We're going to let you in on a little secret: The best way to streamline your morning routine is to call a cease-fire in your war with Mother Nature. When you work <i>with</i> your hair texture to make it look its best, your only worry will be what to do with all this newfound free time.
Start smoothing in the shower. Look for a shampoo and conditioner that contain ingredients to smooth (usually silicones like dimethicone), advises celebrity hairstylist Nathaniel Hawkins. "It will help the outer cuticle of your hair lie flat so it looks shinier once it dries," he says. Try Suave Keratin Infusion Smoothing Shampoo & Conditioner, $2.50 each.
Remove as much moisture as possible. To get your hair to dry straight in a flash, immediately wrap it in a microfiber towel (we like this one). "Twist it up and give it a chance to really wick away excess moisture while you're doing something else in your morning routine," Hawkins says.
Pick the right styling product. Hawkins says straight hair typically dries two different ways: Totally smooth with nary a flyaway, or with a bit of frizz you need to squash. If you're in the first category, work a leave-in conditioner like Davines Essential DEDE Hair Mist, $29, through your hair. "Sometimes straight hair needs softening so it doesn't seem too hard and straight, and a leave-in conditioner will do that without adding unnecessary hold," he says. If you find midday frizz creeps into your style, start your morning with a smoothing serum (he likes Aveda Smooth Infusion Style-Prep Smoother, $24). "Start with three pumps in your hand, add a little water to really emulsify it, then rake it through your hair starting an inch away from your roots," he says.
Set things straight with your comb. Whether you want to air-dry or speed things up with a blow dryer, use a medium-size comb to set your desired part, then detangle through the length of your hair, Hawkins says. "This makes sure there are no bumps or twists as it dries," he says. If you do want to blow-dry, switch to a vent brush, which will speed up the process. "Use your nozzle attachment and your hair will get straight and smooth very, very quickly," he says.
Revive it the next day. To avoid repeating this process daily, sleep with your hair lifted up over your pillow (instead of down by your neck, where sweat and friction could make it frizzy). The next morning, mist all over with a leave-in conditioner heat-protecting spray like Tresemme Thermal Creations Heat Tamer Protective Spray, $3.99, and either blast it quickly with your drier or run a flat iron over it, Hawkins says.
Get beachy from the get-go. "Usually women with wavy hair are looking for that beachy wave look, so start with a shampoo and conditioner meant to re-create it," Hawkins says. Try Bumble and Bumble Surf Foam Wash Shampoo, $29, and Creme Rinse Conditioner, $30. Or opt for formulas designed for curly hair, but avoid conditioners that look too dense or sticky--they'll weigh down your waves.
Towel-dry only slightly. Use a microfiber towel (such as this one) to get rid of sopping wet excess moisture, but don't wait too long to use a styling product. "You want your hair to be fairly damp because the moisture helps the wave form," Hawkins says.
Ride out the right wave. Hawkins says if your natural ripples need coaxing, reach for a saltwater spray like L'Oréal Paris Advanced Hairstyle Txt It Tousle Wave Spray, $3.99, to energize your waves. If your hair tends to get too fluffy, stick with a styling lotion, which will help tame it to be defined while defrizzed (he likes Alterna Haircare Caviar CC Cream for Hair 10-in-1 Complete Collection, $31). After you've worked it through your entire hair, comb through strands with a wide-tooth comb. "This makes sure it's distributed evenly," he says.
Dry it right. To speed your drying time, use your blow dryer on the hottest setting with the diffuser attachment and just hold it up to your hair (instead of leaning over to one side and cupping it in the bowl). "This dries off most of the moisture to prevent any crispness from forming," Hawkins says. Do this for just five minutes, and you'll love the way your waves form as they continue to air-dry. And one other thing--keep your hands out of it until at least 80 percent of the moisture is gone. "Once it looks dry but still feels a little damp to the touch, that's when you can scrunch it a bit to give your waves a boost," he says.
Sleep smart. Normally you sleep in braids to create fake waves, but Hawkins says the move will help keep natural ripples in top shape, too. "Do two loose braids--don't pull tightly to create a lot of tension--then tie off strands with a loose elastic," he says. In the morning, shake them out, mist all over with the sea salt spray, and gently scrunch it into hair with your head upside down to revive your volume and body.
Consider skipping shampoo altogether. Instead, reach for a cleansing conditioner, like Carol's Daughter Marula Curl Therapy Gentle Cream Cleanser, $18, which will help remove dirt and oil without over-stripping the hair. "Curls need as much moisture as they can get, which is why this is a great option for them," Hawkins says. Use a wide-tooth comb in the shower to distribute it evenly throughout your hair, then rinse it out. It's OK if you don't feel squeaky clean--any leftovers will only act like a styling product to control frizz.
Don't let things get rough. Using a microfiber towel, flip your hair to one side and gently squeeze your hair. "Roughing it up or twisting it will flair the cuticle and create frizz," Hawkins says.
Be your own mixologist. All curls are not created equal, so Hawkins says it takes some trial and error to get the best styling product (or products) to tame your curls the way you like. A good place to start: Ouidad Curl Quencher Hydrafusion Intense Curl Cream 9, $26. To make sure you evenly coat your curls with product, he suggests flipping your head over and squeezing it into hair from roots to ends. "You don't want to rake through the top levels of your hair because it can break up the formation, so this gets product in without disrupting those curls," he says.
Wrap them up. To create bouncy, defined curls, Hawkins recommends tossing your head back and capturing all of your hair in a hairnet. "This lets them dry without weighing them down," he says (either air-dry like this, or use your diffuser attachment with your drier on high heat all around your head to speed up the process). Don't touch them until they're completely dry, then flip your head over again to scrunch and squeeze them so there aren't any clumps of product.
Swap out your cotton pillowcase for something silky. It's the best way to make sure your curls will look as great tomorrow as they did this morning. "The goal is to create the least amount of friction possible to avoid developing frizz while you sleep," Hawkins says. In the morning, mist all over with either a curl-reviving spray, like Redken Curvaceous Wind Up Reactivating Spray, $19, or a bottle of water to reactivate your curls. "Any wayward curls you see in your top layers of hair, smooth them around your finger to help coax them back into shape," he says.