It’s hard to surprise a beauty editor, but when experts told us these out of the ordinary strategies for better hair, we almost didn’t believe them. Read on for their “who knew?” secrets to a more beautiful mane.
1. Brush Up
Wait, haven’t we filed the “100 strokes before bedtime” myth under Terrible Advice To Never Heed? Well, yes, but some brushing can actually be good for hair, says Hollywood hair treatment expert Philip B.
“You should always brush just before you shampoo,” says Philip, who explains that the scalp’s oil is hair’s natural conditioner. “A good brushing helps you make the most of your shampooing: It moves the natural oils off your scalp and down the hair shaft, where they’re needed. It revs up circulation and helps to loosen any dead cells or greasy build-up, so your shampoo can really do its work.”
Even curly hair should be brushed pre-shampoo, says Philip. Use a natural boar bristle brush, such as Philip B.’s Medium Round Hairbrush ($65, philipb.com), which is gentler on fine and textured hair than nylon brushes. And forget the 100 strokes; 10 or 20 should be plenty.
2. Add Color
Yes, the peroxide and ammonia in hair color can damage strands, but as long as you’re not making a drastic change (anything more than two levels lighter or darker than your current color), a fresh hue can actually make your mane shine brighter.
“Processed hair does truly shine differently than virgin hair,” says John Frieda International Creative Consultant Harry Josh, who we caught up with backstage at Zac Posen’s spring 2013 runway show. “Virgin hair can be very shiny and flaxen, but doesn’t hold texture very well. If you wave it, it goes very flat. Once you color the hair, it gives the hair a lot of hold and a lot of shine.”
Josh recommends applying hair color, such as John Frieda Precision Foam Colour ($11.99, drugstore.com), 24 hours before your big event for optimal richness and shine — and he did just that for three models at Posen’s show. If you’d rather put yourself in professional hands, Redken salons offer the oil-based, ammonia-free Chromatics color line, which actually strengthens hair follicles as it colors.
3. Eat Breakfast
You probably know that what you eat affects your hair’s health, but did you know that when you eat is just as important? Elizabeth Cunnane Phillips, who treats hair and scalp problems as a trichologist at the Philip Kingsley Clinic in New York, advises her clients to fill up “early and often.” That means “protein intake at breakfast and lunch are the key times for hair health.”
Why? Think about it: if your body only has a small amount of food energy available, it will use that energy to keep your heart, lungs and other essential organs working — hair is low-priority on the list. You want to send your brain the message that there’s plenty of fuel available to nourish your entire body, including the hair.
Phillips recommends starting the day with a balanced meal that includes complex carbohydrates and protein. Egg whites, yogurt, cottage cheese, fruits, multigrain bread and high-quality peanut butter are a few of her healthy hair picks.
4. Soothe Your Scalp
While most of us tend to fixate on scraggly split ends, the other end of the hair deserves equal TLC. “Ninety-nine percent of hair’s natural strength and beauty comes from the scalp,” says dermatologist Dr. Francesa Fusco, who works with haircare brand Clear Scalp & Hair Therapy. “Just as good soil is to a tree, a well-nourished scalp is the right foundation for strong, beautiful hair.”
Phillips, the Philip Kingsley trichologist, echoes this idea. “A healthy scalp creates a better environment to ensure healthy hair growth,” she says. She’s also a proponent of daily shampoos to keep the scalp clean and clear.
Yes To Carrots Scalp Relief Shampoo and Conditioner ($7.99 each, yestocarrots.com) both feature tea tree and lemon to treat the scalp, plus salicylic acid to promote exfoliation and reduce flaking. With a moisturizing complex of vitamins, nutrients and botanical oils, Clear Scalp & Hair Therapy Moisturizing Dry Scalp Nourishing Shampoo and Conditioner ($5.99 each, drugstore.com) treat a parched scalp, an issue that winter weather can worsen.
“I advise my patients to stick with a routine for an absolute minimum of a week to give the product time to work its magic,” says Dr. Fusco. “Of course, the longer you use it, the longer you will see continued benefits.”
What are your go-to habits for gorgeous hair?