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Tension vs. Comb Blow Outs: Which Method is Less Damaging?

• Jun 9, 2015

I’ve been doing comb blow outs (or rather, having my mother do them on me) since I was a child — comb blow outs were the standard. I never imagined that my hair would smooth out using a tension blow out. Those looked like something you did when your hair was already straight. Week after week, I watched my mother sweep up broken pieces of hair after every blow dry session.

When I first went natural, this was one of the main things I wanted to alleviate — that aspect of mechanical damage to my hair — but still, I didn’t think tension blow drying would work for me. I even had a Chi dryer that had a nozzle and the strangest comb attachment ever (that was also very awkward to use). Years later, I bought a T3 dryer that a comb attachment wasn’t made for. It was then that I tried tension drying and I haven’t looked back. Here are some pros and cons of each technique.

Comb Blow Out


What It Is: Using a comb attachment on your blow dryer to repeatedly comb through your hair while it’s drying.

Pros: Quicker Drying Time. Stretches hair by default. Repeatedly detangles.

Cons: Lots of mechanical manipulation, which often leads to increased shedding and breakage. Hair continuously tangles during the drying process.

Tension Blow Out


What It Is: Using the concentrator nozzle or head of the blow dryer held at close proximity to a hair section held taut, moving the dryer up and down the length of the hair until it dries.

Pros: Minimal mechanical manipulation, which results in less breakage and hair loss. Smoothes hair better than a comb blow out.

Cons: Close proximity to heat. Hair may tangle during drying process and will need to be detangled again in a dry state before styling. Longer drying time.

Ultimately, I definitely prefer tension drying, even if it does take a bit longer. The fact that it decreases breakage or hair loss during the drying process is more important than a quicker drying time. Also, if I need to detangle again, all I do is add a tiny bit of moisturizer, then comb through and put the section in a bun or twist. I certainly don’t miss the ball of hair on the bathroom floor that I became so familiar with during blow drying.

Which method do you prefer?

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Ugonna Wosu
Ugonna Wosu
6 years ago

I kind of do a combo of both methods, so I can’t choose one over the over . I’ve mastered using the comb (with little manipulation to my hair), and the tension method works well as long as I pick out the roots of that section with my comb first.

6 years ago

I do the comb blow dry. I have NEVER experienced a smooth blow out with the tension method.

6 years ago

Does anyone use the tension method with cool air only? I think I still experienced breakage from the tension method, but that could be because the heat was too high. I’m wondering if cool air works.

6 years ago
Reply to  TamBam

I have tried the tension method with cool air. It was just okay for me. It took a really long time and I wasn’t that happy with the end result, as it wasn’t as “blown out” as I would like. I much prefer a low to medium heat setting as it’s faster and I haven’t had any problems with heat damage (I only do blow outs a couple times a year though).

6 years ago

This is exactly why I love rollersetting. Dryers in my country do not have comb attachments, I have no idea they existed until my stint living in Houston a few years ago. I also don’t have the patience for the tension method, and I feel that it doesn’t stretch my hair sufficiently. Once in a blue moon I would visit my very reputable and gentle hair dresser and her blow outs involved round boarhair brushes. But I cannot do that myself. So, I rollerset, have the hair air dry in the rollers and then when I remove it hair is… Read more »

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