I Let My Hair Air-Dry For Two Weeks

by Maxine Builder

If you're like me and have extremely thick hair that can take literally hours to dry naturally, a good hair dryer might be the only way to get out of the door in a reasonable amount of time without looking like a drowned rat. Air-drying hair takes too much time, but blow-drying your hair is damaging. And really, you should probably avoid using heat-styling tools altogether if you want to prevent split ends and breakage.

This tension between keeping my hair healthy and looking presentable is one I feel when styling my mane, and, more often than not, my vanity wins out. But in the past few months, I've really put my hair through the wringer by bleaching it and dyeing it and using all of the curling irons. So I decided it was finally time to give my blow dryer a break and try air-drying my hair for two weeks.

The main benefit of this is that I'm fairly lazy when it comes to my beauty routine, so I'm all for trying things that can play into my most sloth-like tendencies. But I was nervous to let nature be my hair stylist and give up control over the elements. The rules were fairly simple: Don't use a blow dryer. And I managed to stick with it for the full two weeks, but it wasn't without a couple of bad hair days. So here's what happened when I let my hair air-dry for 14 days.

Day 1: Monday

One of the blessings, and curses, of freelancing full time is that I spend most of my days in my house without other people around me, so I wasn't too concerned about looking well-coiffed after I took a shower on Monday morning. I had the luxury of time, and privacy, so I spent the rest of the day letting my hair dry into the "look" you see above.

Was my hair frizzy? Yes. Would I go to a meeting or on a date or even to the office with my hair like this? Never. But did this semi-dry hair work for a relatively productive Monday at home? Absolutely.

Day 2: Tuesday

Yes, I was wearing the same sweatshirt as the day before, and no, I didn't wash my hair on Tuesday morning. The thought of having to sit around with damp hair again was irritating and seemed unnecessary, given the whole freelancing thing. Though my roots were certainly greasy, my hair was much less frizzy after having slept on it, and with the help of some dry shampoo and a good comb, I definitely could've pulled out a sleeker look.

Day 3: Wednesday

I actually had to leave the house to run some errands on Wednesday, so after I showered, I popped my hair into some braids to hopefully prevent some of the frizziness that had occurred on Monday.

Feeling like Pippi Longstocking, I walked around the house like this for a couple of hours, putting on makeup and making coffee and sending some e-mails. By the time I was ready to hop in the car, I pulled out the braids and was shocked to find that my hair was definitely still damp. Sure, there were some nice waves going on, but I was skeptical that they'd stick around once my hair fully dried. Plus, all of that time, which could've been spent actually drying my hair, was wasted, and I still left the house looking like a drowned rat.

Day 4: Thursday

I had a date on Thursday evening, so I wanted to make sure my hair had enough time to dry, especially after the braid fiasco the day before. As a result, I showered several hours before I had to leave the house, and this turned getting ready for a date into an all-afternoon process — something I am deeply embarrassed to admit on the internet.

The whole thing took the better part of three hours. Sure, I might've been able to use that time productively, by putting on makeup and watching YouTube videos, but even after my hair was "dry," it still looked fairly limp and stringy due to some of that excess moisture that I just couldn't shake.

The whole thing might've been a great way to procrastinate doing any real work, but it certainly wasn't efficient. At least my date didn't notice my hair.

Day 5: Friday

I thought about showering on Friday morning, I did. But I was running late for a bus from New York City to Washington, D.C., and had to focus on packing rather than coiffing. I spent five very uncomfortable hours on the aforementioned bus with my hair twisted up in a topknot, and when I finally arrived at my friend's apartment that night, my hair looked like this. It was greasy and tangled, but at least it was actually dry for once.

Day 6: Saturday

All I wanted to do after a long, boozy brunch with friends and an afternoon of sightseeing in Washington, D.C., was to take a shower before I went out that night. But by the time I got back to my friend's apartment and finished eating take-out sushi, I had less than two hours to get ready. That would probably be more than enough time to do even the most elaborate Kardashian-inspired makeup look, but definitely not enough time to dry my hair without the assistance of a hair dryer. So I had to forget it. Instead, I threw my hair up into a trusty topknot and called it a look.

Day 7: Sunday

I showered on Sunday afternoon and then hobbled over to Union Station to catch another uncomfortable bus back to New York. I threw my still-damp hair into a topknot because, by this point, I couldn't handle anything else, and there was no way my mane was going to dry into any kind of presentable 'do while bouncing along I-95.

I slightly regretted the decision when I finally got home around midnight, and my hair was still damp and weirdly crinkled, like I had taken a crimper to the bottom third of my hair. But I was too tired to even care.

Day 8: Monday

I don't know what happened to my hair on Monday. I woke up and showered, very happy to wash away the leftover MegaBus grime, and as I let it dry over the course of the day, it turned into this frizzy mess. I didn't do anything special to it. Really, I didn't do anything to it. It was only adding insult to the injury that is a bad Monday.

Day 9: Tuesday

I had a meeting in Manhattan on Tuesday afternoon, so I showered on the morning but mis-timed everything and ended up racing to grab my train, throwing my hair up in a bun on the way because it was still wet and there was nothing else I could do. It wasn't my finest look for a professional event, but it did the job and I wasn't totally embarrassed by the way I looked, which is really all I ever want.

Day 10: Wednesday

Another day of working at home turned into another chance to give this braid trick a shot. But after four hours of sitting around, looking like the Swiss Miss lady's gothic little sister, my hair was still wet and only slightly more wavy than normal. I don't know what I was doing wrong, but clearly this braid trick just doesn't work for me.

Day 11: Thursday

I showered in the mid-morning, ran a comb through my hair, then left it alone. By dinnertime, my strands were exactly how I want them to always look. I had these perfect, beachy waves, and though my hair wasn't totally dry, it didn't appear damp, which felt like an important distinction. This was air-drying at its finest and I wish I had made plans to go out and show off my all-natural, low-maintenance 'do. But instead, I sat at home in my PJs and drank wine and watched Top Chef and took this selfie.

Day 12: Friday

I don't know what exactly happened between Thursday night and Friday afternoon, but it looked like this. I think I ended up with this mess of hair because I popped my (apparently still somewhat wet) hair into a topknot before going to sleep on Thursday and didn't take it out until 3 p.m. on Friday, after I had finished putting on makeup. So not only was my hair an unruly mess, but it was still damp at the roots, which, to put that in perspective, means my hair was still not dry after 24 hours of "drying."

Rather than trying to do damage control and tame this mane, I just threw the whole damp mess back into a topknot and went on my way.

Day 13: Saturday

You might be able to tell from my face that I was over this whole air-drying thing by Saturday, especially because I was, once again, in a rush to catch a train. I had kept my hair down after showering and while doing my makeup, in the hopes of somehow recreating that beachy hairdo from Thursday, but once again, my hair had a mind of its own. Would you be surprised to hear that I threw it up into a topknot again? No, you were probably expecting that from me at this point.

Day 14: Sunday

I didn't shower on Sunday, in no small part because I didn't want to deal with letting my hair dry. I just threw it up in a ponytail while I sat on the couch, lazily watching Netflix, and fell asleep dreaming of the perfect blowout I could give myself on Monday morning once the experiment was over.

What did I learn?

Most of the time, air-drying my hair wasn't a big deal, and I do think I picked up some healthy hair habits (like not shampooing every day) along the way in addition to preventing additional heat damage. I am also very aware that I have the luxury of working from home and therefore can take the time to let my hair air-dry. Whenever I was in a rush, I longed for my dryer and the ability to control how my mane would look.

That added element of chance was perhaps the most frustrating part of letting my hair air-dry. You might take the same steps every time, but each air-dried look will be slightly different because there are always unique variables, from the humidity to the amount of time you have on hand. If I knew that every single time I let my hair air-dry I would be guaranteed perfect, beachy waves, I'd have the most low-maintenance routine ever. The reality of the situation is a little bleaker, sadly, and given the results of my two weeks sans hair dryer, I'd say I got that look about half the time.

I'm not going to give up the blow dryer for good, but I am going to be more conscientious of how often I use it. And if I have the time, I will let my hair air-dry because I might just come out of it with perfect mermaid waves and 50/50 aren't the worst odds. But I'm never going to spend three hours getting ready for a date again just because I need to wait for my hair to dry, I can tell you that.

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Images: Maxine Builder