13 Ways You're Ruining Your Hair
Maybe you deep condition, use heat protectant, and generally try to be gentle with your locks. Yet you could be unknowingly holding yourself back from the healthy, shiny, richly colored mane of your dreams. Here's what experts say you should nix from your routine.
Trying to detangle your hair from root to the tip can make knots bigger as you slide the comb down. Dallas-based Frédéric Fekkai hairstylist Tony Salle suggests working in sections, starting with the ends, then moving up to the middle part of the hair before detangling the roots. For really stubborn snarls, he recommends working in an oil product such as the Fekkai Professional Blowout Sealing Serum (.99; target.com) to reduce friction on your strands. For the biggest tangles, use your fingers instead of a brush, to minimize damage.
Tying your hair up tightly when it's not dry is a no-no, says hairstylist Owen Gould, who's worked with stars like Naomi Watts, Olivia Wilde, and Jessica Alba. "Hair is more elastic when it's wet, which means it's more susceptible to breakage," he says. If you must pull it back when it's damp, try not to slick it back and, he suggests, "use a clip or a scrunchy—yes I said scrunchy!— until it's is sufficiently dry enough to be pulled tight."
Showering in steamy water does more than dry your skin out. Corinne Adams, senior hair colorist at Serge Norman, explains that hot H2O also strips hair-dye molecules from your strands. Opt for a warm shower and, if you can handle it, Adams recommends a cool rinse after conditioning to flatten the hair cuticle and impart shine.
Clean-hair shamers have been very vocal in recent years, and for good reason: Every time you wash your hair, you're stripping it of its own nourishing oils as well as any treatments you've deposited, like hair color or keratin smoothers. Yet, celebrity hairstylist Sheridan Ward still finds women washing too often. Try every other day, every few days, or even every few weeks—however long your scalp can go without hitting the "oil slick" stage. Opt for co-washing (a.k.a. using conditioner only in the shower) in between and dry shampoo to soak up excess shine. Ward's pick: Klorane Dry Shampoo with Oat Milk (;sephora.com).
You may have picked up that rub-rub-rub, attack-your-head-with-a-towel move from your mom as a kid, but, as Ward insists, this ruffles the cuticles and encourages flyaways. Instead, use a fluffy or micro-fiber towel or cotton t-shirt to gently press, squeeze, and blot away excess moisture after showering for a smoother finish.
If you're a regular a top-knot or chignon wearer and you're suffering from split ends galore, rethink how you're securing it. "When styling hair in a bun with a hair elastic, the breakage appears often on the ends of the hair because the rubber band bends the ends," explains Salle. The easy switch: Try using long Bobby pins!
Sun and salt water not only dry your skin—they damage your mane, too. "To keep hair shiny and prevent it from turning brassy too fast, you need to protect it from the elements," explains Adams. Her shielding recipe for days when you'll be soaking up rays at the pool or beach? Work a hair oil into dry locks (her pick: Christophe Robin Moisturizing Hair Oil with Lavender,;sephora.com)and then put conditioner—yes, conditioner—on top of the oil to seal in the hydration. The double layer of moisturizers not only serves as a barrier, it conditions hair at the same time. Sure, this strategy gives you that wet look—but, hey, it's fitting for the location!
It may be time to rethink your toss-your-hair-up-and-go strategy. "The most common breakage I see on a ponytail appears when the hair is not detangled before using the rubber band," says Salle. Hair elastics put pressure on bunched up areas, causing delicate tresses to snap off.
It might be tempting to use the highest temperature on your hot tools—after all, the style is more likely to hold that way. But doing so is also more likely to damage hair. If there's a low option, use it for your day-to-day styles and save the high settings for special occasions when you truly need to lock in texture, says Salle.
"I would say the number one mistake people do with conditioner is put it on their roots," says Gould. While you might think of this as a way to nourish the scalp, in truth, you're depositing more moisture where your hair already has sufficient hydration. This weighs down your hair, causing it to look limp and lifeless—not to mention greasy! Instead, stick to the bottom half of your hair when you condition.
Old-fashioned ponytail holders with elastic in them can snag on strands, causing breakage. Ward advises using soft silicone or snag-free bands (like Sephora Collection Snag-Free Hair Elastics,.50 for eight;sephora.com) to ensure you're using a material that will glide over hair easily.
Harsh chemicals like chlorine in our tap water can strip hair of both its natural, nourishing oils and hair color. The simple fix is to slip a filter on your showerhead to catch the offending elements before they have their way with your head, says Ward. His go-to: T3 Source In-Line Shower Filter (;ulta.com); it's a bit pricey, but it pays for itself in skipped color touch-up salon appointments.
If you color, choosing a sulfate-free formula is crucial. Sulfates are detergents that lift the color molecules from your hair as they wash, dulling your hue as well as the hair itself! Don't dye? A sulfate-free is still a great choice—it's one way to ensure you've got a gentle formula on your hands.
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