Blow-drying techniques: Start

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How hairdressing has developed

1900 to the 1920s - hair was cut short and movement was introduced. Marcel waves or irons were used, which were heated on a gas burner. Finger waves were also fashionable.

1930s, 1940s and 1950s - hair started to get longer in the 30s and over the next three decades looks were much more groomed. Setting became a very popular technique. Hair was made higher and given more volume.

1960s - Vidal Sassoon introduced precision cutting. Hair was cut flatter to the head and blow-drying was introduced.

1970s and 1980s - in the early 1970s, hair was long and shaggy and had a lot of natural movement. Perming was popular, particularly to create soft, touselled looks. Wash and wear was the big thing.

2000 and the future - the new millennium brought in ceramic tools and straightening irons. Long, flat, shiny hair is very popular. What will second half of the decade bring...?

How blow-drying works

Before Vidal Sassoon made the technique popular, most visits to the salon were for a shampoo and set. In fact, the process of blow-drying works in much the same way as setting the hair and similar physical changes take place.

Moisture and heat together can cause hair to temporarily change shape. When we change the shape of hair, we are altering the bonds on the cortex. The process of perming breaks and reforms the hair permanently. Blow-drying changes the shape only for a while. In its natural state, hair is referred to as alpha keratin. When we have curled it or given it a new shape by blow-drying, it is called beta keratin.

The cortext of the hair contains hydrogen bonds that are easily broken by moisture and heat. When you blow-dry the hair, you wet it and reshape it around a curler or brush or sometimes your fingers. This process stretches and breaks the bonds. When you apply heat, you remove the moisture from the hair and the bonds reform into a new shape.

If the hair comes into contact with heat or moisture again, the new shape will fall out. To maintain the style, you must prevent the hair from absorbing moisture. This is why you will use syling lotions and gels. They coat the cuticle of the hair and slow down the absorbtion of moisture into the cortex.

How to blow-dry hair

Drying your finished hairstyle is as important as the cut itself. Your clients will judge the quality of your work by the end result. There are a number of ways to dry and style hair:

  • blow-drying with a hand-held dryer;
  • setting hair into shape using a hood dryer;
  • towel drying, with the aid of finger drying; and
  • moulding and shaping hair using heat-styling equipment.

When choosing which of these methods to use, bear in mind that your client will have to be able to style their own hair when they have left the salon. You should also consider:

  • your client’s hair type (eg curly, chemically treated, straight, malleable);
  • the desired finished shape;
  • which styling products you will use to achieve and enhance the look; and
  • what size brushes or rollers you should use.

How to dry hair into shape

This is the process of styling wet hair so that you achieve a particular shape when the hair is dry. The most popular way of drying hair today is the hand-held hair dryer (commonly called a blow-dryer). When you are blow-drying, there are some important factors to remember that will help you to get a good finish:

  • after shampooing, towel-dry the hair (wet hair takes a lot longer to blow-dry);
  • apply whatever styling aid you want to use, eg moose, gel, spray;
  • mould the hair into the desired shape with your hands or a comb;
  • mark out each section of hair cleanly and, starting at the bottom, work upwards using the angles of the cut to achieve the desired effect;
  • direct the nozzle on the hair dryer down the hair shaft. This will smooth the cuticle down and give you a better finished look;
  • work the hairdryer and brush in unison. Don’t hold the dryer still over a section as this will burn the hair rather than shape it;
  • use the cold feature on the hair dryer, if there is one, to fix the hair into shape (hot air moulds the hair, cold air fixes it);
  • work methodically through the hair, using clean, small sections;
  • check the angle of the hair to be lifted.

This will help you determine the volume required at the root area. The sections you use will determine the direction of the hair. They are usually horizontal, diagonal or vertical. Make sure all the hair in each section is dry before you move onto the next section Remember that, the more volume you require at the root, the more lift you must use. This is achieved by directing heat onto the root area and then allowing the hair to cool down. Always keep the dryer a safe distance away from the client’s scalp to protect them from any discomfort. Once you have blow-dried the hair into the desired shape, you can use any of the available fixing and finishing products. These include gel, wax, serum and hair spray. Always explain to your client how they can achieve the finished hairstyle and recommend the correct products to help them care for their hair at home. 
Jordan Burr
Skills and Equipment
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 UK: England & Wales

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