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How to Use a Diffuser on Curly Hair

BY: Shannon Grilli | Jan 16, 2018

Any woman with naturally curly hair will likely tell you that their ringlets are both a blessing and a curse. For some, especially those prone to frizz, that curse can last decades, from a poofy-scalped adolescence all the way up until the day they finally discover the secret tool capable of taming an unruly mane: the diffuser.

Unfortunately, owning a hair diffuser and knowing how to use a diffuser are two entirely different things. And your hair diffusing technique might differ widely depending on the length of your hair, the strength of your curl, and what you're trying to achieve. To help simplify the process, we threw together this quick tutorial for using a hair diffuser, and also made some product recommendations if you're in the market for this life-saving styling tool.

How to Use a Diffuser

Note: these instructions work best if you have naturally curly hair and are looking to enhance your curls. If you have straight or wavy hair, you might start by following these instructions, and then tweak your technique to find what works best for you.

1. After showering, remove excess water from hair by gently scrunching it with a towel. Refrain from rubbing or fussing with hair too much since this will disrupt the natural curl and cause frizz.

2. Generally speaking, it's best to avoid separating the curls as much as possible; however, if you are prone to tangles, you can run a wide-toothed comb through wet hair before diffusing. Just be sure to only comb as much as is absolutely necessary.

3. Apply your favorite curl-defining or anti-frizz product to hair by scrunching it into hair (rather than running your fingers through the strands).

4. Place the diffuser onto the nozzle of the hair dryer and switch it on. A medium setting is best as hotter hair encourages frizz. Holding your head to one side, pick up a large section of hair and gently place the ends into the bowl of the diffuser. Drying the bottom of the hair first, and the roots last, helps to ensure you get good volume at the crown, since it prevents the weight of wet hair from pulling the curls down.

5. As the hair dries, move the diffuser up toward the top of your head until the fingers of the diffuser are touching your scalp. Release the hair once it's reached 80-90% dryness.

6. Switch to the other side of the head and repeat with another section of hair. Keep going, alternating sides until all the hair has been diffused. Avoid combing or running your fingers through your hair at all costs!

7. If you need more volume at the crown, you can section off the top layer of your hair before starting and secure it with a clip. Diffuse this section separately after the rest of the hair has dried.

8. If your dry hair feels "crunchy" afterward, try gently scrunching it or carefully using a wide-tooth comb to soften and separate the curls.

How Does a Hair Diffuser Work?

Just what is it about this funny-looking tool that makes it a curly girl's best friend? Simple: the shape of the diffuser and the holes in it help to control and diffuse the air being forced out of the dryer, similar to the way a shower head helps control and diffuse water being fed through pipes. This helps ensure that the curls can dry more naturally, instead of being broken apart by a blast of air.

5 Great Diffusers for Curly Hair

So with so many diffusers on the market, how do you choose the right one? Some hair dryers come with diffusers already, and some of these add-on diffusers work great. You'll want to test yours out, though, to make sure it adequately diffuses the air flow to a gentle whisper. If you feel like you're still getting blasted with air, swap out the freebie diffuser for a more professional one.

Below, we curated this list of diffusers that pass the test.

DevaCurl DevaDryer Hair Dryer and DevaFuser Diffuser for Curly and Wavy Hair

The gold-standard in curl-taming, DevaCurl's hair dryer is considered by many to be the best diffuser for curly hair, and the dryer has three heat settings and two speed settings so you can customize the airflow and temperature to your needs. This particular diffuser has a rather unique shape and is used a bit differently from more traditional diffusers, so you may want to differ to the included directions rather than following our tutorial.

Buy it now for $159

The Curly Co. Collapsible Hair Diffuser

For all its good qualities, a hair diffuser is, admittedly, not very travel-friendly. That's what makes this collapsible, silicone version so genius—it folds down to easily fit into any overnight bag or carry-on. As an added bonus, the silicone base has a bit of stretch in it, making it easy(er) to adapt to many different blow-dryers.

Buy it now for $15.50

Bed Head Curls in Check 1875 Watt Diffuser Hair Dryer

The compact design of this Bed Head dryer/diffuser combo makes it ideal for anyone who doesn't have the storage space for a bulkier diffuser. The tourmaline technology helps further reduce frizz and boost shine to hair, and the diffuser plate is removable, allowing you to use the dryer on its own as well.

Buy it now for $79.99

Universal Lightweight Blow Dryer Diffuser Sock

The diffuser sock is a great alternative to a traditional diffuser if you're more concerned with taming frizz than defining curls. Made of heat-resistant nylon enforced with silver and titanium, it diffuses the direct heat from the dryer, while also producing negative ions to help hair dry faster with less heat.

Buy it now for $9.99

BIO IONIC Universal Diffuser

The natural ionic technology in this universal diffuser helps keep hair hydrated throughout the drying process. Online users also like that this diffuser's base can be rotated to adjust the amount of air flow, giving you greater control over your finished style.

Buy it now for $24.99

Shop all hair diffusers