There’s no end to the information available when it comes to caring for a complexion that’s not uniformly perfect. But your hair isn’t immune to issues of its own, no matter how nice you treat it. So what’s a girl to do when her head is dealing with a mixture of problems that seem impossible to deal with simultaneously? Which problem do you treat when you have more than one issue? Read on for the answers to your haircare conundrums. (And if you color your hair, be sure to check out our shopping guide for color-treated hair.)
If Your Hair Is Fine/Limp + Damaged
The trouble here is that deep conditioning treatments are generally super heavy and thick, so fine-haired folks tend to stray away from them. Salon owner Rodney Cutler says the focus should be on fortifying and strengthening the hair through prevention and maintenance. Look for protein-based products like Redken Extreme Anti-Snap, a lightweight leave-in treatment that treats and prevents damage, or Redken Extreme CAT, a weekly protein complex treatment that helps reconstruct hair without weighing it down.
“Frequent haircuts that cut above split ends will also help restore hair back to health and get rid of dead hair that may be weighing you down,” Cutler recommends. “Try to avoid using heat-styling tools, such as straightening irons, which can be highly damaging to fine hair.” Clayton Lee, Bumble & Bumble Creative Lead for Color, says that thick, reparative treatments and conditioners (like this Klorane Mask With Desert Date) can be appropriate even for fine hair, but warns about application methods. “Put them only on damaged areas, not anywhere near the scalp, so you can deal with one problem without making the other one worse,” she says, referring to the oh-so-coveted root volume that limp hair often lacks.
If Your Hair is Fine + Frizzy
The usual defense against frizz (smoothing serums and creams) doesn’t work here, since layering products will only make fine hair look limp and greasy. L'Oréal Professionnel Artist Drew Schaefering says that this hair combo tends to be caused by lack of smoothness, not moisture, so avoid roughing it up. “When you get out of the shower, blot and squeeze the moisture out, instead of rubbing it, which will create static electricity,” he says. We love microfiber towels for their ability to soak up water without roughing up the hair's cuticle—vigrously rubbing back and forth with a regular towel fluffs up the outer "shingles" of the hair.
Try using a fine-tooth comb to blow dry around the hairline; the closely spaced teeth of the comb will help smooth the hair around your face before the rest of your styling. YouBeauty Cosmetic Chemistry Expert Ni’Kita Wilson says that a shampoo and conditioner with a short ingredient list is best, since extra emollients will weigh you down. “It might seem wrong, but silicone-based products are actually great for this hair combination type, as long as you choose the right one,” she says. “It’s easy to use too much when it comes to creams or serums that are meant for coarse hair. Instead, choose a light spray or mist that allows for more control.” We like Ouidad Climate Control Frizz & Flyaway Fighter Taming Shine Spray.
If You Have Curls + Flaky Scalp
First up, a little detective work to determine flake type, since the condition of your scalp plays a huge role in the health of your hair. A hot oil treatment massaged into the scalp will take care of simple dryness, says Wilson. She suggests mixing a few drops of peppermint oil into a base of argan or warmed-up coconut oil; it’ll be stimulating and nourishing at the same time. If that doesn’t take care of business, move on to the big guns. “Anti-dandruff shampoos have come a long way, but they can still be quite drying,” says Wilson. “You need to be sure to follow with a smoothing, moisturizing conditioner to revive and protect curls.” Try the hydrating TKO Ultimate Moisture Conditioner by Andre Walker Hair.
Everyday care can play an important role, as well, according to Schaefering. “Shampoo your hair no more than two or three times a week, and on non-washing days, you can just rinse, apply conditioner to the ends, and take time to massage the scalp to help distribute natural oils throughout the length of the hair.” (He likes L'Oréal Professionnel Mythic Oil Nourishing Shampoo and Conditioner.)
If You Have Oily Scalp + Dry Ends
This one poses a bit of a challenge, says Wilson. She says to deal with the oiliness with a clean-washing shampoo (look for the words “purifying” or “clarifying” on the label), and take the time to massage the scalp and rinse well, to remove excess sebum and product buildup. Pantene's Damage Detox Deep Cleanse Purifying Shampoo is a good weekly deep cleanser. Pay attention to where your hair switches from oily to dry, and apply conditioner only to the parched bits—nowhere near the roots, please!
Styling is another opportunity to combat both problems. Wilson suggests a dry shampoo, such as Alterna Cleanse Extend Translucent Dry Shampoo in Sheer Blossom or Mango Coconut, to absorb oil on the scalp, and a fine oil mist, like It's a 10 Miracle Dry Oil Spray Plus Keratin With Argan Oil, on the ends (make sure hair is a tiny bit damp, so the oil will absorb easily and help lock in existing moisture). Then be sure that your habits aren’t sabotaging your best efforts. Schaefering says to first rule out the most obvious probable cause for ratty ends: heat styling. It’s an absolute necessity to use a thermal protectant, like the Style Sexy Hair 450 Degree Protect Heat Defense Hot Tool Spray, before you reach for your blow dryer or flat iron.
Finally, add a little science to your day with so-called split end mending products (there are options from Nexxus and Tresemmé). Wilson says they’re essentially just band-aids for the underlying issue—only a pair of scissors will truly get rid of split ends—but she swears they do actually work. “They’re made with a specific ratio of polymers that stick together thanks to ionic bonding. They stay connected even on the hair, and smooth the split ends,” she says.
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