We all want our hair-care routine to help our hair live its best life, whether shiny, bouncy curls, full, non-broken strands or glorious natural hair. And great hair starts with having a personalized hair-care routine. Think of it as a basic set of principles to take care of your hair each day and night, customizable for your hair type and goals. If you’re thinking, wait, I don’t have one of those, don’t worry! It’s not like you’re born knowing how to take care of your hair! It takes a little trial and error for most people to figure out the best hair-care routine since no universal approach works for every hair type, texture, length, or style. But if you want to know how to get healthy hair, ask the pros. Or have SELF do it for you. Below, we spoke to knowledgeable hairstylists and asked for tips for healthy hair, nailing down the best hair-care routine for your hair type and texture, and what kinds of mistakes can sabotage even the best hair-care intentions.
What should a hair-care routine include?
According to celebrity stylist Mia Santiago, most people’s hair-care routines consist of four main components: cleansing, conditioning, heat styling, and air drying. This doesn’t mean your hair-care routine needs to have these components. For instance, you may never use heat on your hair. We’ll go over all of them because they’re the mainstays of most people’s hair-care routines. And once you know the best hair styling hair styling products and techniques for these processes, get ready for your dream hair to follow.
According to Santiago, the number of steps and the techniques you may need to follow in each of these components is based on hair type: thick, fine, or somewhere in-between (Santiago calls it “baseline”).
Cleaning: The goal of cleansing should be to focus on the scalp for all hair types. “Hair health begins at the scalp,” Santiago explains. “So it’s important to get it completely clean and clear of build-up.” This isn’t usually too difficult for people with fine hair, but Santiago recommends working the lather up past the nape of the neck because it’s often overlooked. For those with thicker hair, wet it, then comb it out and split it into sections so that when you apply your shampoo—a hydrating one is always best—it can penetrate the scalp.
How often should you wash? That depends on your hair texture as well—more on this later.
When it comes to products, texture again is critical. Thicker-haired people should “use moisturizing products, and follow up with the hair oil of your choice,” says King Carter, a celebrity stylist who’s worked with Duckie Thot and Megan Thee Stallion. Those with more delicate hair should avoid oils, and volumizing shampoo should be sought.
Conditioning: Always follow cleansing your hair with a conditioner to restore the moisture that shampooing strips away. For finer-haired folks, Santiago recommends applying conditioner from the ends to the tips of your hair, avoiding the roots where things can get greasy. For thicker hair, a good deep conditioner is a must. Pile on or scale back the conditioner for people in that baseline category based on how thirsty your hair gets.
Heat-styling: If you use hot styling tools (such as flat irons, diffusers, or curling irons) on your hair, you must use thermal protection. (Here are some heat-resistant products to try.) Also, follow other heat styling rules to protect your hair, such as using the lowest heat setting possible to achieve the desired results. Alternatively, try air-drying! This leads us to the next point.
Air-drying: While it’s essential to give your hair a break from the heat, air-drying doesn’t mean “just leave it alone.” If your hair is thicker, you’ll need to use a heavier product to seal in moisture and achieve your desired style: Think oil-infused gels and thick creams. Finer hair requires a lighter product to lift from the roots and add texture, such as a mousse. If you’re trying to keep your hair looking a certain way, don’t go back in and mess with it once the air-drying is complete. Priscilla Valles, a celebrity stylist who has worked with Megan Fox and Khloé Kardashian, explains, “That can make it frizzy.”
With a daily hair-care routine, how do I keep my hair healthy?
Daily, keep an eye out for product build-up, and the oil your scalp naturally produces, says Santiago. These are signs that it’s time to do some laundry.
It’s ultimately up to you how often you wash your hair, though your hair type does play a role. “I would recommend washing once a week for coarser textures,” Carter says, “while finer textures should wash every two or three days.” Humidity, temperature, and how much you sweat should all be considered, as an increase in moisture may indicate the need to wash more frequently. If your hair becomes too dry (for thicker hair) or too greasy (for finer hair/oily scalps), you should cleanse it.
Dry shampoo—don’t worry, curly-haired friends, there are options out there now—is one way to refresh between washes and add shine while sucking up oil. You can also use baby powder. “I love using it before bed because the baby powder absorbs all the build-up while I sleep and my hair is so much more bouncy in the morning,” Santiago says.
Some people enjoy washing their hair at night and sleeping with it damp, but experts are split on whether sleeping with wet hair is harmful. Because “wet hair is more prone to breakage,” Carter advises against it. On the other hand, Santiago prefers to sleep with wet hair: she showers in the evenings and sleeps with a microfiber towel pillow cover that dries your hair and protects your pillow while you sleep. Be warned: Folks with fine hair might find that their hair goes flat overnight, so test it to see if it works.
What are some bad hair habits?
More than anything else, your hair texture should dictate your hair routine. But there are still some habits that everyone should steer clear of regardless of their hair type. No one is perfect, so no shame if these habits appear in your hair-care routine pretty often. These are just some general guidelines and tips for healthy hair. Heat-styling: If you use hot styling equipment (such as flat irons, diffusers, or curling irons) on your hair, you must use thermal protection. (Here are some heat-resistant products to test.) Also, observe other heat styling principles to protect your hair, such as feasible utilizing the lowest heat setting to get the desired results. Alternatively, try air-drying! This leads us to the next point.
Air-drying: While it’s essential to give your hair a rest from the heat, air-drying doesn’t imply “just leave it alone.” If your hair is thicker, you’ll need to use a heavier product to seal in moisture and get the style you want: Think oil-infused gels and heavy creams. More delicate hair requires a lighter product to lift from the roots and give structure, such as a mousse. If you want to maintain your hair looking a certain way, don’t go back in and fiddle with it once the air-drying is complete. Priscilla Valles, a celebrity stylist who has worked with Megan Fox and Khloé Kardashian, adds, “That can make it frizzy.”
With a daily hair-care routine, how can I maintain my hair healthily?
Daily, keep an eye out for product build-up, and the oil your scalp naturally produces, adds Santiago. These are signals that it’s time to do some laundry.
It’s ultimately up to you how often you wash your hair, though your hair type does play a role. “I would recommend washing once a week for rougher textures,” Carter advises, “while finer textures should wash every two or three days.” Humidity, temperature, and how much you sweat should all be considered, as an increase in moisture may indicate the need to wash more frequently. If your hair becomes too dry (for thicker hair) or too greasy (for finer hair/oily scalps), you should cleanse it.
Dry shampoo—don’t worry, curly-haired friends, there are choices out there now—is one way to refresh between washes and add shine while sucking up oil. You can also use baby powder. “I love using it before bed because the baby powder absorbs all the build-up as I sleep, and my hair is so much more bouncy in the morning,” Santiago says.
Some people enjoy washing their hair at night and sleeping with it damp, but experts are split on whether sleeping with wet hair is harmful. Because “wet hair is more prone to breakage,” Carter advises avoiding it. On the other hand, Santiago enjoys sleeping with wet hair: she showers in the evenings and sleeps with a microfiber towel pillow cover that dries your hair and protects your pillow while you sleep. Be warned: Folks with fine hair might find that their hair goes flat overnight, so test it to see if it works for you.
What are some bad hair habits?
More than anything else, your hair texture should dictate your hair routine. But there are still some habits that everyone should steer clear of regardless of their hair type. No one is perfect, so no shame if these habits appear in your hair-care routine pretty often. These are just some general guidelines and tips for healthy hair.
I was being reactive rather than proactive.
Don’t put off taking care of your hair until you notice something “wrong.” Vernon François, who has worked with Lupita Nyong’o and Amandla Stenberg, argues that “some people make the error of concentrating with items while not committing to the day-to-day.” You’ll be setting yourself up for endless excellent hair days if you approach your hair routine as a habit rather than merely paying attention to it when you reach a state of mega-damage.
2. Brushing wet hair with a brush
Detangling might be difficult whether your hair is thin or thick, but that doesn’t mean you should be rough with it. “It’s not a good idea to brush wet hair with any old brush,” Kelly Hunt, who has worked with Amber Valetta and Karina Smirnoff, says. A wide-tooth comb is preferable, but the Tangle Teezer is my favorite. It has the shape of a slight foot and fits in your palm. It is gentle on the hair and can be used on any length or texture.”
3. Leaving your hair alone at night.
While you sleep, you can multitask. “It’s a perfect time to use dry shampoo because it works while you’re sleeping,” Santiago explains. On the other hand, keep in mind that you can cause harm when sleeping. “Sleeping with a ponytail causes breakage at the crown of the head or wherever the elastic is attached. Johnny Stuntz, who has worked with Anna Kendrick and Kelly Osbourne, recommends sleeping in a loose braid off to the side, secured right at the end as loosely as possible. Try sleeping in a satin bonnet or pineapple your hair with a satin scrunchie if you want to keep your curls intact overnight.
4. Not having regular haircuts.
Regular trims keep your hair healthy, even if you’re trying to grow it. Regular trims can keep you from harming your hair by messing with its ends, says Michael Dueas, who has worked with Padma Lakshmi and Zoe Levin. He claims, “You wouldn’t believe how many women I see yanking on their split ends.” “You’re shredding the hair and causing an uneven split end that’s more difficult to repair.” Instead, use very sharp scissors to snip it off.” Also, schedule a haircut as soon as possible. According to Carter, “regular care and professional haircuts increase hair development.”
5. Shampooing greasy hair too much.
According to L’Oréal Paris, creative director of Style & Color Jonathan Colombini, who has worked with Kim Kardashian and Kendall Jenner, scrubbing a scalp that produces a lot of oil every day is not the way to go. “If your hair gets oily quickly, don’t shampoo it daily,” he advises. “This leads to increased oil production, making it oilier and heavier. On non-wash days, I recommend dry shampoo.”
6. Unsafe heat styling
It may seem paradoxical (and inconvenient), but any heat styling should be done until your hair is dehydrated. (This is why mastering excellent air-drying skills is so beneficial!) “The hair has to be dry to use heat without causing harm,” says Bobby Eliot, who has worked with Hailee Steinfeld and Jena Malone. “Using heated styling tools on wet hair practically destroys the hair,” says the expert. Another bad habit is to heat style for several days in a row. “It causes the hair to dehydrate, resulting in brittle, damaged, and broken hair,” says Michelle Sultan, who has worked with Zendaya, Naomi Campbell, and Venus Williams. If at all possible, only heat style once or twice a week. Don’t forget the heat protectant, of course!
7. Detangling in the incorrect manner.
Believe it or not, there is a proper technique to brush your hair: start from the bottom up, regardless of your hair structure. “When brushing or combing, my biggest pet hate is when people start at the root. Michael Long, who has worked with Lizzy Caplan and Alexandra Daddario, says, “You can hear the hair-splitting!” “Instead, start at the ends and work your way to the middle. After that, make your way up to the root. Split ends and frizzy broken bits will be reduced this way.”
8. Incorrect product application.
The instructions for the product are there for a reason. John D, who has worked with Amy Adams, Lea Michele, and Drew Barrymore, adds, “I routinely see my friends, relatives, and customers sprinkle aerosol items like dry shampoo and hairspray with the can; reach two inches from their heads.” “Rather, give the can a thorough shake to distribute the substance evenly, then extend your spraying arm out and spray away.” When aerosol products are exposed to air before reaching the brain, they operate optimally.”
9. Using too much makeup.
Because scalp health is so essential for hair growth, using too much product may make it harder for your hair to grow. Santiago explains, “The whole goal of washing your hair is to break down build-up.” Keeping track of how much product you apply each day is crucial.
Dry shampoo is a product that many people overuse. Sunnie Brook, who has worked with Katie Lowes and Anna Faris, explains, “If you use dry shampoo or texturizing spray more than twice a week, you’re likely dehydrating your scalp, leaving the hair weaker and more prone to breaking.” You’ll need to cut back if your hair starts to seem weighted down or breaks. But what if you’re attempting to cut down on your wash days and dry shampoo usage? In that case, use products like refreshing sprays to keep your hair strong and hydrated. Co-washing is another option (washing your hair with only conditioner, some formulated with gentler cleansing properties than shampoo and meant explicitly for co-washing). The combined goals of breaking up build-up and restoring moisture will be met.
10. Being rough with wet hair when drying it.
Overhandling your hair, especially as you get out of the shower, maybe to blame for some of your hair’s least appealing characteristics, such as dullness. Toni Chavez, who has worked with Bella Thorne and Nicola Peltz, says, “It drives me mad when customers towel-dry their hair by messing it up in every direction.” “The fine cuticle is roughed up.” This can cause your skin to become dry and dull. Chavez recommends towel drying hair gently by squeezing it out and working downwards from root to ends.
11. Excessive hair manipulation
If your hair is lifeless or drab, John Ruggiero, who has worked with Kate Beckinsale and Gigi Hadid, recommends giving it a little more TLC instead of visiting your stylist. “Reduce the number of washes you do, the amount of heat styling and blow drying you do, and the amount of deep conditioning you do. When hair is healthier and stronger, it seems fuller.” The bottom line is that the less you fret and alter your hair, the better.
12. Ignoring products such as extensions.
We can cause a lot of damage to our hair to achieve the look we desire (you always want what you don’t have, right?). Using extensions instead of chemicals or heat is one option if you’re trying to grow your hair or want more volume. “Fine hair clients use heat and products to make their hair appear fuller,” adds Valles. “Your hair will be less stressed with extensions.”
13. Attempting to make your hair into something it isn’t.
This is sound advice for anyone, especially curly-haired people and those who are struggling in the age of the Instagram hair influencer. “One thing I wish people would stop doing is speaking adversely about their hair; unruly, misbehaving, and so on,” François adds. “How we talk about our hair’s texture, and how we talk about it, shapes our relationship with it.” It’s all about recognizing, respecting, and appreciating the true beauty of your natural hair texture.”
That doesn’t mean you can’t try something new! However, suppose you’re trying to manipulate your hair into submission to inflict substantial damage. In that case, it’s worth looking into what kinds of styles can make you feel good without requiring so much manipulation. Remember, the goal is to know how to care for your hair to keep it as healthy and happy as possible.