You Need Help: Hair Drying, With Haste

Q: Recently, for the first time in my adult life, I grew my hair out past my shoulders. I’m really enjoying playing with my femmeness, but I can’t believe how long my hair takes to dry! Even if I do everything else first (makeup, getting dressed, breakfast), my hair never dries before I have to leave for work. Is there anything I can do to change that, short of waking up earlier?

Image by Fotos593 via Shutterstock

A: I too definitely found some serious cons to having long hair, especially considering how ridiculously thick mine is. They eventually drove me to cut my boob-length hair to my ears several months ago, but I admire your resolve, and I hope the following tips will help!

Towels and T-Shirts

If your hair is straight (or straight-ish, tee hee), use a regular terry cloth towel on your body post-shower, but Aquis’ Microfiber version for your head. Squeeze water out of your hair rather than rubbing, which can damage hair cuticles. And if you’re so inclined, pick up a Turbie Twist to keep the moisture absorption going, hands-free, as you move through your morning routine.

Curls, on the other hand, need more air to dry properly. You can still use a microfiber towel to briefly squeeze your hair, but stay away from the Turbie Twist; you’ll want to try “plopping,” which employs your regular maintenance/styling products and a loosely tied t-shirt to help cut drying time without squishing your mane.

It’s Blow Time

Once you’ve done everything else on your list, it’s time to blow dry. If you don’t already have a dryer,the Rusk Speed Freak is right up your alley.

Before drying, apply a serum that both protects your strands from heat and speeds up the drying process, like Redken’s Pillow Proof Blow Dry Express Primer Spray.

Styling Tools and Tricks

Next, use clips like Xtava’s Alligator set to create several different sections of hair; lifting the top layers off the bottom ones and drying each separately (starting with the bottom layers and working your way up) is much more efficient than trying to blast all of your hair at once.

Straight hair? Use a vented round brush like Bangmeng’s Anti-Static model that allows a large amount of air to pass through, speeding up the drying process. On curls, use a diffuser instead. The Bio Ionic Universal Diffuser is flexible enough to fit the majority of dryers.

A Few Ways to Make It Easier

If you’re forced to take blow drying breaks because your arms get tired, pick up Jumbl’s Hands-Free Wall-Mount. It will change your life; at least, it has mine.

And finally, if you can stand to shower less (or to simply wear a cap), dry shampoo could be the answer to your hair prayers. It doesn’t actually clean anything, but it does give that illusion by soaking up some of your natural oils. I am a recent convert to Amika’s Perk Up spray.

If you have a fashion or beauty question you’d like answered, send it to nora [at] autostraddle [dot] com.

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Nora is a writer and shoot producer living in Brooklyn. Send her links to weird clothing and dog videos to nora [at] autostraddle [dot] com.

Nora has written 52 articles for us.


  1. My solution to this problem is to wash my hair in the evening. It takes about 3-4 hours to air dry and then I straighten it. No need to do anything in the morning but brush it!

  2. I always found that using a blowdryer somehow straightens my hair, so I never use one because I want to keep the curls. I’ll have to try the diffuser! It’s painful how long it takes my hair to dry in the morning…

    • I have quite wavy hair and when I want to play that up I use the diffuser to scrounge up big sections of hair against my scalp and basically let it dry in a big ball. When I pull the dryer back, I get big loose curls.

  3. I normally wash my hair in the evening, but I have a new strategy for when I don’t get a chance. I recently started a new job with a 30 minute commute, so I just roll down both windows and drive full speed down the highway. Then I brush it when I get to work. Have actually gotten compliments after using this method.

    • Have definitely done a version of this (when running late), subbing the windows for full blast car fan, vents aimed at my head (usually on the low heater setting). Works okay but tends to leave a lot of loose hair strands stuck to the seat over time. :/

      • Used to always do this in high school when my mom was driving me to school–flip hair upside down, vents on full blast, and it’d (hopefully) be dry by the time I got to school. Obviously not really an option when you’re the driver though ?

  4. How do you manage to shower at night and not get absurd bedhead? I have short hair, and I always wake up looking like a Troll doll.

    • Everyone’s hair is different of course but I just brush mine when it’s still wet. And if you want a simple restyle, do that w wet hair too. It dries into whatever I brush it into or leave it as.

    • I usually make certain it’s fully dried and fully cooled before going to bed, but most mornings I still have to spot-dampen some of it and blow dry it flat again. Beats having to resoak the whole mess every morning though.

    • When I had short hair I just gave up on trying to wake up with anything but a mess of bedhead :(

  5. If you don’t want to spend lots of money on dry shampoo, you can also use arrowroot powder. You can mix it with a bit of cocoa powder (for dark hair) or cinnamon (for red). Then use a big powder brush to apply.

  6. Hey! Try not to use a hairdryer at all if you have curly hair! Instead, you could wash your hair at night and then ‘plop’ it – slather it with coconut oil or other curl serum then wrap in t-shirt. I usually sleep with the t-shirt on and voila good curls ready to go in the morning.

  7. Wait does that mean dry shampoo is pretty much worthless then?
    My family’s been blessed w thick hair and I’m uncomfortable when I use hair dryers so I’ll try that towel even though I have short hair. Thanks for the tip.
    I’m lucky enough to work from home. I bath in the evening, dry it a bit with a towel then wait for it to dry naturally.

    • I wouldn’t say dry shampoo is worthless. It makes your hair look cleaner without actually being any cleaner. Great for a quick freshen up if you dont have time to wash your hair.

      • It’s good for when I’m lazy or really don’t have time but our local hospital is useless & only sponge bathed my mum when she broke her back. She was in for a week and they didn’t clean her hair so we got her some dry shampoo to use on it.
        Still I guess everyone in her ward was in same position or worse so at least they wouldn’t be judging. This need to be totally clean all the time is a bit of a modern phenomena anyway.
        (She couldn’t stand for a shower or climb over/bend down to have a bath)

  8. Great timing for this article. PLEASE share your wisdom!
    I need help / tips / or a how-to guide so I don’t go insane.

    I’ve had short, short hair all my life. For the last year, I’d take a buzzer to it like every week for a look right out of Mad Max. I miss being able to just shower and leave. Shampoo was like those Jar Jar Binks fanfics — unneeded and unwanted. But when I started transition a year ago, growing my hair out was suddenly important.

    So now it’s past my ears, in my eyes, and tickling my neck. It’s scary, exciting, and frustrating all at the same time! What do I DO with it? How do I style it? And how the hell do I navigate the labyrinth of hair care products and research material?

    I’m just kinda overwhelmed. I have a few major questions, but anything else that would help for newbies is welcome:

    1. For women who go to the gym every day, do you wash your hair after every workout? This doesn’t seem realistic to me, so thought I’d ask.

    2. For those who suffer from dry hair, what oils / techniques are best after a shower? I’ve been putting mine under a towel, then blow-drying low-heat till maybe 80% dry, and then lighting applying argon oil with my finer tips till it dries. But it doesn’t seem to be adding the volume I want :(

    3. What’s the best way to tame short hair? Clips? Ribbon? Hair bands? I work in an office kinda place, so can’t be a total slob sadly… but my out of control hair is starting to suggest that.

    4. Is it horrible to use an iron on my hair ever day? I have kinda natural waves, so I like to straighten them out but I heard too much is bad?

    5. Last one – be HONEST please. Is there anything (styles or products, etc) that are not age appropriate for a 30 year old woman? I say this because when everything is new, sometimes I have a habit of wanting to wear/do things I really shouldn’t.

    Thanks all for your help! Learning one day at a time!

    • Hello and welcome to the world of longer hair!

      1. I don’t, but know some who do. I guess it’s a balance between what your hair quality is like and your comfort level regarding not-perfectly-clean hair. Most times I just live with the sweat but sometimes I wash it with just water. My tip is to get your shampoo routine aligned with what type of training your doing, saving it for after the super sweaty workouts.

      2. Not applicable to me but if you’re looking for volume+moisturiser there are special conditioners for that! My partner uses that kind and says it works for them at least.

      3. Depends on how short? I’d encourage you to check through youtube, there are lots of tutorials on hair styles for shorter hair to explore and see what you like :)

      4. Again, depends on your hair quality. If you notice that your hair starts to get frizzy or break easily, cut down on the ironing and ask your hair dresser for a haircut that works with your waves.

      5. Dunno :) I personally love cool haircuts on anyone but if you work in an office environment where people look conservative I guess you might want to stay clear of purple hair etc.

      Have fun!

        • Cool! Like, I also read an interview once with a woman who always had her hair dyed in various crazy shades but dressed SUPER conservatively, pant-suits only, in her office, and said that the combination helped her keep people’s attention during meetings and make them stay on their toes.
          But hmm. I’m thinking a bit about my own hair… like, something I worn a lot in my teens and early twenties was my hair in a short bob with bangs. Now, when I am in my late twenties I would feel like I was trying to look like a kid again if I wore my hair like that, but I can definitely imagine myself going back to that style in my thirties when I can carry it like a sharp power lesbian instead.
          Bottom line: I don’t think there are any clear boundaries; it just depends on how one combines it and carries it? Maybe.

      • i am not at all an expert but have had short hair and grown it out and that can really be a pain. here is my possibly not that helpful input

        1. i do wash my hair almost every day but i have oily hair and sweat a lot. hairdressers still tell me it’s bad though. i DO find that my hair can withstand frequent washing better since i have been using a “no-sulfate” shampoo. i have also lately tried the technique of rinsing/scrubbing with JUST conditioner (like using conditioner as you would shampoo) with some success.

        2. i do not have dry hair and my hair is kind of big and wavy on it’s own so am not sure about that one. for volume i feel like people use mousse or other lighter products and volumizing shampoo/conditioner. my hair gets bigger if i don’t blow dry and just comb/untangle, scrunch/fluff it up and let it completely air dry without touching it

        3. i don’t know! honestly what i do with growing-out short hair when it just looks too wild is to occasionally get it cut/trimmed so that it looks like i mean to have it that length, it is just short. but that does slow the growing process and it still looks funny at certain stages. or you can just avoid that completely and use headbands and stuff. it really depends on your personal style and type of hair. like the person above said, i think there are resources on this if u google like “growing out a pixie cut” etc

        4. i agree that it depends on your hair. my hair is wavy and i do notice that it can’t tolerate too much heat styling and would get really dried out if i ironed or blow dried every day. i also agree that getting a cut that works with the waves will help.

        5. obviously ideally you should just do what you want. realistically, i think mostly what people (i am thinking of office/work people) may find inappropriate is styling that is too “cutesy” like little kid hair styles, bows, too many colorful clips etc. also colors that are “natural” but don’t look like they are done well may come off as a bit young, like for example really bleached out blonde or those maroony type box dye colors. but that is really kind of just snobbishness on my part haha!

        also, it is cool to hear these questions! because i have similar ones and also sometimes feel mystified by the large amount of products etc available, and i am someone who has had all different hairstyles including really long throughout my life (I am 33). there is a lot of trial and error with hair i think b/c it is so individual. what i HAVE learned is that accepting the type of hair that i have and having my hair cut well for that type really really helps. i am very specific with hair stylists, bring pictures, tell them what i DO NOT want and tell them what i want to be able to do (eg not have to blow dry). i look for pictures of famous people with similar hair to mine. also for my particular wavy hair, products that work are oil products that are a little lighter (like not straight oil but a product that has other ingredients that somehow magically make it not greasy)and also sea salt spray! also one more wavy hair thing, some stylists want to “de-bulk” or “shape” or “thin out” wavy hair by razoring the shit out of it but for me that is the absolute worst and grows out horribly. a little bit of shaping by layering or cutting into the ends or very minor use of thinning shears seems ok but i have had bad experiences with all types of “thinning out”!

        • This is so complicated though? My hair drying routine is just:
          1. wrap a towel around it and keep it on while I put on deodorant and most of my clothes
          2. put the still-wet hair in a bun for a while until it’s dry enough not to get my clothes wet if I let it out
          3. just let it out to air dry, combing it with my fingers while it’s wet and then brushing it when it’s almost dry.
          Works for me.
          On the other hand my workplace is pretty relaxed on looks and it’s common for people to have wet hair after showering after getting to work by bike et cetera, so yeah.

          • I’ve been really considering changing my work schedule to work out at night, instead of the morning, then washing and letting my hair dry overnight. Because working out early in the morning and needing to wash sweaty hair before work just isn’t doing it for me. I saw these little microfiber cotton towel tools you can buy to just wrap your head while you sleep. Might give it a shot.

          • Ugh I apparently posted my comment starting with “this is so complicated” as a reply when I meant to post it as a general comment. .. sigh

            Buuut as a last word in this thread I def agree w being honest w one’s hairdresser! An essential tip

        • hmm actually on some people any color is fine, the bleachy blonde and maroons are just what would look young on me i think! it is very much what works for you

        • I’ll have to try Sea Salt spray! Thanks for the tip! I have a go-to stylist but am thinking of trying somewhere else because last time she did exactly that — took a razor like tool and did these scraping motions from roots to tip and hair fell, so I assume she was thinning it. Which I am NOT ok with. I mean I get it: I have thick hair. Growing up, stylists would always complain it was hard to cut it was so thick. Hormones have helped a little with this. But, the last thing I want is for someone to thin it out >__< Maybe I need a new stylist…

          • yes that scraping thing is exactly what i am talking about. for me it looks fine at first but is annoying when i’m trying to grow it out. stylists complain about my hair too. i tell them that i would “rather it be too puffy than too thinned” because i think they do it because a lot of people with thick hair don’t like it to look bushy. like if they understand that you won’t be unhappy if it still looks thick then they are less likely to go overboard with the thinning.

    • 1) That depends on how much you sweat and how strong your body odor is. My head doesn’t get sweaty unless I’ve done something intense or outside in the heat, but my parts of my body my hair touches get sweaty after a moderate work out. All I need to do is just a rinse not a wash and I’m good.

      3) I don’t know if this will work for you as it’s something that works for my fluffy curly haired mother and I don’t know how WAVY your waves are. But head bands, hard plastic zig-zags or toothed headbands. For straight hair and loose waves a wide band would be best I think, maybe cloth over hard.

      #2 after reading #4 sounds like heat damage to meee so yes I’d say for you it is bad, consider a moisturizing protein treatment. Stop straightening so much, use a heat protectant and a lower heat when you do.

      5)Uh that depends on your work environment, but anything pastel, neon, jewelled metallic or sparkly with cartoon characters or glitter on it is probably not age appropriate or office attire worthy.

      This could help but I disagree that geometrics, flower prints, stripes, and polka dots aren’t for adults. But I have a passion “arabesque” patterns, historical flower prints and classical americana things like little polka dots. Pinstripes are never not stylish.
      The color advice is pretty spot on, and a pattern called tortoiseshell is one my mom wears alot of for work.
      Leopard or cheetah print is considered trashy by respectable middle class suburbanish people even if it’s in natural looking colours. Don’t ask me to explain I don’t understand it.

        • You’re welcome :P

          Oh almost forgot if you live somewhere with a large population of uniformed school age humans you can probably stop by like Claire’s or something and find some headbands in “neutral” black or subdued colours on the cheap. Beauty supply stores will always seem way over priced to me, but when it’s something intended for a purchase by a woman prices are pretty much always marked up. It’s like SOP. >_>

    • And then I posted a reply as a new comment instead :( I really wish the Autostraddle commenting system allowed deleting one’s comments. ..

      • I wish this too! Specifically right now b/c i wish i could take the “these types of dye jobs are too young” bit out of my original comment! i get retroactively worried about insulting people who look great in things i don’t personally like! anxiety and beauty advice do not mix apparently.

  9. Those thinning shears can also damage your hair if used incorrectly:

    And also, yes, I think trying working out after work sounds like a good idea if you want to decrease hair-related morning stress as well as avoid heat damage from blow-drying! That’s what I normally do, and my hair is definitely part of that decision… [here I had to cut out a really long section I wrote on pros and cons of working out before or after dinner, respectively – I guess that’s a bit OT and doesn’t really impact your hair)

    • Thanks Tina :) Sorry your comment got put in the wrong spot! We should talk about the workout research sometime. I don’t eat dinner anyway though – just a light breakfast and a monster hour long lunch.

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