Advice on haircare is everywhere, from which combs to use to the best blowdrying serums. But how to properly dry hair is often overlooked.

Hair is predominantly made up of a tough protein called keratin and a protective outer layer known as the cuticle. When hair is wet it can absorb up to 30 per cent of its own weight in water. This swelling weakens the hair and raises the cuticle, and in this state it is susceptible to damage. If we then rub our hair on a towel or a pillow, we are reducing the strength of the hair, causing brittleness and split ends.

Is towel-drying bad for your hair?

Anabel Kingsley, trichologist at hair and scalp health expert at Philip Kingsley explains: “If you towel-dry your hair gently, you won’t cause damage. It’s when you roughly towel-dry that problems can occur. For instance, vigorously rubbing strands can raise the outer hair cuticle and cause tangling. Wrapping a towel tightly around your hair can place too much traction on strands and result in breakage – especially around the front hairline where strands are generally finer and therefore weaker.”

“Afro hair is the most susceptible to damage out of all hair textures,” adds Kingsley. “This is because weak points form along the hair shaft where twists and curls occur. Afro hair is also very porous, meaning it loses and absorbs water quickly. This means it’s more prone to becoming dry and brittle during heated styling and chemical processes. Fine hair is also more prone to damage as fine hairs are naturally more fragile than coarse hairs.”

Help is now at hand with an increasing number of turbans, towels and wraps on the market designed specifically for hair health. Wearing directly after washing absorbs excess water quickly, cutting down on drying time and keeping cuticles as smooth as possible.

Drying times here range from five to 20 minutes. Materials differ; some are made from super-absorbent microfibre – a synthetic material that is gentle on the hair and quick-drying after use – with others using natural fibres, such as cotton or bamboo (some wraps may be made from silk). Which to choose will be down to personal preference and the properties that are most important to you. Bamboo towels, for example, are biodegradable and therefore kinder to the environment than microfibre options.

Should I buy a towel, turban or wrap?

Hair towels vary from a traditional towel that you twist and tuck at the back, to more structured turbans that secure with a button or are elasticated. There are also wraps, used for sleeping in. Long hair may be best suited to a towel as a turban can often be too small and restrictive for even drying. Similarly, those with curly or afro hair may prefer wraps to ensure less damage to cuticles at night time.

You can trust our independent reviews. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections, which are formed from real-world testing and expert advice. This revenue helps to fund journalism across The Independent.

Aquis Lisse Luxe long hair towel: £35, Look Fantastic

Drying time: Five minutes
Material: Microfibre

Founded in California, Aquis is haircare aficionados’ go-to brand. The towels are made from extra-fine fibres woven in a pattern that helps wick water away from hair efficiently, without friction. In our test, it took just five minutes to remove excess water from long hair.

The long hair towel is 25 per cent larger than the standard size (48cm x106cm), which is great for fine and curly hair, but Aquis also does a waffle-knit version and a turban for thick, porous hair.

We found static was eliminated and both curly and straight hair was sleeker than usual post blowdry. The brand has thought of everything – the woven instead of knitted design also means it doesn’t release microplastics into water systems, so it doesn’t pollute oceans. For us, that makes these worth the money. There are six colours to choose from, too.

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Boucleme curl towel: £25, Boucleme

Drying time: 10 minutes
Material: 46 per cent organic cotton, 46 per cent bamboo and 8 per cent elasthene

Specially made for curly hair, we found that this towel from British brand Boucleme really does help to keep curls intact – and we mean curly, afro and mixed-race hair. The super soft towel, with a bit of stretch thanks to the elasthene, is a sizeable 95cm x 55cm, so it’s good for both long and short hair, and ideal for the “plopping” technique. This involves placing the towel on a flat surface, bunching hair into the middle of the material, flipping the furthest edge over the back of the head and twisting the two nearest ends to tie around the head.

Drying time will take as little as 10 to 15 minutes, as curly hair dries quicker. When released, excess water has gone, curls are tighter and ready to diffuse with a hairdryer. After using over the course of two weeks, curls looked noticeably more defined and luscious.

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Danielle Creations coconut-infused hair turban: £4.99, Danielle Ltd

Drying time: Seven minutes
Material: Microfibre

It may be the least expensive product of the list, but this turban by UK beauty brand, Danielle Creations, founded in 1969, holds up as a decent offering. It is, as far as we’ve seen, the only one on the market to infuse the material with coconut oil, which does make a difference to the overall texture of the hair after use, being softer, more nourished and easier to blowdry.

Eventually the oil will wash out – for us it was after four washes – but we found we didn’t have to clean the towel till after a month of use because it stayed fresh. The turban is just big enough to fit long hair, at 65cm x 24cm, and is fixed with a button and elastic fastening, which doesn’t move out of place. If you found the coconut oil to be beneficial, you could always spray some onto the turban before wrapping.

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Only Curls extra large hair towel: £17, Only Curls

 

Drying time: Seven minutes
Material:
Microfibre

London based Only Curls is on a mission to get curly-haired girls to love their locks again, and this extra large grey towel can surely do that. The microfibre material is thick and soft, and at 94 x 59cm, it is just the right length to fit long hair. There is a smaller option for shorter hair at 90 x 45cm, which comes in black or white. This towel drinks excess moisture in around seven minutes.

The elastic and button fastening easily fixes together and it is comfortable to wear; not too heavy on the head. Curls do look more defined after use and drying with a diffuser left a better finish. We would also recommend this for wavy hair, which sometimes errs on the side of curly, as it would be great for eliminating frizz.

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Willow & Mane Ariana organic cotton hair towel: £19.99, Etsy

Drying time: 15 minutes
Material: Organic cotton

British-made Willow & Mane would be our choice of the bunch for anyone who wants a luxury sustainable towel. Made of organic cotton and available in a few reversible colourways – including striped, plain navy, grey, pink or triangle print – they look and feel luxurious. They are a very decent size, 50cm x 100cm, so easy to wrap round extra long, long and short hair.

Due to the cotton, it takes a little longer to dry than microfibre towels – we found it took up to 15 minutes, but we didn’t mind showing off the towel for a little while longer. For eco-conscious driers too, organic cotton is better for the environment, reducing plastic use and not contaminating waterways with microfibres when machine-washed.

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Kitsch XL hair towel: £21.09, Kitsch

Drying time: Seven minutes
Material: Microfibre

This independent brand, run by women and founded 2010, has developed a microfibre hair towel ideal for those with very long locks at 110cm x 50cm. After just seven minutes, all moisture was absorbed and hair looked in visibly better condition than before use.

There is even a piece of elastic to fix the twisted material into, ensuring better stability on top of the head. It is so soft and comforting, you might find you don’t want to take it off. There is also a slightly smaller turban version in pink, white and palm print with an elasticated rim for anyone who prefers more support.

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Dock & Bay hair wrap in Waikiki coral red: £13.99, Amazon

Drying time: Seven minutes
Material: Microfibre 

Dock & Bay, founded by a UK and an Australian businessman and best known for winning investment on Dragons’ Den, make bright beach towels and hair wraps in eight stripy colourways, that are ideal for holidays. They are without doubt the lightest towels on the list, and are super-fast drying because of the microfibre material, taking no longer than seven minutes.

The wrap itself is a decent size, at 63cm x 29cm, so ideal for short to medium hair lengths. We wouldn’t recommend for long hair, i.e. below mid back, as it will stick out the end. The twist mechanism is easy to use and the button keeps the turban in place. As a mid-range price point, this would be a solid choice for anyone who is a gym-goer or swimmer, and needs a towel to work quickly and look good without breaking the bank. 

Seventex hair turban towel: £9.99, Amazon

Drying time: 20 minutes
Material: Organic cotton

Seventex’s hair towels are made of 100 per cent certified organic cotton. The turban fits surprisingly snugly on the head, considering it contains no elastic. This is larger than some turbans on the list at 60cm x 23cm so is good for most hair lengths. 

Those with shorter locks might find there is some excess material but the secure button means it will still stay put. In our test, this one absorbed moisture in around 20 minutes, but for this price and the size, it’s a good-value buy. We also like the fact it comes in lilac grey or beige, which makes a change from high-maintenance white.

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Breezy Tee T-shirt hair towel wrap: £19.99, Amazon

This range is made from 100 per cent interlock cotton, a soft knitted fabric (think the material used for a top-quality T-shirt). The smoother surface cuts out friction and therefore potential damage that rougher fabrics can cause. These are particularly good for afro or curly hair as they also reduce static. This plum wrap, which is a decent size at 27cm x 60cm, absorbed moisture in 10 minutes and we found it particularly effective at minimising frizz.

It’s secured with a button, but there is also a towel option for anyone who prefers to fix the material the way they prefer. Both designs, made in 12 colours, are cute enough to wear in or outside the home, and are ideal for beach days.

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Silke London The Poppy: £50, Cult Beauty

Material: Silk

Tossing and turning in the night can take its toll and if you’ve just washed your hair before bed, the damage to cuticles can be even worse. Silke London’s turbans, handmade in the capital from 100 per cent silk, help remedy the problem. Designed for air-dryed or blowdryed hair – damp is fine but not soaking – the protective layer keeps cuticles smooth and promotes the distribution of your hair’s natural oils throughout, rather than collecting at the roots.

The theory is that you should be able to wash hair less; our tester managed to cut her weekly washes from three to two. Inspired by the tradition of wrapping hair, these turbans are elasticated so work for different hair lengths and head sizes. Make sure you cover your whole head as if you leave some hair out, like we did first time, the wrap may come off in the night. We found it left our hair looking shinier than usual and less frizzy.

These ones are definitely chic enough to wear out and about, but they crease easily so look after yours. Silke recommends dry cleaning or you can hand wash with lukewarm water and a gentle detergent then rinse, ring and air dry.

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Botanics bamboo hair turban: £7.50, Boots

Drying time: 15 minutes
Material: Bamboo

This super-soft turban is made of lightweight bamboo, which is not only absorbent, due to its natural water-wicking properties, but antibacterial, so it will fight against odour for longer. We’d recommend this one for those with shorter and medium-length hair as it is on the smaller size and longer locks risk getting caught up in the loop and button.

It buttons up, stays put and absorbed the excess water from our testers’ hair in 15 minutes. This gets bonus points for being biodegradable and it did seem to stay fresher for longer than the microfibre options.

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The Vintage Cosmetic Company hair turban in pink polka dot: £7.50, Feel Unique

Drying time: 10 minutes
Material: Microfibre

We are fans of this microfibre turban’s retro-inspired polka-dot design. Its USP is that this is the only towel on the list with two buttons so it can be adjusted depending on hair length, which is needed for longer hair. It also elasticated, which helps to keep it sitting snugly on the head. Super-light, our hair was ready to blow-dry in 10 minutes and in the sleek stakes, it matched up to the other turbans the under £10 bracket, maybe even topping them because of its cute, vintage style.

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The verdict: Hair towels and turbans

Our favourite has to be Aquis for its attention to detail and for the fact it has a size and textured towel to suit all hair types in a decent variety of colours. Hair dries super-fast with no frizz and using the towel gives an immediately noticeable sleeker blow-dry finish. However if you’re looking for a cheaper alternative with impressive results, we’d recommend trying Danielle Creations, whose towel, with infused coconut oil, leaves a soft finish to the hair and is large enough to fit long hair.

IndyBest product reviews are unbiased, independent advice you can trust. On some occasions, we earn revenue if you click the links and buy the products, but we never allow this to bias our coverage. The reviews are compiled through a mix of expert opinion and real-world testing.