Get Great Hair Today With These Essential Tips


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Whoever said “ignorance is bliss” couldn’t have been talking about hair care! Everything, from the wrong products to the wrong techniques, and even wearing a ponytail too often, can result in a bad hair day or seriously damaged hair, and no one wants that. We’ve examined the research and had some in-depth chats with hair pros to uncover some tips to make sure your locks are as healthy and beautiful as they can be!

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Washing and Conditioning Your Hair

Washing and conditioning your hair sounds like a pretty straightforward proposition, right? Not so much, especially when you consider that much of the information that’s put out there is wrong!

Case in point: The myths that rinsing your hair with hot water strips it of its natural oils, and rinsing it with cold water adds extra shine. Neither is true! The fact is that the temperature of the water you use to wash your hair doesn’t make a difference one way or the other. It’s the shampoo’s job to remove oils and excess styling products from hair (meaning any “stripping” is going to come from the shampoo), and the conditioner’s job is to replace the emollients (hair’s natural oils) lost during shampooing. If you really want extra shine, a good serum is the way to go, not a jolt of cold water!

You also shouldn’t shampoo too frequently. Truth be told, unless you have a lot of styling product buildup - or your hair is really oily – shampooing once while you’re in the shower, for most hair types, is plenty. Your scalp is skin, too, and too much cleansing dries it out and damages the healthy hair at the root. If you’ve been told to give your scalp an extra massage while you shampoo, don’t do it. Instead, massage while you condition; you don’t want to keep rubbing cleansing agents into the scalp any more than you would when washing your face.

We’ve said this before and we’ll say it again: When it comes to what shampoos and conditioners you use, price doesn’t matter. There are no ingredients in the more expensive options that are better for your hair, period. In fact, most salon-sold hair-care products have the same basic components as the drugstore options. Choose shampoos and conditioners designed for your hair type - such as oily, fine, or color-treated hair - and think twice before spending more than $10 for any hair-care product!

One thing to note: If you suffer from dandruff, you can use special dandruff shampoos, but don’t use them daily because the active ingredients aren’t the best for the length of your hair. One option is to use a special leave-in dandruff treatment on your scalp overnight, and then shampoo in the morning with your regular shampoo and conditioner.

Styling Success

Now that your hair is washed and conditioned, we can move on to the true superstar behind any great hair look - styling! If Mother Nature didn’t give your hair the thickness and fullness you want, don’t despair. Use a styling spray or mousse at the roots of wet hair (but just a little bit, or it will weigh your hair down), then flip your hair upside down and blow dry the root for a volume boost. Flip your hair back once it’s dry, then style the ends using a lightweight smoothing cream or a tiny dab of a water-based pomade.

For the opposite end of the spectrum - coarse, thick hair - it’s all about power. Controlled high heat moved quickly over hair with a blow dryer, flat iron, or curling iron is the only way to gain control over your hair if it’s especially thick, curly, frizzy, or coarse. It’s true that high heat is more damaging, but it’s a tradeoff. Of course, you can choose to let your hair air dry after styling, in which case we suggest using a great setting spray or silicone serum to tame any frizzies that might crop up (and without some type of smoothing product, they absolutely will!).

Speaking of silicone, it’s a great hair-care ingredient, no matter what anyone says. Silicones work amazingly well and are present in all kinds of hair products; in fact, they’re often present in products some stylists insist are silicone-free! The key with any silicone-based styling product is to not overdo it. For coarse, frizzy hair, pure silicone works wonders; for fine, thin hair, a more lightweight silicone spray is helpful. If the silicones start to build up too much in your hair, use a clarifying shampoo once a week to get rid of the excess. And, if you have normal to fine hair, apply a silicone product to hair ends only.

Give Your Hair a Break!

Yes, most hair has to be “tamed” to a certain extent to make sure it behaves, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t also baby it a little. These days, most of us know that over-brushing can damage hair, but so does rubbing it with a towel to dry it (dab, don’t rub), over-styling with heat, and even shampooing every day. In short, the less you do to your hair the better, so choose what you do carefully!

That might mean easing up on the ponytails and braids every once in a while. They’re a great styling option - especially for workouts and days on-the-go - but when they’re too tight, they can break off hair and damage the roots. Wearing a tight hairstyle like that all the time can even make your hair fall out (a condition known as traction alopecia)! Loosen up every once in a while so your hair has a chance to “rest,” so to speak.

Protecting your hair from the elements is a good idea, too. If you’re a swimmer, or just enjoy a dip in the pool outside during the warmer months of the year (or in an indoor pool during the winter), consider applying a silicone serum before swimming. The silicone repels water and coats hair to protect it from some of the damage from chlorine. As far as sun exposure when swimming outdoors; just like skin, hair can suffer from sun damage. Sun exposure literally breaks down hair, damaging the protective outer layer all the way to the core, leading to a dry, dull look and straw-like feel. Unfortunately, there aren’t SPF-rated hair-care products, but there’s a workaround: Use a spray-on SPF product on your hair. (But keep in mind that doesn’t make for the most attractive look; if all else fails, find a cute hat to wear!)

What about styling products that contain sunscreen ingredients? Although you cannot rely on them for worry-free sun protection, if you apply them after hair is dry and styled, the ingredients likely will provide some amount of sun protection. There just isn’t a lot of research as to how much protection it provides, or how well it holds up when, for example, you brush your hair.

You may not like this one, but for the health of your hair, it’s best to avoid extreme hair color changes. If you have dark brown hair and want to go light blonde, or are a blonde who wants raven-colored locks, it’s going to be a problem. Repeatedly dyeing your hair can dry it out and make it break, causing a straw-like appearance. Sadly, there are no products that can repair this kind of damage, despite the claims on some labels. The hair that makes up the length that you see is dead, so it can’t be “healed.” You can make your hair look better by conditioning, but keep in mind that nothing is being fixed; as soon as you stop conditioning, it’s going to go right back to where it was before. That’s why you need to keep using conditioner, and why conditioners that make those repair claims are stretching the truth. If they really worked, you’d only need to use them once, and voila, you’ve got repaired hair!

So there you have it: some tips and advice to get you to your best hair. Hopefully, you’ll be happy that none of this is complicated, but following these rules could save you a lot of time, money, and those dreaded bad hair days! For more helpful hints about hair, check out the Hair Care Advice section on

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.

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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