I’m a minimalist when it comes to hair care. It’s the reason I keep cutting it shorter and shorter. I figure, the less I have to deal with, the easier it will be to take care of. But what I’m actually finding is that the shorter my hair is, the more styling it requires to get looking polished and feminine…who knew?
While I continue my search for the perfect balance between length and maintenance, there is one thing I like to keep constant, and that’s the health of my hair. I want it to look hydrated, smooth, and shiny, no matter the length.
But of course summer doesn’t always make that easy. Between the sun, chlorine, and salt water, it can quickly send hair back to a dry, brittle, and frizzy state. We can embrace it for a short time through messy, effortless beach waves, but once fall rolls around and a more polished look is in order, that’s when I’ll re-vamp my hair care routine. Here are four ways I treat my hair (and scalp) post-summer to restore some of that smoothness and shine.
Hydrating Hair Masks
Re-hydrating hair with an intensive mask is always my first ‘recovery’ step. I try to do one treatment per week to moisturize, smooth, and glossify my hair. Some of my favorite masks use argan oil or coconut oil – two miracle oils that are rich in vitamins, antioxidants, linoleic acid, and omega-6 fatty acids. They help hair grow stronger and healthier (especially when applied to the scalp), and also work short-term to tame those frizzies and fly-aways while protecting against heat from our styling tools.
For weekly treatments, I’ll reach for a pre-concocted tub of hair goodness, like this Argan Oil Hair Mask, and massage it all over my hair and scalp. I’ll leave it on for a quick 5-10 minutes, rinse out, and then let my hair air-dry. Occasionally I’ll switch things up and mix a few drops of argan oil directly into my regular conditioner, and follow the same process. Then, every 2-3 weeks, I’ll do an even more intensive coconut oil mask treatment (using the virgin, unrefined kind). This, I’ll apply all over my hair and scalp, and then let sit overnight (I’ll cover either my head or my pillow with a soft towel) and rinse out in the morning. Coconut oil also washes out very easily using a regular shampoo, which is another reason why I love it!
Gentle De-tangling Brush
You’ve probably seen de-tangle brushes everywhere by now, and there’s a reason – they make brushing through wet (and also dry) hair so much easier and gentler, leading to less breakage, and smoother, sleeker-looking hair overall. I use them not just in the fall and winter, but all year round – in fact, they’ve completely replaced my regular brushes and combs.
The best part about these de-tangle brushes is that they tend to have a larger and flatter surface area than most standard hair brushes, so more bristles come in contact with your hair and scalp as you brush. It’s how they’re able to effortlessly de-tangle our locks, but one extra benefit of this design is that they provide a vigorous (and enjoyable!) scalp massage. The bristles help remove dry flakes while boosting circulation, which ultimately helps new hair grow in healthier and stronger.
Sometimes I’ll go 20-30 times over my scalp just to because it exfoliates so well (and feels so good!). Massage a little coconut oil into the scalp before brushing, and it makes the most amazing scalp treatment. (I’ll typically do this on all my hair washing days, just prior to shampooing.)
Ceramic Hair Straightener
Speaking of tools, the one that always gets my hair the smoothest is a good old flat iron. I always stick to ones that are ceramic or tourmaline ceramic. That’s because ceramic offers smooth plates that heat evenly (to avoid hot spots) and quickly (to reduce the number of passes needed), which are both two crucial when you’re applying constant heat to your hair. Ceramic also emits negatively charged ions, which enhance hair’s hydration and shine.
Since my hair has natural waves only here and there, I use a travel-sized mini straighter most days instead of a full-size one. I find that it’s just big enough to work out all the random kinks and straighten my side-bangs, while minimizing the areas that don’t need to be straightened and subjected to the high heat. That way, I can straighten with less damage.
One thing I never forget to apply before using any type of heated styling tool is a heat protection spray. It reduces heat damage and also helps improve hair’s texture after straightening, so that it doesn’t come out looking dull, dry, and lackluster (which often leads to crazy static in the fall and winter). The top ingredients to look for in a heat protectant are PVP/DMAPA acrylates copolymer, hydrolyzed wheat protein, Quaternium 70″, silicones (silicone quaterniums, dimethicone) – at least one of these should be among the top five ingredients in your protectant spray/cream.
Because I’m a huge fan of anything multi-tasking, I like to use products like this dual protectant + straightening cream, which not only protects hair using dimethicone plus argan oil, but also smooths and adds shine. What I’ll do is dispense a small amount into the palm of my hand (a pea-size worth or two – too much and you’ll weigh down your hair). Then I’ll rub my hands together and comb my fingers through dry hair. With these types of creams, it’s always best to start at the ends (the driest areas) and work up, stopping at around 3 inches from the scalp to avoid a flat and greasy top part. After waiting a few minutes for it to absorb, hit it with the straightener for extra smooth locks. No extra finishing products required!
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What are some of your hair care essentials this season?