ways to dry curly hair

If you have ever looked in the mirror and thought "I like my hair better when it's wet," you're not alone. Our curls, coils and waves are at their most defined state when we are just out of the shower. Then we start applying products, touching them, and inevitably drying them and our curls go through a transformation. If you are on the hunt for the best way to dry your wet curls so that they stay defined and frizz free, here are the methods and techniques that work for us.

1. Air dry

For ultimate curl definition, many curlies have found that air drying is the best bet. For your best curl formation, follow these steps:

  1. Blot your hair dry with a microfiber or t-shirt to remove excess moisture.
  2. Apply your leave-in conditioner and scrunch a good styling product into your curls from the ends towards the roots.
  3. Keep your hands out of your hair while it is air drying, as this can lead to frizz.
If frizz is a major issue for you, you can apply too much styling product to your wet hair, then when your hair is fully dry you can scrunch out the crunch to break the hard cast of your styling product.  

2. Diffuse

For some curlies it can take hours for their hair to air dry, so one way to speed up the process is by using a diffuser attachment on your blow dryer.

  1. Follow the same steps as you did for air drying. 
  2. When your hair is partially dry, flip your head upside down and cup your curls in the diffuser and turn the diffuser on. 
  3. Diffuse on low heat to avoid heat damage. 
  4. Repeat this process in sections until all of your hair is complete.

Some curlies find that diffusing creates frizz, so watch this tutorial for our best practices.

3. Hooded dryer

A hooded dryer is another tool that is helpful in speeding up your drying time, especially when setting wash & gos, twist outs, and roller sets. While they are an investment, they are not only a time saver for your hairstyles, but they can also be used to improve your deep conditioning regimen.

If you're on the fence on whether or not to buy a hooded dryer, read Janelle's article on whether or not they're worth the investment.

4. Plop

Plopping is a tried and true curly technique that uses a t-shirt or microfiber towel to "accordion" your curls for curlier results, faster drying time, and less frizz.

Follow the same steps as you do when you air dry, then it is time to plop.

  1. Lay a long-sleeved shirt or towel on a chair or counter with the sleeves closest to you.
  2. Flip your head forward and place your curls in the center of the towel.
  3. Fold the bottom of the shirt or towel over your curls to the base of your neck, and tie the sleeves in a knot to keep it in place. 

We have full tutorials for both the t-shirt and the towel option here. 

5. Clip the roots

If you have bouncy curls at the ends but your roots dry flat to your head, you may want to try clipping your roots while they dry. Follow the same steps that you did for air drying, then:

  1. When your hair is still wet, lean over to the side so that your hair lifts away from your head.
  2. Insert duckbill clips at the roots so that the mouth of the clip points away from your roots. 
  3. Repeat this step in small sections at the crown of your head. 
  4. Leave the clips in for at least 15 minutes while your hair is drying, then carefully remove them. 

To see this technique in action, watch Brianne's tutorial on how to clip your roots.

6. Stretched

Styling your wet hair into stretched styles like braids, bantu knots, twists or bands while it's drying works to stretch your natural texture while it dries. This is a heatless way to alter your curl pattern temporarily. Many curlies use these styles to prevent tangles and breakage, as wearing your hair in a wash & go can lead to longer detangling sessions at the end of the week.

There are many different stretched styles to choose from, so check out full tutorials for bantu knots, twists, flat twists, braid outs, curlers, banding and African threading here.

7. In your car

If you're really pressed for time, don't worry. Many curlies actually find that the heater or AC in their cars creates a small, hooded dryer environment that works well for curls. You can also roll down the windows for a little extra volume.

The great thing about these techniques is you can mix and match them to find the perfect combination for your hair. If you have low porosity waves, you can clip your roots and diffuse to speed up your drying time and create volume and lift. If you like to refresh your hair with water every morning, you can use the car method to bring volume back to your curls as they dry. If detangling sessions are the least favorite part of your regimen, you can stretch your curls or coils with a braid out and use a hooded dryer to speed up the process.

Let us know which method works best for you!

How do you dry your hair?
Air dry
Hooded dryer
Clip the roots
In your car


This article was originally published in 2015 and has been updated for grammar and clarity.