When it comes to taking care of our hair, many of us just stick to the basics: a little shampoo and a little conditioner. But there are many factors that can cause damage to our hair and require a little extra attention be paid.
Jack Ray, stylist and co-owner of Samuel Cole Salon in Raleigh, says hair grows about a half inch a month, which means that the ends of your hair have been on your head for a couple of years. “They have been subjected to a lot of damage: heat styling, environmental damage and natural oxidation. Typically, it shows mostly on the ends and hair around your hairline because the hair there is more fragile.”
We talked to hair care professionals about what to keep in mind for maintaining good, healthy hair and asked for suggestions for the best hair care products.
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Hairstylists recommend frequent haircuts, but just how often?
According to Angela Barbour, assistant professor of cosmetology and esthetics at Wake Technical Community College, “It’s important to keep your hair trimmed every six to eight weeks to promote healthy-looking hair and to keep split ends off.”
Ray recommends getting haircuts based on the length of your hair. “For short hair and pixie cuts, you should get your hair cut every four weeks,” he says. “Five weeks for mid-length hair and bobs. Six weeks for long hair. If your hair is well below your shoulders, eight weeks.”
Hair care products
The products you use can dramatically change your hair’s health, and some can actually do more harm than good. Most stylists recommend springing for professional quality products.
“Drugstore products are high in alkaline and contain perfumes, which dries out the scalp and hair,” Barbour says. “They usually contain waxes, which weighs hair down and can make hair appear dull-looking.”
Joel Warren, a colorist and the co-founder of Warren-Tricomi Salons in New York says “using professional quality hair care is imperative to your overall hair health. Today’s technology is so advanced that these professional quality options are really the smartest way to go. They’re formulated specifically for individual hair types and make a huge difference on hair.”
Barbour agrees. “Professional hair products are always better than over-the-counter products,” she says. “Professional products are pH-balanced and designed to be gentle and have a higher concentration of healthy ingredients.”
Professional products can also extend the life of chemical services and treatments, such as coloring, highlighting and relaxing.
“If a client is spending money on color, highlights, relaxers and permanent waves, they should be using professional products to care for their hair,” says Barbour.
Keep in mind that product needs may vary across the board for different hair types.
African-American hair craves intense hydration. “African-American hair types tend to dry out easily, especially after styling,” Warren says. “This hair type benefits most from leave-in conditioners and hair masks.” Hair oils are also great for African American hair.
- Eprouvage Replenishing Leave-In Conditioner, $18 Ulta.com
Curly hair tends to use a lot of heat when styling, Warren says. “It’s important to use protective products like blow dry serums, detangling creams, and oils to help nourish the hair.”
- The Honest Company Conditioning Detangler, $5.99 Target.com
- Captain Blankenship Mermaid Hair Oil $34, CredoBeauty.com
- REDKEN Curvaceous High Foam Cleanser and Conditioner, $18.50-$19
- DevaCurl No-Poo Original Zero Lather Conditioning Cleanser, $22; and DevaCurl One Condition Original Daily Cream Cleanser $22, Ulta.com
- SACHAJUAN Intensive Hair Repair Shampoo and Conditioner, $35-$36 Barneys.com
- Alterna Caviar Repair RX Instant Recovery Shampoo and Conditioner, $32 Sephora.com
- Christophe Robin Volumizing Shampoo and Conditioner, $38-$43 Sephora.com
- MATRIX Oil Wonders Volume Rose Shampoo and Conditioner, $18-$30 Ulta.com
- dpHUE Daily Color Care Shampoo and Conditioner, $24 Sephora.com
- Rita Hazan True Color Shampoo and Conditioner, $26 Sephora.com
- V76 by Vaughn Hydrating Shampoo and Conditioner, $19 each V76.com
- Jack Black Double Header Shampoo + Conditioner, $32 Sephora.com
How often to wash?
How often you wash your hair depends on your hair type, needs and lifestyle.
“If you have fine, limp hair and work out every day, you may need to shampoo and condition every day,” Ray says. “Someone with thick, coarse hair only needs to shampoo once or twice a week.”
Barbour stresses the importance of a good conditioner. “After a client shampoos their hair, they should always use a conditioner.”
Clarifying shampoos can be used to deep cleanse the scalp and remove residue and build-up from styling products. Barbour recommends that clarifying shampoos be used weekly or bi-weekly, depending on how many styling products – such as hairspray or pomade – you use. “Clarifying shampoos should always be used after swimming in a pool to help strip the chemicals, such as chlorine,” she says.
- dpHUE Apple Cider Vinegar Hair Rinse, $35 Sephora.com
- Christophe Robin Cleansing Purifying Scrub with Sea Salt, $52 Sephora.com
Dry Shampoo can be used in-between washes to keep oiliness at bay. Ray recommends dry shampoo be used the next day after washing. For finer hair types, dry shampoo can be used as a volumizing agent to style on the first day of washing hair.
“When using dry shampoo, the proper application is to a apply it to the first third of the hair shaft and then gently shake it around,” says Ray. This method absorbs excess oil and refreshes the scalp, while creating volume at the roots.
Protect from heat
Heat styling has become a huge part of daily hair styling.
“Everybody is using a curling iron or straightening iron almost everyday, so it’s really important to use heat protectants,” Warren says. “Otherwise, you’re putting a 350 degree heat styling tool on your hair, which causes damage over time. Heat protectants are specifically formulated to burn off as you use them, which protects the hair from damage.”
- Alterna Caviar RepairX MultiVitamin Heat Protectant Spray, $30 Sephora.com
To supplement hair health and repair damage, treatments, leave-in-conditioners, split end repairs and hair masks can be used.
Warren recommends using leave-in masks weekly for added moisture. “It’s important to use oil after styling your hair with heat. Supplements, such as vitamins, are a great way to improve your overall hair health,” he says.
- Oil: REDKEN Glow Dry Style Enhancing Blow-Dry Oil, $32 Ulta.com
- Split End Repair: Pureology Strength Cure Split End Salve Treatment, $10-$28 Ulta.com
- Treatment: Living Proof Perfect Hair Day® Night Cap Overnight Perfector, $28 Sephora.com
- Mask: Fekkai PrX Reparatives Intensive Fortifying Masque, $25 Fekkai.com
In terms of hair health, Ray says professional quality styling tools are a great investment. “You really do get what you pay for in the hair tools and blow dryers department.”
Plus, using inexpensive hair styling tools could actually compromise your hair’s health. “An inexpensive hair tool is going to have an inconsistent heat from tip to base,” he says. “It’s going to have hot and cold spots and a harsher heat.”
When blow-drying, using the right heat setting can minimize heat damage. Ray says most people only need a medium-heat setting. “High heat would be ideal for those who have thick, coarse hair,” he says.
The best method for blow-drying is to keep your dryer at a minimum of two inches away from hair. Otherwise, the heat could burn the hair and cause breakage.
- Blowdryer: Amika Power Cloud Force Dryer, $150.00 Birchbox.com
- Curling Iron: Sultra Bombshell 1-Inch Curling Rod, $130 Sultra.com
- Straightening Iron: T3 SinglePass 1” Straightening and Styling Iron, $140 Ulta.com
A good brush
“Forty strokes with a bristle brush didn’t become an old wives tale for nothing,” Ray says. “It really make your hair look shiny and healthy. Plus, brushing your hair distributes the natural oils your scalp produces, and according to Ray, it’s one of the very best conditioners in the world for your hair.
- Grooming Brush: Mason Pearson Pocket Boar Bristle Brush for Fine to Normal Hair, $120 Nordstrom.com