this thing's incredible

This £5 Collapsible Diffuser Gives Me Instagram-Worthy Curls

Photo: Soraya Bouazzaoui

For as long as I can remember, I’ve had trouble looking after my hair. I have distinct — and traumatic — memories of my mum’s legs wrapped around me as I cried through her hair-brushing sessions. As her only daughter with curly hair, she tested out coconut oils and creams that would protect it and make it easier to detangle. I was allowed to have it relaxed during my early teens, and cut it all off due to damage when I was 17. I discovered the Curly Girl Method during university, and with more eagerness than my mum when she spots a Zara sale, I began trying various creams (from Cantu to ApHogee to SheaMoisture) that helped me to repair my hair and understand my curl texture.

Now, when I run my hands through my hair at the age of 26, it’s with apprehension and fear, the type you feel seconds after you’ve dropped your iPhone screen first onto the concrete pavement. Recently, I happened to be looking for new hair products on Instagram (I’ve fallen in love with Imbue — a vegan, cruelty-free, and sulphate-free brand — courtesy of Amber Gill’s IG stories), when I noticed that Natty Morais — who has 3C hair, like me — was using a diffuser to dry her hair.

My reliance on drying my hair naturally means it’s hard to predict how my curls will turn out. Going to bed with wet hair, or leaving it “down” to dry naturally, disrupts the curling pattern, and sometimes leaves the curls inconsistent or flat. So, being on a budget, I chose a cheap, collapsible universal diffuser from Amazon. I was unsure of how well it would work, but seeing the diffuser help set Natty’s curls so quickly, retaining the volume, pushed me to try.

It took some getting used to (and practicing) since I didn’t know where to begin drying my hair: Should I remain bent over, with my head upside down the whole time? I revisited Natty’s videos and the curly-girl tag to see who else owned a diffuser, eventually learning to use it as the finishing touch after my deep condition (with Imbue’s curl conditioner in the shower) and the Imbue curl cream gel I run through my curls when they’re damp.

My curls look best if I hover the diffuser over my roots, as you’re supposed to work from “the top down” to avoid the curls shrinking. One good tip is to not touch your hair while doing this, as it can disrupt the cream and curling pattern and make it frizz. You’re also meant to rotate your head around quite often — while bent over — so that your curls don’t set in one particular direction. I learned that the hard way once; my hair looked uneven, like I’d asked my hairdresser to make me look like Sideshow Bob.

Though I chose the diffuser randomly, it’s ended up being incredibly useful. It’s made of rubber, so folds in on itself once it’s not in use. I’m able to take it with me when sleeping over elsewhere or after showering at the gym. The nozzle fits most hair dryers, as the rubber expands easily, but I’ve had to fiddle around with bigger hair dryers occasionally to force it on.

During lockdown, I’ve mostly let my hair air-dry, which has helped it avoid heat damage. However, because of that, I noticed how well the diffuser sets my curls. There’s a bounce to them that hasn’t otherwise been as present as before, the ends don’t look as dry either. They feel and look significantly healthier. Also, because I’m naturally obsessed with myself, they look better in photos and videos. My Insta Stories now have daily updates about my hair — why wouldn’t I document it looking peng?

Some of the products I like to use

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This £5 Collapsible Diffuser Gives Me Instagram-Worthy Curls