Now that the fluffy, voluminous hair of the ‘90s is back in style, you may be wondering how to achieve the look that celebs like Julia Roberts, Mariah Carey, and Sarah Jessica Parker pulled off so flawlessly – big, shining curls that bounced like coils when they moved. The secret is in their products and the various types of diffusers.
Yes, their diffuser – the large, pointy attachment that comes with your hair dryer that many women aren’t sure how to use. Diffusers are a common tool for those with naturally curly hair, but they can be useful for any hair type.
There are different types of hair diffusers used to achieve different looks: curly, wavy, glossy, smooth… you name it, there’s a diffuser for it. Whether your hair is short, long, straight, or coiled, you’re soon going to be calling your diffuser your best friend.
How to Use a Diffuser
To use a diffuser, flip your head upside down and blow dry the wet ends from the root up. This creates more volume and can also be easier to manage. Turn the hair dryer with the diffuser attachment on a medium-to-low setting, as too much heat can damage your hair and give it a lackluster shine.
Grab a section of hair, scrunch it up, and place it on top of the diffuser. After this step, do not touch it! There’s no need to use your fingers to break up curls while it’s sitting atop the diffuser, nor do you need to rotate or move the diffuser at all. Doing so will separate the curls you’re trying to keep together.
Diffuse each section for about two minutes, depending on your hair thickness, turning off the hair dryer between each section to prevent frizzing. When you’ve made it all the way around your head, scrunch the sections to see which parts need to be dried further.
Flip your head right-side-up and repeat the diffusing process upright to the damp hair. Dry the roots by grabbing the top of your hair and lifting the roots, holding the diffuser still a few inches from the head and leaving it for about a minute. Continue around the head until all the roots are dry.
What You Need to Use With a Diffuser
Using hair diffusers can be intimidating, and it can take a few tries to get it right. Begin by using a grippy mousse or texture spray on wet hair. Avoid towel drying or brushing your hair before using your diffuser.
Pick a product based on your hair type. If your hair doesn’t naturally hold curls, try looking for a volumizing mousse, and if your hair is already naturally curly, look for a gel that will reduce frizz or add shine.
Different Types of Diffusers
There are many different types of diffusers to choose from.
#1. Finger Diffuser
The finger diffuser is the standard attachment that comes with your typical hair dryer. This one is round and slightly concave, with around ten plastic cones reaching up an inch off the base. This type of diffuser is great for a quick-dry and classic volume.
#2. Anti-Frizz Diffuser
Anti-frizz diffusers are typically made of silicone instead of plastic. Though they are still round, they’re typically flat across the surface with small, rounded cones that reach only half an inch or less from the base. These types of diffusers are better for those with naturally curly hair, or those with a drier hair texture.
#3. Volumizing Diffuser
The volumizing diffuser is ideal for those with longer hair, as the base is wider and the holes in the slightly-concave surface are pill-shaped, leading to a fluffier curl that will hold throughout the day.
#4. Hand Diffuser
When looking for a shiny curl, a hand-shaped diffuser might be the best option. This diffuser releases heat from all sides, drying hair more quickly than other types of diffusers and besting frizz.
#5. Prong Diffuser
If your hair is already curly, a prong diffuser will help lift and shape curls. The plastic prongs have holes that allow them to blow out more air directly onto the roots, and the prongs rim the circular base and the lining in the middle. The prongs reach higher than those on a standard finger diffuser, and the base of the attachment is flat and wide, accommodating for users with long hair.
#6. Sock Diffuser
While it’s possible to just slip a sock over your blow dryer to get a softer curl, buying a hot sock diffuser can be not only safer but also more effective. These diffusers are excellent choices for short or fine hair, as it leads to a gentler, softer curl or wave.
#7. Mesh Diffuser
Similar to a sock diffuser, a mesh diffuser slips over the top of a blow dryer. However, it lets out hair air through much smaller holes. This type of attachment could be ideal for users looking for beachy waves: texture without the volume.
#8. Ceramic Diffuser
Rather than using plastic or fabric, a ceramic diffuser leaves the hair glossier and smoother. It heats more evenly and seals hair cuticles as it dries, so it is a better option for users with fine or damaged hair who still want sexy ‘90s curls.
Tips on Using a Diffuser
The number one takeaway of using different types of hair diffusers should be not touching your hair while it’s resting on the diffuser and trying to avoid touching it afterward to avoid curl separation and frizz. Hold still and be patient – great curls take time!
Try not to use the highest setting of heat just because you’re in a hurry. If you’re in a hurry, you’re better off focusing on the roots and ends of your hair until the hair is only slightly damp rather than soaked, and letting the rest air dry.
Stars like Zendaya or Shakira take the time to use their diffuser. Otherwise, their curls would be frizzing all over the place. Find a celebrity whose hair looks like it matches yours in texture and length, and do some research to see if they’ve name-dropped their favorite products, tools, or stylists. It’s good to have a goal in mind when learning how to diffuse your hair.
But ultimately, there is no right or wrong way to use a diffuser, and there is no right or wrong tool when it comes to diffuser types. As long as you feel confident, you’ll look just as sexy as those ‘90s bombshells did.