Study: could blow drying be better for your hair than air drying?

There is quite a bit of controversy around the subject of hair care. So far, we’ve known one thing for sure: heat is bad. That makes the curling iron, the hair straightener and naturally, the blow dryer our hair’s public enemies. But is letting your hair dry naturally really better than blow drying it? Read below and find out.

A 2011 study has attempted to answer the question that is on everyone’s lips: in fact how damaging is blow drying for your hair?

The fact is that most of us simply don’t have the time to let our hair air dry, especially those with longer, fuller hair. There is also the issue that air dried hair always looks like it has less volume and however it decides to sit after washing, that’s how it’ll have to stay.

The study aimed to differentiate between the effects blow drying and air drying have on the hair, by creating a variety of test groups:

  • The first one was the control group and received no treatment
  • The second one was shampooed and air dried,
  • The third one was shampooed and blow dried for one minute on the cool setting, while holding the dryer 15 centimetres from the hair
  • The fourth one was shampooed and blow dried for 30 seconds with the dryer 10 centimetres from the hair on the medium setting
  • The fifth one was shampooed and blow dried for 15 seconds, holding the dryer 5 centimetres from the hair on the highest heat setting

The researchers used test subjects with virgin, untreated hair and the conditions were repeated once a day for a month. The results they uncovered upon closely analysing the tested hair strands were rather surprising.

There were four levels of hair damage taken into account: surface, cuticle, cortex and cell membrane complex (CMC). Thankfully, none of the groups suffered from deep cortex-level damage, which means that at least during a month’s time, no damage will be inflicted to the inner core of the hair strand.

Surface and cuticle damage was obvious in the groups that were blow dried, the cracks and breakage getting progressively worse as the temperature increased and the distance at which the blow dryer was held decreased. To put it simply, the closer the blow dryer and the higher the temperature, the more surface damage your hair will suffer.

However, the interesting part is that air dried hair isn’t much better off. The study discovered that letting your hair dry naturally and leaving moisture in it for so long damages the CMC layer of the hair. The CMC is basically a protective lipid layer which acts like a glue, keeping the cuticles attached to the hair shaft. Funnily enough, none of the blow dried groups suffered any sort of CMC damage whatsoever.

The researchers suggested the best way to choose the lesser of two evils is to blow dry the hair, holding the dryer at least 15 cm away and using the medium or cool setting. Our suggestion is to also towel-dry your hair thoroughly, so as to spend as little time blow drying as possible.

Remember to protect your hair diligently from sun damage and harsh weather, and don’t hold back from a good moisturizing hair mask once every two weeks. Take care of your hair, and it will stay healthy and beautiful.

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