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Wash, Dry & Style Like A Pro: The Complete Guide To Haircare

Whether ringlets or poker-straight layers, Rapunzel-esque lengths or cutely cropped, our hair is an accessory we wear every single day. Ensure you’re taking the best care of yours by creating a new (or tweaking your existing) hair care regime. To get started, let’s determine your hair texture and type.

The natural structure of your hair is genetic and though you can tweak it to suit your needs, you can’t change it permanently. If your thick hair falls into tight ringlets, it’s going to take an incredible amount of time, effort and money for you to wear sleek, straight hair every single day. Short of getting a hair transplant (yikes!), your hair is yours for life, so it’s important to accept your hair for what it is. This really is the best hair tip that I, or anyone else, can give you: work with your hair’s natural texture – don’t try to fight it.

So, how is your hair today?

Poker straight, no kinks or waves, sleek without styling – You have straight hair
Weightless and flyaway, feels limp or flat by the evening – You have fine hair
Difficult to style and manage, feels heavy – You have thick hair
Natural curls, ringlets or waves, feels coarse – You have curly hair

This is the natural quality and condition of your hair, which can be affected by colouring and bleaching, hormones, stress, pollution and sunlight, among other things. However, it can be improved through diet, exercise, and an arsenal of carefully considered products.

Easy to style, maintains hold, looks shiny and healthy – You have normal hair
Greasy roots with dry ends, can be flyaway – You have combination hair
Difficult to style, damaged from colouring, dull, itchy scalp – You have dry hair
Goes lank after washing, feels unclean, oily residue, dandruff – You have oily hair

Though fine hair is usually straight and thick hair is usually curly, you can have any combination of hair texture and type. You might have curly hair that’s oily, or straight hair that’s dry. You might even have thick, straight hair that’s combination! This is why some people find buying the right hair products such a daunting and difficult task. Don’t worry, you’ll get there! It just takes a little research and a fair amount of trial and error.

My Haircare Regime
If it helps, here’s a quick explanation of my usual haircare regime. I have fine, straight hair that is coloured, and can be very dry. I usually wash my hair every other day, using dry shampoo on my non-washing days. My main aim is to make my hair appear thicker, but as it is so fine, I tend to do this by backcombing it rather than using mousses or sprays, adding products into my hair that may weigh it down. Currently I’m using the Ultimate Shine shampoo bar, American Cream conditioner and R&B conditioner (which I use as a serum) from Lush, and finish with a generous amount of Elnett hairspray.

Your haircare kit should include shampoo, conditioner, and a selection of styling products.  Some decent haircare brands are Lush, Bumble & Bumble, MOP and Tigi BedHead – whose Superstar range is fantastically strawberry-scented! Invest in a good quality, wooden bristle brush (or if you’re feeling flush, a whole set of brushes) for your hair type –  a large, square paddle brush for long hair, or a round barrel brush for shorter hair, par example. Kent Brushes use pure bristle and are absolutely superb. I’ve also heard that Mason Pearson is the brand choice of the pros, so they might be worth a look.

Wet your hair with warm water, lather up the shampoo and give yourself a slow head massage as you rub it in. Rinse thoroughly – you’ll know when all the product is out because you can smooth your thumb and finger down a clump of hair, and if it’s clean, it will squeak. I’ve heard contradictory information with regards to regularly changing your shampoo brand, so I’ll just say do what suits you. Keep a bunch of shampoos on rotation if you love the thrill of buying and using new products, or stick to just one if you happen to discover shampoo nirvana. (And share it with us!)

Regular conditioner is applied right after shampoo. Use just a little of the product, and leave it in your hair for a few minutes before you rinse. Dry, damaged or coloured hair will benefit massively from a deep conditioning treatment (think of it as a face mask, but for your hair) once a week or so. Just like facial moisturiser, everyone should use conditioner. If you find it leaves your hair lank and greasy, apply it just at the tips of the hair strands, avoiding the roots where sebum is produced, or try a leave-in conditioner rather than a rinse-out one. If all else fails, use less of the conditioner each time until you get it right.

Pat your hair dry (no rubbing or scrunching, please!) with a thick, fluffy towel to absorb excess moisture. Next, add a styling product according to the guide below…

If you have fine hair – use a mousse or volumising spray
If you have frizzy hair – use serum
If you have curly hair – use a curl-enhancing cream and/or serum
If you have dry or coloured hair – use serum and/or a leave-in conditioner

…and then distribute it through your hair with a wide-toothed comb. You don’t have to add any product to your hair before drying it, but I find it helps. The guide above is very general, and it may take some time and experimentation before you find the correct product(s) for you. Generally, the better condition your hair is in, the less styling product you will have to use. Watch out for products containing silicone, which will provide sleek hair in the short-term, but can make your hair even drier if you use them too often.

Leaving your hair to dry naturally, avoiding heat damage, is one of the best ways to care for it – but I understand that long hair needs a little more than that! I haven’t had long hair for years, and to be honest with you, I can’t really remember how I used to style it when I did! Here’s a video by the ELLE team on how to get the perfect blow dry for longer hair – let me know if it works!

When you get your hair cut, watch your stylist carefully and take note of their technique. Ask them what kind of brush is best to use, which heat setting the hair dryer is on, and what products they’re using. Achieving a salon-perfect blow dry at home is tricky, but it can be done! Practice, practice, practice.

You can style as you blow dry, or finish your look with extra products. Tweak and spike up sections of hair with gel, fix an up-do with hairspray, or give texture and movement with a wax. Pull long hair back into a simple ponytail by gently brushing it towards the middle-back of your head, and fastening it loosely with a hairband. Fussy fringes and grown-out layers can be held out of the way with kirby grips until you can get to the salon for a trim. Straightening irons will make your hair smooth and sleek, giving a perfect finish. I’m sure you’ve heard of ghd’s, which are famous the world over. I owned a pair (pink!) when my hair was longer, and I can vouch for them! They’re expensive, but well worth investing in. They make a lot of different sizes and widths, so check out their range.

Swimmers – if you don’t mind looking like a novelty condom when you go for your thrice-weekly dip in the pool, snap on a rubber swimming cap. Otherwise, hoick your hair up out of the way and keep your head above the water. Frolicking in the sea is another matter. Natural saltwater isn’t half as damaging to your hair as chlorine and all those other pool chemicals, but it can be drying. Throw in a dose of sunlight too and you’re on your way to the land of frazzled locks. Keep your hair conditioned and cover it up with a hat or scarf.

What are your tips for having beautiful, healthy hair?


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