No matter the texture, colour or style, pretty much everyone wants hair that looks like it has been preened, primped and perfected by a salon professional on a daily basis, right?
But if your hectic schedule won’t allow a bi-weekly blow-dry and you’d prefer an extra twenty minutes in bed each morning over waiting for your deep conditioner to work its magic or grappling with the tongs, read on, because we’ve spoken to some of the experts in the business to pin down the seven key hair rules to live by for healthier, happier and more manageable tresses.
Bye, bad hair days.
1) Rethink the way you wash your hair
Mintel reports that 33% of women who have changed their washing habits in the last 12 months cite worrying about damage as the top reason, so how often should you be shampooing?
Well, industry experts argue that less is more. But it does depend on your hair type.
“The curlier your hair is, the longer you can go between washes,” explains dermatologist Dr. Doris Day. If you have thick, coarse, curly hair, pick a shampoo that hydrates as it cleanses, like Percy & Reed’s Perfectly Perfecting Wonder Wash Shampoo, £18. It’s also sulfate free, so won’t strip your colour.
“The finer and straighter your hair is, the faster the oil wicks down,” says Steve, “so that can make it oilier faster. If you have super straight hair, you may not be able to go more than two days without washing.” If you have fine, straight hair, pick a gentle shampoo like Bumble and Bumble’s Gentle Shampoo, £20, which is super-kind on strands.
If you colour your hair regularly then it’s best to avoid washing your hair every day to keep your colour from fading and your strands from becoming parched. The same applied for just-dyed lengths.
“Leave your hair for at least 72 hours after a colour appointment before washing it again,” says Kamila Pruszek, salon manager at award winning West London salon, Blue Tit. “It can take up to three days for the hair cuticle to fully close, trapping in the colour molecules. If you wash your hair before the cuticle has closed, you risk disrupting the freshly applied colour and your gorgeous new hue is likely to fade.”
When you do eventually wash your hair, avoid shampoos that contain sulphates and silicones. Sulphates can strip the colour, while silicones leave behind residue that can leave your new colour looking dull. Stylist recommends Pureology’s Hydrate Colour Care Shampoo, £18.50, which cleanses from root to tip without stripping your strands of colour and Moroccanoil’s Hydrating Shampoo, £19.95, to eradicate build up and nourish porous lengths.
Afro and Caribbean hair can get very dry because of its unique texture, which also makes it incredibly fragile. Most hairdressers comment that the issues they see with this type of hair are from a build-up of debris on the scalp and damage caused by detangling. KeraCare Hydrating Detangling Shampoo, £5.40, is specifically designed to put moisture and bonds back in your hair.
“If you’re prone to greasy hair, then use a little dry shampoo in between washes to soak up excess oil,” advises Steve. “But try and avoid becoming too reliant on dry shampoo as it can cause build-up on the scalp and clog hair follicles, which can impede hair growth. If you really struggle to avoid frequent washing then remember that certain styles work better – and look better – on hair that isn’t freshly washed. Braids, bedhead buns and twisted topknots are all great looks for those in-between wash days.”
Shop the next-generation dry shampoos doing so much more than banishing oily roots.
2) Always use protection
Hair can be damaged by both UV and heated tools, like straighters, tongs and even your trusty hairdryer, so it’s important to give your hair as much protection as possible.
“When you dry your hair at home always use a heat protector,” says hairstylist Mark Wooley of Electric Hairdressing. Try the ghd Heat Protect Spray With UV Protection, £12.95, to condition from the inside out and shield against damage from straighteners and colour-zapping rays.
And when drying, be sure not to hold the hair dryer too close to your lengths, to prevent split, fluffy ends. “As a test, blow the hairdryer onto your hand and see how fast you pull away when holding it close to your skin.”
3) Become a blow-dry pro
A good blow-dry should last at least a couple of days depending on your hair type, and there are several products that will help prolong the life of your style. You can also bypass hot tools by multitasking your hair style, as celebrity stylist Dan Sharp explains: “Styling doesn’t always have to involve a hot tool. If you give yourself a fierce blowout on Monday, rock it out on Tuesday and on Wednesday do a fab high ponytail. Making your style last a few days will really help prevent damage.”
“Start by flipping your head upside down, and shake your hair around while you blow-dry,” says hair care expert Harry Josh. “The more you move, the more volume you’ll get. Once it’s about 80 percent dry, flip back up and blow-dry hair in sections to smooth, focusing on polished ends. The last three inches are key: Move your brush and dryer right down to the very end of the strands and take your time. It will make all the difference. Most people come at their heads from the side, which makes hair frizzy and staticky by pushing it all over the place.”
4) Remember the good tools rule
Think of your hair like your skin – what you put on it will affect it. Investing in good quality products and tools will keep hair looking and feeling healthy and strong.
“People are cheap with what they use on hair but wouldn’t dream of treating their cashmere jumper in that way,” says hair stylist and Redken Ambassador Tracy Cunningham.
“At home, you should have a round brush for blow-drying, a Mason Pearson brush for styling and a tail comb to move hair around a little,” says hair legend and Redken Global Creative Director, Guido Palau.
Good brushes are worth investing in and although might have a heftier price tag than others, if they’re looked after they will last forever. Keep your brushes clean and free of dead hair, oil and product build-up by washing them in a mixture of baking soda and warm water once a month.
5) Condition the right way
Good conditioner is also crucial when it comes to any hair type but particularly thick, curly tresses.
“For curly, highly textured hair, always deep condition,” says celebrity hair stylist Ted Gibson. “No two minute conditioners here. Deep conditioning involves using a conditioner that will add moisture and strength (protein) back to hair. You should use heat by either applying conditioner to hair while taking a shower and let it sit while showering or by covering the hair with a plastic cap and applying heat from an outside like a hair dryer.
“I believe it’s important to use leave-in conditioners and also not to shampoo so often. Rinse it if you want to but don’t necessarily shampoo it.”
To make sure your hair really absorbs the conditioner, towel-dry hair after shampooing. Excess water will mean the conditioner won’t be able to penetrate the hair shaft and deliver the necessary moisture to keep hair looking healthy and shiny. If you’re short on time, at least squeeze out excess water.
“Conditioner only needs to go on the mid-lengths and ends of your hair,” says stylist Kerrie Urban. “Try not to put the conditioner on the roots as it will cause your scalp to get greasy faster.”
It’s also a good idea to think ahead and anticipate situations where your hair might dry out.
“While you exercise, you perspire, which means that your hair gets damp with sweat that can actually make it dry,” says LA-based hair stylist, Andy LeCompte. “Before you hit the gym (especially during the summer, but this works year-round too) wet your hair and add in some conditioner from the mid-lengths to the ends. Rinse out the conditioner post-workout and you’ll be left with shiny, hydrated hair.”
6) Ace your brushing technique
No-one wants a matted mess for a mane, so brushing is always necessary, but don’t tear through your locks mindlessly. According to Guy, being too aggressive will only cause damage, and no-one wants to contend with fluffy, split ends.
“For perfectly shiny, healthy and untangled hair, you should be brushing your hair twice a day,” suggests hairstylist Laura Superbi. “Once in the morning and once before going to bed, for about a minute each time.”
So what’s the best technique?
“Brushing from the roots causes damage – always brush from the bottom and work up,” advises hair stylist Tracey Cunningham, especially if you have long hair.
And the tools you employ should change when your hair is wet to avoid snapping and static.
“When your hair is soaking wet, it is weaker, fragile and more susceptible to breakage,” says hairstylist Nicky Clarke. Save your brush for when your hair is dry and invest in a wide-tooth comb. The teeth are designed to glide through wet hair – especially if coarse, wavy or curly – much easily than brush will, and there’ll be much less damage to contend with when it’s dry. Try the 3 More Inches by Michael Van Clarke Safety Comb, £17.50. Handmade from vulcanized rubber, it minimises snagging, so the hair cuticle remains smooth.
7) Beef up your haircare arsenal
People with fine hair need to be careful when it comes to anything containing an oil like argan, coconut, or olive. While incredibly hydrating these wonder ingredients can be too much for fine tresses. Too much and you’ll add weight to the hair making it heavy, flat and limp. Aloe oil is a great alternative as it’s far lighter and will nourish without leaving hair looking or feeling greasy.
Thicker hair needs more hydration than fine textured hair due to its wider diameter. It’s worth investing in products that are moisture balancing to meet the needs of the drier ends and newer roots. If you find your hair is prone to frizzing, choose lightweight smoothing products that will tame and not weigh your style down. If your hair is wavy or curly, a heavier cream or serum may be needed.
With its unique structure African-Caribbean hair is the most vulnerable to damage of all hair textures. It has specific processing, styling and grooming needs and needs products that are suited to it. Being curly this type tangles easily and a lot of breakage happens through pulling so it’s important to take extra care. Always start at the ends and work up to your roots with a wide-tooth comb.
Coarse, curly hair can often get dehydrated as it’s harder for natural oils to travel down the shaft and coat the entire strand. Jojoba oil and Shea butter are perfect as they are similar to our own natural hair oils. This type of hair can be difficult to style if it’s been over-washed and become frizzy but don’t be tempted to reach for anything too silicone-heavy as it will dull your colour and end up causing even more frizz. A pre-shampoo treatment can work wonders on coarse hair giving ultimate shine and hydration.