Take it from someone who's been there, done that—now is the perfect time for a total hair reset. Three years ago this summer, my fluffy cloud of curls was—no exaggeration—burned off during a shoddy round of highlights with a random colorist. In the industry, what happened to me is known as a chemical cut, which was a totally new term to me at the time. Now, is a phrase I know all too well. In fact, whenever I see the tell-tale signs that someone has had their hair chemically singed off, from the zig-zag layers to the torched ends, a bell goes off in my head. I want to yell, "Step away from the bleach and 400-degree hot tools!"
In retrospect, and especially in these surreal times, a chemical cut was and is a frivolous problem to have. But—cue Phoebe Waller Bridge's "Hair is everything" speech from Fleabag—having my hair broken off in one fell swoop was an emotional lesson in taking the health of my hair seriously. Having spent most of my young life straightening my hair into oblivion, as well as dyeing it shades such as white platinum and bright fuchsia, I thought my hair was bulletproof. Turns out, it wasn't. The silver lining of the chemical cut was that giving up heat styling and dramatic dye jobs (and becoming a hair mask obsessive) not only helped me grow back my lengths, but do so with bigger, better results.
It was a long, laborious process, but my curl pattern has never been more robust—and my approach to hair has been forever changed. This is all to say that whether you simply want to grow out your current cut, give your hair a chance to bounce back from color damage, or transition to your natural texture, there's no time like the present to go cold turkey, wait it out, and relish in the long-term results. "As a hairstylist and blonde, this has been a good time for a reset," admits Teddi Cranford, founder of New York City's White Rose Collective salon. "I've been going back to the basics, focusing on the health of my hair, and basically reversing all the damage I've done pre-quarantine." Also seizing the moment is Bridgette Hill, a trichologist and colorist at Paul Labrecque Salon & Spa. "I believe this is a huge moment for hair health," explains Hill. "Prior to the quarantine, hair habits and routines were largely based on time rather than the requirements necessary to produce healthy hair. Now, we can actively reset our decisions and embark in what I believe to be the ‘skinification’ of scalp and hair routines." Here, hair experts break down the best strategies for pressing reset during self-quarantine.
Stick to Regular Deep Conditioning Treatments
"Since people are staying at home, there’s more time now than ever to sneak in moisturizing masks and recovery treatments, which are so helpful in reversing past chemical damage," says L.A.-based celebrity colorist Matt Rez. Deep conditioning treatments are especially important if you've used any form of bleach on your hair, whether highlights or a single process. "During the the lightening process, the hair cuticle gets lifted and your hair becomes more vulnerable to damage and breakage, so you must work to repair and strengthen it," he says, recommending Redken's new Extreme Bleach Recovery system, which includes a rinse-out conditioning Lamellar Water treatment, which works to fill the porosity of the hair and lock in moisture. Color-treated or not, any head of hair can benefit from a nourishing leave-in oil or hydrating mask treatment, particularly curly and kinky textures, which tend to be naturally drier. Hill recommends maximizing these treatments by applying them to dirty hair the night before you shampoo. Using a liberal amount of product, comb the conditioner through from roots to ends and secure it in a way that allows you to sleep comfortably. "Leaving it in overnight allows maximum penetration of moisture, lipids, and proteins in the hair cuticle to serve as the best foundation for the hair to retain elasticity and strength," explains Hill.
$65.00, LEONOR GREYL
$39.00, VERNON FRANÇOIS
Treat Your Scalp Like Your Face
“This moment is giving us space to identify our hair goals and use them as the motivation to achieving them,” says Hill, emphasizing that healthy hair begins at the roots—and it’s important to set your intentions accordingly. To build your scalp awareness, give yourself a weekly scalp massage with a hair oil before you wash it. It will not only buff away flakes and product buildup, but also increase blood circulation to hair follicles, which promotes hair growth and thickness. “Start your massage at the nape of the neck, using both hands to work your fingers up the head to the crown on both sides,” instructs Hill. “There’s a lot of area to cover, so take your time spending 3 to 5 minutes massaging an oil into the scalp to soften skin cells, exfoliate, and remove debris.” You can further detoxify your scalp with an in-shower scrub, says Cranford, who reaches for Christophe Robin's cult-favorite formula infused with purifying sea salt and hydrating sweet almond oil.
$29.00, PHILIP KINGSLEY
$53.00, CHRISTOPHE ROBIN
$34.00, FABLE & MANE
Cleanse Gently, But Thoroughly
"A proper shampoo entails applying the cleansing agent directly to the scalp," says Hill, who advises investing in a special squeeze applicator bottle with a nozzle that allows you to apply directly to the roots. For Cranford, cleansing with hydrating formulas that won't weigh your hair down is key. If you've got a sensitive scalp, she recommends a cleanser that treats inflammation with soothing ingredients, like Oribe's Serene Scalp Shampoo, which harnesses the calming powers of reparative, antioxidant-rich bilberry fruit and sugar maple extracts as salicylic acid lifts away impurities and dry flakes. She also calls out clean hair-care brand Rahua's Classic duo, which is an all-natural option for that clean, weightless feel, and is laced with the brand's signature omega 9-rich oil sourced from the Amazon rainforest. If your hair is color-treated, be more sparing with your washes—one to three times a week is ideal for maintaining color, says Rez.
Shield Hair Against All Kinds of Damage
When brushing your hair, it's important to do so with the utmost TLC—particularly when tending to tangles. "Treat the hair you touch and feel as a very expensive luxury fabric," says Hill. As a rule of thumb, don't brush your hair when it's wet, as it's more susceptible to damage. "To reduce tension and prevent breakage, brush through the hair when it's dry, starting at the ends and moving upwards," instructs Rez, who recommends using a gentle brush with soft, flexible bristles, like Harry Josh's Detangling Brush, that won't pull excessively on or snag the hair. It's also important to be conscious of the sneakier ways that hair can become damaged, particularly from friction caused by rough fabrics, which contributes to breakage, tangling, and flyways. In this spirit, consider swapping out your cotton pillowcase for a silk pillowcase, which not only helps reduce friction, but assists the hair in retaining moisture. Switch your bath towel for a microfiber one; Crown Affair's special waffle weave style gently dries hair and is cut in a utilitarian shape with an elastic strap that makes wrapping and keeping your hair secured a cinch. Regarding styling, giving your hair a rest from heat will do wonders for its health—and could inspire you to get more creative in the process. Instead of using hot tools, consider heat-free styling techniques and keeping your hair in styles that promote minimal wear and tear. "I am inspired by the art of hair setting, which seems to be experiencing a revival in this time, and have been experimenting with different roller, pin curl, and braiding sets," explains Hill. "These setting techniques provide texture, lift, and smoothness that can be manipulated in a variety of ways without heat and can also extend time between shampoos."
$20.00, HARRY JOSH
$45.00, CROWN AFFAIR
Originally Appeared on Vogue