7 Things You Didn't Realize Happen To Your Hair When You Air Dry It

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When you've stepped out of the shower, you likely go directly into your most comfortable hair routine; without necessarily thinking about what's best for your hair's health in the long-term. Luckily, air drying hair is no better or worse than heat-styling it. You just have to make sure you understand the pros and cons.

Air drying can be convenient for those who like a no-fuss hair routine. It can prevent long-term damage due to heat-styling as well. But it can be bothersome. Anyone who's gone out in the cold or fallen asleep with wet hair knows that it isn't always easy to let your hair dry naturally.

Air drying your hair isn't great if you want to achieve a specific look, either. "The benefit of air drying hair is that you are not using any real heat to dry your hair; however, you cannot manipulate the way it dries like you can with heat," Edward Tricomi, master stylist from Warren Tricomi, tells Bustle. "There are some haircuts that air dry better ... [but] at the end of the day, it is the luck of the draw when it comes to air drying." Because it's such a tossup, it's important to ask your stylist's advice, and understand what's really going on with your hair when you air dry it.

Here are seven things you didn't realize happen to your hair when you air dry it, according to experts.


You Could Cause Mildew Or Bacteria To Grow

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Sleeping with wet hair is probably not as bad as you might think; but it can cause some problems in the long run.

"You should never sleep with wet hair because not enough air can get in, so it stays wet much longer," Tony Odisho, president and founder of Tony Odisho, tells Bustle. "This can cause mildew and bacteria to grow in your hair." While this is a worst-case scenario, it's still something worth considering if nighttime showers are an important part of your routine.


It Can Keep Your Hair Smoother

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When you air dry your hair frequently, you're helping prevent the negative effects of heat damage. This way, your hair may end up looking smoother and more hydrated.

"Every time you use heat on your hair, it expands the cuticle which agitates the outer layer of hair," Odisho says. "Using heat excessively can also fade the color, dry out hair, and make it frizzy." Both over-styling your hair with heat products and frequently air drying your hair without protection can cause less-than-ideal results. Your best bet is to discuss the needs of your specific hair type with your stylist.


It Can Get Damaged Over Time

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When you air dry your hair, you're maximizing the amount of time that your hair retains moisture. This can be harmful to your hair over the years.

"You can create damage from air drying due to constant water exposure," Melissa Peverini, celebrity hairstylist and Cricket Ambassador, tells Bustle. "Water causes hair to swell and can damage the membrane, weakening hair over time." Since hair is weakest when wet, you may lose your hair cut's original shape and body over time. Blow drying your hair after having it almost (but not quite) dry can help prevent some of this damage.


It Can Get Dehydrated In The Cold

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It may seem ironic that wet hair can get dehydrated, but it's a real risk. So even while you may not be as in danger going out in the cold as you may have thought as a kid, there's still risks.

"Do not go out into cold with wet hair because this is extremely dehydrating to the hair," Peverini says. You probably won't get sick from being out with wet hair in the cold, though.


You Lose Moisture More Slowly

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While your hair getting dehydrated in the cold is an issue, air drying your hair won't always lead to dehydration. Compared to heat styling, air drying actually retains moisture better.

"When your hair is air drying, it’s being naturally depleted of moisture throughout the day, whereas with blow drying, it’s being depleted right away," celebrity hairstylist and owner of Hair Addict Salon, Michelle Cleveland, tells Bustle. "You lose more moisture with blow drying."


You Could Be Preventing Breakage

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Because basically the only option other than air drying your hair is blow drying it, it's natural to compare how your hair is affected by these two methods.

"It’s more about [understanding] what doesn’t happen when you air dry your hair," Cleveland says. "When you blow dry your hair with a blow dryer [or] brush, you have a more intense focused heat concentration on the hair. With a blow dryer, you’re forcing air into one area and on one central part of the hair. Your hair will break more easily with a blow dryer because you’re forcing hot air onto the shaft." With air drying, you're not going through the same process.


It Responds Particularly Well To Color Treated Hair


A lot of what differentiates the need for air drying versus heat styling is based on what kind of hair you have. Your natural hair texture is a factor, but so is whether or not you've colored your hair recently.

"Sometimes air drying can be better for the hair, especially if you color treat your hair," Ted Gibson, celebrity hair stylist and STARRING by Ted Gibson co-founder, tells Bustle. "Putting excessive heat on the hair cuticle via blowdrying and using hot tools like curling irons and flat irons can be way more damaging versus letting your hair air dry." If you're going in to get your hair colored, it's especially important to ask how your hair may respond differently to your previous routine.

In the end, it's totally up to you whether you prefer air drying or heat-styling, and which method you lean towards in your daily life. Air drying your hair is not inherently damaging, but if you want to do it properly, you'll likely want to talk to a stylist or do even more research on your hair type. Something as simple as drying your hair should be easy and stress-free.