The bouncy blow dry guide: How to blow dry hair with volume

Big hair can be yours with these expert tips and tricks for a bouncy blow dry

Closely cropped image of a woman drying her hair
(Image credit: Getty images)

The first step to achieving a bouncy blow dry is getting your hands on the best hair dryer for your hair type. However, even the most technical hair dryer can’t magic up a blow dry that the Duchess of Cambridge would be proud of without a little expertise on your part. 

Achieving big, swishy hair at home needn’t be a head – or arm-ache. we asked the pros for their high-volume blow dry secrets and they’re surprisingly simple. Given that 30% of UK women use a styling tool in order to create more body, these tricks are sure to come in handy.

1. Apply styling products (but sparingly)

After washing, apply a little product to the ends of towel-dried hair before misting with your volumising lotion and heat protector spray of choice (especially if you plan on smoothing your hair with the best hair straighteners after drying). This holy trinity of hair product should ensure that your style holds up in the face of humidity and grease.

Your hair will likely need some extra oomph to create long-lasting body and shine before you even plug in your hair dryer, but don’t be tempted to load up on products – less is more where big hair is concerned. Mark Woolley, founder and creative director of Electric Hair, explains why a light touch is crucial if volume is your aim:

“Don’t slather hair in heavy styling products, such as mousses or creams; pre-blow-dry styling products should aim to hold the root up without weighing the hair down.”

Living Proof No Frizz Vanishing Oil is a silicone-free, fast-absorbing serum that smooths ends from the get-go, while many an expert hair stylist we’ve quizzed recommends L’Oréal Professionnel Tecni Art Pli Shaper as the ultimate volumising lotion. 

2. Stick to the 60% rule

After washing with the best shampoo and conditioner for your hair type, your hair needs to be at least 60% dry before you begin shaping hair with your hair dryer. Tugging at hair with a brush when it’s very wet can cause breakage, and hair that’s sopping wet is tricky to style. 

Jack Merrick-Thirlway, creative director of Neville Hair & Beauty, recommends “gently towel drying hair first before rough drying it using just your fingers and a hair dryer”. The key to a swingy, healthy-looking blow dry is to initially blot away moisture without roughing up the hair cuticle, which can cause frizz and static later down the line. A fast-drying microfibre towel or hair turban will do the hard work for you while you have breakfast or do your makeup. From there, Mark lets gravity do the work:

“Flip your head upside down when rough drying to get the roots moving in the opposite way. Going against the direction of how your hair falls naturally creates maximum root lift, resulting in a bigger blow dry.”

Whatever you do, don’t assume that more heat achieves greater hold:

“Don’t automatically crank up your hair dryer to the highest heat setting. Using a medium heat setting will almost always create the volume you’re after, while also maintaining the hair’s shine. If you burn your hair by applying too much heat, you’ll actually lose the style, shape and shine, not to mention the fact that extra heat won’t lead to greater volume.”

3. Blow dry in sections

Start at the back of the head and work your way towards the front, using the airflow-narrowing nozzle on your hairdryer to dry each section quickly and thoroughly. For even more bounce, Jack suggests wrapping each section of your hair in Velcro rollers and blasting with cool air. Alternatively, create curls and secure them to your head with sectioning clips while you wait for the rest of your hair to take shape. Then simply release the curls, give your head a shake and run your fingers through the ends to create movement.

When you’re ready to finish your blow dry, bring in your brush. Mark favours a round natural-bristle brush, so that “you can lift the roots and apply tension to the hair without damaging it”. Flimsier metal bristles can heat up too quickly and also don’t tend to grip the hair as well, meaning that you’re more likely to need to repeatedly work on the same section of hair to achieve results, risking further heat damage. 

If you do prefer synthetic brushes, Wet Brush Volumizing Round Brush features flexible bristles that are gentle enough to use on wet hair yet dense enough to pull hair taught at the root, allowing for greater lift.

As for technique, Jack underlines that sectioning hair produces seriously professional results:

“Take medium to large sections of hair, depending on its thickness, and roll the brush up to the roots. Hold with good tension as you dry the roots, then smooth the brush down the length of the hair and repeat the process until each section is dried.

“To shape the ends, curl hair around the brush until they’re dry (the ends dry quicker the roots) and apply the cool shot on your hair dryer to set the style.” 

4. Hold the volume in place

Big hair may need a helping hand to stay that way, but don’t go too crazy with the hairspray. Jack prescribes a very fine mist to hold volume, while Mark suggests focusing your energies on your roots:

“You still want to hold on to natural movement, rather than ‘sticking’ the hair in place."

Electric °C-8 Invisible Volume Chalk has very fine particles that aren’t heavy or gritty like dry shampoo. Tip your head upside down and work a little through the hair to boost volume without sacrificing shine.” 

If your second-day hair has fallen flat, simply spritz with a heat protector spray and rework the front sections and roots with your hair dryer and round brush. This is preferable to backcombing in terms of retaining thickness long term, according to consultant trichologist Anabel Kingsley:

“Try to avoid backcombing. While backcombing may give you instant root lift, it can cause a lot of breakage. Over time, this can affect the overall thickness of your hair and make it increasingly hard to manage.”

One final word from Anabel – big hair requires a hands-off approach:

“Do not run your hands through your hair too often. Oils and dirt from your hands can make your style drop.”