1. Step away from the shampoo!
The hands-down, most-heard advice for getting stronger, shinier locks was to lather less often. “Overwashing can strip hair of oils and make it dry,” says Nunzio Saviano, of Nunzio Saviano Salon in New York. Every three days is a good guideline. Experiment to see what works best for your life and hair, and go ahead and try a dry shampoo. They can work especially well on days you need to look fancy! “The texture left by a dry shampoo is perfect for twisting and pulling hair into an updo,” says Susanna Romano, a partner of New York City’s AKS Salon.
2. Take two to detangle.
On days you do shampoo, Romano says a good brushing before showering is a preemptive strike against knots.
3. Get hair therapy.
Before scrubbing, take advantage of any oily buildup to give yourself an ultra-organic treatment with this trick: Spend two minutes letting the warm shower water sluice through your hair. “With a little massaging, your natural oils will run down and moisturize the hair shaft,” says Saviano.
4. Don’t be heavy-handed.
Emulsify and massage just your scalp with your fingertips. “Piling hair on your head and scrubbing causes breakage and dries ends,” he says. Enough suds will work their way through to get strands clean.
5. Listen up!
Is your mop a tangled mass after shampooing? “Snarls are a sign you’re not giving your hair what it needs,” says Romano, who explains that those shampoo labels (for dry hair, say) really do matter: “Formulas are tailored and make a big difference.” So volumizing shampoo for fine hair could leave thick curls in a mess. Saviano agrees: “Think about what your hair needs, not what you want it to be.”
6. Go with the grain.
Always apply conditioner, says Anna Lyles, a global educator for Macademia Professional. Then gently run a comb through. “The slip of the conditioner will smooth out ruffled cuticles,” she explains. “Rinse in the same direction and hair will be calm and tangle-free post-shower.”
7. Mask it.
By this time of year, our abused hair usually needs repair. “It is exposed to sun all summer, then gets drier as the humidity drops,” says Saviano. Now’s when a hair mask, which takes three to five minutes a few times a week, can really help.
8. Drain, don’t dry.
Instead of vigorously rubbing hair with a cotton towel, gently grasp handfuls and squeeze out the water. “All that friction causes breakage!” warns Saviano. Repeat the process using a soft absorbent cloth. You can draft a supersoft old cotton tee to do the job, or invest in a towel made especially for hair.
9. Slip and slide.
If you tend to toss and turn in between getting up with the kids, try swapping your cotton pillowcase for a silky one. It feels dreamy and cuts down on friction, which can damage your hair follicle and cause hair to look frizzy and dull, says Romano. We love Morning Glamour Satin Pillowcases ($13) because of all the cute colors and patterns to choose from.
10. Feed your mane.
Eating foods that are high in iron and zinc promotes hair-follicle growth, and getting lots of protein from foods like chicken, eggs, soybeans, lentils, and red meat, as well as plenty of vitamin C, will make hair stronger, says Suneel Chilukuri, M.D., dermatologist and founder of Refresh Dermatology, in Houston. For shinier hair? Be sure you’re drinking your eight glasses of water, and load up on fish that is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon, says Dr. Chilukuri.
11. Use your hands.
Don’t use a brush or a comb to rip through tangles that you do wake up with or any matted knots that accumulate throughout a long day. “Use your fingers to gently pull knots apart horizontally,” says Lyles.
12. Win your workout.
Wearing a tight ponytail while exercising causes friction and breakage, so use looser styles like a braid or a low messy bun,” says Lyles. Multitask by applying a mask before starting your workout. If you plan to do laps in the gym pool, wet hair first. Cuticles work like a sponge, so if they absorb tap water they won’t take in the chlorinated stuff, says Saviano.
One smart way to keep blow-drying damage to a minimum is to let your locks get 80 percent dry before styling. “When hair is soaking wet, heating it is like dunking it into boiling water.” Not good! Plus, pre-drying minimizes blow-drying time. So let it air-dry until you’re done with breakfast, then try this: “I blot it with paper towels,” Saviano says. “They are so absorbent; it’s amazing how much water you can remove.”
13. Deploy a shield.
Most styling products contain a heat protectant. Use one. “Before you grab a curling iron or a flatiron, you want to prepare your hair,” says Saviano. Try Mizani ThermaSmooth Style & Style Again ($18), which contains beeswax and reactivates when you use heat. That means you only need to apply it once after washing no matter how many times you style in between. “You want to avoid loading your hair with products, which will make it flat and greasy,” says Romano.
14. Watch which way the wind blows.
It’s okay to use a high heat, but stick with a low air setting. “Heat brings out shine; it is the excessive air that ruffles cuticles and breaks follicles,” says Romano. And be sure to keep the dryer nozzle pointed down in the direction of the cuticle. “When you wrap hair around a brush and blow from the wrong direction strands fly all over and you get frizz,” she says.
15. No time to blow-dry.
“Take advantage of that!” suggests Romano, who says taking a break from the heat once or twice a week to let hair air-dry is a great way to help strengthen strands—and doesn’t mean you have to do errands or go to meetings in a ponytail. She suggests creating this cute, modern ’do that will transform into a pretty wave if you want to take it down later in the day.