adj. Elastic, resilient, resistant to breakage
Hair is made of a protein called keratin plus amino acids, and each strand is like a power cord: It has an outer sheath, or cuticle, that encases the inner cortex. The cuticle can withstand abuse such as heat and brushing — to a point. Even durable strands can use a jolt of support.
Take charge with these tips:
Handle with care. “Hair can be stretched 30 percent of its length before it breaks,” says Philip Kingsley, Ph.D., a trichologist (hair and scalp expert) in London. “Water makes it swell, so vigorously combing damp strands will cause them to snap.” In the shower, saturate hair with conditioner, then detangle to help knots slide out easily, says Sarah Potempa, a stylist in New York City for Aussie.
Cool it. Heated tools deliver great looks, but they can also burn hair. Before wielding your flatiron, apply a styling product that uses cuticle coaters like silicone to protect. Once a week, clean tools with alcohol to remove product residue, which can sear into hair, making it brittle.
Be salon smart. The ends of your hair split as they age (strands can be up to two years old, depending on their length), Kingsley says. Get a trim every 10 weeks, and wait about the same amount of time between color visits, especially for highlights. For root touch-ups (which you can do more frequently), ask for dye with less ammonia, a chemical which can make hair wiry over time.
adj. Silky to the touch, swingy, bouncy
Smooth cuticles are the ticket to irresistibly sexy hair, and there’s no better polisher than conditioner.
It’s chockablock with fatty alcohols, oils and other sleekifiers. But don’t slap on any cream rinse and call it a day. Use these hair-quenching ideas:
Seal the deal. You may not shampoo every day (it strips hair’s oils), but you should condition each time hair is wet, to lock in moisture. “When water evaporates, it draws moisture from inside the shaft, drying it out,” says William George, owner of James Joseph salon in Boston.
Start with strokes. Before stepping into the shower, gently comb dry hair to dissolve product buildup, dirt and oil, says Jet Rhys, a salon owner in San Diego. The gunk will quickly rinse out, leaving a clean surface for conditioner to penetrate. Squeeze out excess water before applying conditioner, George says. Hair is like a sponge — if it’s saturated with water, it can’t soak up anything else.
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Go deep. Coping with coarse, strawlike hair that rivals Raggedy Ann’s mop top? Rather than hide under a hat, try a supercharged treatment that contains amino acids and natural oils, such as PhytoSpecific Intense Nutrition Mask, $28, twice a week. Massage into scalp with fingertips, then comb through hair. Next, wet a towel, wring out water and microwave it for a few seconds. Wrap the warm towel around your head and wait 20 minutes before rinsing. The towel traps heat, increasing absorption, says Adir Abergel, a stylist in Los Angeles.
adj. Glossy, bright, reflects light
Ruffles may be a big fashion trend this spring, but hair looks best when its cuticles — which are composed of cells that overlap like shingles on a roof — remain flat. If they’re on an even plane, light bounces off, creating a high sheen. These tricks will keep hair in prime-shine condition.
Go gently. Wet cuticles lift easily, putting out the welcome mat for frizz and dullness. Frantic towel-drying can rough up the cuticle, too. Try patting strands with a superabsorbent towel. Start at roots, soaking up water, then slide down to the tips.
Gleam on. The ideal shine-enhancing duo: a blow-dryer and boar-bristle brush. After tousle-drying with fingers, go through sections with the brush. The bristles are slightly textured to smooth the cuticle delicately, Abergel says. Dry hair downward, in the direction the cuticle lies, for a mirrorlike luster.
Finish up. Tame errant flyaways by spritzing a paddle brush with shine spray and lightly brushing from roots to ends; this will deposit enough product to calm frizz without making hair oilier, Abergel says. To touch up dull, frayed ends quickly — necessary the day after a blowout — awring out an aloe-infused baby wipe and slide it down the bottom 3 inches of hair, Rhys says.
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