There’s nothing quite like the feeling of a soft robe against your skin and a hair towel around your head after a long, refreshing shower. But be careful; that towel on your head might be doing more harm than you realize.
Recently, more and more people have switched to non-heat alternatives for drying their post-shower wet hair.
But regardless of what method you choose, the first step is always using a hair towel to wick excess moisture away from your locks. Unfortunately, this is where everything can go wrong.
But instead of splitting hairs trying to figure out a good technique, let us do the hard work for you.
Why Wet Hair Is Extremely Vulnerable
Your hair is super resilient and strong. It can withstand high temperatures, adapt to different environments, repair from heat and chemical damage, and a single strand can hold up to 100 grams of weight.
Once your hair is wet, however, it’s a different story altogether. Wet hair is extremely vulnerable to damage- one wrong move, and you risk frizz, breakage, and hygral fatigue. This is also why experts advise against brushing wet hair- it breaks with the slightest tug.
But why does this happen?
Well, when your hair and scalp are wet, it compromises the protein bonds that constitute each, strand- that’s just basic chemistry. Now, the very structure of your hair is weakened.
But thank god for the outermost cuticle armor protecting each strand. That is, of course, until you brush it, pull it, twist it, or run a towel over it.
Once wet hair stretches due to combing or any of the aforementioned factors, the cuticles swell and break. Unfortunately, these deformed cuticles don’t return to their original form.
Instead, as your hair dries, you’ll notice frizz and split ends that weren’t there before. So, how exactly do you minimize this damage?
The answer, of course, is towel drying- the right way!
The Do’s of Towel-Drying
Towel-drying can be great for your hair- if you know how to do it right. And here’s how.
Squeeze Wet Hair Gently With Your Hands
When you first get out of the shower, your strands will be dripping wet. While you may be tempted to wrap your hair in a towel right away, you need to resist the urge.
Otherwise, you risk saturating your hair towel in a matter of seconds. If the towel is already soaking wet, then it has no more room to absorb the excess moisture from your hair.
Instead, use your hands to squeeze out all the excess water from your hair. Remember to do this as gently as possible- no twisting, rubbing or pulling. Just grab your hair and squeeze it in your fist, wringing out as much water as possible.
Dab Your Hair
With your hair as vulnerable as it is after a shower, you want to be as gentle as possible with it. By doing so, you ensure that your hair doesn’t become tangled, frizzy, and, most importantly, brittle.
The best technique for towel-drying your hair is blotting or dabbing. After you’ve already wrung out the excess water, you can use your hair towel to blot out some of the remaining moisture.
Additionally, you should always start from the bottom and make your way up to your roots. This ensures that you’re not pulling on your hair or dragging the towel along your strands.
Section Your Hair
The roots of your hair are denser than the ends. Hence, they retain moisture for longer and therefore take equally as long to dry.
But you can shorten this dry-time by sectioning your hair. You don’t have to go crazy and use sectioning clips like you would with a blow-dryer. Instead, just take small sections of your hair and scrunch it upwards- all the way to your roots.
Granted, it’s not going to be as quick as using a blow-dryer directly on your roots. But remember: it’s not going to be as damaging either.
Use a Fresh Part of the Hair Towel Each Time
Every fabric has its own saturation point, after which it can not soak up water anymore. Additionally, the wetter it is, the more amount of time it will take to absorb moisture.
To avoid this problem, simply use a fresh part of the towel every time you move on to a new section of hair. You can even do this once every two times, depending on your towel material, size, and how big your sections are.
Use a Different Towel For Your Body and Hair
You probably already know that you should be using a different towel for your body and face. Well, it’s about time that we extend that rule to your hair as well.
Your body (read: neck-down) often has a lot of dead skin- even after a shower. Additionally, your body and scalp have a vastly different oil composition.
And trust us; you don’t want those two worlds to collide.
Body towels are also larger and can weigh down on your head, pulling your hair in the process and causing neck stiffness. Similarly, body towels are also usually coarser and not suitable for delicate, wet hair.
So, always use a different towel for your head and the rest of your body.
The Don'ts of Towel-Drying
Towel drying might seem pretty straightforward on the surface, but the smallest mistakes make the biggest difference for your hair.
Rub Your Hair
It might be difficult to break bad habits, but it’s easy to break wet hair-especially if you’re rubbing it with a towel.
Growing up, almost all of us would rub our towels aggressively against our hair - twisting, tugging, and tangling it. How else were we supposed to get all that water out quickly? But as you may have already guessed, this is really damaging to your hair.
Rubbing your soaking-wet hair with a towel is the fastest way to get split-ends, hair fallout, and frizzy, kinky hair.
And the truly scary part is that it takes months, if not years, to undo that damage. So, instead of being impatient, take your time with the towel-drying process.
Leave the Hair Towel On Your Head For Too Long
You can’t get all the moisture out of your hair just by using a towel. Generally speaking, you should take off the hair towel after about 20 minutes and let the breeze take care of the rest.
Intuitively, we might think that the longer we leave our hair secured in a towel turban, the more it will dry. But your hair will always be at least a little damp from towel-drying.
Think about it this way: the towel retains a lot of moisture since its surface area is so less when it's wrapped around your head. This damp barrier around your head will keep your hair damp as well.
So, the longer you keep your hair wrapped up in hopes of drying it, the longer it will remain wet.
Use a Cotton Towel
Ever since the advent of the CG hair method, people have swiftly realized the pitfalls of using a cotton towel- even if it’s high-quality.
Unfortunately, cotton towels lose their softness over time and retain a lot of bacteria. Coupled with wet, weekend hair, this is a recipe for disaster.
Basically, the dryness and coarse texture of cotton towels against the already-weakened hair shaft causes your hair to poof up. On the other hand, synthetic microfiber or Imabari towels- like the Mizu Towel- are more forgiving towards damp, compromised hair.
Twist Too Hard Or Wrap Too Tightly
It might be satisfying to wring your hair as you would your washed clothes- twisting and squeezing until every last drop of water abandons the fabric. But let us reiterate: wet hair is fragile and prone to long-lasting damage.
So, whether you’re using your hands, or a towel, or even a shirt, don’t twist your hair!
Similarly, if you’re making a towel turban, don’t wrap it too tightly in hopes of securing it better. Not only will this pull on your hair, but it will also give you a terrible headache.
Comb Your Hair After Towel Drying
So your towel is off, and your hair feels drier than before. Surely, now is the time to detangle it, right?
Put that comb down- it’s not time yet.
Ideally, you should wait until your hair is completely dry to run a brush or comb through it. But by that time, your hair is already tangled, and combing through it makes it poof up like a pufferfish- especially if you have curly or dry hair.
Once again, we turn to the CG handbook for some invaluable guidance: comb your hair in the shower. Specifically, comb it as you apply your conditioner. This simultaneously distributes the product throughout your hair and helps detangle them without breakage.
Wrapping up, your towel-drying technique can make or break your hair’s integrity- literally. So, if your hair towel is making your mane frizzy and brittle, you might want a change of habits.
The most important thing to remember is that your hair is extremely vulnerable when it is wet. As such, you need to treat it as gently as possible. This involves no brushing, rubbing, pulling, or twisting.
With the smallest changes in your towel-drying habits, you’ll never have a bad hair day again!