Blowdry Basics: How to Get the Salon Look at Home

As a hairstylist and salon owner, my clients are always asking how to get that perfect salon blowdry at home. I’ve worked with lots of different people with lots of different hair types and at this point, I know EXACTLY what you need for a great blowout. So I figured I’d pass on the knowledge and share my best tips here too.

Think of this as your hair-drying guide: breaking down the basics for any and all blowdrying skill levels. We’re not getting TOO fancy….yet (stay tuned, there’s more hairstyling goodness coming soon). And if you don’t usually blowdry your hair, that’s OK, I still have some good info for you!

First things first, start with clean hair and a clean scalp. If you haven’t already, take a look at my blog post How to Actually Shampoo Your Hair. I wasn’t expecting to get feedback like “How did I not know this? Mindblown!” or “My hair has never looked better!” but I guess that’s why it’s the most popular post I’ve ever published. SO, clean hair and scalp, that’s step one. 

Now let’s talk about hair dryers. Hairdryers are so IMPORTANT! If I had to choose only ONE hair tool for the rest of my life, it would be a hairdryer. A good quality dryer cuts down on your drying and styling time. Heck, you may not even NEED to style it afterward. Good blowdryers are built to be less damaging, which ends up improving your hair and reducing the need for extra styling. Plus, quality hairdryers are usually quieter and more lightweight. Why? Because they’re designed for professional use—our wrists need a break and lord knows when you have 5 dryers going at once, volume matters.

So you say, “Katie, tell me what hairdryer to get!” Well, here’s the deal: I use a Bio-Ionic Whisperlight dryer. Do I love it? Yes. Is it the latest and greatest, shout it from the rooftops hairdryer?? No. BUT I have been using this SAME dryer for nearly 10 years. That’s a heck of a long life for a salon-use dryer! I also have the same one at home, but the salon is a true test: our dryers get used for hours day after day. One of the reasons I chose this dryer is because Bio-Ionic has a 5-year warranty, unlike many brands that only give a 1- or 2-year warranty. And I DID have to send it in once to be repaired, as it started making a strange noise…I guess the 100th time I dropped it was just too much, lol. This was several years ago—I simply mailed it in with $35 and it came back brand new! I could tell you what hairdryers NOT to buy but I don’t want to product bash. That’s not nice. I will tell you if you’re spending less than $100, odds are it’s not that great. 

Here’s what I look for in a hairdryer:

  • Lightweight
  • Quiet
  • Long cord is a MUST
  • Adjustable heat settings (you don’t want to fry your hair, and adding a “cool shot” helps set you style)

*A note about buying hair tools online: if you see a deal that’s too good to be true, it probably is. Unfortunately, there are a lot of fakes or open-box products that aren’t listed accurately. Your best bet is to buy directly from the manufacturer so you get full use of the warranty and any other customer service you may need. If you do buy through Amazon, make sure the tool is sold by its manufacturer and not a third party.  

Almost as important as the dryer itself: the nozzle. You know, that thing that goes on the end of your dryer that you probably took off and shoved in a cabinet? It’s important! Don’t lose your nozzle!! It’s an absolute MUST for a frizz-free finish since it keeps the airflow concentrated and consistent. Even if you don’t want a smooth finish, the nozzle is still important. Streamlining the airflow means fewer tangles which means fewer split ends and ultimately, more time between haircuts. KEEP THAT NOZZLE! Go dig it out from under your sink and attach that baby to your dryer!

Oh and, while you’re looking for that nozzle, clean out your dryer! That lint thing on the back (it usually snaps or screws on), open it up and clean it. Having a clogged hairdryer can make it overheat and cause the airflow to be inconsistent, AKA making everything we’re going to talk about more difficult.

So back to your hair. When you get out of the shower, don’t just get right to blowdrying. This is important for both men and women. Those who have pro blowdry skills know your hair has an optimal blow-dry window. Dampish hair is best. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, keep practicing and you’ll find it. Blowdrying when your hair is too wet is a bad idea for several reasons, but to keep it simple: if your hair’s sopping wet, you’ll not only spend longer time drying but you’re also increasing damage and stress. So towel dry that hair, put on your skincare or makeup, make a cup of coffee, and wait for a little. Now, if you don’t blowdry and only air dry your hair…

That’s cool, and I’m all for that! BUT let me tell you a little trick: if you quickly blow-dry just your scalp area a) you’ll get more time in between washes, b) you’ll get more volume, and c) you’ll have less frizz at the roots, which is always a plus. You can just use your fingers to gently lift your hair while you aim your dryer close to your scalp. If you’re still not convinced, going to bed with a wet head can also be irritating to your scalp. Especially if you’re prone to any sort of itching or flaking, you’re better off going to bed with a dry scalp. And PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE for the love of all that is holy DON’T GO TO BED WITH YOUR WET HAIR IN A BUN!!! This…oh, this is SO bad for your hair and scalp. Think of it like wadding up a wet towel and tossing it in the corner of your bedroom. It’s not good!

Ok, so your hair’s in that dampish sweet spot, now what? Apply your products. Putting in all that hair goodness when it’s sopping wet isn’t efficient. This is the prime time for product application! I like Davines OI All in One Milk to nourish my hair, protect against heat, and reduce frizz. The Davines Your Hair Assistant Blowdry Primer is also a current fave! This baby does the same nourish-and-protect job while also adding volume and reducing your blow-dry time. It doesn’t make my hair feel gross or product-y AND it’s perfectly primed for styling.

Now comb through those beautiful locks and section your hair. These are the clips I use to section: Framar Gator Grips Hair Clips. Be sure to choose the black ones (not pink!) since they’re rubberized and perfect for holding wet hair. A lot of ladies section bottom to top in layers, but I like to section my head into fours, like 4 pigtails. If you’re big on volume, you can totally section from bottom to top but be sure to blowdry your front section first. When you start in the back or the bottom, the front can airdry before you get to it and all is lost. If you have bangs, YOU MUST DRY THEM FIRST.

Your hair is actually scaly, like a fish (I know, so weird). The more damaged it is, the more those scales open up. You want to dry your hair in the direction of the scales, which is down the hair from roots to ends. If you’re blowing your hair up from underneath, you’re going against the scales making it frizzy and angry. Have you ever pet a cat against the grain? It doesn’t like it, and neither does your hair.

Blow-dry from root to end. For volume at the scalp, this is all about direction. Bring your hair from the back to the front, still drying with the grain (never up). Part your hair to one side and then the other. Be intentional. Tell your hair where you want it to go. Guide it. A good brush can help: this medium round brush by Ibiza Hair is my favorite. It’s well-made and leaves your hair so shiny. If you don’t have the skills to use a round brush yet, it’s OK! Use your fingers and guide the hair where you want it to go. Blowdrying is a great opportunity to set the foundation for your style. Don’t go at it all willy-nilly focusing merely on drying. Think of your hair like concrete (we’re going all-in on the analogies). When your hair is wet, it’s in its most pliable state, you can still easily mold it and guide it. Once it’s dry, it’s hard to correct the foundation you’ve already created. Every good style starts with the blowdry.

Finally, before moving on…MAKE SURE YOUR HAIR IS COMPLETELY DRY!!! If it’s not, you’ve got a recipe for frizz. And using hot tools if your hair is even remotely damp is BAD NEWS. You can cause damage that no treatment can undo. When you think it’s dry, KEEP DRYING!! I let my hair cool to confirm dryness before I do anything more. Even if you don’t plan to continue with heat tools, make sure your hair is TOTALLY DRY!! This goes back to the moldy towel reference. Even if you’re throwing it in a braid, bun or pony: dry scalp! Wet hair plastered to your head all day makes for a gross scalp.

Whew, you made it through! I know I hit you with a LOT of information, but it’s important to get these steps down first before you move onto more advanced styling techniques. Plus, as I said earlier, blowdrying the right way prevents damage and the dreaded FRIZZ. Go ahead and bookmark this post so you can refer back to it the next time you blowdry your hair—remember, practice makes perfect. Tag me in your hair photos with hashtag #thepearlpages, I love to see your looks!



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