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(Note: This article is a part of our 31-day series, “31 Days to a Whole Body Makeover“.)
One of my favorite memories of having worked for years in day spas is the downtime with my hairstylist co-workers. I learned a LOT about hair care over those years; I loved hearing all of the cool little tips and tricks they passed around. The best thing that ever happened for my hair was when my friend Matthew super bluntly told me I needed to cut all my hair off. You know, the hair I had been trying to grow out for years? And he was right! It took both years AND weight off my appearance and I’ve never grown it back out since. Because of that experience, I tend to believe the seasoned hairstylists because they have an unusually keen artistic eye. We put a lot of importance on our hair; it can really affect the way we feel about ourselves. So whenever I heard those little hair care secrets being swapped around, I took note.
(Plus, thank heavens for tough love from trusted friends like Matthew, am I right? I’ve always been better for it.)
I’m excited to share with you my favorite hair care tips that I’ve learned and put to practice over the years. Here are the answers to the questions you might not even know you had regarding your hair.
How do you wash your hair for the best results?
Before putting shampoo into your hair, rinse your hair with warm water to open up the cuticle of the hair. This will help get out extra oils and products out that have been stuck in your hair. Not too hot, though; hot water is very drying for your hair and your skin.
Shampoo less often. If your scalp is particularly oily, then you can wash daily, but normal to dry hair should skip every other day. On the off days I don’t wash my hair, I still rinse it and condition it, but only because I have curly hair, which is dry by nature.
Don’t just slap on your shampoo and conditioner. By nature, we tend to just put shampoo and conditioner on the same place on our head, but there is a much more effective way!
Go easy on the shampoo, and shampoo starting at the scalp, working your way out to the ends.
After rinsing the shampoo out, squeeze out the excess water with your hands before applying conditioner. Apply conditioner starting at the ends, and work it up to the scalp. Use a little more conditioner than you do shampoo.
Allow the conditioner to sit for at least a few minutes. (Take this time to wash your body and shave your legs.) Rinse the conditioner out with cool water. Cool water closes the hair cuticle helping your hair, preventing frizz. The closed cuticle also reflects light, giving your hair shine throughout the day. Bonus: Eastern cultures credit a “cold dip” after a hot bath/shower to good health and a big boost of energy. For these reasons, I’ve grown to love turning the water down to cool at the end to rinse my hair.
What is the best way to dry and style your hair after your shower?
Use a t-shirt to dry your hair. The tiny loops of a terry cloth towel act as tiny combs that separate the individual strands, making them frizzy.
Before using any hot styling tools, and before adding any product such as hair gel, you will need something to protect your hair from heat. I use Aveda’s Brilliant Damage Control Spray, and another one that people really love is Argan oil. When using a blow dryer, try a colder setting to prevent damage. Lower temps on styling tools, too. A flat iron that is too hot will literally break your hair right off.
Please view this important demonstration as to WHY you need to turn the temp down on that iron. (You can thank me in the comments.)
Does it matter what kind of shampoo and conditioner you use?
Yes, it does matter. There are so many different types of shampoos and conditioners made for specific hair types.
My husband has thick hair and an oily scalp, so he uses Aveda’s Rosemary Mint shampoo to get a good deep clean. But Rosemary Mint makes my hair a frizzy, dried up mess! My hair is super fine and curly (curly hair is typically dry), so I use something more moisturizing like Aveda’s Be Curly.
But just because I use a good salon-quality brand doesn’t mean you have to. You can still find great shampoos at the grocery store, so long as you read the labels, making sure it is made for your hair type.
Also, watch for certain ingredients that a LOT of different brands use, that are actually incredibly damaging for your hair and dangerous for your health. And when I say dangerous, I mean chemicals that have been found to be cancer causing, endocrine interrupting, organ toxic, reproductive blocking, dangerous chemicals.
The biggest offenders:
- Sodium Lauryl Sulfate
- Sodium Laureth Sulfate
- TEA Lauryl Sulfate
- Ammonium Lauryl Sulfate
- Ammonium Laureth Sulfate
- Ammonium Xylene Sulfonate
Basically, if it contains “sulfate”, you should definitely pass. They are used to give the product slip and make them foam up, but believe me, there are plenty of plant-derived ingredients that can do the very same thing, but manufacturers don’t like the cost.
You will still be able to find inexpensive brands that do not include these ingredients. These inexpensive brands are typically just as good as the pricier in-salon brand. The reasons some may prefer the in-salon brands include the aroma of the shampoo and how its aromatherapy affects our body and uplifts our mood. In-salon brands also use higher-quality ingredients that are more likely to be plant-derived instead of artificially made. And finally, in-salon brands are typically concentrated, requiring you to use less of it, making the cost of the product virtually the same as the inexpensive alternative.
The shampoo and conditioner combos are not at all ideal. Shampoo is meant to strip oils, conditioner softens the hair by adding moisture, so they cancel out the best benefits of the other.
How can I most effectively talk to my stylist to get the most of my haircut?
Bring in images of what you like. This will be the inspiration, then the stylist will use her knowledge to help translate according to your hair type. You can either clip pictures from magazines or show her a picture of you with a haircut you loved in the past.
Make sure you are on the same page. Be specific. If you want a trim, that might mean a lot more length than you mean. If you just want the damaged ends trimmed off while saving the length, try the term “dusting”. People usually say “just an inch,” but your inch is different from her inch, so be specific and show her with your fingers. You might want bangs, but there is a big difference between blunt bangs, and bangs that you sweep off to the side. These are all just a few examples of how differently we describe our hair.
Talk to your stylist honestly. During your consultation, be honest about what you are doing at home. There is no need to be embarrassed; your hairstylist has heard it all! Cut your bangs with big scissors meant for scrapbooking? Dyed your hair with dollar store dye and it turned out awful? Swim every day in a chlorinated pool? Fry your hair with a hot flatiron every day? Your hairstylist needs to know these things. Not only will it help them know how to treat your hair so it comes out how you would like it while you are in her chair, but this also tells her just how high- or low-maintenance you need your new haircut and/or color to be.
Believe her. If she says she needs to take off a few inches due to damage from the flat iron, believe her. It might make you nervous to cut off a little more length, but you will look even better for it, and help your hair grow back healthy. You will also want to consider hairstyles she believes will be flattering on your taking into account your face and hair type.
Unless it’s something you really don’t want. In that case…
If you don’t like it, tell her. Give your stylist a chance to correct the things you don’t like. Miscommunications happen.
Before you leave, ask these two things:
1. See if that salon offers free bang trims midway before your next already-booked appointment. Many salons do this.
2. Get specific directions for styling your hair at home. Ask exactly how she used the product, and learn the techniques she used. Ask every question you can think to ask. A great hairstylist wants a loyal relationship with you and wants to tell you all of her tricks and techniques, so ask.
Product. It’s not a secret that salons depend on product being sold to keep the lights on in the salon. You shouldn’t feel pressured to buy the product, no one will be mad at you if you pass, but always hear out the reasoning for the recommendation. Say your stylist used a specific brand to color your hair, and the way you’re going to keep it in the longest and most vibrant is by using a shampoo and conditioner made to pair with that color, then it would be in your best interest to purchase the product. Or perhaps you have genuine concern about a problem with your hair, and your stylist has seen amazing results with a specific product… that, too, would be in your best interest to buy it.
And don’t forget to tip your stylist appropriately, usually 15-20% of the cost of service. (I added that in there are a public service announcement for my fellow salon/spa homies. It’s really does mean a lot.)
What did I leave out? What are the must-do hair care tips you would like to share? Please tell me in the comments below!