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Does wrapping your hair in a towel help it dry faster?

When you get out of the shower, it’s common practice to wrap your wet hair in a towel turban style to help absorb excess moisture. But does this towel trick actually make your hair dry faster, or is it just a habit? Here’s a look at the evidence behind hair towel drying.

The Theory Behind Hair Towel Drying

Wrapping wet hair in a towel or special microfiber hair towel is thought to cut down on drying time in a couple key ways:

  • The towel absorbs water from your hair, reducing the amount of moisture that needs to evaporate.
  • Tucking your hair into a towel traps heat from your head, allowing your hair to air dry faster.

By removing excess water and creating a warm environment, hair towel drying aims to speed up the drying process so you can style your hair sooner.

Factors That Impact Drying Time

Several variables affect how quickly your wet hair will dry, whether towel-wrapped or air dried.

  • Hair thickness. Thicker, more dense hair holds onto more moisture and takes longer to dry than fine, thin hair.
  • Hair texture. Very curly and coily hair types tend to retain more water than straight, wavy hair.
  • Length. Long hair has more surface area and weight from water, so it dries slower than short hair.
  • Wetness. The more saturated your hair is post-shower, the longer it will take to evaporate all that excess moisture.
  • Environment. Humid air slows down drying time substantially compared to hot, dry air.
  • Movement. Letting your hair air dry naturally without disturbance speeds up drying vs. constantly touching or scrunching wet hair.

All these elements work together to determine how fast your hair will dry. Towel drying mainly targets the amount of moisture in your hair to accelerate the process.

Does Towel Drying Actually Work?

Research on hair towel drying effectiveness is limited. But a few small studies provide insight:

  • One study found towel drying removed 45-65% more moisture from hair compared to air drying. Towel-dried hair took an average of 20 minutes less to fully dry.
  • Another study in 20 women with long, straight hair found towel drying shortened drying time by about 50% compared to air drying alone.
  • However, a study in 12 Korean women with long, straight hair found no significant difference in drying time between towel drying and air drying hair.

The evidence is mixed on precisely how much a towel speeds up drying. But most dermatologists and hair stylists recommend towel drying as an effective way to cut down on overall drying time. The friction from rubbing hair with a towel removes moisture quickly.

Tips for Towel Drying Hair

Follow these tips for optimal towel drying technique:

  • Use a lightweight, absorbent towel made from cotton, microfiber, or specially designed hair towels. Avoid rough, heavy towels.
  • Gently blot hair with the towel to soak up moisture. Don’t vigorously rub hair, which can cause frizz and breakage.
  • Wrap your towel-dried hair in a fresh dry towel like a turban. Let it sit for 5-10 minutes to absorb more water.
  • Don’t continuously scrub hair with a towel, which can worsen frizz. Blot hair in sections instead.
  • Avoid towel drying hair when it’s extremely fragile and wet. Let it air dry slightly first.
  • Consider a microfiber hair towel or hair wrap, which can absorb more moisture than regular towels.

Towel Drying vs. Air Drying

Here’s how towel drying and air drying hair compare:

Towel Drying Air Drying
  • Removes excess moisture from hair
  • Can cut drying time nearly in half
  • Helps hair dry evenly
  • Absorbs water quickly
  • Can cause frizz if hair is rubbed too vigorously
  • Allows hair to dry naturally at its own pace
  • Minimizes frizz and disruption of hair cuticle
  • Prevents damage from friction
  • Takes longer than towel drying hair
  • Provides uncertain drying time

The takeaway: towel drying gives you more control over drying time, while air drying is gentler on hair texture and structure.

Alternative Drying Methods

In addition to towel drying and air drying, other techniques can help expedite drying time:

Blow Drying

Using a blow dryer with diffuser attachment can cut drying time to 5-15 minutes. However, blow drying also risks heat damage if not used properly. Keep the dryer 6-12 inches from your hair on low or medium heat.

Paper Towel Blotting

Gently squeezing hair with a paper towel absorbs moisture without roughing up the cuticle. Focus blotting on the roots and ends which hold the most water.

Microfiber Towel

Special microfiber hair towels can absorb up to 50% more water than cotton towels. The ultra-fine fibers prevent excess friction and cut down on drying time.

T-Shirt Drying

An old t-shirt or microfiber cloth can gently wick moisture from hair without causing frizz. Scrunch hair with the soft material instead of rubbing.

Hair Dryer

Using a hair dryer on a low setting speeds up drying time considerably. But take caution not to keep too much heat directed on any one section of hair.

Other Tips for Drying Hair Quickly

Towel and air drying aren’t your only options. Also try these tricks for faster drying hair:

  • Wring out excess water from your hair with your hands before toweling.
  • Apply a blow dry spray or heat protectant to help hair dry smoothly.
  • Blot longer, thicker hair in sections instead of rubbing.
  • Let hair air dry slightly before towel drying to cut down towel friction.
  • Avoid vigorously tousling or scrunching hair while damp.
  • Point a fan on low setting toward your head to circulate air.
  • Stay in a warm area without humidity while air drying.

When to Avoid Towel Drying

Towel drying isn’t right for every hair type or situation. It’s best to avoid towel drying:

  • When hair is extremely fragile and wet. Let it air dry a bit first.
  • If you have curly or very coiled hair. Wrap hair in a t-shirt instead.
  • On color-treated hair. Gently blot wet hair with a towel to avoid friction.
  • With tangly or knot-prone hair. Air dry or use a wide-tooth comb.
  • If you don’t have damage-free hair. Stick to scrunching with an old tee.

For very porous hair, scratchy hotel towels can cause more harm than good. Play it safe and skip towel drying if your hair is delicate or exceptionally textured.


The verdict is that towel drying does help speed up drying time substantially compared to air drying alone. A towel absorbs around half the moisture from your wet hair after showering, allowing your hair to dry faster. While air drying is gentler, towel drying gives you more control over drying time.

Aim to remove excess moisture initially with a lightweight towel, then wrap hair in a fresh dry towel for 5-10 minutes. Avoid vigorous rubbing that can cause frizz and damage. Stick to gentle blotting and scrunching motions. And make sure to use high-quality, soft towels that won’t snag your hair.

With the right technique, towel drying can cut your drying time nearly in half. But it may not be suitable for all hair types and conditions. Use your discretion to find the right mix of towel drying and air drying to achieve smooth, frizz-free hair in a reasonable time frame.