This week, Man Repeller interviewed celebrity hairstylist Jen Atkins and asked who has her favorite hair in the whole world. When I read she said Sade instead me, Elizabeth, I was crushed. How was it possible that Jen had not heard about my long, luscious, shiny, healthy locks? Hair so beautiful that were it longer I would be crowned a modern-day Rapunzel? A blonde so perfectly blonde I put the Olsen twins to shame? Clearly she was missing out on her new hair muse. There are those who dread the daily battle with their frizzy, untameable locks and end up throwing it in a bun (not knocking on top knots here, but there’s a time and place). That used to be me, but no longer. I am a walking Pantene ad, and I am here to share my secrets.
Keep reading for the do’s and don’ts of achieving hair that stays smooth, strong and shiny like the mane of an Akhal Teke (I mean, goals).
Believe you me, there was a time when whipping out my hot pink flat iron before school was the highlight of my day. The smell of singed locks really got me excited for a day of sleek, smooth, whip-over-your-shoulder-as-your-crush-walks-by-your-locker hair! But alas, I have grown to understand that heat is damaging to your delicate strands. I have fine hair, but a lot of it, which means I need a lot of heat for the desired straightened/curled effects. And along with more heat? More damage. So, gone are the years of straight, heat-damaged hair for me. Today I have fully embraced my natural wavy hair texture, and rarely, if ever, do I use a blow dryer (on a low heat setting!) to assist with drying.
It is said that you should only shampoo every other day so as not to strip your hair of its natural oils. While I try to follow this rule, I still condition on a daily basis. To avoid the dreaded *snarl* I use a lot of conditioner. A lot. I’m talking two palm-fulls per shower. I’ll start with one glob, coat my hair from the middle to the ends, work it in, and let it sit for 3-5 minutes while I shave my legs. Then I’ll wash it out by combing my fingers through my hair, and follow up with a second round of conditioner in any spots that seemed to snag during the finger-combing sesh.
There are many cited benefits to taking cold showers, including shinier hair. You know how when it’s really humid outside your hair gets frizzy? Well, the hot water and steam from your shower can cause the same effect. Keeping the water at a lower temp (I’m not suggesting an ice bath here) can help keep the hair shaft from opening up, fraying, and encouraging split ends. I have also found a cooler shower not only makes my hair shinier, but smoother. The sleeker my hair, the less chance there is for knotting, snarling, or other unmentionables. Which brings me to brushing…
You might be making a face, but hear me out. Because of all I do in the shower to ensure my hair doesn’t get tangled, I usually don’t need to brush it. Sometimes, when necessary, I will comb my hair out in the shower when it is still wet, and where I have conditioner on hand as my trusty assistant to get the snarls out. Bonus: I have found that my natural, wavy texture actually looks best when I let it air dry. Hair is often broken by brushing, and healthy cells can also be stripped off your scalp. In addition, brushing can break your natural wave pattern, which is usually the style in which your hair looks best!
As a teen, my scalp would go from dry to oily within a matter of 24 hours. I couldn’t tell if I needed a dandruff shampoo or a moisturizing one (I tried both and everything in between), until I finally realized that the type of product wasn’t important, but rather the ingredients were. Namely, I needed a product that was both sulfate and paraben-free. With a little research, I discovered that brands often use these chemical additives to create that sought-after silky, shiny, voluminous lewk. In reality, both parabens and sulfates are likely to build up on the scale, creating more of a problem than they solve. I immediately switched to a more natural, zero-additive formula, and haven’t looked back since.
After years of showing hairdressers pictures of Blake Lively at the height of the Gossip Girl craze, golden hair layered to boho perfection, and years of my hair never looking like S’s, I finally realized: It’s not just me. I don’t have a team of people dedicated to making my hair look like Blake’s perfectly tousled tresses, and I’m not willing to blow dry, straighten, curl, or spend even more than five minutes messing around with my ‘do. When I finally started being honest about the amount of maintenance I was willing to put into my daily hair routine (read: minimal to none), I found the longevity and overall look of my haircuts were actually improving. Honesty is honestly the best policy.
And now…a roundup of my favorite products for healthy, well-thy hair: