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We Tried Air Dry Hairstyles And Here's What Happened

So much sitting and waiting.

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Hi, I'm Emma, and I'm addicted to heat styling. I like my hair to look smooth and sleek, but not flat on top, and I've spent years perfecting my tonging technique to achieve this.

Instagram: @petite

I've always kind of hated my natural hair (a mix between straight and wavy, with a tendency towards frizz) and my GHD straighteners have been a fixture in my life since I was 14.

But I'm also very aware how much damage blowdrying and tonging can do to your hair! Plus it takes SO LONG. I'd much rather be spending my time rewatching Pride and Prejudice (the BBC series, obvs) for the 500th time. So I'd love to be able to find a no-heat style for days when I want to give my hair a break or am just feeling lazy.

Hi! I'm Becky, and my hair is extremely thick and unpredictable. I have to book double hairdresser's appointments, and day-to-day I never know if my hair will look...

Becky Barnicoat / BuzzFeed

For a while I used an "air-dryer" (basically a hairbrush that blows hot air) to make my hair smooth every time. But it also made my hair incredibly dry and puffy.

I'm also quite lazy and can't be arsed with a time-consuming beauty regime. So recently I have been trying to take control of my natural, slightly chaotic waves by scrunching them and leaving my hair to dry without heat. It doesn't always work, but I'm not giving up – I'd love to master a foolproof technique that I could turn to every time

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Emma

Emma / BuzzFeed

One thing I didn't take into consideration before I signed up for this is that, loose, my hair takes half a day, if not longer, to dry. Tied up, it's nearly impossible to get it to dry at all. I washed my hair at 9am, twisted it, and by 6pm, my hair was still wet – not damp, wet. I had to go out, so I blowdried the twists for a little bit to try speed things up.

When I took them out, my hair was still damp in the centre of the twists. I also looked like a Victorian heroine. Very "my lover has gone to war, and I'm stuck here starching my crinoline until he returns". I pulled the twists out a bit, and this just made things worse really. My hair was pretty frizzy, and the "curls" I had just looked a bit like I'd been electrified.

Score: 3/10

Drying time: Even with the help of a blowdryer, my hair was still not fully dry over 12 hours later. If I try this again, I'll air dry my hair loose first.

Becky

Becky Barnicoat / BuzzFeed

This one was fun to do. Because my hair is double the weight of everyone else's, I had to do, like, 12 beach twists, which I wound around my head in a kind of damp Princess Leia tribute.

Four hours in, the twists were beginning to ache a bit and I was also bored of waiting to see what my hair was going to look like. It was time for the big reveal.

Aaaand...it was very wavy. I know that was the point, but I felt a bit like King Charles II. I scruffed the waves up and put them behind my ears, and in the end I kind of liked it. The curls looked pretty natural, and they lasted for a couple of days. I'm not 100% a convert, and I can see this going wrong in the future, but I'd definitely give the beach twists a second chance.

Score: 8/10

Drying time: If you have thick hair like me, let it dry 80% before you twist it, then leave the twists in for at least four hours.

Style 2: Plait your hair for waves.

Cost: £0. This is free as long as you already have hair ties.

Emma

Emma Cooke / BuzzFeed

I think this was the most practical of the hairstyles we tried, as I feel comfortable going outside the house in braids, whereas with the others I felt trapped inside until my hair dried (though my two plaits did make me feel like a schoolgirl).

My hair had waves when I took my braids out after work despite still being a bit damp. If I'd slept in the plaits this wouldn't have been an issue, but my Granny says if you sleep with wet hair, mites crawl in and live there, which I know sounds bonkers but I have learnt over the years to just do what my Granny says. The waves this gives you are VERY retro. The other thing was that in plaits the hair at the top of my scalp was flat against my head, so I had zero volume. This got less noticeable once I'd slept on my hair (right-hand picture) but this whole process just reminded me of the hair I had when I was a teenager, and that is not a time period I want to go back to.

Score: 4/10

Drying time: I don't even know as I went outside and it started raining. My hair is just permanently damp. This is my life now.

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Becky

Becky Barnicoat / BuzzFeed

My hair is tragically too thick for two plaits, but four plaits I can do. And I think I looked kind of cute, as long as you ignored the two other weird plaits round the back of my head.

I actually managed to sleep fine in this style. The next morning, I was scared my hair would be over-the-top kinky, but when I shook it out the effect was quite subtle. Not curls as much as ridgy waves, but I liked it.

Sadly the look didn't really last and my hair was pretty much straight by the next day. Next time I’d leave my hair a little damper, and I think the effect would be even better.

Score: 7/10

Drying time: My hair takes about six hours to dry on its own as standard. Let it dry around 80% before plaiting so you don't come down with pneumonia from sleeping with wet hair.

Style 3: Use rollers for a no-heat blowout.

Cost: £10.50. One pack of medium sleep-in rollers, one pack of large sleep-in rollers, and one pack of vented rollers.

Emma

Emma Cooke / BuzzFeed

Becky thought her hair would be too short for rollers, so I did this one solo. Again, my hair wouldn't dry. I put my hair in rollers in the morning, then had to push back my brunch date to 3pm, which is the most bougie thing I think I have ever said.

I ended up having to take the rollers out still damp – and surprise, surprise, it looked terrible. But post-brunch I put more water in my hair and put them back in, and when it dried properly it looked AMAZING, like I'd had a blowout from a salon.

I think the trick to this is to dry your hair 80 to 90% before you put these in. Or you could try sleeping in them, but I do not trust that these will stay in overnight, as they barely stayed in when I was just sitting down minding my own business.

Side note: I assumed wearing rollers in my hair would make me look like Beyoncé in her "Irreplaceable" music video. They did not.

Score: 8/10

Drying time: six hours pre-brunch, two hours post-brunch.

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Becky

Becky Barnicoat / BuzzFeed

I tried this style as an alternative to the curlers. Basically, you wrap your hair round a headband in sections until the whole thing is curled up.

I was excited to try out the headband because it makes you look like a medieval warrior princess. But as soon as I put the band on my head I knew it wasn't going to work out. I have a massive man-sized head and the band immediately gave me a pressure headache. It also gave me an attractive red mark across my forehead.

Unfurled, my hair fell by my face like comedy 18th-century ringlets. I ruffled my hair a bit, and if anything it looked worse. It was bushy and chaotic. I put it in a ponytail and that’s where it stayed.

Score: 2/10

Drying time: Again, if you have thick hair, let your hair air dry around 80% before twisting it round the band and leaving it for as long as you can bear.

Emma

My old science teachers would be very disappointed in me, as I blended this product test with the twist style above rather than letting it air dry fully loose, so this isn't a completely fair test. I sprayed the Wonder Worker on, let my hair air dry 80%, THEN twisted my hair into a bun.

This is what the twist style I tried first should have been. My hair looked very '90s, in a good way – I have loose, beachy waves and volume.

Product-wise, I don't know how much the Shu Uemura was responsible for this vs the twist style, but I definitely think it helped. My hair didn't look as frizzy and held the waves pretty well. I will say that I could feel the product in my hair a lot, which I don't like – I know loads of people like (and need!) heavier products they can feel, but I prefer ones that don't make my hair feel sticky or tacky at all.

Score: 7/10

Drying time: Six hours, which seems a lot, but actually I was only focused on my actual hair for max 10 minutes.

New score for the twist style: 8/10. If you have long, fine hair, don't do lots of little twists, do one big twist and air dry first. This is the key.

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Becky

Becky Barnicoat / BuzzFeed

I found this product kind of confusing. It's a spray, but it doesn't give any directions on how much you should apply. I went for six sprays on to my damp hair. I had high hopes for the Shu Uemura as I'm a massive fan of their Ultimate Hair Remedy. And as you can see, once it had dried my hair looked kind of messy but not necessarily in a bad way.

The next day, however, everything went to pot. I woke up with wonky, awful, out-of-control hair. I'm sorry that I forgot to take a photo but I was too busy trying to tie it up into some sort of presentable bun. The product had set my hair into bizarre, angular shapes that stuck out in 1,000 different directions.

My hair also felt dirty and dry as straw. I usually wash my hair every four days, but by the end of day two I was desperate to get this stuff off and reset it to normal.

Score: 0/10 – maybe it's just my hair type, but this did nothing for me

Drying time: My usual six hours

Emma

Emma Cooke / BuzzFeed

Again, science-wise, this isn't great as I didn't manage to use this before I went on holiday, so I just brought it with me. So I don't know how much the hot climate I was in affected this – my variables for this test are all over the place.

I really loved this product, though. It's like my hair but better. I worked it through towel-dried hair and then walked out and when I next looked in a mirror my hair looked good! Plus, you can't feel any product in it at all. It won't replace tonging my hair, but it definitely made me like my natural hair a lot more!

For context, you can find a picture of my hair the last time it air-dried naturally with no product in the UK here.

Score: 9/10

Drying time: Two hours. Caribbean weather for the win.

Becky

Becky Barnicoat / BuzzFeed

This is already my go-to product for air drying my hair. I'm generally phobic of products, because they make my hair feel heavy and dirty, but this stuff is a revelation. I rubbed a penny-sized dollop into my damp hair, then scrunched it to encourage the natural waves. A few hours later I had wavy, soft, but controlled hair.

This stuff was still working its magic the next day. My hair gets very, very large when it air dries, but my pillow seemed to beat the curls into submission and I woke up with nice subtle waves.

The best bit was that I couldn't tell that I had product in. There was no weird greasiness or dampness that I sometimes get with frizz-control products. For my unruly, sometimes straight, sometimes wavy hair, this feels like the holy grail of air-drying.

Score: 9/10, because you can't give anything 10/10

Drying time: The usual, but to speed things up, you can use a diffuser with this stuff and it won't frizz.

Emma: I have mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, I did like how some of these styles made my hair look, and they felt less high-maintenance than heat-styling.

But overall I think my hair just takes too long to dry for most no-heat hairstyles to be practical for me. I do not live the life of a '50s housewife. I've got stuff outside my house I need to be doing.

I think I'll be saving these styles for holidays and sunny weather, or using them to complement my tool use when I don't have anywhere I need to be for a few hours – i.e., blowdrying first, then putting my hair into plaits, a twist bun, or rollers when my hair's still slightly damp.

My major takeaway from this, though? You can pry my curling tong out of my cold dead hands before I give it up.

Becky: I am slowly coming to accept the fact that my hair has a split personality. Some days it’s silky smooth and flat to my head like a Playmobil person. Other days, it's more "woman raised in the woods by wolves".

Air drying is also unpredictable, but nevertheless I'm a convert. The speed and convenience, plus how good it looks when it works, outweighs the hassle of occasionally having to scrape the whole mess into a bun.

Of the techniques we tried, I’ll definitely return to beach twists and plaits, with the assistance of my trusty Bumble & Bumble Don’t Blow It. And sometimes my hair will look fly as fuck and I'll be a total beach babe. Sometimes I'll be wearing a hat. I can deal with it.