If you’ve found your holy grail shampoo and mastered the art of multitasking while you condition, you might think you have the whole showering thing on lock. But what about when you step out? Do you usually reach for a terry towel and wrap your hair up in a turban? Do you just give your locks a good rub? It turns out the way you dry your hair is critical—and could be the culprit behind frizz, breakage, and more.
To understand why, we actually have to head back to the shower: When your hair gets wet, its structure changes, rendering it much more prone to damage. “Hair is made up of keratin held together by hydrogen bonds,” explains Britta Cox, founder of microfiber towel brand Aquis. “Hydrogen bonds have an affinity for water, and if the interior of the hair stays too wet for too long, it actually changes the chemical structure and the hair gets mushy inside and stretches—sometimes up to 30%.” Kind of a vivid picture, right? At the very least, this stretched-out hair can dry as frizz. But worse, it might stretch to the point of breaking.
This is reason enough to be gentle with your hair in the shower, but it doesn’t stop there. Water also causes the hair cuticle to swell and open up—which also leaves your hair prone to frizz and damage. “The quicker you remove water from your hair, the less it will swell and the less damage will be done over time, making your hair look and feel better in the long run,” says Cox. In short, washing and drying your hair are delicate business.
Fortunately, it only takes a few tweaks to your routine to ensure that you’re walking away with your healthiest, glossiest mane (and keeping it that way for years to come). Hair is more prone to stretching the longer it stays wet, so keep your showers as short as possible. Plus, as Cox said, you want to get rid of the moisture as quickly—but gently—as possible, so make sure you’re efficiently towel-drying. This means tossing your cotton towels and relying instead on microfiber fabric, which absorbs moisture exponentially better and is gentler on your hair cuticle. Seriously—just this simple switch is a major game changer. (And skip the T-shirt. Because they’re usually cotton, Cox considers this hair hack a myth.)
Try Cox’s technique for the ultimate frizz-free towel-dry: “After a shower, rather than wringing or rubbing, gently squeeze water out with an absorbent hair towel,” she says. “Then wrap hair up and let the hair towel absorb additional water for 10 to 15 minutes depending on the type of hair—fine hair will require less time while thick or curly hair will require more. This causes the least amount friction and allows hair to dry quickly without damaging the cuticles.”
Did you know about towel-drying your hair? How do you keep frizz away post-shower?