Taking the time to blow-dry your hair is a huge time suck. And on a busy weekday, who has the luxury—or energy—to spend 20+ minutes drying and styling to perfection? We definitely don’t. To add insult to injury, every time you’re taking a hot tool to your strands—whether a dryer, curling iron, hot rollers or flat iron—you’re damaging them a little more.

“The heat from a blow dryer breaks the keratin proteins down in the hair, causing the hair to lose strength and elasticity,” explains Joseph J. Cincotta, Ph.D., product developer for Color Wow, “and become more prone to breakage.” It’s also extremely dehydrating, another factor that leads to breakage. And if you color your hair, the heat can cause it to fade faster.

Fine hair, because of its smaller diameter and lack of cortex, is more prone to heat damage, Dr. Cincotta says, making a quicker blow dry even more essential. Thicker hair can tolerate more heat, since it holds onto moisture for longer, but it’ll also take longer to dry, notes hairstylist Nicole Pascual of Sally Hershberger LA. “Factor more time, patience, and pull into really drying and styling those hair types.”

Especially for ladies with curly hair or unruly frizz, a blow dryer is an essential tool for dodging a bad hair day. On top of trying to space out your blow dries and make your style last longer, employing a few tricks to speed up the whole process will help you prevent hair damage and give you back some precious time.

1. Towel-dry with a microfiber towel. As soon as you step out of the shower, squeeze as much moisture out of your hair as you can. “This already gives you a head start and ensures you won’t be drying your hair forever,” Pascual says. Microfiber towels are super absorbent, so it’ll take out more moisture than cotton, plus it dries quickly. And always squeeze; never rub! It’ll rough up your cuticle (the surface of the hair, which lays like shingles on a roof), making your strands more “porous,” Cincotta explains. This means that the cuticle is raised, allowing water to easily leech or evaporate out, making hair more susceptible to dehydration and heat damage.

2. Direct the heat. Point the nozzle of your dryer down the hair shaft, from root to end. “This will push the water out of the hair quicker than inconsistent, sporadic movements,” says Pascual. It also helps eliminate frizz and keep the cuticle laying flat, since you’re working with the direction of the hair instead of against it.

3. Dry in sections. Using a hair elastic or clip, divide hair into smaller sections. Then, dry each one at a time until your whole head is done. This will allow you to dry each quicker and more efficiently, so you’ll cut back on drying time overall.

4. Keep the heat moving. “Never let the heat remain stagnant,” says Pascual, as this can be extremely damaging and lead to excessive drying. Instead, continue to move the heat down the hair shaft over and over to keep things flowing.

5. Buy a better dryer. Investing in a high quality dryer comes with some major benefits if you use it properly. A top-notch blow dryer will be able to heat up quicker, speeding up your drying time. “However, the higher the heat capacity, the more room for error and accidents,” Pascual says. So always learn how to use the new hot tool you choose to invest in. The latest high-tech dryers, like the Bio Ionic 10X, claim to dry hair in 10 minutes or less. On top of that, this one’s extremely lightweight (weighing less than 1 pound!) and uses 75 percent less energy than the average dryer, thanks to technology adapted from the NASA space shuttle program. Yes, NASA—hairstyling is serious business.

6. Use quick-dry products. There are some new impressive products out now that not only protect your hair against heat damage, but also help you cut back on drying time. Color Wow Speed Dry Blow Dry Spray is a clear spray you spritz in wet hair before you start styling. The cocktail of keratin, silk proteins and a synthetic polymer creates a matrix on the surface of the hair, which seals the cuticle, eliminating porosity and protecting hair from heat damage. “Another factor we can attribute to our product is that it weakens the strong bond between the excess water molecules on the hair surface,” says Cincotta, allowing them to be easily displaced and ultimately, keeping the blow-dry time to a minimum.

Check out our favorite new products that seal the hair cuticle, reduce porosity, protect against damage and speed up drying time.