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15th Mar 2024

Hygral Fatigue: This is why we shouldn’t air-dry our hair

Jody Coffey


I’m guilty of air-drying my hair on lazy days

We’re all well aware that drying our hair with too much heat is bad for it, but it turns out that air drying can be worse for our locks.

As we enter the warmer months, we may feel like giving our hairdryers a break, allowing the breeze to do the hard work for us.

However, we shouldn’t, and it’s for a very good reason, especially if you’re forking over your hard-earned cash on expensive haircare to maintain your health.

study at Yonsei University in Korea compared air-drying with heat-drying and found that the hair’s cell membrane (the material that ‘glues’ hair cells together) was only damaged in the group that left their tresses to dry naturally.

This was because hair that was air-dried stayed in contact with water for longer. 

With these results in mind, Raven Hurtado, hairstylist at Maxine Salon, tells Real Simple that air-drying can result in water in our locks swelling and, in turn, weighing them down.

This, over time, can weaken the inner lipid layer of our hair, which we try so very hard to keep healthy and strong.

If hair is left to air-dry repeatedly, aka swelling and unswelling, it can result in what is known as ‘hygral fatigue’.

According to Healthline, this occurs when excessive moisture penetrates the outer layer of our tresses and reaches the inner cortex.

Hygral fatigue can lead to symptoms such as frizziness, brittleness, and dullness—something we spend huge amounts of money on haircare products to prevent.

While hygral fatigue can be caused by several factors—genetic, lifestyle and environmental—air-drying hair can contribute due to the constant swelling and de-swelling of the hair, which can lead to hair thinning and more breakage.

Other ways to combat hygral fatigue are using a microfiber towel to remove excess water, using heat protectants, gentle blowdrying using a low heat setting on a hairdryer, and waiting to brush your hair until it is around 80 percent dry.