Please allow for a moment of silence for all the times you’ve skipped diffusing your curls because you thought it was just too complicated to even attempt. Yes, I am absolutely projecting onto everyone the hair faux pas that I have been making my entire curly hair-having life. But don't worry—I tapped curl expert and Matrix Global artistic director Michelle O’Connor to get all her tips and tricks for diffusing your hair (and find out her all-time favorite diffusers for curly hair, sans frizz). Throw away whatever preconceived notions you may have about diffusing and get prepared for your best curls ever.
What does it mean to diffuse hair?
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O’Connor explains it best: “It’s mainly used on wavy, curly, and oily hair as a means of locking the shape of the hair without disruption and in a controlled manner. It also provides an instant way to 'finish' or dry the hair as opposed to air drying.”
Oh, and if you’re anti-heating tools or paranoid about heat damage like I am, you have nothing to fear, O’Connor confirms that since a diffuser is an indirect heat source, it won’t cause any damage to your hair. In fact, using a diffuser attachment on a hairdryer is perfect for any hair type if you're concerned about heat damage.
What products are good for diffusing hair?
Like any hair routine, the products that you use can directly impact the effectiveness of the style. In the same way you should use a hair oil or heat protectant when straightening your hair, you should use certain creams and detanglers for your best curl diffusing. Not all curl types work the same, and that's even more true of the product you use.
If you have wavy or loose curls, O’Connor says to focus on gels, mousses, or foams that will maximize your hold for that “in water” flowy look. An effective go-to for non-crunchy waves is the Wella EIMI Nutricurls Soft Twirl Anti-Frizz Styling Foam. This differs for curl types that lean towards the 3B-4C territory, says O'Connor: “When your pattern is a tighter curl or coil, you need the extra added moisture, therefore creams, custards, and puddings will be your go-tos." Just make sure to avoid formulas containing silicones, parabens, and sulfates.
Pro tip: O’Connor’s favorite is the Moisturizing Cream from Matrix’s A Curl Can Dream collection.
How do you use a hair diffuser?
One major thing to understand before you begin: If you're looking to control frizz, make sure you use a frizz-specific cream or oil like the Virtue Correct The Polish Un-Frizz Cream to style your hair.
O’Connor says, “Allow the diffuser to hover over your roots, however, don’t jump around too quickly. Spend at least 10-20 seconds in each area.” When you’re hovering, make sure to rotate the dryer from left to right, backward, and forwards, O’Connor adds, “This will create a 360-degree rotation in your curl as opposed to drying in one position. If that occurs, you’ll end up with a curl that doesn’t want to shift away from that dried direction, and it’ll have trouble falling naturally into place.” If volume is your hair/life purpose, flip your head upside down when diffusing, allowing gravity to do some of the work. Do the same thing, except sitting upright, for flowy, loose waves.
The Editor Favorite
This is the beauty editor, stylist, and salon professionals favor, thanks to its versatility and effectiveness. O’Connor said, “The Dyson simulates natural drying, and it really minimizes the frizz. This is non-negotiable when I’m on sets creating drool-worthy hair or even when my curly clients are looking for me to create big bouncy and smooth ringlets. Another feature is the longer prongs within the diffuser cup. It allows me to tackle larger densities as well as lengths with great control.” All I'm saying is that this diffuser and the Dyson hair dryer are on my Christmas list this year.
The Aesthetic Choice That Works
First, this diffuser is in the signature Drybar yellow, so it’s an instant win for its fun and bright color. I’m not saying you should buy things based on their color, but this diffuser also works really well on curly hair if you needed another (more practical reason) to buy one. The wide mouth holds large portions of hair for a more efficient dry time, and envelops even thick layers of curls thanks to the vented prongs. And while this tool works best with the Drybar Buttercup Blow Dryer, it can also be used on most other standard dryers.
The Best Diffuser/Dryer Set
The traditional diffuser with the multi-prongs is always a great choice for individualized ringlets, but if you’re looking for a quick and easy drying session, the flat attachment is ideal for a frizz-free dry time. Just don’t forget your hair oil!
Perfect for Ringlets
If your goal is Tracee Ellis Ross on Girlfriends-level hair, this is the one for you. The long prongs on this diffuser really make a difference in its drying abilities, thanks to the reach they have on curls. “Some diffusers shape my curls in a strange way. They're too curly on the bottom and too loose up towards the root. I think the long ventilated 'fingers' on this diffuser help with the issue,” one reviewer wrote about the impact of the vented prongs. To avoid shrinkage, O'Connor recommends diffusing the roots and the ends, avoiding the middle portions for elongated strands.
The Fast Dry-Time Choice
What feels like a large hand massaging your head is actually a pretty powerful diffuser that even Zendaya is a fan of. The goal of this diffuser is to provide a 360-degre airflow that speeds up dry time while still keeping hair in shape. One reviewer praised it for its volume advantage: “This diffuser literally gave so much definition to my lifeless waves. I have a lot of trouble getting my wavy/curly hair to have volume/definition at the roots and this has definitely helped.”
For Maximum Volume
The vortex-like shape of this tool allows for controlled airflow that works well for those who are looking for ultimate volume. For more defined curls, section hair in multiple parts. Then, using this diffuser, focus on wrapping the hair around the vented prongs for individualized shaping.
The Collapsible Choice
We already trust Rizos Curls to take care of our hair thanks to their hair-defining products, and they just keep giving us more with this conveniently collapsible diffuser attachment. Perfect for travel and the minimalist, this is a straightforward choice that’ll fit any hair dryer. The flexible neck is perfect for the long-haired beauties who worry about awkward hair flips.
For Thick Hair
This is for the thick and curly girls out there. GHD knows that you’ve probably broken a brush or two, and might be concerned about the state of a flimsy pronged diffuser. Have no fear: This one is built tough to form coils and curls for all textures of hair. Take it from this user: “I bought this to help with my naturally curly hair and it works really well, no frizz so perfect. My hair is still quite short at the moment, so dried it really quickly.” This will bring out the natural texture in any hair type, even if you’re a perpetual hair straightener who never lets their natural waves or curls fly.
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Alexis Gaskin is a Freelance Beauty Writer for Marie Claire who can often be found painting her nails to match every outfit. She covers beauty, skincare, and fat fashion and will get distracted by any and all Halsey-related content or anything glittery.
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