The real reason your hair looks (and feels!) so darn good after a trip to the salon? It's because the pros understand that the key to happy hair is a well-ecuted shampoo. You read that right. There is, in fact, a wrong way to wash your hair, and doing so can take those strands from silky and shiny to totally lackluster.
But luckily it's never too late to start stepping up your shampoo game. We turned to the pros to get the scoop on the most common mistakes and how to avoid 'em. Starting with...
You're washing your hair too often.
The not-so-secret secret of the world's best-tressed? They don't wash their hair nearly as often as you'd think. "Most young women today wash their hair way too much!" says Anthony Cole, lead stylist for Sebastian Professional Hair care. "Three times a week is sufficient for most hair types." If this seems counter-intuitive, consider this: Your hair actually produces more oil when washed too frequently. Who would've guessed?
You shower in piping-hot water.
As relaxing as a steamy shower may be, exposing your strands to super-high temperatures leaves them looking dry and lifeless. Though there's no exact temp that's been proven ideal, it is preferable to keep it on the cooler side, according to Oscar Blandi, the brains behind the Oscar Blandi hair care line. "It helps lock in the moisture and benefits your hair in the long-run."
You're scrubbing your scalp.
Since healthy hair begins at the scalp—literally—being extra-gentle when washing at the root is of utmost importance. "Don't use your nails or massage the scalp too harshly," says Blandi. "You want to apply minimal pressure. Your scalp might naturally feel it, but it's not as dirty as you think." That said, according to Blandi, two rounds of (gentle, non-abrasive) shampooing usually does the trick to clean your scalp—the first is purely to remove build-up.
Your shampoo isn't right for your hair type.
Shampoo isn't in your hair for that long, so it doesn't really matter what kind you use, right? Wrong, say the pros. As with skin care, it's all about identifying your hair type and choosing a formulation best-suited for your needs. If you've got oily hair, consider a purifying shampoo and steer clear of those that are overly-hydrating or moisturizing. "A light clarifying shampoo can be good to use occasionally," says Blandi. "Just be sure to use it sparingly so it doesn't dry out your scalp."
If your hair is on the other side of the spectrum, i.e. dry, opt for the opposite. Smoothing, moisturizing formulas will be your jam. Coarse hair, too, benefits from shampoos with these attributes. "Look for labels that say 'hydrating,'" says Blandi. "Using a shampoo that has moisture in it will make your hair more manageable." What's not to love about that?
And if your hair is on the fine side, a gentle shampoo should be your go-to. Use a small amount as not to weigh down strands.
You aren't patient with your conditioner.
Patience is a virtue—especially when it comes to conditioning. Unlike shampoo, it's not about a quick massage and rinse. "You should start applying conditioner, mid-shaft downward towards the ends," says Cole, who warns against ever conditioning at the root. "While the product is still in your hair, use a wide-tooth comb to detangle. You can leave the conditioner in and wrap your hair in a towel for five to seven minutes." Nailing that timing is the tricky part, according to Cole. "Any longer than that will leave residue in your hair."
You're too harsh on your post-shower strands.
You may be out of the shower, but your job isn't done just yet. The way you treat your hair post-wash is vital to its overall health and appearance. "After you towel-dry, it's always good to put some sort of protectant in, especially if you plan on using a hot tool," says Blandi, whose own Pronto Dry Styling Heat Protect Spray safeguards hair up to 450 °F. "Remember, if you do plan on using a hot tool, you should never use it on hair that is even slightly damp. Hair needs to be fully dry before applying such heat." But you knew that.
Now we're sending you off to give yourself a good cleanse-condition sesh, but we want you to report back! Let us know in the comments below if your hair feels any different after following these guidelines.