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Maybe, in a perfect world, we would never use hair dryers. Although I must say that when I first decided to grow my own natural hair out, it was actually once I began to blow it out on my wash days and then braid it up on the days in between (in order to retain length), that I started to see the most hair growth results.

My point? Personally, I don’t believe that blow dryers are of the devil. Like most things in life, I believe they are problematic either because we don’t use the right one for our hair or we go overboard and use them too often.

Besides, whether it’s due to time, the weather (it’s harder to let hair air dry during winter months) or a particular style that you have in mind, at some point, you’re going to want to blow dry your tresses. The key is to do it in such a way where your natural hair doesn’t get damaged in the process.

Here’s how to make that happen.

Invest in a good dryer. The #1 cause of dryer-related heat damage is usually using the wrong kind of hair dryer to begin with. If you want to keep your natural curl pattern but you want something that will be gentle to your hair and also reduce frizz, the Jinri Professional Infrared and Negative Ion Ceramic Hair Dryer is a good option (it’s affordable too!). If you’d prefer to straighten your curly hair, a fan favorite that also reduces frizz and results in less damage (and also comes with a pretty impressive price tag) is the Revlon One-Step Hair Dryer & Styler.

Deep condition your hair. There are all kinds of benefits that come with deep conditioning your hair on a regular basis. It deeply moisturizes your hair, promotes elasticity, reduces breakage and split ends and, it also gives your hair loads of shine—all of the things that your hair needs in order to remain healthy. There are some cool deep conditioners on the market, but if you’d like to make some at home, we’ve got some pretty impressive DIY recipes right here.

Use a T-shirt to remove excess water. A lot of us damage our hair because we fry it by drying it while it’s too wet. If you use a T-shirt (or microfiber towel) to sop up any excess water that your hair may have, that will also help to keep heat damage at bay. Just so you don’t tangle your hair up in knots or cause any breakage to its already fragile state, avoid rubbing or scrunching your hair with the tee or towel. Wrapping your hair up in it and gently ringing it a couple of times is best.

Apply a heat protectant. Blow dryers (especially the “wrong” ones) have the ability to strip your hair of all of its natural moisture. When that happens, your locks become dry and brittle and pretty susceptible to breakage. This is why it’s so important to apply a heat protectant (a spray is good for fine hair; a cream is best for thick hair) before blow drying your hair. Make sure that your hair is not soaking wet when you do. Also, it’s best to you apply it from root to tip. Some great commercial brands are Shea Moisture Jamaican Black Castor Oil Strengthen & Restore Moisture Thermal Protect Set & Hold Spritz and Flawless by Gabrielle Union Blow Dry Cream or, if you’d prefer to go the 100 percent natural route, try refined safflower, refined avocado or grapeseed oil (although my recommendation would be to blend the oil and heat protectant together in order to get the best results).

Section your hair off and don’t hold the dryer too close. The obvious way that your dryer can damage your hair is with heat. But another way it can do it is by yanking your hair out. This is what tends to happen if you don’t section your hair first and you don’t blow dry from root to tip so that there are less tangles. So, make sure to use a wide-tooth comb to section your hair and then de-tangle from the tips to your roots. Once you turn your dryer on, use low-medium heat and avoid running the dryer directly over your hair strands. To protect your hair from top to bottom, try and hold your dryer 4-5 inches (at least) away from your head the entire time. That should reduce heat damage too.

Dry from front to back instead of back to front. Believe it or not, the front part of your hair is typically the hardest part to manage. That’s why it’s best to start drying that part of your tresses first, making sure to “dry down” so the air from the dryer flows in the same direction of your hair’s cuticles. If you start with the back or even the sides first, your hair may be dry and frizzy by the time you reach the front which results in you spending more time focusing on that area; this means you’ll be applying more heat and, well, you know. Oh, and when you’re done, give your hair a once over with cool air. It will help to seal your hair’s cuticles and that also decreases damage.

Finish off with a blend of lavender and sweet almond oil. Once your hair is as dry as you’d like, give it some sheen by applying a blend of lavender essential oil and sweet almond oil. The lavender oil contains antimicrobial properties that will fight bacteria. Plus, lavender oil has a great reputation for promoting hair growth and reducing any scalp dryness or inflammation that you might have. As far as sweet almond oil goes, it increases blood circulation (which keeps your hair follicles healthy), strengthens your hair and also seals in moisture too. The combo is light enough to not feel greasy and the smell creates a calming effect that is second to none, making it the best way to end your blow drying regimen. Enjoy!

Know of some other ways to protect your tresses when drying? Share with us in the comments!