I’ve been doing comb blow outs (or rather, having my mother do them on me) since I was a child – comb blow outs were the standard. I never imagined that my hair would smooth out using a tension blow out. Those looked like something you did when your hair was already straight. Week after week, I watched my mother sweep up broken pieces of hair after every blow dry session.

When I first went natural, this was one of the main things I wanted to alleviate – that aspect of mechanical damage to my hair – but still, I didn’t think tension blow drying would work for me. I even had a Chi dryer that had a nozzle and the strangest comb attachment ever (that was also very awkward to use). Years later, I bought a T3 dryer that a comb attachment wasn’t made for. It was then that I tried tension drying and I haven’t looked back. Here are some pros and cons of each technique.

Comb Blow Out


What It Is: Using a comb attachment on your blow dryer to repeatedly comb through your hair while it’s drying.

Pros: Quicker Drying Time. Stretches hair by default. Repeatedly detangles.

Cons: Lots of mechanical manipulation, which often leads to increased shedding and breakage. Hair continuously tangles during the drying process.

Tension Blow Out


What It Is: Using the concentrator nozzle or head of the blow dryer held at close proximity to a hair section held taut, moving the dryer up and down the length of the hair until it dries.

Pros: Minimal mechanical manipulation, which results in less breakage and hair loss. Smoothes hair better than a comb blow out.

Cons: Close proximity to heat. Hair may tangle during drying process and will need to be detangled again in a dry state before styling. Longer drying time.

Ultimately, I definitely prefer tension drying, even if it does take a bit longer. The fact that it decreases breakage or hair loss during the drying process is more important than a quicker drying time. Also, if I need to detangle again, all I do is add a tiny bit of moisturizer, then comb through and put the section in a bun or twist. I certainly don’t miss the ball of hair on the bathroom floor that I became so familiar with during blow drying.

Which method do you prefer?


Elle is the editor and creative director of the YouTube channel and blog, Quest for the Perfect Curl at www.questfortheperfectcurl.com. Her channel focuses on natural hair, beauty, and fitness. She loves products that smell like dessert, yoga, and glitter. Follow her @qftpc.

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5 Comments on "Tension vs. Comb Blow Outs: Which Method is Less Damaging?"

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This is exactly why I love rollersetting. Dryers in my country do not have comb attachments, I have no idea they existed until my stint living in Houston a few years ago. I also don’t have the patience for the tension method, and I feel that it doesn’t stretch my hair sufficiently. Once in a blue moon I would visit my very reputable and gentle hair dresser and her blow outs involved round boarhair brushes. But I cannot do that myself. So, I rollerset, have the hair air dry in the rollers and then when I remove it hair is… Read more »

Does anyone use the tension method with cool air only? I think I still experienced breakage from the tension method, but that could be because the heat was too high. I’m wondering if cool air works.


I have tried the tension method with cool air. It was just okay for me. It took a really long time and I wasn’t that happy with the end result, as it wasn’t as “blown out” as I would like. I much prefer a low to medium heat setting as it’s faster and I haven’t had any problems with heat damage (I only do blow outs a couple times a year though).


I do the comb blow dry. I have NEVER experienced a smooth blow out with the tension method.

Ugonna Wosu

I kind of do a combo of both methods, so I can’t choose one over the over . I’ve mastered using the comb (with little manipulation to my hair), and the tension method works well as long as I pick out the roots of that section with my comb first.