Blow drying damages hair: True/False?

If I had a dollar for every time I’ve written about hair...well, come to think of it, I’d be being drastically underpaid. But hair is clearly a preoccupation of ours, and Stacey Fraser has come up with a new worry which I can quickly allay. Properly done, blow drying does not damage hair.

Reflective readers will already be wondering what “properly” means here, perhaps clutching their locks protectively lest their preferred technique doesn’t make the cut. I’ll get to that in a moment, but first a caveat. Hair is constantly under attack from the environment and from our attempts to put it in its place. It’s dead, so it can’t fight back, and gradually it wears out. Blow drying will technically contribute to this weathering, just like everything else, but in the normal run of things this wear is minimal.

Minimal, that is, unless too much heat is applied. The idea behind blow drying is simple — hot air is used to encourage water to evaporate, ideally wafting it gently off the surface of the hair. But hair is very porous and if enough heat is applied quickly enough the water inside the hair shaft can actually boil, puffing the shaft out and producing a small bubble.

While most hair disorders bear a Latin name that reads like someone clearing their throat, this one is known simply as bubble hair. The bubble is a weak point in the shaft that can snap at the slightest provocation such as washing or brushing.

Nasty stuff, but easy to avoid if you don’t put the dryer too close to your hair and don’t focus heat in one spot too long. I’m going to leave the interpretation of too close and too long up to you, given that my own approach to hair care is to get most of it cut off every few weeks. Ask an expert if you’re not sure.

So as long as you use some care blow drying shouldn’t damage your hair. Get it too hot too fast, though, and what was hair today will be gone tomorrow.

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