Updated: Jan 28
I’m going to let you in on a little secret: The best way to streamline your morning routine is to call a cease-fire in your war with Mother Nature. When you work with your hair texture to make it look its best, your only worry will be what to do with all this newfound free time. In an ideal world, everyone would wake up with flawless hair, but unless you sleep standing up, you’re likely beginning your morning with some bed head. But before you default to a quick, messy bun to get you out the door on time, try taking advantage of your hair’s natural texture to create a styled look in minimal time.
If your hair is straight: Start smoothing in the shower. Look for a shampoo and conditioner that contain ingredients to smooth (usually silicones like dimethicone), advises celebrity hairstylist Nathaniel Hawkins. "It will help the outer cuticle of your hair lie flat so it looks shinier once it dries," he says.
Remove as much moisture as possible. To get your hair to dry straight in a flash, immediately wrap it in a microfiber towel twist it up and give it a chance to really wick away excess moisture while you’re doing something else in your morning routine," Hawkins says.
Straight hair typically dries two different ways: Totally smooth with nary a flyaway, or with a bit of frizz you need to squash. If you’re in the first category, work a leave-in conditioner like through your hair. "Sometimes straight hair needs softening so it doesn’t seem too hard and straight, and a leave-in conditioner will do that without adding unnecessary hold," he says. If you find midday frizz creeps into your style, start your morning with a smoothing serum with three pumps in your hand, through your hair starting an inch away from your roots," he says.
Set things straight with your comb. If you want to air-dry or speed things up with a blow dryer, use a medium-size comb to set your desired part, then detangle through the length of your hair, Hawkins says. "This makes sure there are no bumps or twists as it dries," he says. If you do want to blow-dry, switch to a vent brush, which will speed up the process. "Use your nozzle attachment and your hair will get straight and smooth very, very quickly," he says.
Revive it the next day. To avoid repeating this process daily, sleep with your hair lifted up over your pillow (instead of down by your neck, where sweat and friction could make it frizzy). The next morning, mist all over with a leave-in conditioner heat-protecting spray and either blast it quickly with your drier or run a flat iron over it, Hawkins says.
Get beachy from the get-go. "Usually women with wavy hair are looking for that beachy wave look, so start with a shampoo and conditioner meant to re-create it," Hawkins says. Or opt for formulas designed for curly hair, but avoid conditioners that look too dense or sticky—they’ll weigh down your waves.
Towel-dry only slightly. Use a microfiber towel to get rid of sopping wet excess moisture, but don’t wait too long to use a styling product. "You want your hair to be fairly damp because the moisture helps the wave form," Hawkins says.
Ride out the right wave. Hawkins says if your natural ripples need coaxing, try a sea salt spray to energize your waves. If your hair tends to get too fluffy, stick with a styling lotion, which will help tame it to be defined while defrizzed. After you’ve worked it through your entire hair, comb through strands with a wide-tooth comb. "This makes sure it’s distributed evenly," he says.
Dry it right. To speed your drying time, use your blow dryer on the hottest setting with the diffuser attachment and just hold it up to your hair (instead of leaning over to one side and cupping it in the bowl). "This dries off most of the moisture to prevent any crispness from forming," Hawkins says. Do this for just five minutes, and you’ll love the way your waves form as they continue to air-dry. And one other thing—keep your hands out of it until at least 80 percent of the moisture is gone. "Once it looks dry but still feels a little damp to the touch, that’s when you can scrunch it a bit to give your waves a boost," he says.
Sleep smart. Normally you sleep in braids to create fake waves, but Hawkins says the move will help keep natural ripples in top shape, too. "Do two loose braids—don’t pull tightly to create a lot of tension—then tie off strands with a loose elastic," he says. In the morning, shake them out, mist all over with the sea salt spray, and gently scrunch it into hair with your head upside down to revive your volume and body.
Consider skipping shampoo altogether.
"Curls need as much moisture as they can get, which is why this is a great option for them," Hawkins says. It’s OK if you don’t feel squeaky clean—any leftovers will only act like a styling product to control frizz.
Be your own mixologist. All curls are not created equal, so Hawkins says it takes some trial and error to get the best styling product (or products) to tame your curls the way you like. Make sure you evenly coat your curls with product, he suggests flipping your head over and squeezing it into hair from roots to ends. "You don’t want to rake through the top levels of your hair because it can break up the formation, so this gets product in without disrupting those curls," he says.