In my dreams, I have Gisele Bundchen’s “I just woke up like this” hair—smooth, frizz-free, beachy waves that would dry perfectly in place after a dip in the ocean. No serums or flat irons or hair dryers need apply.
The reality is quite different. My hair is naturally wavy and curly, but not in the effortless, beachy sense—more like the frizzy kind that whorls and twists at the slightest hint of humidity.
I‘ve been fighting frizz most of my life. I grew up in Santa Monica where going to the beach as a teenager was de rigueur. That was followed by summers in my 20s spent in the Hamptons. And yet I rarely dipped my head under the ocean’s waves or in pools on either coast because of the frizz fest that would ensue if I dared to air dry my hair. It feels silly saying that now, but it’s the truth.
I even remember years ago, after a late night swim with my then boyfriend, I actually waited until he had fallen asleep so I could go into the bathroom to blow dry my hair at 1 a.m., rather than letting it air dry overnight and risking looking like a train wreck come sunrise.
Is there such a thing as hair shame? Probably. All I know is that I don’t feel like myself when my hair is frizzy. I could have on the best outfit and professionally done makeup, but if my hair doesn’t look good, I don’t feel good. Period. So needless to say, between my desire for smooth locks and writing about beauty for nearly a decade, I’ve tried just about everything—from smoothing serums, shampoos and conditioners to hairsprays that promise to deliver frizz-free hair.
But when humidity rears its ugly head, I’ve found that few products—outside of a helmet—truly keep genuinely frizz-prone hair in check. And every time I read those magazine tips about spritzing in some beach spray and letting your hair air dry for “natural beach waves,” I think, “Who are you kidding?” If you can do that and not look like Annie after an all-night bender, you don’t have frizzy hair. You have a gift from the hair gods.
Over the years, through much trial and error, I’ve learned a few tricks to help fight frizz and get through weather that is far from hair-friendly.
Kick-ass keratin treatments. If I’d had this back in high school (or the Hamptons), I would have dived into every ocean and pool I could find and let my strands fall perfectly where they lay. Keratin treatments leave hair amazingly smooth and controllable, and best of all, the results last for several months. My go-to pro is Cristina B at Rita Hazan Salon in Manhattan; she finds the perfect balance of getting my hair smooth without it becoming too straight or flat, which I don’t want. Love the waves. Hate the frizz.
The first time I got a keratin treatment and was able to walk to work in the rain without a strand moving out of place was, well, magical. I’d never experienced that before in my life. I was actually elated.
I’ve never been a keratin regular—getting it here and there—but now that I’m a new mom of twins, I have even less time to get my hair right, so my plan is to bookmark summer with keratin treatments: one at the start of the warm weather season (I had one back in May) and one at the height of humid weather (end of July/early August). That way, just as the May treatment starts to konk out and right before full-blown frizz season kicks into high gear, I’ll have a fresh treatment already lined up. Take that humidity!
What’s more, I recently discovered that you can get a keratin treatment just along the temple area, including your bangs, which is an amazing bit of news. So if you’re happy with your hair but need your bangs to behave, keratin can help.
But if keratin treatments aren’t your thing or if they’re out of your budget, I’ve found a slew of other strategies that can help calm down frizzy strands.
No damp strand left behind. If frizz is an issue for you and you don’t want your hair to look like a frisee salad, stepping outside with semi-damp hair is a big no-no. You need to dry those locks thoroughly or else the humidity will have its way with your hair and results will not be pretty. Invest in a good blow dryer to get the job done, such as SalonTech Featherlight 380G ($130), which has ionic infrared technology.
Lock and load. Although hairspray isn’t a foolproof frizz-tamer, it gives you a fighting chance when it comes to battling humidity. The key isn’t to just spray it on the surface of your hair, but to also lift up sections of strands and give your locks a little hairspray hold underneath. Otherwise, the frizz will start in the deeper layers and mess with your hair.
Be prepared. On warm weather days when I’m trying to hang onto a smoother style, I slip on a hat—either a cute fedora or a baseball cap that I tuck away in my purse before I step into the office. This keeps my hair smoothed down and in place during my walk to work or until I can jump in an air-conditioned cab. As a backup measure, I also have a tiny travel hair straightener so I can quickly and easily touch up my bangs on-the-go when humidity strikes and I have after-work plans.
If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. If it’s sticky and seriously humid out, there is no sense in going for straight, smooth locks. Give it up, girl. My trick: I don’t wash my hair that day so it’s slightly “dirty.” Slight dirty hair is your best friend. The natural oils keep hair smooth, hydrated and less prone to frizz. Next, I spray my part and temples with a dry shampoo (I love Oribe Dry Texturizing Spray, $39) to eliminate any excess oil. Then I spritz my hair with a heat-protecting spray (my pick is Alterna Bamboo Smooth Anti-Breakage Thermal Protectant Spray, $25) and go over strands with a 1.5-inch curling iron in one- or two-inch sections to create beautiful, soft waves that stand up to humidity. The next-day dirty hair holds its shape better, and the humidity will actually support your curling-iron-induced waves.
Eat your heart out, Gisele.
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