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    Go ahead. Try a fun new hairdo. Take a dip in the pool or a vacation at the beach. But just as you'd slather on sunscreen to shield your skin, take steps to protect your hair.

    Sun exposure, chlorine, and salt water can dry hair out. Heat-styling and chemical processing can lead to a string of bad hair days. But there are a lot of things you can do to keep your hair smooth and silky. Even if you've already got split ends and breaks, you can use damage-control tricks to make it look healthier.

    Protect Your Hair

    "Prevention is key," says Eugene Toye, senior stylist at Rita Hazan Salon in New York. His clients include Sofia Vergara and Neil Patrick Harris.

    These simple tips can go a long way toward staving off damage:

    • Shampoo. Choose a shampoo formulated for your hair type. Many shampoos have detergent-like ingredients called sulfates to remove excess dirt and oil, but these can damage hair. Look for formulas that say “sulfate free” and list dimethicone as an ingredient. It increases shine and manageability.
    • Moisturize. After every shampoo, use a conditioner designed for dry or damaged hair. Toye suggests also using regular at-home treatments like deep conditioners (also called protein packs). For mildly dry hair, you may need only one treatment a month. If your hair is very dry, use a deep conditioner once or even twice a week. Your stylist can tell you how often to use it.
    • Comb carefully. Dry, damaged hair is prone to breaking because it's so fragile. “Excessive pulling caused by using the wrong comb or brush is a main cause," says Debra Jaliman, MD, a dermatologist and author of Skin Rules: Trade Secrets from a Top New York Dermatologist. Toye suggests using a wide-toothed comb or a brush that's labeled specifically for detangling hair before getting in the shower. It's more difficult to detangle wet hair without pulling, he says.
    • Dry gently. Go easy on towel drying to prevent your dry hair from breaking. Instead of rubbing vigorously, Toye suggests squeezing out water softly -- as you would with a cashmere sweater.
    • Spare the heat. Limit heat styling to once a week, and use the lowest setting on blow dryers, flat irons, and curling irons. To buy extra time between heat stylings, Toye suggests using a dry shampoo. After applying styling products like gel or mousse and before using heat, put a thermal-protection spray or serum on your hair. “These act like a buffer that prevents heat damage," Toye says.

    THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment and should not be relied on to make decisions about your health. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the WebMD Site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.

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