Photo courtesy of Ilirida Krasniqi
Ask Jean: The Healthy-Hair Starter Kit
We want to answer your most pressing questions—or, you know, just the things that you’re curious about. Please keep them coming to [email protected]. Below, a q for our beauty director, Jean Godfrey-June.
Dear Jean, It’s becoming painfully clear that I no longer have the hair of my youth. How do I take care of my hair as I age (and help restore it to its glory days)? —Olivia
Dear Olivia, As with changes in our skin, few of us really take in the fact that hair can look either youthful or aged until, suddenly, our hair has changed. There’s a glossy, supple quality to our hair when we’re young, and over the years (and, more importantly, over the many color and texture treatments we subject it to), it generally gets coarser and duller.
But whether it’s age—grey hair, for example, has a coarser texture than other hair (more on that below)—or repeated heat, color, or chemical treatments that have leached away the shine and the bounce, restoring it, in most cases, is not just possible but relatively easy.
Get the basics right
(and include some biotin).
Taking a high-quality daily multivitamin (particularly one that includes biotin, iron, and zinc) supports not just your overall health but your hair as well, says Thira Burns, MS, RDN, and director of product development for beauty and wellness here at goop. “The structures that make up the hair, skin, and nails are made up of constantly growing and dividing cells that require nutrients to function,” she says. “Without sufficient amounts of these nutrients, our bodies have to prioritize where to allocate energy: Sustain muscle function or grow luscious hair? A high-quality complete multivitamin is one of the easiest ways to close the gap.”
You can build in shine and texture.
Glossy, bouncy hair starts in the shower—or, actually, 20 minutes before the shower, with a miraculous preshampoo serum that really does change the way your hair looks and feels, even long after it’s been washed out. I didn’t believe it until I tried it—my hair was noticeably shinier and bouncier and just better-textured after the first time I smoothed it in. If I want my hair to look its best, this is the golden ticket.
Ultramoisturizing shampoo and conditioner also make a big difference in the way your hair looks and feels (when my hair feels like straw, it looks like straw). I live for this hydrating combination from Rahua.
Unscientific Tip from Practically Every Hairdresser on Earth
When you’re about to get out of the shower, turn the water on cold and blast your hair with it. I loathe this step so much that I rarely do it, but the world of hair people swears it makes your hair shinier.
Once you’re out of the shower, condition again—at the ends. My hair is long, so I consider my ends to start around the edge of my chin or even my ears, but use your judgment. I spritz on this new, meadowfoam- and tsubaki seed–infused leave-in, then brush it through with the world’s best brush, which is like a comb and a brush at once; the wooden bristles feel fantastic on your scalp, and they slide through tangles like a dream.
Curly hair doesn’t show its age as much—unless you straighten it.
Maybe it’s that with all the bends, curlier hair reflects light in many different spots, or that curls are just a little less severe. But if you straighten and color your hair, it’s double the damage; no matter your age, focus on moisturizing, smoothing, and silkifying. Use protective heat tools—the dryer from Ga.Ma. emits active oxygen to help smooth and preserve color, for example. Or air-dry, then finish only the top with a straight iron (the GHD one is preset to max out at 365 degrees Fahrenheit, the perfect temperature to get maximum style with minimal damage). If you’re styling to make your hair wavier or curlier, apply a similar technique: Air-dry until almost dry, then blow-dry just to lock in the style, or air-dry and then curl.
Ga.Ma. Italy Professional IQ Perfetto Hair Dryer goop, $399SHOP NOW
GHD Hair Unplugged Cordless Styler goop, $299SHOP NOW
NuMe Hair Lustrum 5-in-1 Interchangeable Curling Wand goop, $179SHOP NOW
Also, consider going with your natural texture. Find a beautiful celebrity who has hair like the way yours looks naturally. (When hair guru Sally Hershberger told me my hair looked like Gisele’s, I stopped blow-drying forever.)
No matter your texture, minimize frizz.
Is older hair frizzier? Debatable but probable. More-damaged hair is absolutely frizzier in any case. All of the above advice (super moisturizing products, avoiding damage, etc.) minimizes frizz, but you can go further. Start with actual antifrizz shampoo and conditioner, and, now that they’ve introduced a brilliant one, finish with a leave-in. In the summer, when my hair is at its best (the humidity gives me great curl), it’s also at its frizziest, so I put the genius Grown Alchemist in the shower for the season. (I also love their Nourishing Shampoo and Conditioner.)
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Believe it or not, the towel you use to dry your hair can really affect frizz: A typical towel roughs up the cuticle of your hair—particularly if you agitate it the way we’ve all been taught to. A fast-drying, smooth microfiber one makes all the difference (I am so obsessed with the results of this one that I pack it when I travel).
After you’ve squeezed all the water from your hair in the shower, wrap the Aquis gently around your hair, twist it up, and let it sit there for a few minutes to let the moisture absorb into the towel (the brand makes a turban, if you prefer). Then carefully unwind. Top LA stylist (and GP favorite) Adir Abergel takes this a red-carpet-or-really-major-event step further by using paper towels in place of any other sort of towel to soak up water in the hair, but I have yet to have an event important enough to merit such an effort.
The last thing to remember regarding frizz is the terrible power of the brush. Brush your hair absolutely as little as possible. Every time you brush, you infuse a little more air in between the strands of your hair. I do it once—with the beloved Crown Affair or the bendy, Instagram-fabulous Manta—and step away from the brush preferably until the next wash.
Doesn’t stimulating your scalp make your hair look more youthful?
And aren’t you supposed to brush your hair 100 times before bed? This advice is about two things: moving the oils from your scalp down the lengths of your hair to the drier ends (a fine idea) and stimulating your scalp, which many believe (again, there is little science here) to encourage hair health and growth. One hundred strokes seems excessive, but it depends on you and your hair. The advice I hear constantly from hair professionals around stimulating the scalp focuses on giving yourself a scalp massage in the shower—just like the massage you’d get at the salon. This advice I do take: It feels fantastic, for one. I up the ante and shampoo with our G.Tox salt scrub shampoo, which is made with big chunks of pink Himalayan salt that feel unbelievable, especially combined with the foamy, moisturizing, whipped shampoo. Truly, there’s nothing like a head massage with that shampoo.
Silk really does make a difference in the health—and look—of your hair.
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Hair ties can not only leave a dent but break and even pull out your hair. These chic black silk ones hold even the slipperiest hair snugly.
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Preserve a style and prevent frizz and breakage simply by sleeping on a silk pillowcase. (Bonus: You’ll wake up with smoother-looking skin, too.)
The right styler adds shine, zaps frizz, and conditions all at once.
But finding “right” involves trial and error—there’s no way around it. Some people’s hair gets a gorgeous sheen with a little hair oil run through it, and others do better with a light cream. Whatever you use, start with very little, smooth it between your hands, and twist small pieces of your ends between your fingers, or hover your flattened palms just over the surface of the top of your hair. As you need more, start to run your fingers through the lengths of your hair.
What about grey hair?
Coloring your hair, as mentioned above, can really take the life out of your hair. Coloring your hair, however, is something many of us do (L’Oréal estimates that close to 50 percent of women in the US color their hair). Little to no hair color is clean by goop standards: Permanent hair color contains some of the most toxic ingredients allowed in the beauty industry, and, perhaps surprisingly, the most problematic shades are black and brown (blondes are more dependent on bleach, which, while toxic on skin, doesn’t cause the sometimes-deadly allergic reactions that the darker-pigment chemicals like PPD can).
Many people look absolutely gorgeous with grey hair; for those who aren’t into how it looks on them, there are many options. You can avoid many of the most problematic chemicals by using less-permanent, PPD-free formulas. The brush-on, lasts-till-the-next-shampoo powdered eye shadows for hair really do work; the ones from Color Wow are absolutely amazing. And a company called Arey makes a supplement called Not Today, Grey, made with high-potency B vitamins (including biotin), that helps maintain healthy hair pigmentation over time.
Don’t color your whole head.
If you’ve got roots—grey or otherwise—color only your roots. Permanent hair color works by bleaching your hair (even if the color you’re depositing is blackest black), so each time you color over existing color, you increase the damage (and thus flatness and dullness). People tend to go grey in the most obvious spots—around the face in particular—so zero in on and treat only the roots; you’ll expose yourself to significantly fewer chemicals and dramatically decrease the damage to your hair.
Temporary color has the added advantage that it doesn’t bleach your hair before depositing color, so it doesn’t have the dulling, damaging effects that permanent color does on your hair. A particularly fantastic combination is to color your roots and treat your ends and lengths with a mask, oil, or serum at the same time—just don’t mix the two formulas as you’re washing them out, as oil applied immediately after color can deplete the color.