With this summer's heat, we might be ready to ditch hot tools altogether. Painstakingly-polished hair is set to give way to shaggier, more lived-in styles as the weather kicks up. Take the trending shaggy fringe, invisible layers, and topknot bun, for example. That's before we've touched on the heatless waves and claw-clip styles taking over TikTok. One thing they all have in common? They tend to look best when you skip the tools and let your hair dry naturally.
Forget limp and frizzy, though. With the right products and techniques, it's possible to twist, tuck, and scrunch damp hair into effortless perfection — because whether your hair is coily, curly, wavy or straight, it may need a little guidance.
Faux Curtain Bangs
Getting bangs is a commitment for many reasons. It's a stylist's job to make bangs look full and selfie-worthy, but if you're not skilled with a hairdryer, or you're a little lazy about booking in for a regular trim, bangs can easily fall flat. That's where faux curtain bangs come in. The look is something of a signature for London-based stylists The Hair Bros (aka Sean-Paul and Nick), and it works best on wavy or straight hair.
Simply part your hair down the middle and tuck each side behind your ears while you allow it to air-dry. It's even better if you wash your hair in the evening and head to bed when it's almost dry. "Doing this will give hair that nice framing effect around the face," said Sean. He recommends committing to not touching it too much, otherwise you could iron out the shape. Take inspiration from DJ FYI ROBYN on Instagram.
Air-drying can turn up the volume on hair, and stylists, TikTokkers, and influencers are moving away from lacquered curls, celebrating texture in all its glory. Take a cue from surrealist artist @sensukii on Instagram and her halo of soft curls. Hairstylist Jason Collier likes Shea Moisture's Coconut & Hibiscus Curl & Shine Shampoo and Conditioner. "They gently cleanse and hydrate the hair, while detangling, to give bouncy and healthy curls."
When it comes to styling, The Hair Bros' Roxy Estella suggests distributing product through damp hair. Award-winning hairstylist Charlotte Mensah recommends applying a couple of drops of Manketti Hair Oil combined with Manketti Oil Pomade after washing, then letting your curls air-dry. The key to great shape, says Roxy? Not dragging your fingers through curls like a comb.
If your hair is straight or wavy and you're after just a little more definition, like this style created by Francesca Inverarity at The Hair Bros, spritz a sea salt spray (like L'ange Salt + Sea Texturizing Spray) through damp lengths, avoiding your roots. When hair is around 50% dry, separate it into two sections at each side and then twist each portion around your fingers to create a rope shape. Once that's done, twist each rope into a knot at the nape of your neck and secure with bobby pins and unpin when you head out the door.
To smooth down any frizzy bits or flyaways, veil your hair with Andrew Fitzsimons Texture Spray for Hair, and use your fingertips to separate the waves for a slightly undone look.
Wash & Go
"Type 4 hair is prone to shrinkage, and its delicate nature means that you should treat it in the same way you would a silk dress," said Jason. "Cleanse it gently, handle it with care, and moisturize at every step of the way." Chie Sato, head of education at Taylor Taylor London, suggests starting by co-washing your hair. (Depending on how long it's been since your last wash day and how much product build-up there is on your scalp, you might want to opt for a nourishing shampoo instead.)
"Curly or kinky hair textures will need lots of moisture to keep them hydrated and protected from damage, so make sure to use a thicker, hydrating conditioner afterwards, which is specially formulated for curls," said Chie. Try Creme of Nature Argan Oil Intensive Conditioning Treatment. "While the conditioner is working in, detangle by using your fingers and then a wide-tooth comb or a wet brush."
The best time to apply your styling products is while your hair is wet so that your strands don't swell up when they dry, said Chie. "Section your hair for even distribution of product and then smooth your curl-defining cream over the hair using both hands." Chie says, avoid scrunching hair, so as not to disturb your natural curl pattern. "Follow with a gel or holding product to keep the shape," said Chie. "To minimize frizz, you can diffuse your hair on a low setting, or let it air-dry for healthy, conditioned lengths." If you have 4b hair, look to natural hair influencer @zoeallamby on Instagram or head to TikTok, where there's a lot of practical and informative wash-and-go routines for all hair types.
"If you have wavy or curly hair, a great way to style it without heat is to scrunch it so that it dries into a natural wave," said Chie. We love these S-shaped waves by Roxy. "While the hair is wet, tip it upside down and scrunch in a lightweight curl cream or serum, focusing on the ends to create definition," said Chie. Try Cake The Curl Friend Defining Curl Cream, or Aussie Miracle Curls Oil Hair Treatment with Australian Jojoba Oil. "Using a soft towel, continue to scrunch until the hair is partially dry, then flip and let the air do the rest of the work."
If you have any leftover frizzy pieces when it dries, you can use a serum to twist those pieces to give them more definition, said Chie. "Applying [a serum] to an air-dried wave will add definition and give a light hold, as well as lending gentle, all-day moisture and frizz-reduction."
Jason explained that you don't have to do very much to curls — it's all about finding the right way to condition them so they're buoyant without heat styling. "You might need a little trial and error to work out a haircare regime that suits you," he said, but a dedicated curl shampoo is a must. Try Maui Moisture Curl Quench+ Coconut Oil Shampoo, which detangles and imparts bounce and shine.
If you're letting your hair air-dry, drench it in moisture first, with something like Shea Moisture Coconut & Hibiscus Curl & Shine Curl Enhancing Smoothie — a great product if your hair is on the thicker side and gets dry in the sun. To accentuate springy curls, like @arantzagoett, pick out a handful of strands and twist them around your fingertips before letting your hair dry naturally.
You don't have to braid your hair into a pair of socks (thanks, TikTok) to achieve heatless waves, like @yolaue on Instagram. If you have straight hair, there are plenty of different ways to create heatless waves, said Chie, and the simplest way is to braid your hair when it's damp. "Sleep in it overnight so that it dries to create a subtle wave," said Chie. "You can alter the pattern of the wave by changing the type of braid you do. For example, a smaller, thinner braid will create a tighter wave. A thicker or loosely-woven braid will create a looser, more subtle wave." Just ensure your hair is around 70% dry before going to sleep so as not to wake up with wet hair.
For a style that isn't too uniform or perfect, split your hair into a handful of sections. Enlisting a moisturizing wave or curl cream, like Matrix A Curl Can Dream Moisturizing Cream, twist some strands, scrunch others, and pull the rest taut before letting it air-dry. You can do the same on straight hair, too. Just look to this style by freelance hairstylist Woody Rattana on Instagram.
This article was originally posted on Refinery29 UK.
At Refinery29, we’re here to help you navigate this overwhelming world of stuff. All of our market picks are independently selected and curated by the editorial team. If you buy something we link to on our site, Refinery29 may earn commission.