By Jessica Chia. Photo by: Getty Images.
The liveliest curls and shiniest waves start out the same way: with a squirt of shampoo and a hit of conditioner. No matter your hair challenges, a little lathering, rinsing, and repeating can do a world of good — if you're strategic. How to wash your way to stronger and glossier (and, yes, cleaner) hair.
If you're dealing with... frizz
Go easy. “Frizzy hair is typically dry,” says Neil Sadick, a dermatologist in New York City who specializes in hair health. “Stick to sulfate-free shampoos, since sulfates are heavy-duty detergents that can dry out hair.” The gentlest shampoos pair mild detergents (decylglucoside, sodium cocoyl isethionate) with moisturizers (such as oils or polyquaternium-7 and -10). Try Ouidad Advanced Climate Control Defrizzing Shampoo.
Coddle curls. Co-washes and cleansing conditioners — conditioners with mild cleansing agents — add moisture to very dry hair, says Melissa Piliang, a dermatologist in Cleveland. And that's key for smoothing curls. Since your scalp's own oils don't travel all the way down spirals, curls need extra hydration. We like SheaMoisture Coconut & Hibiscus Co-Wash Conditioning Cleanser.
Read ingredient lists. There's been a backlash against silicones in shampoos (some chemists say they may stick to the scalp and potentially clog follicles and slow growth), but you'll still want them in frizz-busting conditioners. They form a film that smooths the cuticle to prevent frizz, like a sealant, says cosmetic chemist Randy Schueller. Newer silicones, like amino dimethicone and bis-aminopropyl dimethicone, stick better to hair during rinsing than others, so they can form a more effective shield against humidity. Try Pantene Pro-V Moisture Renewal 3 Minute Miracle Deep Conditioner.
Mind the gaps. “Frizzy hair is porous — it absorbs moisture from humid air and swells,” says Piliang. “Plugging those little gaps can prevent that absorption.” Smooth on a leave-in conditioner or serum with silicones or polymers, like Color Wow Dream Coat Supernatural Spray (when we tried this stuff, water actually beaded up and rolled off our hair).
If you're dealing with... limpness
Buy bulk. “Limp hair looks thickest when you use shampoos containing silk, wheat, or soy proteins,” says Sadick. The shampoo will work even better if it also contains a detergent, like ammonium laureth sulfate, that's strong enough to remove the oils that can make hair lie flat on your head. (We like Schwarzkopf Gliss Ultra Moisture Shampoo.) For fine curls — which often need hydration and volume — hairstylist Lacy Redway swears by Carol's Daughter Monoi Ora Repair + Volume System Lightweight Conditioner. “It's great for moisturizing curls without weighing them down,” she says. “To really maximize volume, lift your hair at the roots right out of the shower with pin curl clips, and air-dry or use a diffuser.”
Lighten up. When you choose a conditioner, avoid dimethicone — it's in almost everything but tends to be too heavy for fine or thinning hair, says Schueller, who recommends conditioners with dimethiconol, a lighter version of the smoothing ingredient. Find it in Clear Scalp & Hair 24/7 Total Care Conditioner. (And condition only from ear level down so you're not dragging down your roots.)
Multitask. Dry shampoo gets rid of grease that weighs down fine roots — and the same powders that absorb oil also add volume by pushing individual strands of hair apart, Schueller says. Our fine-haired editors find that loose dry shampoo powders give maximum lift. (Keratin Complex Volumizing Dry Shampoo Lift Powder can give nearly an extra inch on top.)
If you're dealing with... damage
Consider an ounce of protection. Friction, from brushing wet hair or massaging on shampoo, can make weakened hair fray, says cosmetic chemist Ni'Kita Wilson. Preshampoo treatments and leave-in conditioners coat hair with slippery lipids and oils to mitigate the rubbing so your hair is less likely to snap. (Try Living Proof Timeless Pre-Shampoo Treatment before you shower and before combing wet hair use The Honest Company Honest Conditioning Detangler.
Remember your end goals. When your split ends have split ends, shampoos, conditioners, and masks with polyquaternium-28 and PVMA copolymer will act like superglue: “The duo binds split ends together for at least a few washes,” says Schueller. (Try Nexxus ProMend Split End Repairing System Shampoo and Conditioner.)
Smooth over brittleness. Unlike healthy hair, damaged hair has a negative charge — and you can use that to your advantage, says Schueller. Conditioners and masks with positively charged moisturizers stick to your hair's weakest spots like magnets, delivering extra hydration where your hair needs it most. Spot these smart moisturizers on ingredient lists by their suffix, “-amine.” (We like Pantene Pro-V Weekly Rehab Crème, with stearamidopropyl dimethylamine.)
Take a break. Each time you wash your hair, it swells with water and then contracts as it dries. “That process loosens the protective cuticle, which makes it more prone to damage and, eventually, splitting,” says Schueller. Unfortunately, even reparative shampoos and conditioners can't prevent it, so try not to wash your hair (with water) more than necessary for your hair type (ask your dermatologist how often if you're not sure). Dry shampoo can take care of greasy roots in the interim. We like Redken Pillow Proof Blow Dry Two Day Extender (its clean scent is touch-activated, like a scratch-and-sniff sticker). Just don't let it become a crutch. “If you're using dry shampoo every day, it could lead to an itchy, flaky scalp,” says Piliang.
If you're dealing with... flakes
Target fungus. “Mild to moderate cases of dandruff can be treated with shampoos that contain ketoconazole or zinc pyrithione,” says Sadick. “Both chemical compounds have antifungal and antibacterial properties that help reduce flake-causing fungus growth on the scalp.” A nice bonus: Zinc pyrithione makes hair look shinier. Try Head & Shoulders 3 Action Formula, with zinc pyrithione particles uniquely small enough to get at fungus in the dips and grooves of your scalp to treat dandruff more effectively. If over-the-counter shampoos aren't clearing up your flakiness in two weeks, see a dermatologist for a stronger prescription shampoo.
Be diligent. The fungus that causes flakes can recolonize the scalp quickly, so use dandruff shampoo daily when you have a flare-up, and weekly after that. And allow enough time for the medicine to work its magic. “Massage the product in and leave it for several minutes,” Sadick says. Avoid hairstyling products for the first few weeks of treatment, since they can leave buildup that blocks active ingredients. Once your scalp has cleared up, they're fair game again.
Balance out. “Anti-dandruff shampoos can be harsh on your hair and scalp, so always use a conditioner — but it shouldn't leave much residue,” Sadick says. “Product buildup on the hair and scalp will only aggravate the condition by leaving a film that could interfere with the shampoo's therapeutic action.” He recommends a conditioner with glycerin and lightweight oils, like apricot-kernel oil, argan oil, and sweet almond oil (try Acure Organics Ultra-Hydrating Conditioner with argan oil).
Exfoliate gently. “Salicylic acid scalp treatments can help lift buildup from the scalp and clear away flakes, but I wouldn't use one every time you shampoo, which could be irritating or drying,” says Piliang. “Once a week is enough.” You can also soothe the scalp with chamomile and peppermint oil, Sadick says. Try Briogeo Scalp Revival Charcoal + Tea Tree Scalp Treatment.
This story originally appeared on Allure.
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