Straightening wavy hair without a heat tool is the stuff of witchcraft—or, at the very least, a Disney princess–esque band of singing animal sidekicks. However, it's not quite too good to be true. "It's totally possible to get straight(er) hair without heat," Brooke Jordan, owner and master stylist at Brooklyn, NY salon, The Bird House, says.
A caveat: While the techniques below work on wavy hair, it's probably not super realistic to be able to go from curly hair to super-straight without the use of hot tools. But for those who want to test it out, we touched base with Jordan and a slew of other stylists, including Ian Mayer-Marszalek, the national corporate trainer at Schwarzkopf Professional; Adam Federico, R+Co Vice President of Technical Education; Richard Mannah, Joico's international guest artistic director; hair colorist Ian Mayer-Marszalek; Jason Lee, hairstylist, colorist, and founder of the brand Mela & Kera; and Leo Izquierdo, co-founder of IGK Hair Care. The experts gave us their best tips on how to straighten hair without heat.
Check them out below.
Towel-drying seems easy, but there is an art to it. First, use a towel to lightly pat the head, rather than rub it, which will help avoid frizziness. Then, style. If you don't mind a little bit of natural bend, Jordan recommends applying a smoothing product, like R+Co Waterfall, all over the hair. Follow by combing it out straight and letting the hair air-dry. "It will give you a lived-in, relaxed look," she explains. The finishing touch: A smidge of hair oil and some hair spray to help tame flyaways.
"Your best bet for non-heat hair straightening is with Velcro or silicon rollers using a process called wet-setting," Jordan says. After you wash your hair, towel it as dry as possible, and then apply a medium-hold mousse. She also recommends applying Davines Melu Hair Shield because it has water-wicking abilities that make it great for air-drying hair.
"Next, you'll want to section your hair into four equal parts so you have an easier time applying the rollers," she explains. "Using a fine-tooth comb to smooth the hair, begin wrapping a one-to-two-inch section of hair as tightly as you can around the roller. Depending on the kind of roller you're using, you may need to secure the roll with bobby pins or roller clips. Just be sure to apply the pin or clip on the underside of the hair so you don't end up with any visible creases," she says. Once you've wrapped up all your hair, mist on a setting lotion, spray gel, or lightweight hair spray. Then, the waiting begins. No one said straight hair sans heat was quick.
"Since it can take several hours to dry, I love wet-setting before bed and wrapping a silk scarf around my curlers so they don't move around too much or get frizzy. Bonus: You'll feel like a 1950s movie star," Jordan says. Wait for the hair to dry completely, then remove the rollers and brush out your (straightened) locks.
Mannah recommends cocktailing a leave-in treatment with a mousse, like Joico Power Whip. This combo helps keep hair soft and shiny, while also providing hold and helping hair to dry straight(er). Mannah advises using a fine-tooth comb to distribute the product and then brushing the hair straight. From there, let it air-dry. For added straightening, sporadically comb through your hair as it dries.
Wrap It Up
"Wrap-drying is a process where you use a paddle brush to wrap your hair tightly in one direction and hold it in place with bobby pins," says Mayer-Marszalek. "As your hair slowly dries, it will keep a straight and smooth look." This technique may not be the quickest but it is effective in protecting hair from heat damage.
Adjust Your Shampoo and Conditioner
Federico, notes that drying hair without heat seems simple—"but it comes with its own unique set of complications."
"When you first begin to dry hair without heat, you might notice frizziness, as well as cowlicks and unique growth patterns," Federico says. He advises "shampooing and conditioning hair with a product that works to nourish and hydrate, without weighing the hair down."
"Post shower, gently remove moisture by squeezing gently with a microfiber towel or, alternatively, an old cotton t-shirt," Federico adds.
Air-dry With Braids
One of Federico's favorite tricks for drying hair with no heat (and also no frizz)? Air-drying in braids. "Distribute a dollop of R+Co BLEU Super Style Crème through the mid lengths and ends. Finger rake through and gently smooth any remaining product through the roots," he says. "I like to comb through/distribute product with a wide tooth comb. Next, I recommend loosely braiding the hair into two braids. Let this air-dry and remove the braids. You’ll get a flowing, natural texture—minus the frizz."
Blow-dry With Cold Air
Lee turns to blowout cream and a cold blast of air for heat-free smoothness. "On towel-dried clean hair, start by applying a lightweight blowout cream like the Mela & Kera Balayage Exceptionnel Exquisite Blowout Creme," Lee says. "This will help tame any frizz as well as smoothe and help lock down any flyaways." Then, blow-dry as usual, but on the cold setting.
Use Essential Oils
Izquierdo says that moisture is key to a frizz-free air-dry—so use a product that's loaded with essential oils. "If you are worried about damage from heat tools, let your hair air-dry a couple of times a week to give it a break from heat and make sure to use a product like Cash In Instant Repair Serum ($34) so you get the combined repair and softening effects," he says, adding that he typically follows the serum with an air-dry styling product and IGK's Best Life Oil, "for a beachy wave with added shine."