You wash it, brush it, blow-dry it, straighten it, curl it, and/or put all kinds of products in it. And, although it may, indeed, have that drip, there’s no question that your hair goes through the ringer on any given day.
Before you know it, your tresses can show signs of damage, from split ends to uncontrollable frizz. And the older we get, the more it naturally thins out and looks dull or damaged.
This can even happen without overprocessing, says Elisa Hills, co-founder of the hair care line BLNDN.
The good news is you can reverse the damage. Your game plan for bringing your hair back to life is simple: Stopcommitting these common mistakes, and follow the fixes recommended by these top stylists.
It’s time, as a young gentleman by the name of Zac Efron once advised, to get’cha head in the game.
In the shower
You might be causing trouble as you scrub-a-dub-dubble.
1. You wash your hair every day
As a general rule, you can wash your hair as often as you need, says Amy Abramite, creative director and stylist at Maxine Salon in Chicago.
For most stylists we talked to, that’s every 2 to 3 days. Any more, and you risk stripping your hair of its natural, protective oils that keep it shiny and healthy, Hills says.
This is especially true for people who color their hair, as overwashing can dull the vibrancy of their color, says Constantine James, a celebrity hair and makeup expert in Chicago.
Of course, there are other factors that come into play. If you work out and sweat a lot, you may not be able to wait 3 days, Abramite advises.
(If you’re also worried about your skin after you work out, we’ve got you covered.)
In that case, try rinsing with water, scrubbing the scalp, and conditioning your ends only, says Paul Norton, a Joico celebrity hair stylist in Los Angeles.
If you’re dealing with a super oily scalp, James suggests looking into a hydrating shampoo and conditioner.
It sounds counterintuitive, but your body may be producing more oil due to dryness in an attempt to naturally fix the problem. You may also benefit from using dry shampoo to extend the time between washes.
James recommends TRESemme Fresh Start, which soaks up oil and gets rid of odor without any weird, powdery residue.
We found some awesome alternatives to your standard shampoo — check them out.
2. You use too much conditioner
To avoid greasy strands, apply conditioner on the ends of the hair, where it truly needs hydration — not the scalp, Abramite says.
Start with an amount about the size of a dime (yes, a teeny-tiny, humble dime), and try to disperse it evenly throughout the hair. If needed, up the amount, but never exceed the size of a quarter.
The currency size comparisons are appropriate, says James. “If you’re using a half-dollar-size of product, you will definitely be spending a lot of money on shampoo and conditioner and not doing much for your hair.”
That’s us told.
If you prefer your conditioner in bar form, we’ve got you covered.
3. … and the wrong shampoo
Sulfates, the cleansing agents in shampoos, “have become the gluten of the hair world,” says Erika Wasser, founder and CEO of Glam & Go. There’s a lot of hype around ‘em — some of it valid, some not.
While they don’t pose any serious health hazards, some people find these chemicals dry out hair, skin, and scalp, or strip away color, advises Abramite.
If you’re seeing tangling, frizziness, and split ends, try a sulfate-free shampoo. This may help you clean your hair gently. Keep in mind, though, it won’t get as sudsy as a regular shampoo, she warns.
There are plenty of budget-friendly options: Wasser and Abramite suggest the L’Oreal Paris “Ever” collection.
For higher-end options, James recommends:
- Pureology Hydrate Shampoo
- LuxeOrganix Argan Oil Shampoo and Conditioner
- Joico Color Endure Shampoo
If you’ve got a health condition that causes symptoms on the skin and scalp, such as psoriasis, you might need to make different considerations. Here’s our rundown of the best soaps and shampoos for people with psoriasis.
4. You never use a deep conditioner
It may sound like an unnecessary step, but the pros we spoke with all recommend using a deep conditioner — especially if your hair is dry, damaged, or split from coloring or heat styling, Abramite says.
Use a treatment, like Joico’s K-PAK Reconstructor, at least once per week, Norton says. “Get in the habit of pampering your hair, and you’ll notice it behaves and looks better.”
It’s a non-negotiable if you color or process your hair, Hills says. “Use a deep conditioner the week leading up to and after any chemical process — it’ll help prepare your hair for battle, seal the hair cuticle, and prevent breakage.”
And, contrary to what many people with thin or fine hair fear, the right mask will not weigh your hair down, says Hills, who recommends BLNDN’s Repair You mask.
5. You’ve been using the same shampoo and conditioner since high school
You don’t still like that guy from high school, do you? Because he turned out to be a douche. Likewise, if you keep using the same shampoo, it might also not turn out for the best.
Wasser likens your hair-washing routine to your workout: “By spin class 2,567, your body’s pretty used to it,” she says. Similarly, your hair gets used to shampoo and conditioner, and then the products start to leave behind a residue.
And who wants residue in their hair? Ugh. Not us.
If you’ve stayed #loyal to one routine, she suggests switching to Neutrogena’s Anti-Residue Shampoo once every month or so to give your hair a clean slate.
If you’re more non-committal, keep a few different formulas in the shower to use depending on how your hair feels, Wasser suggests.
Feeling dry? Work in a deep conditioner. If it’s feeling limp, use a lighter formula. Frizzier than usual? Use a moisturizing one. “You know your hair — listen to what it needs,” she advises.
After the shower
Because when you feel 110 percent invigorated, it’s easy to get complacent.
6. You brush your hair when it’s wet
Wet hair is much weaker than dry hair, so treat it carefully. One of the worst things you can do is tug a brush through it, forcing tangles apart, Wasser says.
Instead, try brushing your hair before hopping in the shower to work out knots and air out the roots, James says.
During your shower, consider using a wide-toothed comb to work the conditioner through your strands. To minimize damage, Norton suggests using a comb to work out tangles from the bottom, working your way up to the roots.
Bottom line: Use a brush only on dry hair and a wide-toothed comb on wet hair.
Wondering what the perfect hair care routine looks like? Look no further.
7. You roughly towel dry
This isn’t the worst you can do, but it’s definitely not the best.
After showering, don’t vigorously rub your hair with a towel — gently blot instead, Abramite says. “Blotting will prevent you roughing up the cuticles and causing frizz.”
Want to go the extra mile? Use a paper towel to dry your hair. Norton says this is the gentlest, if not the most practical, method possible.
We’ve got the full rundown on how to shower the right way.
8. The tools you use are *way* too hot
The thickness and coarseness of your hair will determine the right setting for the job, Abramite says. So it’s fortunate, then, that most hot tools, like straighteners and curling irons, come with adjustable temperature settings.
Be sure to avoid cranking it to the hottest setting right off the bat. Wasser says to start at 300 degrees. If you’re getting the desired results, stay there.
If not, gradually turn up the heat until you do. Typically, coarse hair requires higher temps than fine hair. And no matter what, always use a heat protector (more on that soon).
As for those wet-to-dry hot tools intended for use on damp hair? They’re a no- go: “Never use hot tools on wet hair,” Abramite says. “It can burn the hair.”
And “smells like burnt hair” is a go-to simile for something that smells bad.
9. You skip heat protectant
If you can’t take the heat, don’t sit there applying heat to your hair, as the famous saying goes (?).
These get a 100 percent “yes” from the stylists. “It’s like asking if you need an oven mitt to pull something out of the oven,” Wasser says.
Spraying a heat protector on your hair proactively protects hair from heat damage, plus it seals in shine, calms frizz, and keeps hair from becoming dry, Abramite says.
She vouches for L’Oreal Sleek It Iron Straight Heatspray.
- Redken Satinwear
- Redken Pillow Proof Primer
Coconut oil may well help you protect against heat — learn more here.
10. You use too many styling products
Like any style choice, you don’t need to overdo it to make an impression.
You only need three products, Abramite says:
- a protectant
- a styling product, like a mousse for volume or an anti-frizz cream for sleekness)
- a finishing product like a hair spray or texture spray
Use cremes and oils sparingly, Wasser says, and only apply them to the mid-shaft through ends. A little goes a long way.
You might also want to give wet styling a go.
At the salon
Sometimes, you’ve got to splash out on your swag.
11. You avoid haircuts
While the 6-week rule is definitely not set in stone, most people need a trim about every 3 months. for others, it’s shorter or longer, Wasser says.
Trying to grow out your hair? As soon as you start to notice split ends or the ends seem “see-through” or brittle, it’s time to take action.
“The damage will just continue up the shaft,” suggests Wasser, “so by the time you [eventually] go for a cut, you’ll end up having to cut more than you would have if you’d just bitten the bullet with the trim.”
Really afraid to take off length? Ask for a “dusting,” James says (and yes, it’s a thing). “This technique is to go through sections and lightly — just about a millimeter length — clean up your ends,” he explains.
Don’t shy away from a good haircut — it can feel like both sorcery and therapy.
12. You overdo chemical treatments
Allow yourself two per year at most (aside from coloring), Norton says. “I don’t believe the chemicals are harmless,” he maintains, “and they aren’t great to breathe in on a regular basis.”
James also suggests spending your money on heat protectors, irons, and conditioning treatments instead of relaxing or straightening treatments.
If you must, only get relaxers every 6 to 8 weeks, or ideally, up to 12 weeks. The more frequently you do it, the greater the chance of breakage or damage, says Tina Deeke, a color specialist at Maxine Salon (Abramite’s joint).
We provided some non-chemical alternatives to these treatments.
13. You don’t accurately describe what you want
The most important thing to remember before you visit your stylist: Bring photos.
And be careful of buzzwords: “Just because you’re describing what you think is a ‘natural’ look with ‘warm undertones,’ doesn’t mean the stylist is on the same page,” Hills advises.
Moreover, listen to — and trust — your stylist. If they say something is tough to do with your hair type, believe them — they’re usually right, Hills says. And ask them about the upkeep involved with any particular style or color.
Be clear about how much time you want to dedicate to your hairstyle, whether you’re open to using products, and how many, James says. If it sounds like too much work, it probably is.
And you have good hair to live better, not to spend your whole life tending to your hair and keeping it buoyant.
If you’ve got multi-textured hair, here’s how to keep it under control.
It doesn’t take a lot of effort to keep your hair healthy and vibrant — in fact, you may well be doing too much.
So don’t apply too much heat (and use protectors when you do), get regular cuts, and don’t shampoo every day unless you’re regularly hitting the gym.
Too much product and chemical treatments aren’t always the best idea, and make sure you don’t brush your hair when it’s wet. Your skin is the cousin to your hair — make sure you’re also avoiding faux pas there to exude radiant beauty.
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