If you’re one of those people who picked up a round brush and a blow-dryer circa age 12 and never looked back, you probably don’t understand the plight of the hair styling–challenged. However, speaking from experience, we can tell you that not all women are blessed with the innate ability to wield a round brush like a pro.
For many of us, the struggle to master the at-home blowout is real. And it involves tangled strands, sore arms, and—more often than not—a fair amount of cursing. So after spending years of struggling to figure out how to use a round brush, we’ve decided to change all that. We’ve been observing the top hair experts at work, prodding them for tips, and taking diligent notes. Now we’ve finally figured out where we’ve been going wrong all these years. Keep reading to find out how to use a round brush like a pro.
1. Air-Dry First
If you hate using a round brush, chances are you’ve tried using it on soaking wet hair and had poor results. Turns out blow-drying your hair before it is 80% to 90% dry is a waste of time and effort. If your hair isn’t mostly dry before you begin blow-drying, it’ll take way too long to finish styling, which means tired arms and lots of frustration for you.
2. Pick Your Round Brush
Not all round brushes were created equal, and not all of them promise the same results. The material and density of the bristles and the size of the brush are all factors that play into the end result. While vented metal round brushes are good for heat reinforcement while styling, boar bristle brushes are usually firmer and denser and create more tension when pulling the hair, which creates more volume and lift in the end. And as far as diameter, round brushes follow the same concept as your curling irons: the bigger the diameter of the brush, the bigger the curl. Unless you’re a pro, don’t mess with brushes that are too small or you’ll run the risk of getting your hair tangled in the bristles. Need some recommendations? Try the one below or keep scrolling for a few of our favorites.
3. Section Your Hair
As confusing as this might sound, the fastest way to blow-dry your hair with a round brush is to take your time. Wrapping sections that are too large around the round brush won’t save you any time in the end because you’ll most likely have to go back and redo them. The smaller the section, the more evenly you can dry and style the hair, and the faster you can move on. To section your hair, start by separating it into four parts. Work on one segment at a time and clip the others up and out the way. Within that section, further divide it into smaller, more manageable subsections. To get volume at the roots, separate out a “faux-hawk” on the top of your head and pull the brush upward and away from your head as you rotate it.
4. Change Your Angles
You know how your stylist is constantly moving when blowing out your hair? Well, that continuous movement matters. Of course, you understand that you can’t just blast your hair in one spot and expect perfection, but you’re probably not changing the angle on the brush as often as you should be. Try this technique for starters: begin with the round brush at the base of your roots, then roll it down to the ends, following the brush with the heat from the blow-dryer. Once you’ve mastered that, switch up the way you angle the brush toward the ends of your hair. Instead of always holding the blow-dryer horizontally, after you’ve lifted the root, flip your brush vertically. Give it an extra twist of the wrist or twirl as you go to add a soft, natural-looking wave at the end. One important thing to note: no matter how you’re moving the brush, always keep the nozzle of the blow-dryer parallel and angled downward so you’re evenly dispersing the heat across the section of hair and not fluffing up the cuticle.
5. Switch up Your Heat Settings
The other thing that needs to change consistently throughout the process is the setting on your blow-dryer. High heat and high air may seem like the best choice, but unless you’re a professional, using only that combination can leave you with a frizzy, tangled mess. Around your hairline, turn the settings down to medium (or low if you have curly hair), and rely on the tension you’re creating with the brush to smooth out the hair. Otherwise, you could end up over-drying those delicate hairs, which makes your tresses incredibly hard to work with.
6. Blast With Cool Air
Once you complete a section and while the hair is still wrapped around the brush, turn your heat setting down for a cool blast of air. This will help your hair hold its shape, seal the cuticle, and prevent frizz. (Hot air forms your hair; cool air sets the shape.) Although this might seem like an added, unnecessary step, skip it and your results won’t last as long.
Ready to exercise your round-brushing skills? Keep scrolling to shop the best round brushes.
Short Hair: Drybar Half Pint Small Round Brush ( $35 )
Medium-Length to Long Hair: Harry Josh Round Brush 2.25 Inches ($60)
All Hair Lengths: Verb Round Brush ($16)
Have a great blowout tip or “secret weapon” product? Tell us below.
This story was originally published on January 16, 2015 and has been updated.