Getting into a hair care routine is just like embarking on a skin care one. Once you’ve found one that works for you, you’ll rarely stray.
But the process of finding that routine can seem a little daunting, especially when there’s numerous options for people with the same hair type.
Here’s a breakdown of everything you need to know to find the hair care ritual that’s right for you.
Your individual routine ultimately depends on a few factors
From the feel of your hair to the styles you prefer, these elements will all alter the routine you end up choosing.
Your natural hair texture or type
Hair types tend to be fine, thick, or coarse and fall into one of four categories:
Each has its upsides and downsides. For example, straight hair usually looks and feels greasy quicker than curly hairTrusted Source due to oil speedily making its way down the hair shaft.
Whether your hair has been bleached, dyed, or otherwise chemically processed
If your hair has come in contact with dye, bleach, or chemicals, you may have to think extra hard about your routine.
People with dyed hair are advised not to wash it every day to prevent premature color fadingTrusted Source and dryness.
And bleached hair may require some extra nourishmentTrusted Source in the form of conditioner or hair masks.
How you want to wear your hair on a daily basis
Do you like to straighten your hair? Curl it? Leave it completely natural?
It’s another thing you’ll have to consider, especially if you’re a fan of using damaging heat tools.
Whether you have specific concerns that you want to address
It’s normal to find at least one aspect of your hair problematic, whether it’s frizz, a flaky scalp, or dry, damaged strands.
Knowing what the problem is, is half the task. The rest involves finding the best solution.
However, every routine shares a few basic components
Although your hair type and concerns will alter your hair care routine in some ways, there are a few basic steps that every person can benefit from.
Cleansing is a balance between removing things like dead skin and product residueTrusted Sourcewithout stripping the hair of its natural oils.
Without a good wash, sebum will build up, leaving unwanted oiliness.
So will dead skin if not removed. The skin renews itself around every 28 daysTrusted Source, and this may be noticeable if the hair is not clean.
And, if you’re an avid swimmer, you don’t want to leave chlorine on your locks. The longer it sits, the more time it has to strip hair of its natural elements and cause damage.
Conditioners have myriad benefits. The main one is moisturizing, but others include detangling, shininess, and frizz reduction.
The main ingredient of a conditioner is called a cationic surfactantTrusted Source.
When hair is wet, this sticks to it, coating the strands to replenish the moisture that shampoo may have removed.
Moisturize and seal
To add further hydration to the hair, you may want to embark on a two-step process known as moisturize and seal.
This can be particularly useful for kinky or coily hair that tends to be dry.
The aim is to seal in moisture, not to lock in dryness, using a hydrating product and sealing oil.
Detangling is essential for stopping breakage and for making your life a whole lot easier.
But you need to use the right tool, such as a wide-tooth comb, to avoid pulling hair out by mistake.
Depending on your hair type, you may need to detangle every day or much less often.
Style and protect
Thanks to a number of tools and tricks like volumizers and gels, you can style your hair practically any way you want.
But if you’re a fan of heated tools, you’ll need to protect those strands with a heat protection spray.
Spot-treating hair simply means picking out a particular area that’s bothering you and doing something to remedy it.
For example, you’re fed up with how frizzy your hair is, so you try a protein treatment.
Or you’ve noticed that your scalp is feeling extra dry, so you apply a super nourishing product designed for that area.
The products and tools used in each step vary widely
Although most people religiously stick to the above steps, there’s no set product or tool that you need to abide by.
Instead, experiment to find the ones that work for you.
Cleansing and conditioning
Clarifying shampoo. A deep-working shampoo, clarifying formulas work to remove buildup from the hair. Restrict use to around once a month, as they can remove natural oils.
“Daily” shampoo. Used for regular washing, this shampoo may not need to be applied daily as the name suggests, but whenever your hair feels like it needs a good cleanse.
“Daily” or rinse-out conditioner. The conditioner that you use the most is likely to be one that rinses out after a couple of minutes. It’s best applied to the middle and ends, as root application can result in a greasy-looking scalp.
Leave-in conditioner. With this kind of conditioner, you apply it in the same way but don’t rinse it out. This allows for an increased level of nourishment.
Deep conditioner. For even more hydration, try a deep conditioner. Great for hair that’s prone to dryness, these conditioners are designed to be left in for longer.
Moisturizing and sealing
Hair lotion. Once hair is cleansed and conditioned, a cream-based lotion can offer further protection from breakage and dryness. It also provides a light, non-stiff hold.
Oil. When it comes to oil, a little goes a long way. Enhancing your hair’s natural oils, it locks in moisture and strengthens strands.
Comb. Wet hair can break more easily when brushed, although this doesn’t apply to textured or tightly curled hair types. A wide-tooth comb can be a less damaging alternative.
Brush. Different types of brushes exist. Some find bristles to be too hard on their hair, so opt for a plastic version. Try not to brush your hair too much. Once a day is usually sufficient.
Spray. If you find tears welling up when brushing or combing, apply a detangling spray beforehand.
Serum. A richer way of managing those knots, a detangling serum can further condition hair and make it softer so combs seamlessly work their way through.
Styling and protecting
Mousse. It sounds super retro, but modern mousse adds texture and volume to hair and can even enhance curls. What’s more, it doesn’t leave behind a sticky or clumpy feel.
Wax. A thicker product, hair wax provides more of a hold while increasing shininess. Plus, it shouldn’t leave strands feeling stiff.
Pomade. For a long-lasting, super shiny look, opt for pomade. This styling product should be used on damp hair, as it doesn’t dry, leaving you with a sleek finishing touch.
Gel. Styling gel can give hair anything from a light hold to a super strong one, depending on the product you use. All gels, however, provide a noticeable texture and shine.
Dry shampoo. If your hair gets greasy pretty quickly but you don’t want to wash it every day, a little dry shampoo can get rid of unwanted oil. But it does tend to build up on the scalp, so try not to use too much.
Volumizer. Hair looking limp? Volumizers lift hair away from the head to make your do look thicker while still feeling lightweight.
Texturizer. This category can encompass everything from salt sprays to curl definers, and is designed to add texture to the hair and preserve styles.
Shine serum or spray. These products sit on the surface of the hair, resulting in that smooth, glossy look. Apply from the ends up to the middle.
Hair spray. Today’s hair sprays come in various holding strengths and can even target concerns like frizz. Unlike years gone by, they don’t leave hair super stiff.
Heat protection spray. Whether you’re using a hair dryer, straightener, or curling iron, you need to protect those strands. These sprays create a barrier to prevent exposure to extreme heat.
Scalp treatment. An exfoliating scalp treatment can unclog follicles, stimulate circulation for growthTrusted Source, and calm issues like itchiness. Use once or twice a month.
Protein treatment. Frizzy or broken hair may need an extra dose of protein. These monthly treatments fill in gaps in the cuticle, strengthening and smoothing strands.
Targeted mask. Often infused with nourishing ingredients, hair masks tend to be left on for several minutes to deeply replenish hair and remedy dryness, split ends, or frizz.
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The order of your routine matters, and consistency is key
You’re not going to notice dramatic results overnight — although the effects of masks and certain styling products can be immediately noticeable.
It takes time for your hair to get used to new products. In some cases, this may be a week.
But dry or damaged hair may take at least a month to reap the benefits.
The order you apply products can also make a difference. While this does depend on your hair type and texture, there are a few general rules.
Shampoo, conditioner, and any in-shower products should be applied first, followed by heat protection, a volumizer or mousse, and shine serum.
Then you can dry and style your hair, setting it with a gel (or similar product) and hair spray.
Make sure your final styling product is one that seals in moisture and helps keeps hair healthy.
But when it comes to frequency of use, it’s best to consult a professional
There are no hard rules for how often you should use each product.
Some people wash their hair three times a week, while others cleanse once a week. And some do it even less.
When in doubt, ask a hair professional for personalized advice targeted to the products you use and the needs of your hair.
Your individual hair needs will naturally change over time
There’s a saying that hair changes texture every 7 years. Unlike most of the rumors floating around the internet, this one does have an element of truth behind it.
Hair grows in bundles, and these bundles start again every 7 years or so.
Over time, less strands appearTrusted Source, resulting in the thinning, weaker hair often associated with aging.
Hormones can also alter hair.
During pregnancy, for example, rising estrogen levels can slow down hair sheddingTrusted Source, resulting in thicker-seeming, shiny hair.
When levels of these kinds of hormones drop, hair loss can occur. Menopause, for example, is often linked to such hair issues.
Noticing these changes and responding appropriately can keep your hair looking healthy.
A good rule of thumb is to swap products as the seasons change
You may also need to change up your routine at certain parts of the year.
When the winter months hit, many need to opt for products with extra hydrating properties. Thicker creams are also favored.
But in the warmer summer season, you may want to choose more lightweight formulas to help hair stay bouncy in the face of humidity.
Some general tips and tricks that benefit all hair types
Lastly, it’s worth knowing a few handy things that apply to any hair texture and concern.
Get regular trims
If your hair is looking unhealthy, it may be because it needs a snip.
Getting hair cut every 6 to 8 weeks is considered to be beneficial for reducing breakage and split ends as well as growth.
Use warm, not hot, water
Dousing hair in hot water can dry it out and, if dyed, can quickly fade color.
You don’t have to endure a freezing cold shower or bath. Just switch to lukewarm water instead.
Make sure you’re getting these nutrients in your diet
Even your diet can benefit your hair.
Protein — also known as hair’s building block — will only reach the hair if enough is consumed.
If you’re lacking in it, expect to notice brittleness and dryness.
Iron is also an important source of life for hair. When the body doesn’t have enough, hair growth can be affectedTrusted Source.
Vitamins A and C are worth looking out for too. The former is needed to produce hair’s natural oils, while the latter aids collagen productionTrusted Source, thereby strengthening hair.
And don’t forget omega-3 fatty acids. These are needed for hydration and overall scalp health.
Go natural where possible
Letting your hair breathe can work wonders. This can involve restricting heat use by letting it air-dry and avoiding straighteners and curling irons.
Even putting hair up in a tight ponytail can cause strain, so leave it down to stop the pull.
And if you don’t need to use a styling product, don’t use it. That way, you’ll reduce residue buildup.
The bottom line
Figuring out a hair care routine may take a few days, if not a few weeks.
But once it’s sorted, you’re well on the way to getting the hair you deserve.