The 10 Most Important Hair Care Tips Everyone Should Know
Updated: Jan 30, 2021
Most people first learn to care for their hair in childhood. Then maybe if you have further interest you’ve read things from magazines or somewhere on the internet, or (the best source in my biased opinion) from your hairstylist. But some people may have missed some key information, maybe their parents didn’t know to teach them, or it’s just not something they’ve thought much about. Others may have been misinformed, either from outdated information, advice that doesn’t quite apply to their hair type, or just flat out bad advice.
When I have a new client in my chair, especially if they share with me that they’re struggling with something about their hair, I have a pretty standard list of hair care knowledge that I make sure they’re aware of. 9 times out of 10, someone with a hair concern is missing one of these key points in taking care of their hair, and armed with this knowledge it improves! These 10 things are things I wish I could shout from the rooftops for all to hear. And the best part? I’m not even going try to sell you anything. Most of these tips don’t even require that you change much about what you’re already working with. I have nothing to gain here but the satisfaction of knowing maybe one more person can achieve healthier hair from this advice. So, without further ado, the top 10 basic hair care tips everyone should know and implement.
1. Shampoo for your scalp, conditioner for your ends
Hair care in general is a balancing act. Your scalp produces sweat and oil, which called your “acid mantle”, and it’s naturally conditioning to your hair. Too much of this though, combined with debris from dirt and hair product, can build up over time so we cleanse it away with shampoo to keep your scalp clear and clean. But, it doesn’t tend to travel very far down the hair shaft. Usually only a few inches, and less so the more texture you have to your hair. If your have any length to your hair, the ends seldom get this natural moisture, so we supplement that with conditioner. Shampooing your ends too vigorously can leave your hair more dry and could even cause damage. Just the shampoo running down your hair shaft as you rinse it out is usually enough to cleanse your ends (unless you have costume-level amounts of hair spray in your hair - in that case you have my permission to *gently* massage shampoo through your ends to wash that away). Conditioning your scalp though can further add to the build up we use shampoo to remove. You generally don’t need this supplemental moisture here, so keep your conditioner to the parts of your hair that you can grab onto without touching your scalp - a few inches down.
2. Shampoo scalp massages don’t just exist because they feel good
Even though they do feel amazing. It actually is really important for a few reasons. One, like I mentioned above, we really want to get in there and cleanse our scalp of any build up or debris that may be there. Another is stimulation to your scalp is a great way to keep it and your hair healthy - it increases blood flow and keeps your hair growing optimally. Don’t just rub your shampoo around with flat hands - really get in there with the tips of your fingers and give an intentional massage, making little circles with mild pressure across the entire surface of your scalp. For those with very thick hair, you might even find it helpful to flip your head upside down so your hair is a little easier to work around and through. I tend to see a lot of build up in the back crown area of people with thicker hair due to not being thorough with this. Which brings me to my next point...
3. Distribute your shampoo evenly and intentionally to get to your whole scalp
If you’re putting your shampoo in your hands, then going right in full force to the first place you touch, you’re likely not getting enough product to the more interior parts of the scalp, like the crown and back area. What I do to remedy this is after spreading the shampoo into my hands (more so across my fingers, see above) I gently tap so that only some of my shampoo comes off onto the first place I touch (usually the front half of the head). Then tap again to the bottom back portion, and then -this is important- part the hair down the middle in the back crown area and give my final shampoo tap there. If you don’t have enough left you may need to grab a little more just for this area. Now we’ve got shampoo distributed evenly and we’re ready to massage.
4. One cannot (usually) live on shampoo alone
Even if your hair is fine. Even if its oily. Yes, you still need conditioner. The only scenario where conditioner is not necessary is if your hair is less than 3 inches long and you don’t experience any hair dryness. In this case, your scalp’s natural oils can reach enough of your hair strand to be able to do it’s job. If you feel like your conditioner is weighing down your hair, and you’re already avoiding the top part of your hair with it as mentioned above, then look for a lighter formula. Conditioners marketed for volume tend to work well here. Also, two-in-one is a lie. It’s typically just a shampoo with added moisturizers. You still probably need a separate conditioner because point #1.
5. You can’t co-wash forever
If you have curly hair, dry hair, or a color that’s prone to quick fading (like reds or vivids), you may have dabbled in co-washing, or using a cleansing conditioner instead of a separate shampoo and conditioner. This can be great in these cases, because it gives you the ability to cleanse your hair without the harsher oil-stripping properties of shampoo. It will keep your dry hair silky, curls bouncy, and colors fresher for longer. The catch here though, is because these don’t do as thorough of a job with oil removal, eventually what is this going to do to your scalp? ...cause build up! Every once in a while you need to get in there with a thorough shampoo - a classic one or even a clarifying shampoo - to “reset” your scalp and clear it of what your more gentile co-wash is leaving behind. If you’re a regular co-washer, I recommend doing this at least monthly.
6. Do not rub and scrub your hair with your towel when your dry it
Be GENTLE to your wet hair for the love of god! If you’re going to town with a rough rub of the towel, you’re gonna cause breakage which is gonna cause frizz and flyaways. You want to gently squeeze and scrunch the water out of your hair. If you’re particularly prone to frizz or have curly hair, you may even want to ditch the traditional towel all together and opt of a microfiber towel or an old cotton t-shirt instead. The fibers in these materials won’t snag onto your hair strands the way terry cloth does and will help further prevent frizz.
7. Avoid sleeping with wet hair, or putting your hair in a pony tail or bun when wet
Again, this can lead to breakage, either as you toss and turn on your wet hair at night, or the pressure of your hair being pulled up. Sleeping with wet hair can also lead to a moldy pillow (gross, I know), and can worsen dandruff by giving the yeasts on your scalp a longer time to be wet and thrive. Try your best to either shower earlier if you’re set on air-drying, or blow dry before bed. If your HAVE to go to bed with wet hair for whatever reason, leave it wrapped up in your hair turban or a cotton t-shirt to reduce friction and keep your pillow dry.
8. Put SOME sort of product in your hair before blow drying to protect it
If you don’t like the feeling of product in your hair, this can be a light leave-in conditioner. Otherwise most (professional) products are going to have heat protecting properties so opt for whatever type of product addresses your hair needs. You just gotta use at least something. This will not only protect your hair from heat damage but also help it retain moisture.
9. A smooth blow dry consists of three things - product, controlling the direction of airflow, and proper tension
I could write a whole other blog post on product recommendations so I won’t get too into it here, but like I said in the last point - go for what’s going to address the needs of your hair. The next thing to keep in mind is the direction of air flow from your dryer onto your hair. Your blow dry should consist of two parts - one is a rough dry, where you’re going in a more relaxed way. For this part you want to get your hair about 70-80% dry by blowing through it and using your fingers. (Or you can skip this part and let yourself air dry for a bit until you’re 70-80% dry). Here’s the thing though - just because I’m calling this a “rough dry” doesn’t mean I want you to go in all willy-nilly blowing your dryer wherever you like. We’re gonna try and aim the air down your hair strand. If your don’t have a concentrator on your dryer I HIGHLY recommend you get one. This creates a blade of “concentrated” air that is much easier to control and work with. When your blow in a downward motion like this, you’re preventing frizz by encouraging all the hair into the same direction. Part two of your blow dry should be a little more precise. Section your hair and be more intentional with your direction and create some TENSION with either your fingers or a brush. This again encourages your hair to take shape in one smooth direction, and depending on your hair type will either eliminate frizz, or reduce it by a lot to make heat styling much quicker and easier.
*an aside for the curly girls:
Of course that was all assuming we’re going for a smooth look. Curly girls, if you want to speed up your drying with a blow dryer, get you a diffuser. Put your product into you hair as soon as you turn your shower off, before grabbing for a towel. This will help smooth frizz before it begins as you dry. We’re gonna want to squeeze and scrunch the excess moisture out of your hair, first with your hands, then your microfiber towel or t-shirt. Maybe one more layer of product scrunched in if you feel you need it. Then diffuse your hair by laying your curls into the diffuser. Patience, my curly friends. The less you mess with your hair, the less frizz and more definition your curls will have, so try to resist the urge to reshape or play with your hair as much as possible until it’s completely bone dry.
10. And finally, for the love of god stop turning your hot tools all the way up!
Listen. I am a professional. And you will NEVER see me turn any iron above 400 degrees. The only people who get 390 and above are extremely course and kinky hair types. If you’re going above 390 you’re more than likely frying your hair. Like, literally it will fry off! It might be subtle, it might just be at the ends. But its happening. Stop it!!! If you feel like a lower heat isn’t doing it for you, what you actually probably need is to slow down and take smaller sections and comb through them properly before trying to heat style. Again like we said with blow drying, tension will also help your style take shape. Most fine to medium hair does well at about 360 degrees. I have medium/course, wavy-curly hair myself and I do well at 380. If your iron doesn’t have temperatures and just has settings, go for the middle setting for fine to medium hair, and 3/4 of the way up for medium to course hair.
I hope these hair tips have been helpful! Although basic, these are simple things I’ve seen make a world of difference for people and are often the first things I check to make sure people are practicing when they have hair concerns. Do you have any questions about your hair and how to care for it? Is there anything basic you do that has made a difference in your hair? Let me know in the comments! Thanks for reading!