Top 10 (Inexpensive) Tips for Luxurious Locks
Winter is, historically, a terrible season for hair. Dry scalp, flyaway locks, frizz - there's no end to winter hair complaints. So how can you have healthy, luxurious locks for the holidays without spending a fortune at the salon? Lucie Barry, senior stylist at VAIN hair salon in Seattle, Wash., took a few minutes out of her holiday schedule to share her top 10 inexpensive tips for glossy, manageable hair.
1. Mister Clean
Don't wash your hair so much. One of the biggest mistakes Barry sees people make is drying out their scalps with too much harsh shampoo. "You know how you scratch your scalp and get little white flakes? That's not dandruff. Dandruff causes big, wet flakes that fall down in chunks. Those drifts of white are caused by dry skin on your scalp, but people think they have dandruff so they use harsh, medicated shampoos that only make the problem worse." And the worse the problem gets, the more we wash, not realizing we're stuck in a negative feedback loop. Try switching to a milder shampoo and washing no more than every third day. You'll be amazed at the difference.
2. Clear your head
Use a clarifying shampoo once a week. You know all that stuff you put in your hair every day to make it behave? Even if you wash your hair regularly, it leaves behind residue that can make hair dull and heavy. Clarifying shampoos are specially formulated to cut through that residue and restore your hair's natural shine. Don't use them too often, though. More than once a week and you're liable to end up with a flaky, dry scalp and flyaway hair.
3. Some like it hot
Baby your hair with a heat-activated deep-conditioning treatment. "Heat-activated conditioners are great to use after you wash with a clarifying shampoo," Barry says. Heat expands your hair's cuticles, which allows moisture to penetrate deep into the hair shaft. Moisture adds elasticity and bounce, which prevents breakage and makes hair shinier and more manageable. Sounds great, right? It is. But be sure to use a treatment that's formulated for your type of hair. It's easy to turn healthy shine into oily sheen by using a heavier conditioner than your hair can handle.
4. End game
Speaking of conditioner, you know conditioner belongs on your hair and not on your scalp, right? Conditioner doesn't do much for your scalp, except clog pores and leave behind sticky residue that will later flake out all over your clothes. The hair that's closest to your scalp is still relatively young and healthy, so it doesn't need much conditioner, anyway. It's the older (read: longer) hair that's sustained the most damage from both sun and styling, and that's where you want to put your product. Stylists recommend putting a quarter-sized dollop of conditioner into your hands, then working it into wet hair from the ends up.
5. Chill out
Although you may hate the thought of cold water running through your hair on a cold winter's day, finishing a shampoo with a cold water rinse is one of the quickest, easiest ways to add shine. Remember how we said heat expands your hair's cuticles? That's great when you want to get moisture into your hair shaft, but the thing that makes hair shiny is having smooth, closed cuticles. Rinsing with cold water closes your hair's cuticles, taking you from lackluster to luxurious in the time it takes to say, "Brrrr!" Special tip from Lucie Barry: Rinsing with cold water is great for preserving color, especially for redheads.
6. Too much of a good thing
While it's true that heat can damage your hair, there are lots of ways to use blow dryers and flat irons without frying your locks. The most common mistake people make with heat styling, says Barry, is using tools that don't have adjustable settings. "Different kinds of hair need different degrees of heat. The temperature you'd use for coarse, curly hair will burn fine, straight hair." It's worth it to do a little research to find out the maximum recommended temperature for your type of hair, then make sure your blow dryer and iron aren't exceeding that. But if that's too much work, just use the lowest possible heat setting. And don't forget to spritz a little heat-protectant spray on each section of hair before applying the iron. Your locks will thank you for it later.
7. A time for every season
While it may seem silly to have different shampoos and conditioners for summer and winter, Barry says that's not so. "The skin on your face gets drier in the winter, right? So you switch to a heavier moisturizer. Your scalp isn't any different. We're oilier in the summer and drier in the winter, so it makes sense to switch products accordingly." Not sure what products to get? Just ask your stylist, who's sure to have favorites for each season.
8. All that and a bag of chips
If you've ever been to a hair salon you know how many styling products hairdressers handle every day. But when asked for a product recommendation, Barry didn't hesitate or waver. "Moroccan Oil. It's amazing. It's moisturizing without being greasy, so you can massage it into your scalp and put it into your hair without weighing your hair down or making it look dirty. I'll put it on as a heat protectant before blowing out someone's hair, or I'll put a little bit on after to add moisture and shine." You may not believe in miracles, or even miracle products, but with a recommendation this strong it might be worth a try.
9. Take your vitamins
You know the old truism in computer programming, "garbage in, garbage out?" The same goes for your body. The first signs of a terrible diet are dull, dry skin and hair. Try eating foods that are rich in vitamins A and D, as well as Omega-3 fatty acids. Carrots, sweet potatoes, avocados, and nuts are just a few of the delicacies that will help your hair stay thick and shiny. Not only will your hair look great, but your skin will look younger and fresher, too. If you can't abide the thought of a healthy diet, a good multi-vitamin taken daily is the next-best thing.
10. The brush-off
So what's the single best thing you can do to have healthier, shinier, thicker hair? Brush it. According to Barry, an inexpensive paddle-brush, used properly, will do more for your hair than all the fancy salon treatments in the world. "Brushes aren't just for long hair. It's not about the hair, it's about the scalp. I tell my clients to brush their hair before they take a shower. That way they'll massage the scalp, loosen any dead skin, and spread their scalp's natural oils through their hair for a mini-conditioning treatment before they wash." She even theorizes that regular brushing may help slow male-pattern balding. Not bad for a $20 tool that can last more than a decade, eh?
As you can see, you don't need complicated treatments and expensive products to have great hair for the holidays. All you need is a little know-how and a handful of the right tools, and you'll be the belle of the company Christmas party.
Amy Leigh Morgan lives in Seattle, Washington. She's making a New Year's resolution to eat more carrots and to buy a good paddle-brush.
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