We all know that mixed feeling of stress and excitement at the end of the summer as you transition back from relaxing in the sunshine to the hustle and bustle of school and work. While there are many things to consider in this period—like whether the blazer still fits or if the shoes need a quick shine—stressing about having healthy hair should not be one of them.
So as you step into a new routine, it's a good to time question how to have healthy hair again. Now’s your chance to revamp your haircare practices and ensure your mane remains stylish and healthy for the whole semester.
We've curated 25 invaluable tips to help nurture your hair, prevent damage, and exude confidence whether sitting in a classroom or acing that boardroom presentation. From easy-to-implement daily habits to seasonal treatments, we've got you covered. We'll also share some of our favorite products. Get ready to unlock the secrets to vibrant, strong, and stunning hair that perfectly complements your journey back to school or work.
How can you tell if hair is healthy?
Everyone wants to have healthy hair, but what does this actually mean? First, let's talk about the feel of your hair. Healthy hair is usually soft, shiny, and strong. Healthy manes also have elasticity meaning it stretches and bounces while brushing or styling with minimal breakage. So on the flip side, what does unhealthy hair look like? Unhealthy hair appears dull, breaks easily, and falls victim to split ends easily.
Whether you have a toxic relationship with your blow dryer, or it's just been a while since you've had a trim, split ends are hard to avoid and impossible to fuse back once the damage is done. But fortunately, we do have a couple of hacks for keeping them at bay, along with a host of other tips for healthy hair, to help ensure that your mane is in good condition before you walk back through those school gates (or virtual office doors).
25 Healthy Hair Habits
Use products formulated for your hair type.
The start of a new semester is the perfect time for a fresh start, and the same applies to your hair routine. We know that all hair is unique, so we recommend consulting a stylist to develop a game plan for your hair this fall. They'll be able to advise you on what hair care products and routines will be most effective for your hair type.
For example, straight and fine hair benefits from lightweight products, so it doesn’t get weighed down. Whereas, a curly hair routine needs to include plenty of nourishing, frizz-fighting formulas to help you achieve bouncier, smoother ringlets.
Take it easy with the heat.
You may find yourself asking, “How can I make my hair healthier?” Well, one of the worst things we do to our hair is damage it with heat-styling tools, including blow dryers, flat irons, and curling irons. So, to help improve health, handling the heat with caution is an important step. We're not saying to ban these entirely from your hair repertoire, but do scale back on the heat where you can. The following tips will give you some ideas of how you can do this.
Reduce the blowdry time.
Minimizing the blowdry duration is one way to reduce heat damage and keep your locks looking healthy. You can do this by embracing 100% air drying or allowing your hair to dry a quarter to three-quarters of the way before going in with the blow dryer. The next tip is to use a blow dry spray like Redken Quick Blow Out Spray, which offers heat protection for up to 450 degrees and conditions your hair while accelerating the time it takes to dry.
Use low heat settings.
If you'd rather use your trusted set of straighteners or curling iron, just be mindful of the heat settings. Keep the heat on the lower side to prevent excess damage. This means turning down the temperature setting on your flat iron or curling iron and not turning the air power all the way up on your blow dryer.
Alternatively, use a tool like L'Oréal Professionnel Steampod Hair Straightener + Curling Iron. This innovative iron uses the power of steam to style your mane two times faster, two times smoother, and with 91% less breakage*, as no one wants to be that classmate with singed hair on the first day back!*Compared to Steampod heating plates alone
Air dry your hair.
We've already talked about going easy on the heat. But, for those times when you'd like to use a curling iron, we've found you a happy compromise. Wherever possible, air dry your hair before styling rather than using a blow dryer, as it helps to minimize heat damage. Not only that, it saves you time and effort to let your luscious locks dry freely. And if you're not looking to style with heat, we love the au natural look just as much. So whether you plan on heat styling after air drying or not, we recommend using Pureology Hydrate Superfood Treatment for added softness, shine, and moisture fresh out of the shower.
Opt for cool showers.
While it may be tempting to whack up the heat and enjoy a steamy shower, many stylists recommend a cooler temperature to minimize frizz and boost shine. We recommend combining the cool temp with Matrix Keep Me Vivid Shampoo and Conditioner for an even more vibrant, healthy-looking result fresh out of the shower.
Protect from the heat
Even if you've considered all these heat reduction tips, you owe it to your hair to use some form of protection whenever even the slightest bit of heat is applied. Check out some of our favorite heat protectant sprays for a healthy blowout worthy of a main character entrance. We love Kérastase Genesis Defense Thermique Heat Protector for achieving a long-lasting shine in addition to its heat protectant powers.
Trim your mane regularly.
While it would be great if you could glue split ends back together, unfortunately, this isn't possible. But the next best thing is routinely trimming your hair. Getting a regular chop helps to remove split ends and can help prevent dry, brittle hair from breaking off prematurely. Overall, cutting your hair helps keep it healthy and, in turn, longer in the long run.
Brush your hair gently and often.
For most of us girls, we've been brushing our hair for what feels like forever. It is the bread and butter of haircare. But how you brush your hair can impact your mane's health. Overbrushing (or brushing incorrectly) can cause friction and breakage.
Alternatively, not brushing at all can create all kinds of tangles, eventually leading to even more breakage or damage. So, brushing gently and often can help distribute nourishing, natural oils from your scalp to your tips.
Don't overdo chemical processing.
Healthy hair's mortal enemy is chemical processing, so try not to overdo it. This includes bleaching, demi, semi, and permanent dyes, Brazilian blowout straightening treatments, and perms. But suppose you have already subjected your hair to one or more types of chemical processing. In that case, we recommend trying a cleansing product like Matrix Multi-Tasking Hair Treatment, a leave-in conditioner, and a heat-protecting treatment in one.
Use nourishing, strengthening hair masks.
Pretty much every hair type can benefit from using a hair mask to hydrate, strengthen, and nourish your mane. We love Redken Acidic Bonding Concentrate 5-Min Mask, which melts into your hair, providing deep hydration and repair in just five minutes.
If you love this product as much as we do, try checking out the rest of Redken's Acidic Bonding Concentrate line. Because sometimes, it really is as simple as ABC.
Use satin or silk scrunchies.
A lesser well-known cause of hair damage is friction damage. If you're a fan of the tight ponytail, your mane may be subject to this! While we're not telling you never to wear your hair up again, using elastic ties—or worse, elastic bands—may have a lot of grip but can also cause damage to your hair.
Fortunately, we have a solution for the high-pony girls. Enter Satin Scrunchies. These are softer on your hair and glide more easily, meaning your hair is less susceptible to kinks and breakage. We're all here for a ’90s hairstyle comeback with a cute scrunchie.
Silk pillowcases are a must.
While we're on the topic of oh-so-softness, you can reduce the likelihood of friction damage even further by opting for a softer pillow. A silk or satin pillow reduces friction, allowing your hair to glide over your pillow while you sleep, which reduces breakage and frizz. Or, if you're one to toss and turn the night before heading back to school or work, don't let your hair take the brunt of it!
Protect your hair from the sun.
While it's tempting to bathe in the last of the summer sun, it's important to remember how your hair will fare. Damaging UV rays can affect the quality of your hair, so when you're hitting the playground or out on your lunch break, wear a hat, use an umbrella, or stick to shaded areas wherever possible.
Keep chlorine away.
Chlorine is a potent chemical that can disrupt your hair's healthy shine. If you're a regular at the pool, you may notice your hair seems dry and brittle. So, the next time you go for a dip, put your hair up or rinse with water first. But do not fear if you think the damage is already done, you can use a clarifying shampoo to reset your mane. We recommend Redken's Hair Cleansing Cream Clarifying Shampoo to remove any impurities or pollution you may have picked up from the pool.
Use a water filter.
Hard water has a higher concentration of minerals—such as calcium and magnesium carbonates—than usual. While the occasional exposure is fine, washing your hair with it all the time can take a toll on your hair. (Not to mention, it can sometimes fade your color faster!). Use a water filter or water softener when possible. And try L'Oreal Professional's Metal Detox Cream, a leave-in treatment that neutralizes metals in your hair and prevents future particles from penetrating the hair fiber.
Consider using a complete haircare system.
If you want to reap the full benefits of your products, use all the formulas in the system. The products are made to work together and offer your mane maximum hair benefits. For instance, the Metal Detox Cream is part of a detoxifying team. If you want the full effects, try the L'Oréal Professionnel Serie Metal Detox Shampoo, Conditioning Mask, and Hair Oil.
Dry hair gently.
Everyone has their own ways of drying their hair. You might be the girl who rapidly rubs, gently pats, or curls into a ball. But let's face it, human hair is not a dog’s. Every time your towel hits your mane, there's friction, and although we can't avoid this, we can prevent the extent of damage it does.
Spritz your hair with a leave-in spray, like Biolage Professional Full Density Spray, and dry gently, focussing on removing the excess water rather than fully drying (see our full review here!)—then leave the air drying or your Steampod to do the rest.
Use a microfiber towel.
And while we're on the topic of drying, the type of towel you use can also help to prevent damage and keep your hair healthy. There are a host of different towels designed for specific hair types, but a good starting point is using a microfiber towel. These are more absorbent and softer than traditional cotton towels, which helps to reduce frizz and friction damage.
Try a hair cream.
Like hair masks, a hair cream can work wonders on damaged and healthy hair to lock in the goodness and keep hair soft and silky. As we've highlighted already, it's worth taking the time to find a product tailored to your hair type. For instance, for the curly girls out there, try Matrix A Curl Can Dream Rich Hydrating Mask, designed specifically to preserve ringlets and coils.
Use a scalp serum.
When discussing how to keep our hair healthy, we tend to focus on the hair itself rather than where it's growing from, the scalp. Like your skin, the scalp can become tight and itchy, leaving your strands dry and tired. A scalp serum, such as Kérastase Specifique Potentialiste Serum, can help to hydrate your scalp, leaving it and your strands feeling hydrated and healthier.
Don't over (or under) wash.
How often should you wash you hair? Channel your inner Goldilocks by washing at the perfect frequency for your hair. Underwashing can lead to scalp issues or excess oil production, but so can overwashing. When in doubt, ask your stylist for guidance.
Dandruff is so common—we don't need to shy away from it. The tinted-yellow clumps can run through your hair when brushing, making hair look dry, dusty, and dull, or even fall on your clothes—which is not the first impression you want heading back to the office or school.
Fortunately, Biolage Professional's Scalp Sync Anti-Dandruff Shampoo is here to rescue you. It includes zinc, pyrithione, and mint, an antibacterial ingredient that can alleviate itching and replenish the scalp. For the full benefits, use the line's Scalp Sync Anti-Dandruff Conditioner to leave your scalp and strands smooth, soothed, and ready to face the first day back.
Try a color-correcting shampoo.
Lighter-colored hair, including blonde, gray, silver, or caramel, is especially prone to turning brassy over time. This is especially true if you've just returned from a sunny vacation. This can make your hair look unhealthy and dull. Use a blue or purple shampoo to revive the shine and nix the yellow and orange tones. Try using Matrix So Silver Purple Shampoo leading up to your first day back so you and your toned mane can confidently enter the school gates.
Avoid tight ponytails.
The high ponytail is a classic first-day-back hairstyle. It's cute, practical, and lasts all day. But wearing tight ponies too often may negatively affect your hair health. Pulling your hair taut can potentially lead to traction alopecia, and repeatedly wearing a pony over the same part of your hair can weaken the shaft and lead to dullness or breakage. We recommend opting for a scrunchy or claw clip or mixing it up with one of our back-to-school hairstyles.