Bad Hair Days: Why You Get Them and How to Fix Them


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It's inevitable: If you have hair on your head, at some point you're going to experience the dreaded "bad hair day." No matter how well you treat your hair, or how down-pat you have your styling routine, there are some days when your locks won't do what you want, no matter how hard you try to tame them. You could just slap on a hat or slick some gel through hair to sport a retro ‘80s wet look. But instead of doing that, check out these tips to turn bad hair days into beautiful hair!

What Causes Bad Hair Days?

One of the most frustrating things about bad hair days is that they seemingly come out of nowhere. Your hair looks amazing one day, then the next it's a mess of cowlicks or flat, limp locks. What the heck happened?

A lot of us already know that the damage we inflict on our hair on a daily basis (brushing, straightening, etc.) can be a problem. But the gradual buildup of styling and conditioning products is also a major culprit behind bad hair days. Many of these products have ingredients that are designed to stick to the hair, and it's tough to wash them out completely. Over time, this buildup of products causes tresses to become heavy and lifeless.

There's also the role of the environment, and we're talking about more than just Mother Nature. Of course, heat and humidity outside can cause the frizzies like nobody's business, but indoor environments can have just as much of an impact. Dry, heated air inside a building in winter can suck the moisture right out of your hair, and air conditioning during the summer (or in hot climates year-round) can do the same. These situations result in oily, limp hair or straw-like tresses that lack shine or smoothness.

Styling Tools for Bad Hair Days

OK, so now that you know what might be causing your bad hair days, you probably want to know how to fix them, right? There are a few items you should add to your arsenal in case disaster strikes and you need a quick fix! Here are some of the tools of the trade that can help:

Curling Iron: A good, high-heat curling iron can work wonders on a bad hair day. If your hair is flat and lacking body, use a curling iron to add some volume. Curl your hair all the way up to the root, hold it long enough for the heat to work, then release the iron. Once you're done curling all the hair you want curled, shake out the curls and tousle your hair at the roots with your fingers to boost volume. Try Hot Tools Professional Spring Curling Iron or the Infiniti by Conair Tourmaline Ceramic Curling Iron.

Flat Iron: This is a great tool for fixing frizzies, fast. And we're not just talking about straightening extra-curly hair, which can seemingly take forever! A lot of us have those annoying "baby hairs" at the hair line that just don't seem to lie flat no matter what we do. Taking a flat iron (carefully) to those hairs can make them behave. A flat iron also can smooth out cowlicks. A top-rated and budget-friendly flat iron we love is the Remington S5500 Digital Anti Static 1 Inch Ceramic Hair Straightener. Note: Don't flat iron wet hair! The heat of the iron can cause the water inside the hair shaft to boil, taking your hair from bad to worse - the opposite of what you want.

Round Brush: A round brush is a great styling tool because it can be used with both curling irons and flat irons and can add curl, volume, and smoothness to hair. Many round brushes also have vents, which allow heat from a blow dryer to reach the hair faster if you brush your hair while you blow dry. These types of brushes are sold in most drugstores, some salons, and also in beauty supply stores—and you don't have to pay a lot for a good one! Choose the size you'll feel most comfortable working with.

Styling Products for Bad Hair Days

Although styling tools help a lot, you also need great styling products to make sure your bad hair day fix actually holds up through the day. For fixing frizzies on dry hair (and adding an extra boost of smoothness and shine after flat ironing), a silicone-based serum is a great solution. Any from the drugstore are great, and they shouldn't cost more than $10.

For those with oily hair, silicone-based serums can be too heavy, so look for a more lightweight lotion texture (such as a styling cream) or spray-on finishing product. For boosting volume, hairspray is a must. A fine mist of hairspray over locks that have been curled will help those curls stay in place, and hairspray at the roots of your hair will keep volume going all day long. Non-aerosol hairspray (sometimes labeled "volumizing spray") is preferred over aerosol hairspray; the latter is best for setting an overall hairstyle.

Quick-Fix Hairdos

When all else fails, there are some hairdos that can help mask the fact that your tresses are in a timeout for bad behavior. We're very lucky to live in a time when "messy" ‘dos are in! If you have long to medium-length hair, a low ponytail or bun can be a lifesaver. Pull out a few strands of hair to frame your face, giving it a softer, more feminine look (instead of a severe ballerina-style slicked-back appearance). A side braid can also be a pretty solution when your hair isn't at its best. But what if you have very short hair? Use hair wax or pomade to "piece out" strands for a slightly edgy look. You'll find excellent waxes and pomades at the drugstore from lines such as Garnier and Got2Be. At the salon, we like waxes from Bumble + bumble and Oribe.

Also consider when you style your hair. If you work with it right out of the shower, the wetter it is, the better chance you have of getting it to do what you want. If you let your hair dry a bit before you start styling, you might notice a difference in how it behaves (it usually is more difficult to style). If you don't wash your hair in the morning, but just re-wet it to style for the day, consider getting the roots wetter than the ends, because it's the way the roots slant that is predominantly responsible for determining the movement, lift, and shape of the hair.

Product Recommendations

Here are a few of our favorite styling products, all top performers that won't break your beauty budget!

Normal to Fine or Thin Hair

  • Paul Mitchell Hair Sculpting Lotion
  • John Frieda Luxurious Volume Bountiful Body Mousse
  • Got 2b InPlay Sculpt Paste
  • Got2Be Crazy Sleek XL Conditioning Flat Iron & Blow Dry Lotion
  • Garnier Fructis Style Volumizing Anti Humidity Hairspray
  • John Frieda Frizz-Ease 100% Shine Glossing Mist

Normal to Thick or Coarse (or Damaged/Dry) Hair

  • John Frieda Secret Weapon Touch-Up Creme
  • Every Man Jack Fiber Cream
  • Yes to Carrots Anti-Frizz Serum
  • L'Oreal EverSleek Precious Oil Treatment with Argan Oil
  • TRESemme Smooth and Silky Anti-Frizz Secret Smoothing Creme

With just a little patience and time, you can transform your bad hair days into beautiful hair. Make sure you have the right tools and products on hand to take action, and leave the ball cap at home—you're done covering up that gorgeous, but sometimes misbehaving, hair!

The Best Skin (and Hair) of Your Life Starts Here: The same type of in-depth scientific research used to create this article is also used to formulate Paula’s Choice Skincare and Hair Care products. You’ll find products for a range of concerns, from acne and sensitive skin to wrinkles, pores, sun damage, and even dry, damaged hair. See Paula's Choice Hair Care.

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About the Experts

Paula Begoun is the best-selling author of 20 books on skin care and makeup. She is known worldwide as the Cosmetics Cop and creator of Paula's Choice. Paula's expertise has led to hundreds of appearances on national and international television including:

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The Paula's Choice Research Team is dedicated to busting beauty myths and helping you solve your skincare frustrations with research-supported expert advice—so you'll have the facts you need to take the best possible care of your skin.

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