While I always feel inspired to experiment with my hair – the color, the cut, the style – I’m rarely motivated or brave enough to actually switch things up. What can I say? I like routine when it comes to my morning rituals and my mane. I will say that it did take a few years of gradual changes in my hair routine to get to a place that I’m finally most happy and comfortable with, and that’s what I want to share with you today!
I decided to write this after having received several comments over the past couple of years with friends and family who have pointed out how my hair seems healthier than it used to.
While I still have plenty of wild hair days and occasional hair woes, I’d have to agree that it’s never felt stronger or softer – or grown as quickly – as it does nowadays.
My Hair Care + Maintenance Routine
Here’s my tried and true method of caring for my tresses.
Skip the Suds
It’s not the easiest habit shift, but honestly, lathering up just once or twice a week has done wonders for my hair. I went from washing about every other day to every two days, then after a couple of months, down to every three, and so on until I hit once a week (twice if I’ve been working out or in other generally dirty situations) and I’ve noticed a huge difference in the overall health (and even texture) of my hair.
A few notes on this habit shift:
- Gradually making the change rather than diving right in will help keep itchiness, dandruff, and oil at bay.
- However, while your scalp tries to find it’s natural oil balance, you will very likely experience more oily hair (especially at the crown of your head and bangs, if you have them.) I wore lots of braids, ponytails, topknots, and headbands for those extra shiny months. : )
- That being said, dry shampoo will be your best friend early on. I personally love Dove’s product, but there are plenty out there to experiment with. I typically spray it on at night and let it absorb while I sleep, then rub it in and brush through it in the morning.
- When I say I don’t wash it, I mean that don’t even get it wet or rinse it out. On days that I shower but don’t wash my hair, simply tossing it up and using a thick headband or shower cap will keep it dry.
Ditch Sulfates + Silicones
I also made the switch to sulfate and silicone-free shampoos and conditioners (for the most part, some hair masks and deep conditioners I use may contain one or the other.) While I was skeptical about how helpful this would be at first (remember how hyped it was a few years back?), I genuinely believe doing this has helped my hair maintain hydration better and reduce frizz and split ends. Sulfates are said to dry out your hair, stripping it of its natural oils, and silicones coat strands with a plastic like substance and seal it off from absorbing oils. You can read more about the benefits of omitting these from your hair products here. Most sulfate and silicone-free shampoos and conditioners are very clearly labeled as such, though silicone-free can be a bit more difficult to find. OGX, Shea Moisture, L’Oreal, and Aveeno make some high quality and affordable options.
Let it Dry, Naturally
After showering, I gently wring out the extra water in my hair, then toss it up in a towel made specifically for drying hair – like this one. If I don’t have that handy, I’ll use a t-shirt to gently squeeze it until it’s no longer dripping wet (these fabrics are much gentler than a scratchy towel.)
While I do break out the blow dryer occasionally, the majority of the time I’ll let my hair air dry. I may give it a quick blast with the dryer when it’s 90% dry or so already, just to help straighten it out.
Comb with Care
I usually use a wide-tooth comb to untangle my hair when it’s wet, or I simply won’t comb through it at all, until it’s completely dry.
When brushing through dry hair, I do so using a brush with a few boar bristles (like this one) in it to help distribute oils.
Save Product for a Special Day
I try not to use much product in my hair for care or for styling, as it can quickly build up and throw off the natural oil balance I’ve worked long and hard to achieve! I do use an argan oil shine spray daily, to keep the frizz at bay, but only sparingly. I’ll spritz a few pumps into my hands and run them through the ends and, on especially frizzy days, over the top of my hair after styling.
In dryer months, or when my hair seems extra parched, I’ll apply a pump or two of this argan conditioning leave-in oil into my hands and run through the ends of my hair while it’s still wet.
I try to reserve hairspray or other heavy products for special occasions, or for days when I know I’ll be washing my hair that evening or the next morning.
I highly recommend taking the time to do a deep condition every few weeks. I’ve used Neutrogena’s Triple Moisture Deep Recovery hair mask for years and always come back to it. For an extra dose of TLC, leave it on for 30 minutes to an hour before rinsing out (I’ll toss it up into a bun or shower cap and busy myself with other things while it sinks in.) If I’m out of conditioner, I’ll cake on a healthy dollop of melted coconut oil with a little Vitamin E oil mixed in.
Let it Rest
After brushing through my strands at night, I very lightly tie them up in a top-knot or pull them to one side and braid before lying down, so it’s not all a big, tangled mess in the morning.
Nourish from the Inside Out
You are what you eat, as they say, and I think our hair (and skin) really does respond to our dietary choices. Make sure you’re eating plenty of fresh fruits and veggies, drinking plenty of water, and, if necessary, taking a multivitamin. Here’s a list of vitamins and supplements known to be great for hair health.
While I’m not sure I believe in the age-old “a regular trim helps it grow faster” tip, I do know that chopping those dead ends before they get worse really is the key to healthy looking locks. I used to dread getting a “trim” because I felt like I lost so much hair, when all I cared about was length, so I’d ask for the smallest possible amount to be snipped, even when my stylist would advise me that much more needed taken off. Not getting a proper trim every few months or so for years on end led to the ends of my hair looking thin and stringy and fried (but hey, at least it was long?!)
Some visits may require snipping more length off than others. Even if I’m not looking for a major change in style or a brand-new cut, I always ask my stylist to take off the split ends, even if it means losing an inch or two these days.
If you’re really unhappy with the current status of your hair and want a reset, I can’t recommend going for a shorter cut enough. I took off several inches a couple of years ago, and with my new routine in place, my hair grew back thicker and stronger, and has been consistently healthier, ever since. Sometimes, as with all things, we just need to hit the reset button.
Make Friend with the Salon
Last but not least, I think it’s really important to find a stylist you love and to stick with them. The more they work with you, the more in-tune they become with how your hair grows in, how it naturally falls, and what kind of changes it goes through, so they can make recommendations for any special attention it may need (thinning, texture changes, frizziness, split ends) over the years. I always look forward to seeing my “curl,” Alissa, over at Pin Up Curls, who works wonders with my locks!
I plan on sharing some of my favorite hair care and hair styling products in a couple of 5 Beauty Products I’m Loving Right Now posts soon, so stay tuned for those. Until then, I’d love to hear about your best hair tips and your favorite products, too!