hairspray for hold and protection. Not only will it keep your hair moist and soft, but it will also enhance style definition—sans frizz.

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