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Beauty 101: the Blow Out

By Amalah

Hi, your blog is awesome, and I’m only 16! I have a question, I hear people talking about their hair “blow out” or something like that, but I have no clue what it is. Could you explain it?
-not even going to try to make up something funny to put here

Aw, if I may get REAL OLD and possibly a bit patronizing here, but aren’t you the cutest thing! Tell your mother I’m very sorry about all the cursing.
Essentially, a blow out is just another name for blow drying your hair, although there is a difference between the half-assed “I’m late and my hair is dripping wet quick blast it with the dryer and shove it into a clip” blow dry that many of us do and a real, true “blow out.”
Think about getting your hair done at the salon and the time-consuming, piece-by-piece blow dry you get there. Your hair is left perfectly straight and bouncy and full of volume and shine and awesome. And then this awesomeness usually lasts a day or two and then you try to blow dry it and hmm. It’s not so bouncy and maybe a little bendy or wavy or frizzy. And then you might run back to the salon to cry to your stylist because your new haircut looked SO GREAT before and now it looks like warmed-over butt and you don’t know what you’re doing wrong.
That’s a blow out. Some women will actually go to the salon JUST for a shampoo and blow dry, before a special occasion, perhaps, like a party or wedding or prom or something. Just because you wear your hair down doesn’t mean that’s automatically a do-it-yourself style. I always schedule my haircuts as close to any type of trip or vacation as possible too, since my salon blow outs last about three days before my hair reverts back to its limp, blah natural state.
But! Of course you can achieve a salon-like blow out at home. It just takes patience, the right tools and some pretty good upper arm muscles. Depending on the length and thickness of your hair, a blowout will take about 20-40 minutes.
First, wash and condition your hair, and then blot out as much excess moisture as you can with a towel.
Second, apply product. This can be a leave-in conditioner or anti-frizz spray or heat protector or straightening cream or volumizing mousse or any other miracle-in-a-bottle that you like. (I use a detangler, some root lift and sometimes the to curb the fly-aways and add some texture.)
Third, get your hair even more dry with a blast of the blow dryer. I like to get my hair to just-vaguely-damp — any wetter and I will be blow drying for the rest of the day. My stylist always starts by aiming at the roots from underneath and pulling them up with his fingers, and then lifts and separates the ends with his fingers. There isn’t a whole lot of finesse needed for this step — just get your hair to a not-super-wet state that’s easier to work with.
175.jpgNext, separate your hair into pieces. How many sections depends on your cut and the thickness of your hair. I have a layered cut so first I clip up my short layers (I use flat clips like the one pictured) into three sections, and then separate the longer sections (the two front sides and the back) and clip them or wrap them VERY LOOSELY with hair bands. Braids or buns will work well too.
Okay, now you’re ready to start really blowing pieces of hair out. Again, the size of the section of hair you want to work with depends on hair length and texture. The smaller the pieces, the longer it will take, but the more control you’ll get.
First, lift the roots up with your fingers and get that part completely dry. Then wrap the rest of the piece around a round brush and get as much tension and tightness as you can. Pull the brush out and through the ends while blasting your hair with hot air, preferably using an angled attachment on your dryer. Angle the dryer directly straight down into your hair — this helps with frizz. Repeat this wrap/pull/dry movement two or three times until the piece is completely dry, making sure to blast the piece and the ESPECIALLY the ends with cold air at the end to “set” it. This will lock in the volume and the direction of the ends (whether you want them curled under, flipped out or completely straight).
And then you do this on your entire head, section by section, piece by piece. When you get to the back of your head you’ll understand what I meant by arm muscles.
Annnnd then you’re done! I sometimes spray some shine serum afterwards, avoiding the roots, although if I’ve used the Surf Spray I skip this and add nothing.

About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch


Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to [email protected].

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

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  • Aimee

    April 7, 2008 at 1:47 pm

    Wow! 20 to 40 minutes?! I “blow out” my shoulder-length hair everyday, and when it begins to take longer than 5 to 7 minutes, I know it’s time for a haircut! Even with the same products, it doesn’t feel (texture-wise) as good as when the stylist does it, but it looks about the same. I attribute the texture difference to a water softener that I suspect the salon has to make people’s hair softer. (I’m in Pittsburgh, which tends to have moderate-to-high hard water).

  • Suzy Q

    April 7, 2008 at 4:17 pm

    That’s just too much work for me. For my long-ish hair, I blow it dry, using the round brush only on a top few pieces, then use hot rollers. Am lazy.

  • jomama

    April 9, 2008 at 12:23 pm

    I hate blow drying my hair, so I just let it air dry and then flat iron it shiny and straight. I will admit that is is a lot bouncier when I blow dry it first, but I have to flat iron it afterwards anyway so I just skip that first step.

  • Meredith

    April 13, 2008 at 2:59 pm

    I have a question that just doesn’t seem to be answered by any of these “6 steps to a fab blow-out” articles (no offense, amalah, you rock!).
    I have coarse, dry, curly hair that I must leave long (to avoid the frizzy Q-tip look). I recently got my hair cut at a fancy salon and they did the most amazing blow out. And, every time I’ve tried to blow out my own hair I run into serious problems.
    I leave my hair fairly wet because it just takes so damn long that parts are dry by the time I get to them. I clip up what I’m not working on. I usually start at the back. The first section goes fine. I think, “I’m gonna get it this time!” The second section is a bit trickier. And by the third and fourth, it’s total mayhem. I can’t keep the sections apart once they’re dry and it all just keeps getting bigger and bigger, until finally, in a full-on panic, I pull everything into a ponytail and put a hat on top.
    So, how do you keep from getting the big, pouf-ball mess?

  • Colleen

    April 22, 2008 at 3:11 pm

    I know the gal asking the question was a little on the young side, but having a half-decent hair-dryer always seems to make a good blow-out a bit easier and quicker. I got crazy at Target and coughed up $35 (am cheap!) for a Conair ionic ceramic tourmaline dryer (think I might still be missing an adjective) and I have noticably less frizz and knocked my blow-out time almost in half. It’s AMAZING!
    (by cheap, I normally paid $15 or so for my hair dryers–obviously got what I paid for since I had to replace them every 4-5 years and even at 1875 watts was drying my hair FOREVER!)

  • Nikki

    February 28, 2009 at 3:06 pm

    I did a true blow out for the first time last week and was amazed at how great my hair looked and felt. thanks for the tips!

  • J

    March 31, 2009 at 4:34 pm

    It shouldnt ever take longer than 30 mins at the most to do this. I have really long naturally straight hair, and my weekly regimen for my hair is, Monday I wash it, let it airdry and wear my hair parted to the side and teased in the back…I dont wash it again till Wednesday, same thing till Friday (my blow out day)I wash it, soak up my wet hair in a towel for like ten mins., then stick it in a half up half down hair style and let it air dry for like 30 mins to an hour, which by then its almost done, and ill start to blow dry. I only do mine in MAYBE 3 sections. I always put serum in my hair, especially the ends, and i put my entire upper half up in a bun and clip, and focus on the bottom, then i take the upper part and divide it in TWO. The left and the right. And i do both sides, then finally when its all dry I flip my head over blow dry it like that for about 3 mins. and im all done. it takes, TOP…20 mins. And THAT can last me up to 4 days.

  • Sonya

    May 23, 2015 at 9:08 pm

    I have to wash my hair everyday because it gets oily on the sides. It would be heaven to wait 2-3 days betw hairwashings. Count yourselves lucky! Mine is straight, and I have to blow dry it make it look at least decent even on the weekends at home.