7 Foolproof Ways to Get Good Hair Without Heat

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As much as I love my curling iron, working from home during the pandemic really gave me the opportunity to go heat-free and gave me time to explore and embrace my natural texture. But of course that requires the help of some good products. Unfortunately I am not one of those lucky people who can sleep on wet hair and wake up looking like Gisele. Wouldn’t that be nice!

Heat-styling can put so much stress on our hair, leading to damage like breakage and split ends. It can also make color look dull over time. “Achieving good hair without heat can be as simple as knowing what your hair’s deficiencies are and finding the right products to remedy those specific needs,” says Wella Professionals ambassador stylist Briana Cisneros. Here, three hair pros share their tips for nailing heatless hair styles, as well as the best products to try.

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Try a heatless curling set.

You’ve probably seen these on social media, and for most people, they can be a really beneficial tool. “Heartless curling sets are so much fun!” Cisneros says. “I really like the flexi rods that you can find easily online. The ones that are made out of silk help reduce frizz and are gentle on your hair. They’re great if you have the time.”

Celebrity hairstylist Johnny Lavoy agrees, recommending the Kitsch Satin Heatless Curling Set ($18), which also won our 2023 NewBeauty Award. “Kitsch has great sets for different results,” he says. “The hero to a curl kit is the satin wrap flexible rod. The smaller the wand, the smaller the curl. I suggest lightly misting the hair with a styling spray for extra hold. Then wrap the hair around the rod.”

You can experiment with different sectioning techniques to get a variety of curl or wave patterns. “Keep in mind that the rod should be left in overnight, so placement is key for a comfortable sleep,” Lavoy adds. “I also suggest covering your hair with a satin bonnet before bed.”

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Use a good air-dry cream.

“If you have slightly wavy hair or hair with slight movement and want to work in a little texture, an air-dry cream is great for achieving this look,” says Lavoy. “Fekkai’s Brilliant Gloss Multi-Tasker ($24) works wonderfully for the perfect undone texture. They have a great one for blondes, too. To use, apply to towel-dried hair, scrunch and let dry before re-scrunching for body.”

For those with textured hair, celebrity hairstylist Adir Abergel recommends Virtue Un-Frizz Cream ($44), and for those with finer hair, the 6-in-1 Styler ($36). “I like to distribute either product on my hands like I would hand lotion,” he says. “It warms the cream, making it easy to glide evenly throughout wet hair from mids to ends. I like to apply it by dividing the hair in sections using my fingers, and if it’s wavy or curly, I twist it before releasing the strand. Pro tip: I don’t touch the hair until it’s completely dry.” 

Cisneros “absolutely loves” the Nutricurls Curlixer Defining Balm by Wella Professionals ($25). “I towel-dry the hair and then work a generous amount throughout with a scrunching motion to encourage as much wave or curl as I can,” she explains. “Then once the hair has dried completely, I like to add a layer of the EIMI Perfect Me Lightweight Beauty Balm Lotion ($21) to get separation and an extra sheen.”

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Sleep in braids.

Lavoy says sleeping in braids can give you “overnight mermaid hair” and it may also be more comfortable than sleeping in heatless curlers. “A common mistake people make when trying this technique is making their braids too tight,” he explains. “A braid that is to tight is going to give you more of a crimped look rather then a wavy one.”

Cisneros agrees, saying, “Sleeping in braids can either turn out beautiful or kind of look like a bit of a disaster. Just make sure your braid is big enough to create a pretty, loose wave. Typically, the braided hair gets really fine on the ends and the braid is much smaller, making tighter, frizzier ends. To avoid this, just braid until the hair starts to thin and then stop and loosely wrap the ends around the braid. Secure them with a silk scrunchie to avoid unwanted kinks.”

Applying product to your hair before braiding it can make a big difference, too. “IGK’s Beach Club Texture Spray ($29) gives nice hold without leaving a residue,” says Lavoy. “After it’s braided, cover your hair with a satin bonnet and then take it down the next morning.”

Abergel says another trick is using a long sock as the third braid strand to help absorb moisture within the braid and give a bit of a looser wave in the end result. “You can also tie a silk scarf around your head or sleep on a silk pillowcase so the products and moisture don’t end up getting absorbed by the pillow.”

4 / 7

Embrace your natural curls.

“I’ve always said curly hair looks best when it drys natural,” says Lavoy. “Dryers often tend to disrupt the curl pattern, creating frizz. To get beautifully defined curls, I suggest only using a comb for conditioner inside the shower. Once the conditioner is rinsed from your hair, only use your fingers to style.” 

He also suggests applying a leave-in conditioner and curl product while your hair is still fully saturated with water. “I like the KMS CurlUp line,” Lavoy continues. “The whipped Twisting Balm ($23.50) is my personal favorite. For a fuller curl, I suggest applying the product while your head is turned upside town and then using a microfiber curly hair towel to absorb excess moisture. Leave that on for about 15 minutes. Once you remove it, it’s important to gently scrunch your curls into place. Then leave your hair alone until completely.

If you finger-comb or manipulate your hair too much while it’s still wet, it’s going to disrupt the curl and result in frizz. When the hair is completely dry, you can bend over and gently massage the root for more fullness.” 

5 / 7

Apply a good salt spray.

Beachy waves can be created without a styling iron, but the key is to find the right product that doesn’t dry out your hair or result in too much crunch. “Salt sprays are a staple product that really help give you some grit, texture and even lift in your hair,” says Cisneros. “There are so many ways to use them, but the most popular is to spray it into your hair when it is slightly damp and scrunch the product in. I find myself using them mostly on the roots to create that dirty lived-in feel when the hair is too limp and clean.”

Abergel acknowledges that salt sprays can be quite drying, but he likes to use them to expand the cuticle. “What I like to do is use it as a post-styling product to break up the texture and make it feel a little bit more uneven like you just left the beach. One of my favorites is Bumble and bumble Surf Spray ($32).”

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Make your blowout last longer.

According to Lavoy, a simple way to extend the life of your weekly blowout is to sleep in a loose bun at the top of your head. “The bun will set your hair overnight with the perfect amount of bound , and the placement will allow for a comfortable sleep,” he explains. “Avoid using a tight elastic for the base of the bun, as it might crimp the hair, and instead, opt for a silk scrunchie.”

If you hair tends to get flat, he suggests using a dry shampoo or volumizing texture spray. “The Kérastase V.I.P. Volume in Powder ($32) is amazing for absorbing oils and pumping up the volume. To control flyaways, Color Wow One-Minute Transformation Styling Cream ($24) will add shine and manageability back into the hair. Use a small dab on dry hair and brush through.” 

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Try “hair wrapping” for a smooth style. 

Lavoy says that if you have curly or wavy hair and want to make it straighter, try an old-school method called hair-wrapping, which creates a smooth, polished look.

“You want to use what is called a wrap,” says Lavoy. “It’s a technique in which you wrap the hair around your head in the same direction, clipping or pinning the hair as you make your way around then letting it dry overnight or longer, depending on your hair length. Once your hair is dry, you simply remove the clips and start brushing your hair in the opposite direction of the wrap.

The product you would use is a wrap foam, and I love the Mizani Styling Foam Wrap ($25)for its smoothing and shine benefits. Wrap foam looks like a mouse when applied, but it’s very different in performance. Your results with be smooth, straight hair with some bounce. To maintain the look, just re-wrap your dry hair in the same way and then wrap your head with a silk scarf at night.” 

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