How to Style Hair Without Heat

You may never be fully dressed without a smile -- and the same goes for great hair. Beautiful tresses are a powerful thing for women, and many of us turn to blow-dryers, straighteners and curling irons every day as the path to a polished look.

However, these hot styling tools can damage healthy hair if they’re used too often. Break out of your heat haze, find your new go-to ‘do (no matter your hair type) and commence a little mane damage control to keep your lovely strands, well…lovely! Here’s how to style hair without heat.

Hair Solutions: Braids, Buns, “Born” (a.k.a. Natural)
Always look to the three B’s: Braids. Buns. Born (and by “born,” we mean natural):

  • Braids: The braid is the new black, figuratively speaking. This ever-versatile style lends a certain boho-chicness to an ensemble, plus it requires little to no effort (and especially no heat!) and can be worn in a variety of ways. Try a messy side braid for a casual look, a crown of plaits for an über-romantic vibe, or a partial side-swept version to tame unruly bangs.
  • Buns: Be it a low chignon or a high topknot, buns are the instant-chic answer to the persistent “what to do with my hair” question. This style beautifully transitions from office to happy hour, is flattering for every hair type, and, to top it off, works best with locks that have a little texture on them (read: not freshly washed or styled). Try gently teasing a high ponytail before twisting your hair up and bobby-pinning it for a fuller look that is special-event worthy without doing any damage.
  • Born: Many women have a bad habit of wanting what they don’t have, especially when it comes to hair. Instead of using heat tools to force your hair to do what it doesn’t do naturally, embrace what Mother Nature gave you -- with a little help from styling products.

“Air-drying, especially if your texture is curly or wavy, is a great way to style without heat,” says Luca Blandi, senior stylist at the Oscar Blandi salon in Manhattan. “A little extra conditioner after a shampoo will make it beautiful.”

Vaso Spirou, owner of Salon Vaso in Miami Beach, Fl., and her team at the salon agree: “Depending on the event -- work or play -- a simple styling product to add wave and movement is all you need for beautiful hair without the heat.”

Undo the Damage
How much heat is too much? Spirou recommends turning to heat styling tools no more than once a week. “Especially in sunny climates, you really want to limit your use to keep your hair healthy. Use an at-home deep conditioning treatment to recharge your strands and bring them back to health.” To get the most out of a conditioning hair mask, cover your strands with the mask, then cover with a shower cap and let your body heat do the work while you do chores for half an hour.

You can also make the styles you achieve with heated tools last longer between washes, says Blandi. Sprinkle your roots with a dry shampoo to keep your hair looking fresh. And, of course, never underestimate the power of a trim. Since your tips show the most wear-and-tear, snipping them off every few months will keep your tresses fresh and healthy.

Use Heat Wisely
When you do use curling irons and straighteners, “look for tools with ionic capabilities and titanium plates, which are less damaging,” says Spirou. Good tools should also have temperature-control options so you can keep the heat on the lowest setting. Lastly, don’t forget to reach for hair prep before heating things up. “A heat-protecting treatment or spray before styling will shield your hair and make it less vulnerable to damage,” says Blandi.

Quick Holiday-Party-Worthy Braids

Braids are back in a big way this year! Far from the schoolgirl look you used to know, braids are a pretty and sophisticated look for office holiday parties and family gatherings alike. Best of all, it doesn’t take much time or coordination to create lovely braided updos.

Try these easy and elegant hairstyle tutorials you can create in just minutes -- leaving you plenty of time to get to the party! For even more ideas, check out our new Pocket Hairstylist  tool and mobile app .

MAIDEN BRAIDS UPDO

Step 1
Divide your hair into two sections (top and bottom), and back comb a little (gently) underneath the top half. Spray with a little hairspray, and smooth over the top with a comb. This will help give you more lift from the front.

Step 2
Divide your hair in half again, this time on both sides (like you’re doing milkmaid braids). Be sure to separate the hair at the nape of your neck to avoid a severe part. Begin braiding the first side.

Step 3
Stop your braid about 4 to 5 inches down and secure with an elastic. Braid the other side, again stopping 4 to 5 inches down.

Step 4
Tug the hair out of the braids a bit for fullness: Put your fingers to your scalp facing upward and lift the hair up a bit at the roots.

Step 5
Criss-cross your braids behind your head. Pull the first braid up and over your ears to the crown of your head. Secure your braid firmly with bobby pins, placing them in towards your scalp in a downward position. (You should only need 4 to 6 pins per braid!) Bring the second braid up to pin, and simply tuck the ends of each braid underneath the other. Secure with more bobby pins.

Step 6
Once both your braids are secured, you may wish to ‘fluff’ up your volume again using your fingertips.

Step 7
Spritz on another coating of hairspray. Take a hand mirror or use a two-way mirror to check the back of your lovely new ’do! If you find your hair to be a little frizzy or unkempt, use a comb to fine-tune the back. 


DUTCH BRAID UPDO

Step 1

First, leave out the front portion of your hair on both sides, securing the pieces out of the way. Brush out the back of your hair, teasing just the top part to give it some volume.

Step 2

Start Dutch braiding the back of your hair (this is similar to a French braid but you braid the pieces under instead of over). When you’re done, secure with an elastic.

Step 3

Pull the braid out a bit to loosen it up. Then roll the braid in toward your head and secure with bobby pins.

Step 4
Take the front pieces of your hair down and divide them in half, so you have four separate pieces. Take the back piece from one side of your head and twist it slightly toward the braid, leaving it loose. Bring the piece over the braid to the other side of your head and pin in place (we’ll deal with the ends in a second). Repeat this step for the back piece on the other side of your head.

Step 5
Using bobby pins, hide the ends of the first two pieces in or underneath your braid. Smooth the second piece of hair from one side of your head out with a brush. Pull it toward the back of your head, twisting it slightly, and tuck it into the last piece you took around from the side. Pin in place.

Step 6
Repeat for the other side. If your front pieces won’t stay in the back, you can leave pieces out in front. Pull the hairstyle out a bit to get the placement you want.


FAUX BRAIDED UPDO

Step 1

Take the front section of hair on the right side of your head and divide it into two equal pieces. Begin twisting the pieces around each other. 

Step 2
Add in the section of hair directly below those first two pieces, incorporating it into the twist. Continue adding sections of hair as you go, twisting across the head until you get to the opposite side. Once you’ve reached the back left side of your head, pin the twist in place with bobby pins, leaving the remaining hair in the twist loose.

Step 4

Repeat this process on the opposite side. Place your second twist directly above and across your first one. Continue twisting the hair until you reach the nape of your neck on your right side. Pin the twist at the nape of your neck to hold it in place.

Step 6

Take a small piece of loose hair from the left side of your head and bring it over into the right twist, rolling it in. This is going to help you change the direction that your twist is going (from right to left). The piece should be diagonally parted, so that when you twist it in, your hair will begin to go in the opposite direction. The goal is to create an S-shape with your hair.

Step 7

Once this twist has made its way back over to the left side of your head, grab all the remaining hair in your other hand. Roll those pieces over each other to create one giant twist. 

Step 8
Take your finger and hook it in the middle of the twist. Twist the hair around your finger to create a big figure eight at the back of the head, then pin it in place. If any pieces fall out, just tuck them up and under the hair, then pin them to secure. Spray the style to set it.