The Fashion Magpie How to Blow Dry Hair

How to Get a Seriously Good Blowout at Home.

Two Fridays ago, I found myself in a typical self-imposed bind because I’d overstuffed my day: I was sitting at my desk at 1 PM, unshowered and still in my exercise gear from that morning’s workout, scarfing down my go-to chicken salad on rye bread, trying to finish a blog post while waiting to jump on a conference call for some non-profit work I’m doing, knowing that I had to be uptown for a 3:30 PM social engagement and still had to take Tilly for a walk, shower, and dress myself in the meantime.  (And also, hopefully, stop by the bank to get cash for the sitter and pick up a bottle of wine for the evening.)  I did the math.  It would be next to impossible for me to wash and blow-dry my hair, but dry shampoo just wasn’t going to cut it, and it was blindingly cold out and I didn’t want to march up Columbus Ave with my hair in a wet top knot and risk catching a head cold.  In a pinch, I booked a 2:45 PM appointment at Drybar, which was (conveniently) just a few blocks from my 3:30 pm tea with my girlfriends Alison, Inslee, and Jen.  (Incidentally, I didn’t realize until just now that I’ve featured all three of them as women of substance!)

It was bliss.  I walked in with ratty-ass hair and a harried vibe and left with a sleek blowout and a zen-like attitude.  I’d read a little bit in the chair, but had mainly just zoned out.  As with any new parent, having quiet, vacant time to myself like that is exceptionally rare, and I reveled in it.

When I met up with my friends, two of them separately commented on my hair.  “It looks blonder!” said one.  “Ooh, what did you do with your hair?” asked another.

The kicker was when I got home.  Mr. Magpie is observant, but I can’t recall the last time he’s commented on my hair —

“Your hair looks different,” he said.  “Pretty.”

And then, an hour later, my best friend dropped by with two bottles of red wine and a hankering for pizza and girltalk.  Just a few steps inside, she paused and said: “Oh, J!  I like your hair!”

OKURRRRR, NOTED.  Got the memo.  Need to spend more time blow-drying my hair.  I realized, suddenly, that I couldn’t really remember the last time I’d properly blown it out.  I’ll occasionally give it a quick cursory zap, but more often than not, I let it air-dry and then curl it into a pathetic, flustered take on beach-y waves right before leaving the house and hope that Bumble + Bumble’s texturing spray will afford it just enough texture to make it look meaningful.  It’s a passable look but I’d been recently trolling Pinterest in search of a sleeker, more sophisticated and pulled-together style after wearing my hair wavy for the past year or two.

What I’m about to say is going to sound absolutely ridiculous to those without children (and possibly to many of those with children), but here goes:

I had to literally have a chat with myself about my hair and whether it was worth reshuffling my schedule to afford myself an hour every few days to blow-dry it.  “Jen, you clearly look better when you take the time to blow-dry your hair.  And you recently noted how wonderful you feel when you actually style  your hair.  So you are going to have to carve out regular time to care for it every couple days, which means something else has got to be rearranged.”

The issue is this: it takes a long time to blow dry my full head of hair, and I don’t want to cannibalize my days with the nanny to take care of it because I am trying my hardest to keep those days clear for writing.  So instead, I’ve had to shoe-horn it into my days alone with mini, which was not without its own set of concerns — namely that I didn’t want to cannibalize my precious time with mini — but I’ve had to overcome that objection and understand that I’ll spend plenty of QT with her the rest of the day.  I’ve found the ideal time is after breakfast, after Mr. Magpie has just left, when mini will happily play in her crib for about twenty minutes with a set of books and her Maileg mice  (she just got this in her Easter basket).  That twenty minutes affords me enough time to shower (I keep the monitor visible to me in the bathroom and shower with the door open), lotion up (this is my favorite body lotion — I get compliments on the scent all the time, and it’s super thick and moisturizing but sinks into the skin easily), change into clothes, and apply my everyday makeup.  By then she’s getting a little angsty, and I’ll bring her into the bathroom to play at my feet while I blow-dry.  For some reason, she’s really into playing with my makeup brushes, which she uses as hairbrushes, and, up until recently, placing my lipsticks into my acrylic lipstick holder — but I’ve had to disabuse her of that joyride because she’s learned how to take the caps off of the lipstick tubes!  Cheeky little monkey.  She also enjoys taking laundry into and out of the laundry basket and tossing cosmetics into the bath tub.  Who knew a bathroom was such a deluxe playground for the youthful?

At any rate, I’ve figured out how to make a blow-dry happen every other day.

And I fully realize that the foregoing paragraphs have an excruciating amount of banal detail, but I’ve deliberately left them intact just as they are because — MY FRIENDS! — this has been one of the biggest surprises of motherhood for me: the constant jockeying of time and responsibility to accomplish even the smallest of things and the imbalance of guilt that comes with it.  As Mr. Magpie put it, just a few weeks into parenthood: “Your time is just not your own any more.  Even when you’re doing something for yourself, there’s a timebox around it.”

So, yes — where there’s a will, there’s a way, and it’s probably a good thing in the long run because it gives me time for self-care and it gives mini time to learn to play by herself and goddamn if people don’t think I look prettier with mah hairs did, because the day after I’d dried it myself for the first time, my bestie said: “Ooh, did you get your hair blown out again?”  And I beamed with my pride.  (I’ve since gotten two other compliments on my hair!)

My secret weapons for the perfect blow-out.

+Shampoo: Oribe Bright Blonde for Beautiful Color series.  Guys, this stuff is the real deal.  It’s the only high-end hair product I can honestly endorse, and I’ve tried a bunch of them (wrote about one recently with not-so-favorable reviews) and recently returned to this holy grail.  It suds well, it has a light scent, and it not only brightens your hair but softens it.  It is a wunderproduct.

+Conditioner: I have been alternating between good old Pantene Pro-V (many consider it the best drugstore conditioner you can buy) and Oribe’s Mask for Beautiful Color, which I use like a conditioner every shower since my hair is so dry right now.  I love love love love love love this mask.  My hair feels so hydrated afterward, but it’s never weighed down or greasy.

+Primer: Bumble and Bumble Don’t Blow It Fine Hairstyler.  Guys.  THIS STUFF WORKS.  I am highly skeptical of any product that promises a shorter blow-dry time, and I don’t honestly think this cuts down on the time, either, but what it DOES do is leave you with that soft, silky, sleek look that I could only ever find at Drybar, in the hands of a professional.  It somehow coats your hair with a magical, glossy, smooth sheen.  And the best part is that it extends your blow-dry — when I use it, I can easily make it two and sometimes even three days between blowdries without looking greasy and limp thanks to this stuff.  (Also, I didn’t realize it, but Bumble and Bumble makes this product for both thick hair and fine hair, so make sure you get the right one for your hair type!)

+Volumizer: Bumble + Bumble’s Thickening Spray.  I use this only on the hair at the top of my head and around my part, so that I can get more lift in that area.  I always hated how my hair would flop down, flat and fine, if left to its own devices — this spray gives a ton of volume and lift.  I don’t use it elsewhere because I don’t want to overburden my hair with too much product if I can avoid it.

+Brushes: I use Drybar’s Lemon Drop brush to detangle and part my hair just after I’ve towel-dried it and Spornette’s 3″ round brush to dry.  I’ve written about this round brush extensively in the past (who knew a $10 purchase could be such long-term fodder for blogging?), but it’s light-weight, easy and comfortable to grip and manipulate thanks to a padded handle, and the aerated center means that air easily gets into and around all of your hair.  (Also, Gisele’s stylist uses it on her hair.  Enough said.)

+Clips: Drybar’s Hair Clips.  I section my hair to make it easy to blow dry.   I like these because they’re long and can really keep big sections of hair separate.

+Hairdryer: Conair Infiniti Pro.  This is the best $35 I’ve spent in years.  I’d tried a couple of higher-end dryers but I am not exaggerating when I say I have A LOT OF HAIR and I need a jet engine to get it dry, or I’ll be standing in front of the mirror til the cows come home — and this Conair is super powerful and super hot, and it’s the only shortcut I’ve come across when it comes to abbreviating the length of time it takes to blow dry my hair.  I’m dying to try this one, as it gets wonderful reviews and I’m obviously impressed with what the Drybar stylists have done with my hair while using it, but — if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

P.S.  I’ve come to find that adding hair spray or any sort of finishing spray will shorten the length of time I can go between blowouts — they tend to add a layer or product to the top that makes my hair look greasier sooner.  That said, I do like Drybar’s flexible hold hairspray if I need some staying power.

P.P.S.  More of my all-time favorite beauty buys.

P.P.P.S.  When I need to buy myself an extra day between blowouts, my new hairband comes in handy.


  1. After listening to an episode of Forever35, I promptly bought the Revlon Studio One-Step Blow Dryer and Voluminizer and I cannot recommend it highly enough. I have blow dried my hair more in the past month than the last year and similar to your experience everywhere I go people comment on my hair. As a self-assured lady who’d come to peace with my hair just never being my greatest asset (that’s what my brain is for) this has been such a fun change! It only takes 10 min on towel dried hair, it’s available through amazon, it costs under $70, and 5 minutes on YouTube will have you styling like a pro.

    1. WHAAAAA? I have not heard of this! I can’t believe all of the raving reviews! Thanks for the tip.

      I completely relate to what you’ve said — “as a self-assured lady who’d come to peace with my hair just never being my greatest asset (that’s what my brain is for) this has been such a fun change!” I feel like a whole new woman!! xo

  2. Bookmarking this post for inspiration! I am usually in the air-dry camp, but always notice that I, too, get many more compliments on my hair when I take the time to blow it out. I barely feel like I can find the time to do it (for shame!) but now I am inspired to try it again. Love the sound of that Oribe hair mask!

    1. Yes! It’s definitely worth the investment. You won’t regret it! They also sell it in a travel/trial size that might be worth testing first if you’re not sure it will work for your hair. xo

  3. Have you thought about keratin?? I think I’m going to make the plunge because the harried-mom-look is decidedly not cute on me.

    1. So funny to hear you say this – I legitimately JUST found out last night (!!!) that my best friend has been doing keratin for years, unbeknownst to me. I feel like I’ve gotten into a groove with my blowout schedule, so I’m going to stick with it until I decide I can’t bear it anymore HA. Keep me posted on what you do! xx

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