Undoing the Damage
While damaging hair can come easy, repair can be frustratingly hard. Experts say that's because many of us turn to styling aids -- such as mousses and gels -- to force our damaged tresses to do what we want. And that can be a big mistake.
"If you are having problems with your hair -- it's frizzy or won't hold a curl or style -- it's natural to reach for more styling aids. But when hair is damaged, these products can make it look and feel worse," says stylist Juan Juan of J Beverly Hills Salon, and developer of J Beverly Hills hair products.
Instead says Juan, begin at the beginning -- by first replenishing hair with a salon-quality moisturizing shampoo and rinse-out conditioner. But, he says, don't consider yourself "finished" before adding a leave-in conditioner as well.
"Rinse-out conditioners do not deposit any protection on the hair -- in fact, if you leave any residue on your hair it can react with the elements and cause even more damage," Juan tells WebMD.
Conversely, he says, coating hair with a leave-in conditioner -- products that are usually sprayed on after washing or styling -- take protection and manageability to a whole new level.
"It coats the hair which helps seal in the moisture you replenished with your shampoo and conditioner, but it also seals out further effects of damaging elements, such as the sun or even air pollution," says Juan.
While this combo can often do the trick, if it doesn't, the next step is to incorporate a hair mask into your regimen. A relatively new term in the hair care industry, a mask for your tresses does somewhat the same thing as a facial masque does for your complexion. In short, it revitalizes and replenishes deep within the hair shaft.
"A mask is loaded with emollients and vitamins that will coat the hair and help close the cuticle," says Lamas. This, he says, lets you add moisture, and then trap it inside to help the hair look and feel better.
To properly use this treatment, experts say dampen hair with water, then coat the scalp and each strand with your mask. Wrap your hair in a towel or plastic cling wrap for up to one hour.
"The longer you can leave it on your hair, the better the result," says Juan. When you're done, shampoo and condition hair as you normally would.
"The mask step is essential if you want to keep coloring hair that is somewhat damaged; if you use the mask the day before coloring or highlighting you are less likely to harm your hair," says Juan.