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After spending several years in social services, Nicole has finally followed her lifelong dream of being a full-time writer. In addition to her work for The Hudsucker, Nicole is also a staff writer for Womanista. An avid comic book fan, BBQ aficionado, professional makeup artist and first-time mom, Nicole can be found exploring Kansas City rich history when she's not blogging about suburban life at Suburban Flamingo.

The Pretty Files: Hair Care

The most universal beauty “problem” out there involves hair. How many times have you struggled with a “bad hair day” or argued with some aspect of your hair’s texture or appearance that you simply didn’t like? I have personally waged various battles with my hair in an attempt to make it look the way I want it: I’ve straightened out curls, then gotten perms to restore them. I’ve gotten highlights, dyed it to enhance the natural red color, dyed it black, and then bleached the whole mess blonde. I’ve cut  my hair, I’ve used hot rollers, I’ve worn it up in the same ponytail so often that I’ve had breakage. Hair is a very important thing to appearance and that means it takes abuse like no other part of us yet we are doing all these things in the name of having our vision of beautiful hair. How do I know it’s important? Hair care is a $2.4 billion industry in the United States alone with expected growth to over $11 billion in just three years according to Euromonitor International.

With that much money in the quest for perfect hair it can be overwhelming find simple solutions. If you’re anything like me you probably have a closet of styling and care products that you bought because they claimed amazing results, but it doesn’t have to be that way. It may not fully clear the clutter (because who doesn’t like trying new things?) but a few simple, basic tips will help you achieve great, healthy hair without going insane. I am by no means a hair expert nor did I go to cosmetology school, but my friend and stylist, Suzann has given me a lot of great hair coaching for how to care for you hair. I consider her an expert on the subject, considering she has taken me from black to blonde and walked me through all sorts of hair shenanigans while keeping my hair looking great. Here are the best hair lessons I’ve learned.

Credit: Amazon

Credit: Amazon

1. You are washing too often.

I used to wash my hair at least once a day every day, sometimes twice a day. My reasoning for this was that if I didn’t my hair would be dirty and I felt like I had oily hair. Turns out the opposite is true.  I actually have very dry hair because of all of the styling. Why then would my scalp be all oily the day after I washed? The answer is startlingly simple: because I was washing my hair every day plus some I was stripping my scalp of natural oils intended to condition my hair naturally. To respond to this my scalp would over-produce oil to make up for what was lost. Every day I washed my hair I was stripping the oil out and only drying out my hair more. Someone with my hair (long, dry, color-treated like crazy) really only needs to wash my hair two or three times a week at most and after some reassurance from Suzann I bit the bullet and stopped washing my hair every day. The first couple of days I skipped the suds my hair was really gross and oily. I washed my hair on day three in frustration, but felt guilty so I decided to try again and not wash the next day. To my surprise, my second day hair looked amazing. Third day hair also looked great. I actually didn’t wash my hair for five days that stretch and  only because I had some product buildup. So far I’ve managed to go eight days without washing my hair at a time, though going two days is more normal for me. The benefits I’ve seen from this? My hair is less dry, it’s more shiny, and I’ve had less loss of hair and breakage. My color also has lasted a lot longer. Turns out that the scalp with actually self-clean if cared for properly. So how do you reduce your shampooing? First, start small. Go every other day without a wash (but definitely shower or bathe the rest of your body!) Second,  you can use a dry shampoo to offset a bit of excess oil if you have it. You can also rinse your hair with a little bit of vinegar and hot water in the shower to keep things fresh. You’ll be amazed at the results.

2. Your hair needs the protection of protein.

Even if all you do is comb out your hair and call it good we are all somewhat tormenting our hair either through styling or environmental stress. It makes our hair weak to where it breaks off and otherwise just doesn’t look good. To combat that you need a product that helps restore protein to the hair. You can do this two ways. The first is through a post-conditioning leave-in product that detangles and also supplies lipids to fortify the hair. For this type of product I like Redken’s Extreme Anti-Snap. The second way to do this is through a deep conditioner that restores protein to the hair. This is especially great when combined with a reduced washing schedule. Wash your hair on your designated day, slather on some deep conditioner, and enjoy the next ten minutes of happy warm water relaxation in your bath or shower. My favorite deep conditioner is Bumble and Bumble’s Mending Masque.

3. Tools matter.

Hair is fragile stuff so it matters what things you use to tame it. Never brush wet hair as it can cause breakage. A solid wide-toothed comb is nearly always your best hair friend. You should also never use rubber bands to tie your hair back because they also cause breakage. A better-quality hot tool (curling iron, flat iron, etc) will distribute heat better than a less-expensive product  and thus make it a bit better for your hair as you can reduce the length of time the heat comes into contact with the hair. Whatever you do with your hair and whatever tools you like just be sure you are taking the time to choose good ones that are friendlier to your hair (you can always as your stylist for suggestions.)

4. You need to cut your hair.

Yep. You need to cut your hair, but I promise its not drastic. All daily wear and tear damages hair and over time you will develop split ends and other concerns. When left alone that damage can move up the shaft of the hair causing your protein products and conditioners to have to work harder just to maintain. Additionally, that damage can make the hair look frayed, dry, and not shiny. Getting regular trims will stay some of that damage and keep your hair happier. You may even see some increase in growth.

5. You are brushing too often.

I saved this tip for last because it’s something we are all guilty of. Many of us have heard the old one hundred strokes thing. Reality is you only really need to brush your hair for styling purposes. Over-brushing can cause breakage and damage, weakening the hair. Try gently brushing your hair no more than twice a day.

There you have it, my top five tips for taking better care of your hair. I encourage you to give some or all of these tips a try and, as always, if you have any great tips or suggestions leave me a comment! Until next time!

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