The Top 5 Tips For Keeping Your Hair In Mint Condition
For centuries women all around the globe have tapped into natural, indigenous staples for hair repair. From Thailand to Texas, many have sworn by the unadulterated homemade remedies for sheen, luster and moisture found in coconut and olive oil, avocadoes and eggs. But with the myriad styling options at our disposal—think relaxers, hair color, weaves and braid extensions–that can weaken our manes’ natural molecular structure, today’s fly girl needs conditioning formulas laced with a healthy dose of technological strength. “The purpose of conditioners is two-fold,” says hair pro Marvin A. Carrington of Indra Salon in New York City. “They put the nutrients back into you hair that shampoos and chemicals take out, and they add strength and moisture which get depleted from environmental elements and the products you use each day.” Master stylist Craig Carter of New York’s Carlos Lobos salon concurs. “Shampooing removes dirt, oil and general buildup, but it also upsets the hair’s balance a little bit, making it dry and brittle,” he says. “Conditioners help to rebuild and repair its structure on a molecular level.” The basics? Everyone needs a moisturizing conditioner, states Carrington. “But seek professional advice because sometimes you need a combination of protein and moisture, and your stylist can advise you when to switch it up,” he says.
Thankfully, for each problem that occurs, whether it’s breakage, dryness or dull, lifeless strands, there’s a quick or deep-penetrating über-solution at the salon or at home. On the next few pages, our experts pinpoint the five most common problems and the bounce-back conditioning solutions that truly work.
1. Hair S.O.S.: Extreme damage
Your Rx: Hair Masks
What they do: Created with keratin or protein, hair masks are considered the big guns of hair repair for restoring a mane’s natural luster.
Works best on: All hair types—wavy, curly and coarse as well as fine, medium and thick textures—can benefit from a mask if the hair is extremely damaged.
Try: Federic Fekkai Protein Rx Reparative Treatment Mask, $28; Phytokarite Hair Treatment Mask with Shea Butter, $36; Rene Furterer Okara Restructuring Mask, $25, all available at sephora.com; Neutrogena Triple Moisture Deep Recovery Hair Mask, $6.99, available at drugstore.com.
Rx tip: Best to help repair thick, coarse, dry hair with split ends.
2. Hair S.O.S.: Extremely dry, brittle and weak strands
Your Rx: Deep Conditioners
What they do: Deep conditioners are available in protein or moisturizing formulas. Determining the right formula to use depends on the exact cause of your hair’s dryness or weakened state. As a rule of thumb, protein conditioners add strength and elasticity to hair that is chemically treated, damaged or extremely dry and brittle. “The hair has three layers: the cuticle, cortex and medulla,” says Carter. “A protein conditioner will be able to penetrate all the way to the medulla to strengthen hair from the inside out.” Moisturizing conditioners are formulated with humectants, the chemical agents that attract moisture to hair. These types of treatments are the most effective because they penetrate the hair shaft to impart needed nutrients and moisture.
Works best on: With the exception of hair that’s really fine, “all textures, from wavy to tightly coiled, benefit from moisturizing conditioners,” says celebrity stylist Diane DaCosta.
Try: Bumble and bumble Deeep Treatment, $28.99; Burt’s Bees; Keratase Nutritive Masquintense Intense Enriching Treatment, Fine, $33.99, all available at drugstore.com; Curl Junkie Guava and Protein Deep Fix, $12, available at naturallycurly.com; L’Oréal Nature’s Therapy Mega Moisture, $12.34, available at drugstores nationwide. Choose for your hair type and watch them work their magic.
Rx tip: For best results, leave on hair for 15 to 20 minutes under heat, and no more than once a week. Always follow protein conditioners with a conditioning rinse to keep hair soft and malleable.
3. Hair S.O.S: Fried and over-processed
Your Rx: Hot Oil Treatments
What they do: When used as part of a steam treatment, with a hot towel or under a hooded dryer, oil treatments enrich the scalp and hair shaft to impart a healthy sheen. While molecules in oil treatments by themselves do not penetrate the hair shaft, they need heat to open the cuticle layer for deeper penetration.
Works best on: Natural hair that is curly, or tightly coiled chemically treated textures.
Try: L’Oréal Nature’s Therapy Hot Oil Botanical Treatment, $5.99, available at drugstores nationwide—we absolutely swear by this formula!
Rx tip: Not recommended for fine hair.
4. Hair S.O.S.: Matted hair
Your Rx: Instant Conditioners
What they do: Perfect as a follow-up on freshly relaxed hair, instant conditioners are also great for detangling and softening hair after shampooing and for use after protein conditioners, which can sometimes leave hair brittle. Says Carrington, “They help to remove shampoo residue and make hair manageable.”
Works best on: Instant formulas work on all hair types, especially natural hair textures.
Try: Cantu Shea Butter After Shampoo Rinse-out Conditioner, $3.99; Aveda Brilliant conditioner, $19.99, available at drugstore.com
Rx tip: Leave on hair for a few minutes after shampooing, then rinse out immediately.
5. Hair S.O.S.: Gym hair burnout
Your Rx: Leave-in Conditioners
What they do: Using leave-in conditioners help to maintain the integrity of hair between shampoos, say our experts. They coat the hair and help to protect it from the rigors of styling and environmental damage.
Works best on: “They’re especially good for wavy and curly hair because they de-frizz and hold the curl pattern,” says DaCosta.
Try: Carol’s Daughter Tui Leave-in Conditioner (the scent is to die for!), $10, available at Carol’s Daughter stores in Brooklyn and Harlem, and at sephora.com; Ellin LaVar DetangleMist, $7.99, available at ellinlavar.com; Infusium23, $6.29, available at drugstore.com.