Hair is the ultimate accessory; it can add to (or detract from) your overall look instantly. Keeping it in healthy condition is the most important thing you can do to help it look and feel fabulous. And, while it seems easy, this isn’t as simple as minimizing chemical treatments or slathering on a weekly deep conditioner. While these can make your strands softer and less split-end-prone, what really matters is the daily handling; this is what creates the most stress–and potential damage–to your tresses. To help your locks look their best, we asked top experts from around the country for their advice on how to baby your mane every single day. So whether your concern is dullness, damage, frizz or fragility, we have the answers to ease even the toughest hair-care woes. Read on for tips to achieve run-your-fingers-through-it hair.
1 Steer clear of plastic-bristle brushes. “The proper bristles are key,” says stylist Edward Tricomi of the Warren-Tricomi Salon in New York City. “A combination of natural boar bristles on either a round or flat brush are best for dry hair, while soft, rubber-toothed wide-paneled brushes are best for damp hair.” Our favorite brushes include the Mason Pearson Boar Bristle brush ($78.50; zitomer.com) and Aveda’s Wooden Paddle Brush ($17; aveda.com).
2 Brush before shampooing. A few gentle strokes on dry hair will help remove product buildup and scalp flakes, as well as stimulate the scalp and promote blood flow (which delivers nutrients like oxygen) to hair follicles. For a smoother slide, try Clairol Herbal Essences Let It Loose Detangling Spray ($3; at drugstores).
3 Know your water. If your hair looks dull or is hard to style, the problem could be your tap water. According to Minneapolis-based Gordon Nelson, international creative director for Regis Salons, well water contains natural minerals (called “hard water”) that can leave hair lusterless and hard to manage and can impart a brassy, orange hue. Soft water, on the other hand, has fewer damaging minerals. (Ask your local water department if your water is soft or hard, or try using Robert Craig’s No More Bad Hair Days Kit, $20; robertcraig.com; with strips to test your water.) To rid hair of mineral buildup, suds up every week with a clarifying shampoo. We like Frederic Fekkai Apple Cider Clarifying Shampoo and Clean Conditioner ($18.50 each; saks.com).
4 Mist your ends with water before home coloring. The ends of your hair are more porous and, as a result, absorb more pigment. “Wet hair doesn’t absorb color as readily as dry hair,” explains Renee Patronik, a consulting colorist for L’Oreal in New York.
5 Trim your troubles. As the ends of your hair get older and damaged by rough handling, they become prone to splitting, Nelson says. Get regular trims, at least 1/2 inch every four to eight weeks. “Hair grows (on average) half an inch per month, so trim to maintain healthy ends,” says stylist Stephen Knoll of the Stephen Knoll Salon in New York.
6 Use color-protective products. Chemical treatments like color can damage hair because the chemicals have to penetrate the outer layer of the hair (or cuticle) to allow the hue to be absorbed, explains stylist Rodolfo Valentin of Rodolfo Valentin Atelier for Hair in New York. Color-protective products are specially designed to minimize dryness, keep color true and prevent damage. “They typically have more nourishing ingredients, strip less color and are less abusive,” Knoll explains. We love L’Oreal VIVE Color Care Shampoo and Conditioner ($3.69 each; at drugstores) and Matrix Biolage Color Care Shampoo ($10) and Conditioner ($11; matrix.com for salon locations).
7 Give wet hair extra TLC. It stretches and snaps more easily than dry hair does, so be extra-gentle with it. “Use a wide-tooth plastic comb while hair is wet; then, once it’s towel-dried, switch to a good brush,” says Jon Patrick, color director of the Mete Turkmen Hair Salon Plus in New York. And avoid wooden combs; wood can have microscopic divots that snag hairs. Instead try the Jilbere de Paris plastic shower comb ($1.49; sally beauty.com for store locations).
8 Deep condition once every two weeks. “These treatments penetrate the hair shaft and strengthen strands,” says Patrick, who adds that using heat (from a blow-dryer) can intensify deep conditioning, as the heat causes the cuticle to open and the ingredients to penetrate.
For nourishing results, try Kerastase Masquintense ($36; 877-748-8357 for salons), available for fine or thick hair; Neutrogena Triple Moisture Sheer Hydration Leave-In Foam ($7; at drugstores); or Ellin Lavar Textures ReconstructMasque ($25; ellinlavar.com).
9 Try an ionic dryer. Ions are atoms with a positive or negative charge. These particular hair-dryers bathe your hair in negative ions, which help break up water molecules faster and cancel out hair-damaging positive ions, Valentin explains. Plus, your hair-drying time is cut in half. We love the Bio Ionic Super-Hydrator Pro Dryer ($165; bioionic.com for salon locations).
10 Just use your dryer’s nozzle, urges stylist Frank Galasso of Frank.Studio in Santa Monica, Calif. It’s the best way to help prevent frizz because it concentrates the airflow on sections. “Without a nozzle the dryer’s grill gets very hot; if your hair gets too close to it, it will cause damage and/or breakage,” explains stylist Mark Garrison of the Mark Garrison Salon in New York.
For curls, use a diffuser attachment to gently surround your hair with air. Try Vidal Sassoon Ceramic Finger Diffuser ($8; hotus.com for store locations). Follow up with John Frieda’s Frizz-Ease Secret Weapon Flawless Finishing Creme ($6; at drugstores) to smooth strands.
11 Give textured or relaxed hair a break. African-American hair tends to be coarse due to a lack of natural oils (more so if chemically processed), says New York-based celebrity hairstylist Ellin Lavar. Lavar suggests opting for gentle color choices like semipermanent or vegetable color. Spacing processing treatments at least two weeks apart, with weekly conditioning treatments in between for shine maintenance, helps.
12 Use the right accessories. Kim Vo, a stylist at West Hollywood’s B2V Salon, suggests putting hair in soft braids or twists and using claw clips rather than barrettes, which can pull hair. Other options: gentle Goody Ouchless elastic bands ($3 for 14; at drugstores) and L. Erickson Grab ‘N Go Pony O’s ($12 for three; franceluxe.com).
RELATED ARTICLE: POINT & CLICK FOR HEALTHY HAIR
For great styling advice that doesn’t sacrifice hair health, check out the Dove Styling Tool, a tip-filled interactive guide created with the help of top celebrity stylist Eva Scrivo. It’s organized according to the look you’re trying to achieve. Find it at dove.com/unstick_your_style.
BAN BAD-HAIR DAYS We’re giving 50 lucky Shape readers the chance to try Robert Craig’s No More Bad Hair Days Kit (a $20 value!). The kit includes 12 water test strips, three shampoos for different water types (soft, moderately hard and extremely hard) and a leave-in conditioner. Visit Shape.com/RobertCraig from Oct. 18 to Nov. 14 for your chance to win. Good luck!