Surviving a Bad Hair Day

Experts share their tips for taming hair that's out of control.

Medically Reviewed by Norman Levine, MD on June 01, 2007
6 min read

Sure, there are worse things in life, but let's face it, having a bad hair day can make you downright cranky. Whether you've got the frizzies, fine hair, dry hair, or just haven't had a chance to wash your hair, when your crowning glory is misbehavin' it can ruin even the best of times.

But before you reach for that baseball cap -- or worse yet those sewing shears -- there's something you should know: You can turn bad hair days into, well, stylishly acceptable days, with far less effort that you think.

Where do you start? According to Beverly Hills hairdresser Nick Chavez, it all begins with a great haircut.

"Get the very best haircut you can afford, because in the end, it's the cut that determines how easy your hair will be to style. And a good one can go a long way in helping you avoid a bad hair day," says Chavez, whose line of Perfect Plus hair care products are sold in his salon and on QVC.

When the cut is good, says Chavez, hair naturally behaves better under all circumstances and is more likely to do what you want it to.

To keep it cooperating you should have maintenance cuts every six to eight weeks. "Maintaining a good cut is key, particularly when hair is layered. If it gets too long, your style will be weighted down so you won't get that bounce and body you had when the cut was new," says Chavez.

In between cuts use a shampoo best suited for your hair type and scalp condition.

"If your hair is fine and limp go for a volumizing shampoo and conditioner. The new technologies can really build body into your hair and make a huge difference when it comes to styling," he says. Other products, including his own "hair flocker," actually thicken hair on the spot, making it look fuller so it needs less styling effort.

If hair is damaged, look for the best salon-quality shampoo and conditioner you can afford. And be sure your hair care also includes a leave-in conditioner.

Chavez says coating hair with a leave-in conditioner takes 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," he says.

Also remember that if hair is "normal" - not damaged and not dry - you don't need to use conditioner after each and every shampoo, says West Hollywood stylist Jean-Paul Jouve.

Tips for Problem Hair

If you're like most women, it's not so much the condition of your hair as it is those frustrating styling annoyances that turn a good hair day bad.

Among the most frustrating: static flay-away hair. The best solution: rubbing your hair with a dryer sheet (like Bounce). Much the way it keeps your undies from sticking to your socks in the dryer, Chavez says it will also keep hairs from sticking together -- making styling easier.

For even more protection, try a tourmaline comb, made from a mineral that neutralizes the static charge. What can also help: Toss those nylon bristle brushes and opt for all-natural bristle brushes.

Another source of hair care woes -- environmental assaults. This includes sun, wind, and temperature changes, as well as indoor heat in winter and air conditioning in summer. Experts say all those can dry hair, bring out the frizzies, and generally make it harder to control and style. If hair is color treated, you'll feel the impact even more.

"From a technical standpoint, there's a protective coating on hair called the hydrolipidic film. If you have dry hair, that film is broken down somewhat anyway. When you color it, it breaks down a little more - but when you add sun, salt water you can destroy the film altogether," says Melissa Baker, national training advisor for Rene Furterer hair care products in Paris.

While sometimes a conditioning treatment will do the trick, when it doesn't, the next step is to incorporate a hair mask into your regimen -- a treatment that does for your tresses what a facial does for your skin.

"A mask is loaded with emollients that will coat the hair and help close the cuticle," says legendary celebrity stylist Peter Lamas, director of, and author of Beauty Basics. He saysthis lets you add moisture, then trap it inside, so styling is easier.

If your hair is truly stubborn about holding a curl or even a wave, a few quick product switches may be all you need. Boston salon owner Marc Harris says start by using a styling creamfor a styling gel.

"This will add moisture to your hair, make it more pliable, and increase elasticity," says Harris.

If your hair is dry or damaged, avoid styling products with a high alcohol content, he says, and never spray fragrance on your locks.

"The alcohol content can make hair brittle and much harder to style," says Harris, owner of Salon Marc Harris on Newbury Street.

Most importantly: Limit time under the blow dryer. Harris says towel-dry hair first to remove at least 20% of the moisture, then hit with the dryer on low heat. And, he says, "Stop the minute your hair is dry. Don't use the dryer to style it."

If there's no time for your normal shampoo/blow-dry routine, experts suggest a dry shampoo -- products that use dry, oil-absorbing ingredients like cornstarch to clean hair without water. You simply spray in the dry shampoo, fluff with your fingers, and brush it out. You'll get a root lift and your style will look refreshed.

Moreover, dry shampoos are the secret weapon for many women with fine or limp hair. Even if your tresses are clean, a quick spray at the roots with dry shampoo and you've got instant lift and volume.

Hair Extensions: What You Should Know

If, no matter how you try, bad hair days just seem to multiply, then you might be the perfect candidate for the newest generation of hair helpers: extensions, clip-on pony tails, and even full wigs. No longer just the props of Vegas show girls or little old ladies, today everyone from pop stars to supermodels are turning bad hair days good with synthetic hair pieces.

Hair extensions can give you that "Hollywood look," says specialist Dayna Gamba of Shag Salon in South Boston

There are two different types of hair extensions, permanent and clip-on. The permanent are either sewn or bonded to your natural hair and last up to five months.

"Permanent extensions are a great way to add fullness, length, or even highlights to your hair," says Gamba. This red-carpet look doesn't come cheap though, says Gamba. The cost for that full head of hair runs as high as $2,000.

Less expensive -- and some say easier to wear -- are the new clip-on extensions. Costing as little as $50, they use tiny, nearly invisible clips to attach to your real hair in seconds. You layer them, building volume, until you arrive at the look you like.

For an even quicker fix, try a clip on ponytail or bun. Pull your own hair back and pin in place, and clip on a brand new look! Costing between $25 and $100, they can add instant glamour and pizzazz -- and they stay put. You can dance the night away!

Finally, when it comes to truly instant glamour, don't overlook the power of a wig. It can also offer you an instant change of color, style, or length. Now if you're thinking hot, heavy, mannequin-fake hair, guess again. Today's synthetic wigs are whisper-light, many are capless, and most are heat-set into a permanent style that requires nothing more than popping it out of the box, giving it a quick shake and "voila" -- it's an instant great hair day!

With additional reporting by Carol Sorgen.