Have you heard of bub­ble hair? As the name sug­gests, it is lit­er­al­ly bub­bles of air form­ing in hair. This hap­pens when wet/damp hair is in con­tact with a heat­ing tool (straight­en­ing iron, curling iron or blow dry­er) and water inside hair heats up to its boil­ing point (cir­ca 100°C/212F). Heat­ing tools range in tem­per­a­ture with a cool lev­el at 30°C/86F and a high lev­el at over 200°C/392F but not all have accu­rate gauges mak­ing it very easy to end up with bub­ble hair if you start blow dry­ing or heat straight­en­ing on damp hair. The bub­bles can usu­al­ly be felt as irreg­u­lar­i­ties that were not pre­vi­ous­ly present and the hair usu­al­ly ends up becom­ing very brit­tle.

bubble hair

How­ev­er many hair­dressers do suc­cess­ful­ly use blow dry­ers on wet or damp hair and even say it is bet­ter for kinkier tex­tures. So what is the deal, is it bet­ter to go for wet hair after all or are there advan­tages to using heat on dry hair?

1. Heat Treat­ing Wet/Damp Hair
— Wet hair is weak­er but more flex­i­ble for manip­u­la­tion.

— Risk of bub­ble hair if high heat is used or the appli­ance is over­heats while in con­tact with hair (BJD, pp 901–903, 1994).
— There is more exter­nal struc­tural dam­age to hair com­pared to using heat on dry hair (J Cos­met Sci, pp 15–27, 2011).
— Repeat­ed cycles of wet­ting hair and blow dry­ing can induce cuti­cle cracks (J Cos­met Sci, pp 141–153, 1998).

2. Heat Treat­ing Dry Hair
— There is less exter­nal struc­tural dam­age to the hair com­pared to using heat on wet hair (J Cos­met Sci, pp 265–282, 2011).
— Bub­ble hair is less like­ly (unless you use a heat pro­tec­tant that is water based and there­fore a water source)
— Hair does not change in terms of rigid­i­ty unlike with wet hair that has been heat-treat­ed that becomes less rigid post-treat­ment (J Cos­met Sci, pp 15–27, 2011).

— Dry hair is stronger but less flex­i­ble mak­ing it sus­cep­ti­ble to break­age.
— For kinkier tex­tures and tight curls, some amount of stretch­ing via anoth­er method may be nec­es­sary before attempt­ing to apply heat.

Gen­er­al Notes
— It is good prac­tice to use a heat pro­tec­tant on dry or damp hair to pro­tect from some ele­ments of heat dam­age (J Cos­met Sci, pp 265–282, 2011).
— All heat-treat­ed hair wet or dry sus­tains some amount of chem­i­cal dam­age notably loss of an amino acid called tryp­to­phan (J Cos­met Sci, pp 15–27, 2011).
— This arti­cle is for the girls (may­be a few guys out there) who do like and whose hair can take heat. For some us, heat is a no-no, which is why you should look to African thread­ing if you want a heat free blow out look!


Do you prefer to blow-dry your hair while wet or dry? Sound off in the com­ments below!

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3 Comments on "Should You Blow Dry Wet Or Dry? A Scientific Approach"

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I’m think­ing of wash­ing my hair the night before and twist­ing it up with my shea but­ter mix­ture (very lit­tle) so that my hair won’t be total­ly dry and then the next day blow dry it so that it’s already stretched. My hair is very kinky so I feel safer doing that. I don’t usu­al­ly blow dry my hair, but I want to for a com­pa­ny func­tion.

What’s the best heat pro­tec­tant?


What about blow dry­ing hair on a cool set­ting? I’ve just bought a hair dry­er that can do that but I haven’t used it yet.


You should be good to go. Cool air isn’t dam­ag­ing to the hair. There is a YouTu­ber that drys her hair with cool air. I will send you the link.: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U7g93FLbUYQ