Friday, February 1, 2008

Winter Hair Problems: Dryness

Those of us with wavy or curly hair are already too familiar with frizz-inducing dryness. Add winter cold, hot showers and a cranked-up thermostat and the problem may even lead to split ends. How can we keep hair lustrous? Below are a few tips that, when heeded consistently, should boost hair health.

1. Nix the 40-minute full-heat marinade.
I would almost give up chocolate for hot showers, if I had to choose. Fortunately, unless you have a serious cocoa-bean allergy, you don't have to give up either. That said, it's important to remember that hot showers can dry out your skin as well as your hair. The best thing you can do to prevent hair issues is to keep rinse water slightly cooler while shampooing and then drop the temperature a little further when you rinse out the conditioner. You don't have to use cold water, but rinsing out in tepid water will help seal down the cuticle (the outer, protective layer of the hair shaft), which in turn protects hair, increases shine, reduces tangles and keeps hair conditioned.

2. Daily conditioners are NOT enough.
Using the appropriate conditioner is a must. If you have very dry hair, especially if it is thick and/or curly, check out Kenra's line of moisturizing conditioners. They work wonders for medium or coarse hair.
Fine hair may receive a boost from conditioning products by Nioxin or Matrix (made by Biolage), which specialize in thin or fine hair. Sebastain's Sheer Weightless Shine offers both a shampoo and conditioner worthy of use.
Now here's the important part. If your hair is dry, tinted or straightened, you should be receiving conditioning treatments at least monthly, whether in the salon or at home. Don't bother with hot oil treatments; the molecules are much too big to penetrate the cuticle and will provide, at best, a superficial fix. Look for products such as hair masks, reconstructors, deep or conditioners. Since you will only be using this one or two times a month, splurge if you can and get something worthy of your hair, like Nioxin's Deep Repair Hair Masque or Graham Webb's Silk Repair Thermacore Therapy, which can be bought in 1-oz packets for those on a shoe-string budget.

3. 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
"It was a pleasure to burn," writes Ray Bradbury in Fahrenheit 451. Great for a novel, tragic for hair. I currently own and use a 400-degree ceramic straightener that I wouldn't part with for a month of free massages. That said, moderation is the key. Those who frequently subject their beautiful curls to scorching hot irons, no matter how much they paid, are looking for a case of irreparably split ends. Take it easy on your hair. If you notice excessive dryness and damage, step away from the flat iron, give yourself an emergency conditioning treatment and give your hair a break. Reserve that iron for special occasions until your hair's health picks up. If you don't, go grab yourself a hairstyle mag: It's time to pick out a nice chin-length bob.

4. Once they split, they don't go back.
I don't care what the Pantene commercials offer. If you have split ends there is only one way to banish them permanently: cut them off. Now wait, don't panic! In most cases, you can preserve the majority of your length and still get them removed.
A majority of my clients who come in with split ends leave with similar-length hair. First I recommend the conditioning treatments mentioned above. Then I make sure to trim the hair, often 1-4 inches, depending on the style desired. Layers or angling also remove the clutter of bad ends. If the problem cannot be remedied by the chosen style, there is one more weapon in the arsenal. I go through the hair, a section at a time, and snip off the offending ends. For full-blown cases that would take hours and hours of knit-picking, I even assign my client homework. I ask that they spend 20 minutes three times a week snipping at it themselves, usually while watching TV or listening to an mp3 player to keep the tedium to a minimum.

5. Quick fix: Leave-ins and Shine Sprays.
One additional (note the word additional!) way to keep hair looking soft and shiny is to use a good leave-in conditioner after you get out of the shower. You can go cheap with Suave's Kids Detangling Spray. I find it works about as well as many high-end products on the market. Biolage also has a leave-in spray worth noting.
Shine products drastically improve the appearance of otherwise dry hair. My all-around favorite is Aquage's Beyond Shine. It works wonders in both thick and fine hair and doesn't tend to weigh hair down. For super coarse hair, try a serum, usually made up of silicone. Every product line has one and many people seem content with John Freida's Frizz-Ease, which is available at most grocery and drug stores.

I can guarantee that if you follow the above suggestions, your hair will be much better for it. Heat is damaging, and damage doesn't correct itself.

In the future look for posts on products, styling, cuts to make you look thinner, talking with your stylist about new styles, and home conditioning treatments.


virgie tovar said...

Hi Erin! I really like the blogs you've posted thus far. It was tough to read about the split ends... there's a part of me that wishes it weren't true about them not un-splitting. Also, I don't know if you've ever heard of this, but a few months ago I was ready to go with a mohawk because my hair was so dry and blech, but then all of a sudden I had an idea: maybe the oil from my fingers will hydrate my hair a little. So, once I got out of the shower every morning, I'd comb my hair in the way I wanted it for the day (no blow drying) and I just started touching my hair from roots to tips. I twirled the ends even and within a few days I started getting questions about what I put in my hair to make it so shiny and curly at the ends. I've been doing this for probably a little over 3 months now and I haven't been able to think about even getting a trim I'm so happy. Ever heard of this?

Style Guide said...

Hey Virgie!
Having wavy hair, this is the way I style my goofy mane when I'm in full teacher mode and don't have time to blow dry & style. It really is a great way to go!

The fact that you aren't using heat styling tools definitely leaves your hair in better condition: less dryness & frizz. Also, not only are you introducing the oils from your hands into your hair (hence the insistence from makeup artists that we always wash them before ever touching our faces), but you are also stimulating your scalp to produce more oils, which is healthy for your hair and scalp! I'm also guessing that running your hands down the hair shafts might even have a smoothing effect on the cuticle, that protective, shingle-like outer layer of the hair.

Way to go on finding a style that is both esthetically pleasing and maintains the integrity of your hair! I'd still schedule a trim (yes, I have to say it--cosmetologist's oath and all) with a good stylist who can cut just the ends in such a way that you won't even know she's taken anything off! This way any splits you might have now won't worsen. Just be very clear that you want as little as possible trimmed.

Great to hear from you, Virgie!

Sowpath das said...

this is very helpful post.thanks for sharing :