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How to Get The Best Hair of Your Life

Updated: Jul 30, 2023



Here, I will condense weeks of research on how to maintain healthy, textured hair. The information here was gleaned from professional and very proficient hairstylists Amanda Guido (at Manes by Mell) as well as Chris Wenzel (at Live Love Locks), and my parents who are both licensed hairstylists!


Hair is actually quite simple, and just like cooking, you just need to know the recipe. Here is the universal 5-step recipe for amazing, soft, healthy air-dried hair, and for heat styling as well.


The numbered list below correlate to the numbered products for each category found below.

(Most of these products will be geared towards fine to medium textures (strand thickness),

for wavy to curly types, and medium to high porosity. The order of products and techniques are still the same for almost everyone. Check what kind of hair you have with the charts at the very bottom. Most people are a mix. In a separate blog, I will discuss healthy hair nutrients. This blog is not sponsored and is my genuine opinion.



Hair Routine


1) Shampoo

2) Conditioner

3) Primer/ Leave-In Conditioner

4) Styling Cream/Gel/Mousse OR....


(FOR IRONING)

5) add Blow-Out Cream, (then blow dry straight),

6) Heat Protectant, (then iron).


7) Hair Oil

8) Diffuse with blowdryer (optional)

9) Hair Spray (optional)

*) Masks and Treatments (1x weekly)




How-To



Shampooing isn't as simple as it sounds. You must always double shampoo, the first time using plenty of product, the second time, less, so as not to dry the hair. It's like a skillet that you used to cook bacon in. That first rinse isn't going to get it clean. It might get the main bits off, but that second cleaning gets the job done. I always like to get my hair almost squeaky clean. That's how I know the job is done. Another sign your scalp is clean is when the shampoo creates a lot of suds. Suds don't happen when the shampoo has oil to bind with. The job of shampoo is to get hair clean, nothing else. Shampoo with tons of oil isn't the optimal choice. If you hair is 100% clean whenever you shampoo, it'll be able to absorb and lock in the moisture and products you use afterwards and go longer in between washes. Going at least 3 days in between washes is important because every time you wash, it is a micro-trauma to the hair, just like washing your favorite designer jeans. They're never the same after you wash them. Little fibers start to come apart, they stretch, fade, and change shape slightly. For those with longer hair, make sure you're not plopping your hair on top of your head and swirling the shampoo around your strands. Let your hair hang down and rub only the scalp with the tips/pads of your fingers. Never scratch. If your hair is extra dry, try adding coconut oil before shampooing. This is an Ayurvedic secret. Drugstore shampoos like Dove, Pantene, and Aussie won't get your hair clean. They are so watered down. Also, avoid shampoo with sodium chloride. It is salt! A note about purple shampoos for blonde hair, don't use them! They are made to retain your color and they don't clean the hair very well. You don't need two purple products. It's a marketing tactic. Just use a purple conditioner, and you're good to go.

Important note, detox shampoos are great for curly hair or after using a lot of products. Use at least once a month. This is especially good to use if you use products with silicone-which I encourage! Silicones coat the hair and protect it, giving it extra shine and breakage protection. Take note, clarifying/detox shampoos are a lot stronger than regular shampoos, so use the detox/pro shampoo first, and your regular shampoo for the second wash. Deep clean shampoos are great for curly, very oily, or product-y, flaky hair. Use before starting a new routine; build-up prevents shine. Use at least once in a while regardless. Your other products will thank you. PS, Skip the harsh, scarring scalp scrubs. For dry shampoo, only use when your hair is dirty. Spray at least a foot away only at the roots. Rub the product into the scalp to mix with and break down the excess oil.




Conditioner is imperative for soft hair. It can only be skipped if replaced by a weekly mask in the shower. Only condition your ends and mids. Avoid at least 2-3 inches from the scalp. You want to stay clean as long as possible. Not always, but a lot of the time, just because a shampoo product does wonders for your hair, the matching conditioner might not have the same effect. This is where it gets a little tricky and I really trust the suggested products from professionals. It's not intuitive, but once you start listening and watching the professionals, you'll become familiar with brands and lines within a brand. Not all shampoo/conditioner lines from the same company are equal! Some professionals also say that you can use leave-in conditioner in place of regular conditioner as well. For me, both! PS, I hear that hair straightening conditioners might be worth a try if you're aiming for that. If you're on vacation and pool or ocean water has your hair all dried out, try washing your hair only with conditioner unless you have scalp build-up. Your hair is already stripped. No need for shampoo. Do this for two days, and shampoo like usual on the third. Did you know that ocean water is less damaging than a chlorinated pool?! Chlorine is meant to kill things in the water. A tip for preventing damage on swim days; always wet your hair first. Your hair won't be as thirsty and soak up damaging pool water. Add hair oil or leave-in throughout your entire hair to protect like a pro.




Primers/ Leave-In Conditioners are arguably the most important step you can do after you get out of the shower. You put all this moisturizing conditioner on, and now, you're letting it all dry and evaporate. While your hair is still soaking wet (for better moisture retention), put some spray on there quickly to lock it all in! This will reduce frizz. If you want, you can use a microfiber towel to gently press and squeeze your hair to be dryer. Allow it to remain damp so products penetrate the hair and dry better without leaving a filmy residue. It will also protect your hair and prep it for any products you put on afterwards. Sometimes (but not always) they have UV and heat protectant. You can't trust what the bottles say. Use it as a leave-in unless it's sole purpose is heat-protecting. Again, I just trust the pros on this one. Leave-In conditioners (and detanglers) make the hair soft and moisturized and are often in the form of creams. Take a quarter size (give or take a bit depending on your hair length) of cream and finger rake this thoroughly in your hair ends and mids. You can lightly graze the baby hairs and fly-aways at the end with whatever little product is left on your hands. For sprays, if you have fine hair, use 6-8 sprays. For medium hair, 8-12 sprays. And for coarse hair, 12-16 sprays. You must brush your product through to assure even distribution. Never use a comb to detangle hair. Combs are only for hair-cutting and ironing.





Styling Cream is particularly important to give your hair SHAPE and definition without going stringy or frizzy. Personally, this is My most important step, as the wavy, frizz queen that I am. A little goes a long way. You want to find something that will give your waves/curls definition and hold without being crunchy. This is the balancing act. Luckily, I found a bunch of products to choose from! Tip: If you have MEGA, unruly frizz that never goes away, opt for heavier, more moisturizing masks, and higher-hold styling products that also contain silicones. Gels can give a higher hold with less frizz, and mousses tend to give more volume. Creams add the most moisture. Personally, I go with creams and foaming gels, which are in between gels and mousses. This product will usually say the texture it works for, ie: curl gel, curling jelly, foaming curl mousse, foaming gel, wave defining soufflé, etc. While hair is still soaking wet, take about a penny sized amount (or more in the winter), emulsify this in your hands thoroughly, and smooth it into your ends and mids, taking whatever is left over on your hands for baby hairs. Stay 2 inches away from your scalp. If using the Verb Foaming Gel, use 3 pumps. Brush it in but avoid your scalp. Some people do this and the next step (oil) after the styling technique, but why make life harder? I personally like using all 3 products before styling as to not mess up the ribbon technique (created by Mell), which you will read about soon. The supposed perks of styling and then applying styling cream is for those who want to create a 'shell' of styling cream around the ribbons of hair for more hold. This might feel a bit crunchier though. For regular, non-heat styling, skip to Hair Oil section.



Heat-styling, whether blow-drying or straightening requires a few more steps. Instead of the aforementioned styling creams and ribbon technique, use blow-out cream, which is heat-protecting. Whether you are only blow-drying or ironing, you will need to blow dry regardless. Doing this before ironing is essential because if you don't blow dry before straightening, you are ironing on wavy/curly hair, which will require more heat and damage to straighten. If you give the hair time to air dry in its natural state, the hair bonds re-form into that wavy/curly texture, and it'll want to keep that. However the hair dries is how it'll want to stay. Plus, you always want to straighten on dry hair, so why not blow-dry. You will prevent so much damage this way and make the ironing last longer, especially if you use low to no heat on the blow-out.

Work a pea size amount of blow-out cream through the hair and brush it through. Always apply thermal protectants section by section. You can add a little more to the roots for extra lift. Blow dry with a concentrator nozzle and round barrel brush (with tension on the hair for straighter results) until 100% dry. Always dry the roots first. Use low to medium heat, so you do less damage. If you run your fingers through and feel any cold spots, it's still wet. To prevent dry uppers and wet lowers, you can 'rough dry' (hair flipped upside down) and blow-dry right until the point where the hair gets frizzy, then stop. Rough drying is for those who don't easily frizz. You will know when to stop blow drying because hair will be warm when dry. After drying, brush the hair again with a 'Wet Brush' to detangle.





For Ironing, use a heat/thermal protectant specifically for ironing. A heat protectant should be that and nothing else. If it does 10 things, it's not a true heat protectant, and likely just a leave-in conditioning spray. Ironing requires this additional product because ironing is hundreds of degrees hotter than blow-drying. Use 3-5 sprays per section. Brush it through until you can't feel it in your hair anymore. If you can feel it, you've used too much. This high-hold Kenra product is one of the best, but unless you are a pro and know how to make it not feel sticky in the hair, use the Redken Thermal Spray, which is more universal. It is also excellent. Let it dry, then iron in about 2-3 inch sections. The first recommended iron at the bottom of the blog is narrow and will allow for the straightest hair possible. Press firmly on the hair with the iron so the hair gets straightened to the center. You don't want to have to re-straighten it and cause more damage. There are two types of irons; titanium and tourmaline. Salons use titanium and work better for longer. You should aim for at least 3 days in between straightening the hair again to prevent damage. For curling irons, 1 inch diameter irons are the most universal for holding the curl. For loose waves/curls, choose one that's 1.25 inches and up, and 0.75 inches for tight curls if your hair doesn't tend to hold curls well. Marcel curling irons are not recommended. Use spring or wand styles instead. Tourmaline wands are good for beginners, and titanium for the best results. The trick for keeping curls is to curl with the wand upside down, starting from the root. This is where you want most of the heat to apply to so it can mold and keep the texture from the roots down so gravity doesn't weigh the curl out of your hair.




Hair Oil is essential for every routine. Oil protects, hydrates, and smoothes the hair. Now, your hair should be dry from heat-styling, or still completely wet. Oil is used to fully lock in the moisture even when it's all dry. This is especially important to use after haircuts, where the ends are open to the elements and leech moisture. While your hair is still completely wet (for optimal moisture and absorption), take a pea sized amount of oil and smooth it through your ends only. When that's done, you can work up to the mids. Avoid the roots. They even make oils with k18 or bonding complexes (like what's in the Olaplex No. 3) in them to repair damaged hair. Determine if your hair is heat damaged or just dry. You can also get these amazing repairing formulas separately as masks and pre-shampoo masks. But if you can cut down on your steps, why not get it in an oil or conditioner?! I would just avoid getting these ingredients in a shampoo (unless you have super coarse or dry hair), as too much moisture will make your hair dirty (oily) faster. You don't want to weigh your hair down. You want bouncy, light waves/curls. Bonding treatments and k18 are essential every so often because hair damage is ongoing. You can use oil at the very end after styling, but I prefer it in this order; just throw on your leave-in, styling cream, oil, and then style your hair. It's easy to remember. A way to customize your routine is by adding more or less water to your hair. Try avoiding adding too much product. Pro tip: There are oils that seal (used for shine), and oils that penetrate (used for moisture). If you need extra moisture, look for oils that penetrate inside the hair medulla. That's the most important part. Penetrating oils in order are: coconut oil, ucuuba butter, sunflower oil, palm kernel oil or red palm oil, capric/caprylic triglycerides, babbasu oil. Those with some penetration with more sealing properties are: olive oil, avocado oil, apricot oil, argan oil, sesame seed oil, shea butter, grapeseed oil, flax seed oil, safflower oil, cocoa butter.




Styling for Air-Drying: If you do this next step, your hair will magically look more defined and silky, even if it seems too simple! After applying leave-in, styling cream, and oil, take the upper half of your hair and clip it up with root clips. Take anywhere between a 0.5 to 3 inch wide vertical section of your lower hair in the front (depending on the size of your natural curl sections), and use the ribbon technique where you brush it through from underneath while firmly sandwiching your hair on the side/spine of the brush with your hand. Then brush down in a smoothing motion. This keeps the cuticles laid and unidirectional. Do this once per curl section. (Make sure you're brushing the hair out at a 90 degree angle from your head, right out to the side, basically, so that even the roots have room develop texture. If you brush your hair straight up, it'll lay weird, and if you brush downwards, the roots will have no room to fluff out

Image from Manes by Mell

and gain texture). The ribbon technique does a similar thing to what scissors do to ribbon; define curls. It might look like you straightened the texture right out of your hair, but with the next step after smoothing, you'll see what happens. After you finish the lower layer of your hair, release the top from the clips. Larger ribbons mean more moisture, but less hold.


The top is a little different, and for a bunch of science-y reasons, the pattern you smooth your hair in differs. Part the top down the middle. To create a natural looking part, cross wherever your part is, and brush + ribbon the hair in a herringbone pattern from back to front and from either side. The wetter your hair, the quicker it is to style it, and it adds more volume.





Scrunching! Very gently scrunch the hair in either big sections, or one ribboned section of hair at a time. Whatever is easier. (If you scrunch before ribboning, you will create frizz). Bring your hair gently up to the scalp and scrunch the ribbon(s) several times to re-form the natural curl/wave pattern. You should hear a squelching wet sound from your hair. If your hair is not completely saturated, you will be scrunching on dryer hair, which cause frizz. However, if your hair is just a bit damp, you'll add volume. You can spot-treat when necessary if you see any damp hair that is drying frizzy. Re-dampen the strand completely with a spray bottle or wetted brush, and add a tiny bit more styling product if necessary, then re-ribbon and scrunch. At the end, you can scrunch the hair upside down with a little more product for hold if desired. If you want your hair to dry faster or to remove excess product after styling, you can scrunch your hair with a microfiber towel. Pro tip; after styling, you can put a couple root clips on top to let it dry with extra volume. You can also diffuse it like this. Be gentle with your hair now. Don't go outside and never dry in a humid environment, or frizz will find you. Another pro tip; you can finger-curl (or curl hairs around your finger like a wand) the very front strands to tuck in any frizzies or add curl to frame your face.




Diffusing (drying) your natural, textured hair is optional, but will allow your waves/curls to dry in place without frizz. You can also air-dry at this point. Take your blowdryer with a deep bowl attachment and gently hold and wave it around the top of your roots slowly without moving around too much. Then, use it to scoop up large sections of your hair like in the scrunching method, and hold it up to your scalp for a short while. Continue until try. You can eventually massage the roots around with the attachment's rubbery protrusions (scalp brush) to dry them more. You can also delicately flip over layers to one side to get under them. Using the Dyson Supersonic hair dryer with the deep bowl attachment will be powerful enough to dry your hair faster, while not blowing it around everywhere. If you ever use a blow dryer brush, never use it on dry hair to touch up. it's meant for wet hair, and adding more heat to dry hair adds up to hair damage.



Hair spray is the way to go for big events, late nights, and humid environments. This should be applied like a helmet; only the outer layers. Spray at about a foot away from your head so the product is more widely distributed. As a general rule of thumb, only spray for 6 seconds in each area; right, left, and back. Spray

in a gyrating motion with your hand for even distribution. It's been shown that the more hairspray you use, the flatter the texture gets because it weighs it down, especially if it's also under each layer. Don't move your hair from the back to the side in order to spray it. Spray the hair in the position you want it to be in when you're finished. You can use a face shield to protect it from hairspray. You can also spray a little in your hands and graze the frizziest parts of your hair.





Masks once a week are vital for soft hair. If you have hair that breaks off easily or snaps quickly with a hair stretch test, you have dry hair in need of moisture. Moisture comes in three forms: water, humectants, and occlusives. If, however, when doing the stretch test, your hair stretches on forever and doesn't recoil back to its normal state, or it stretches and falls apart, it is too moisturized, and needs proteins. Keep that in mind when picking all of your products. In general, medium and especially high porosity hair does well with both protein and moisture. Get it all in! PS, don't bother with overnight masks; they are made weaker and less hydrating so they can soak in all night to give the same level moisture as a regular mask. A little note about product lines that tell you that you need to buy the whole line for it to work; run! This is a marketing scheme to make them $$$. If you take the numerous products in the Olaplex line, for example, the only one you really need for damaged hair is the No. 3. If you want to get fancy, the only other ones I recommend that will be useful are No. 6,7,8, and 4c.





Products List

Here are the best products in order of use, not preference.

If the matching conditioner or line is also excellent, I will list it with the shampoo.



1) Shampoo



*Clarifying Shampoos



*Dry Shampoos


-Pulp Riot: Berlin dry shampoo (fine to medium hair)




2) Conditioner


-Aveda: Invati Thickening Conditioner (this will plump the strands)




3) Primer/ Leave-In Conditioner


-Pureology: Color Fanatic Heat Protectant Leave-In Conditioner (for all hair types. Not a heat protectant!)


SPF:





4) Styling Cream


-Moroccanoil: Curl Defining Cream (I hear this works even better than Verb)

-Oribe: Tres Set Structure Spray (Spray to mousse formula)




5) Blow-Out Cream for Thermal Protection


-Olaplex #6 Bond Smoother (universal but mostly for coarse hair, for amazing shine)




6) Thermal Protectant for Ironing (and the best irons & curling irons)


-Kenra: Thermal Styling Spray 19 (BEST heat protectant. Can be crunchy with improper use. Also try the #11 low-hold)

-Redken: 22 Thermal Spray Hot Sets - High Hold (a bit lighter, good for everyone)


*Irons


*Curling Irons


*Hot Air Brush





7) Hair Oil


-Olaplex: #7 Bonding Oil (fine to medium hair)




8) Diffusers (the absolute best blowdryers & nothing else)






9) Hairspray


-Kérastase: Laque Extreme (super high hold, great for humid weddings)

-Kenra: Perfect Medium Spray (also comes in high hold)




* Masks and Treatments


-Eva NYC: Mane Magic 10-in-1 Shine Mask (lighter, soaks in well, no silicones)





Other hair care products to help you along the way


-'Wet' Brush (Make sure to wash this with soap/shampoo 1x a month to prevent greasy hair)

-Tangle Teezer: The Ultimate Detangling Brush (never use a comb to detangle!)

-Mason Pearson Brush (supposedly the best in the world, more of a family heirloom $$$ )

-Scrunchie King: 100% Silk Satin Scrunchie 3-pack (use on upper hair layer with sleep bonnet)

-TCP Global: Safety Face Shields with Glasses Frames (when hairspring with both hands)

-Moroccanoil: Ceramic Brush (this type of barrel disperses heat optimally)

-Yizijizi: Terry Lined Tripple Layer Large Shower Cap (Terry cloth lining for best absorption)





Hair Charts for More Information



Hair Type

Image from TheTrendSpotter



Hair Texture

Image from onychair.com


Hair Porosity

Image from Maneaddicts.com



Matching Hair Needs to Porosity

Chart from Manes by Mell



Ingredients Classification

Image from Medium.com

If you have frizz, emollients are what you want! Common emollients are:


-silicones like dimethicone, amodimethicone, cyclomethicone, trimethicone.

-fatty alcohol

-fruit and vegetable-derived oils and butters

-proteins and hydrolyzed proteins

-mineral oil

-petrolatum

-polyquaterniums




For dry hair, common moisture-based ingredients are:


-panthenol

-panthenyl hydroxypropyl stearamidopropyl dimethylamin

-coconut oil

-petrolatum

-mineral oils

-silicones

-cetyl alcohol

-cetearyl alcohol

-behentrimonium chloride

-cetrimonium chloride

-dihydroxypropyl PEG-5 linoleammonium chloride

-film formers

-amodimethicone

-polyquaternium 4, 7, and 10

-cetrimonium bromide



Strong Proteins for high porosity hair


-wheat protein

-hydrolyzed wheat

-oat protein

-milk protein

-rice protein

-silk protein

-quinoa seed extract

-keratin protein

-hydrolyzed keratin

-blue-green algae

-hydrolyzed oat flour

-hydrolyzed silk

-collagen protein

-cocoyl hydrolyzed keratin

-TEA-cocoyl hydrolyzed soy protein

-TEA-cocoyl hydrolyzed collagen

-potassium cocoyl hydrolyzed collagen

-cocoyl hydrolyzed collagen

-cocodimonium hydroxypropyl hydrolyzed collagen

-cocodimonium hydroxypropyl hydrolyzed caesin

-cocodimonium hydroxypropyl hydrolyzed keratin

-cocodimonium hydroxypropyl hydrolyzed rice protein

-cocodimonium hydroxypropyl hydrolyzed silk

-cocodimonium hydroxypropyl hydrolyzed wheat protein

-cocodimonium hydroxypropyl hydrolyzed soy protein

-cocodimonium hydroxypropyl hydrolyzed amino acids

(Regular amino acids are weaker for more coarse hair, but when porous, you can't get enough proteins!)



XO, Basha

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