Your hair is not the enemy, you just need to know how to take care of it…
If you’re anything like me, you’ve spent a lot of time hating on your hair. Anyone with naturally straight hair wants curly locks, and the curly-headed among us would kill for pin-straight tresses. Redheads want to be blondes want to be brunettes who all want to be unicorn-maned beauties. If you chop it all off, you count the days until it grows back, and if it’s long, you’re probably eyeing photos of pixie cuts. Swear you’d trade thinner strands for a crazy-thick ponytail, but anyone with thick hair will tell you it takes forever to dry. Anyway, you cut it, hair is something to be coveted and complained about in equal measure.
But hair is also your best accessory. Whether it’s a clever bobby pin, a pass of the curling iron, a strategically-placed highlight or quick bang trim, you can quite literally transform your look almost immediately with the help of your hair. So it’s time to stop complaining and embrace it for the beautiful, living, curly/straight/wavy/thick/thin/red/yellow/brown/black/purple/glossy thing it is. Your hair is not the enemy — you just need to know how to take care of it so it wants to work with and not against you.
Your scalp does not need to be squeaky clean all the time.
“Lather, rinse, repeat,” is catchy, but it’s also bullshit. As a general rule, hair should only be washed when needed. If you feel best washing your hair every single day, that’s your call. Some people can go a week without feeling the need to wash and that’s OK too. Figure out what works to keep your unique hair feeling good (aka not stripping your hair of its natural, protective oils too often) and go with that.
But there is a right way to wash your hair.
On the days you do wash your hair, doing it the right way will go a long way in ensuring that your hair and scalp are getting what they need. First things first: you don’t need a ton of product. A quarter-sized dollop of shampoo will do you just fine. Then, rub that dollop between your palms and gently pat your head all over to distribute the shampoo, concentrating on your scalp and the top half of your hair. (Your ends don’t need as much love in the shampoo department.) Next, gently work the shampoo into your scalp and hair with your fingertips, then rinse. Et voila!
Remember that when you’re using green shampoo—like the phenomenally gentle, lightweight, pH-balancing Pure Shampoo from Rare Elements or Josh Rosebrook’s herbal-infused Balance Shampoo—it won’t contain the harsh detergents and chemical agents that 1) foam up and 2) leave your hair feeling squeaky clean but are actually doing a lot of harm by stripping away natural oils your hair needs. The non-foaming thing may take some getting used to, but trust me that it’s worth it in the long run.
And condition it.
Shampoo’s partner in crime? Conditioner. A shocking number of people skip this step and it’s kind of baffling when you think about it: By shampooing your hair (even with a natural product), a lot of its natural, necessary oils are stripped away, leaving hair in need of supplemental moisturize. That’s where conditioner comes in. Yes, it’s a great detangler but the main point of conditioner is to literally condition hair back to its happy, hydrated state.
That said, most of us are using conditioner wrong. For starters, we use way too much. As long as you’re really working it through your hair and concentrating the product where it needs to be, all you need is a pea-sized amount. And in terms of placement, it should never come near your scalp. When applying, focus on the bottom half of your hair; your scalp is already producing plenty of oil—it doesn’t need any more hydrating. Conditioner near the roots is only going to weigh your hair down, make it look flat and likely lead to hair that feels greasier than it is which will probably have you over-shampooing. It’s the circle of haircare life! Don’t fall prey.
A formula like the True Blue Spirulina Conditioner from Living Libations is great for all types of hair thanks to its blend of hydrating essential oils like blue tansy, yarrow, and chamomile. For thinner hair, something like the INTEGRITY Replenishing Conditioner from AHNESTI Haircare is your best bet: it’s silicone-free, meaning there won’t be any synthetic residue or buildup left behind to weigh your locks down.
Don’t fear oil.
True, you don’t want an oily scalp, but you also shouldn’t be afraid of introducing hydrating oils into your hair routine. A lightweight blend of the Lavender + Clary Sage Hair Oil from Lulu Organics can work wonders on stressed out, crunchy tresses that feel more like hay than hair. Work a few drops through the bottom half of your hair after a shower to prevent frizz. Do the same after you blow dry as a frizz-and-flyaway-fighter. Condition overnight by going full-on hair mask with Haconut’s Hydrating Hair Mask. Anyway, you use it, oil is will protect and repair your hair so it stays strong and hydrated.
Dry shampoo is your friend.
We’ve already discussed that you probably don’t need to be washing your hair every day, so when you want to stretch that clean hair feeling a little longer, dry shampoo is where it’s at. Lately, however, it seems like dry shampoo has been on the receiving end of a lot of hate due to the fact that overusing the stuff will deposit substances that coat the hair follicle and build up over time, eventually leading to inflammation and weakened follicles which can then lead to hair loss. Also not great? Most dry shampoos on the market either come in aerosol cans that do major damage to the environment or are packed with chemicals you don’t want sitting on your scalp all day, let alone ones you’re probably inhaling.
Luckily, super-effective dry shampoo is a green beauty lover’s dream thanks to totally clean ingredients found in the Green & Gorgeous Dry Shampoo Powder. Arrowroot powder, brown rice powder, clay and baking soda not only help to gently soak up excess oil without irritating your scalp, they don’t overstay their welcome (ie — no clogged follicles). An added bonus of dry shampoo powder like this? Serious volume at the roots if, you know, that’s something you’re into.
“One-brush-fits-all” is not a thing.
I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but my guess is that you currently own only one single brush or comb. While you may think that’s enough—and hey, you do you—I’d advocate for a small collection for optimal hair health. You see, your hair needs different tools at different stages of care:
- If you’re going to brush while wet (or have curly hair), you should be using a wide-tooth comb or paddle brush (like the Soft Touch Paddle BrushSoft Touch Paddle Brush) since both are gentle enough to work through knots without pulling, stretching and breaking strands.
- For super-thick hair, you want a brush with synthetic bristles that won’t create static.
- For very fine or thin hair, natural bristles like the ones on Mason Pearson’s Handy Hair Brush will be gentle and help distribute the hair’s natural oils evenly throughout for serious shine.
- For heat styling, a vented brush will help the heat from your blow dryer reach hair from all angles, speeding up drying time thereby cutting down on heat damage.
- And if you want to get really technical, it wouldn’t hurt to keep a toothbrush in your arsenal for flyaways and baby hairs. A spritz of Josh Rosebrook’s Firm Hold Hairspray on the bristles, a few gentle strokes, and you’re golden.
A little salt goes a long way.
If you do want to skip the heat styling tools, make like a mermaid and embrace the power of salt water when you’re short on time and long (or short) on hair. Seriously, a few spritzes of a salt spray can create gorgeous texture and bring out your hair’s natural waves without a curling iron. Just be careful not to use too much: Salt can be drying, so make sure you use a product like Plantfolk Apothecary’s Surf Sister Salt Spray that also contains nourishing oils.
Show your scalp some love.
Want longer, healthier hair? Start with your scalp. You can use the best shampoo in the world and treat your strands with love and care, but if you ignore the source, it’s all for naught. Think of your scalp as the soil to the plant that is your hair: for something to grow and flourish, the environment needs to also be flourishing. Dry, weedy, acidic soil? Good luck growing that tomato plant. Dry, clogged, acidic scalp? Good luck growing healthy hair.
So treat your scalp like you treat the rest of your skin and realize it needs love too. Scalps need to be gently exfoliated occasionally to get rid of dead skin cells that can clog follicles and other stuff that’s sticking around. Scalps need to be massaged to stimulate blood flow and hair growth. Scalps need vitamins and minerals, just like the rest of your skin, so always eat with that in mind. Scalps need some attention! Don’t disregard yours.
Don’t ignore your ends.
Dry, dead, split ends are the first and most obvious sign of hair that’s in need of help. Caused by anything from overuse of heat to stress to environmental factors to over-washing, split ends are exactly what they sound like: hair cracks and splits upward along the strand, leaving a frayed and brittle end. These split ends can then lead to duller, less voluminous and more tangled hair…no Bueno.
So you want to treat your ends just as well as your treat the rest of your body. The easiest way to do so? Don’t sleep on conditioner and hair masks. These products exist for a reason! And that reason is to hydrate your strands and keep them healthy so they don’t split and break and tangle! (Sorry for yelling, but I get really passionate about split ends.)
My favorite lazy girl path to healthy ends? Leave-in conditioner. I know, you probably haven’t even thought about this stuff since you were a kid, but trust me when I say it’s the simplest set-it-and-forget-it way to take proper care of your hair. A few spritzes of Yarok’s Feed Your Ends Leave-In Conditioner after the shower and I’m good for days on detangling, protection and nourishment.
Humidity doesn’t have to be the enemy.
Humid weather can be really great for skin—all the extra moisture in the air leaves skin feeling hydrated, plump and glowing. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for hair. To get sciency for a second, your hair gets frizzy in humid weather because hydrogen bonds form between the proteins in your hair and the water molecules in the air, swelling strands and leading to general bad hair behavior.
But! All this really means is that frizzy hair is a result of a protein/water imbalance. And when something is unbalanced, the way to de-frizz it is to even things out. When humidity is involved, the imbalance is likely too much water and not enough protein, so you’ll want to find a lightweight product that’s heavy on the proteins to treat the frizz, like the aptly-named Frizz Buster from Tela Beauty Organics with its blend of nutrient rich oils and ceramides. Because your hair should still be beautiful, even when it’s gross out.
And neither does hair dye or bleach.
Whether or not blondes have more fun is still up for debate, but playing around with hair color is your right as a human. As someone who has cycled through many different dye jobs—some great, some truly terrible—I know how scary it can be to feel the different texture your strands take on after color is deposited or stripped away. But that doesn’t mean you should fear dye or bleach. Yes, your hair will need some time to recover and it will probably be thirstier than usual, but regularly using a moisturizing treatment like Rahuas’s Color Full Hair Mask will not only quench that thirst, it’ll also go a long way in keeping your strands happy and healthy which means that color your just paid a lot of money for will last longer and look amazing.