Think of gorgeous hair, and you might imagine metallic dye jobs, butterfly haircuts, fluffy hair, or some other fabulous hair trend. But no matter what you picture, we’re guessing it involves super soft, silky hair. After all, no matter your hair color or hairstyle, rough strands will detract from your look. That’s why it’s important to put an emphasis on hair care. With the right routine, you can get soft hair that will perfectly complement any trend you want to try out. For all the ins and outs of how to get soft hair, heed the following expert advice and add a few of our recommended products to your shopping cart.
Why Does Your Hair Feel Rough?
If you have rough strands, learning how to get silky hair is important. But first, it helps to understand what made your hair less than soft to begin with. Rodney Cutler, Redken ambassador and celebrity stylist, has seen hundreds of clients at their wits’ end, fed up with having annoyingly dry hair. He says that a general misunderstanding of how to tend to hair keeps many from feeling happy with their look.
Cutler notes that there are two primary reasons why your hair might not be as soft as you’d like. The first is lack of moisture, and the second is damage. Sometimes, you may be dealing with one or the other, while other times, it could be a combination of the two compounding each other. As for how your hair could get this way in the first place, there can be several potential culprits. Chemical services, hot tools, weather, hair color, and even genetics can dry out and damage your strands.
How to Soften Hair In 4 Steps
We’re outlining four key steps to get you closer to the silky-soft hair of your dreams.
Step 1: Use the right brush.
You wouldn’t grab a butter knife to slice an apple, right? The same idea applies to hair brushes—there are different ones for different jobs. And this isn’t only important in terms of getting your style right; it’s a matter of caring for your hair correctly, too. With the correct tools, you can tame frizz, redistribute your scalp’s natural oils, enhance shine, and more.
Paddle brushes, for example, help speed up the drying process, while round brushes hold hair in place and provide tension for blowouts. Picks create volume, especially in textured hair, and combs detangle. Each tool has a specific purpose.
When in doubt about the brushes needed to maintain and style your cut and hair type, your stylist can be an excellent source of knowledge. Just make sure to ask what tools you need before leaving their chair.
Regardless of which type of brush you use, be gentle when you use it. Start at the ends and work your way up to help prevent breakage.
Step 2: Be selective with your hair care products.
A good softening hair care routine should include a shampoo and conditioner, a weekly or bi-weekly hair treatment to nourish your strands, and styling products that help prevent or treat breakage and damage. Many people also swear by using a clarifying shampoo once or twice a month to nix product buildup.
When choosing products for each of these steps, it’s important to pick ones formulated specifically for your hair type. If you’re using high-quality products and still not happy with your hair, it could be that they’re not the right products for you. For example, if you have fine hair, heavier products will weigh your hair down and can make it look flat or even greasy. However, those same products can really soften thick hair. If you’re unsure what products are ideal for your hair type, ask your stylist for recommendations.
Step 3: Be strategic when styling.
Hair care doesn’t stop once you’ve stepped out of the shower. Styling is where the real work of changing habits begins.
“Poor styling habits and techniques are the most damaging and distressing for hair,” notes Cutler. Heat styling, in particular, can be very damaging. Thankfully, however, you don’t have to ditch hot tools completely to reach your silky hair goals. It’s all about “preventing damage and moisture loss,” according to Cutler.
With a quality heat protectant and steam-powered styling tools like L'Oréal Professionnel’s Steampod, you can create smooth hairstyles without sacrificing the integrity of your hair. Steampod’s steam and comb technology helps to reduce split ends for 91 percent less breakage* and 78 percent less damage.** As you style, steam is diffused from the plates and infused into the hair’s cuticle, which helps protect against excessive heat damage.
You can also still use your blow dryer to get soft hair. To start, apply a heat protectant (check the label to confirm it protects up to your preferred temperature). Then, begin drying, using a paddle or round brush to help style your hair as you go.
Bonus Pro Tip: To keep your hair silky and smooth, Cutler advocates for a technique called directional styling. It’s simpler than it sounds: Just use the concentrator nozzle on your hair dryer to blow the air down the shaft instead of directly at it. This ensures a closed hair cuticle, which means softer-feeling, shinier-looking hair.
* When compared to Steampod heating plates alone
* When tested against a regular straightener 15 times
Step 4: Pamper your hair.
Cutler is quick to note that not all brittle and dry hair is caused by mistakes you’re making. For instance, some people have naturally dry hair thanks to the climate they live in or the type of water in their shower. If that’s the case, a regular deep conditioning treatment can make all the difference in the softness of your strands.
“Dryness is the result of a lack of moisture in the hair,” he says. “A deep conditioning treatment like Redken’s All Soft Heavy Cream Mask is key to both treating and helping to improve the look of dry hair. I recommend using [a product like this] once a week.”
For those with textured hair, Cutler recommends All Soft Mega Hydramelt, a deeply replenishing mask for severely dry curls and coils. Formulated with aloe vera and Redken’s 7% Nourish Complex, this hydrating leave-in eases heat styling, increases definition, and makes your curls more manageable.
The Best Ingredients for Soft Hair
The best ingredients for silky hair ultimately depend on your hair type, texture, and hair goals. Looking for products that cater to your specific needs will yield the best results.
Our Best Products for Soft Hair
Ahead, we’re taking a deeper dive into how to get soft hair with a look at formulas from L'Oréal’s portfolio of professional products.
Our Best Shampoos and Conditioners for Soft Hair
Matrix Food For Soft Shampoo and Conditioner
As the name indicates, Matrix Food For Soft delivers seriously soft hair. Infused with ingredients like hyaluronic acid and avocado oil, this shampoo and conditioner team leaves hair hydrated with a soft finish and extra shine.
Redken All Soft Shampoo and Conditioner
Anyone struggling with fine, brittle hair will want to consider Redken All Soft. The shampoo and conditioner from the line feature the brand’s exclusive Moisture Complex plus argan oil. Together, they detangle, replenish, and provide intense softness for hair that is up to 15 times more conditioned.
Redken All Soft Mega Curls Shampoo and Conditioner
Good news: There’s a fix for perpetually dry, curly hair. Redken’s All Soft Mega Curls Shampoo and Conditioner are formulated with the brand’s Nourish Complex (along with aloe vera, cactus flower extract, and inca inchi oil) for severely dry, curly, and coily hair. The duo offers superior detangling and moisturizing benefits while helping to strengthen even the most compromised ringlets and spirals.
Biolage Professional Bond Therapy Shampoo and Conditioner
After washing hair with Biolage Professional’s softening and repairing Bond Therapy Shampoo, you can complete your regimen with one of two conditioners. First up is the Conditioning Foam, a lightweight detangling foam that won’t make already-fine hair appear flat or feel weighed down. The next choice is the more traditional cream-based conditioner, which is ideal for medium-to-thick hair. After just one use with the shampoo, hair will have three times less breakage and be 16 times more conditioned.
Redken Acidic Bonding Concentrate Shampoo and Conditioner
Those battling hair damage should make hair repair their number one priority. Redken’s Acidic Bonding Concentrate Shampoo and Conditioner system is a comprehensive solution for all hair types in need of repair. The system with citric acid reinforces weakened bonds to help build hair’s strength and resiliency.
Matrix Brass Off Shampoo and Conditioner
Brunettes with highlights, hear us out. If you’re dealing with ends so dry that they basically resemble ramen noodles, using Matrix Brass Off Shampoo and Conditioner can help. The brass-reducing system also helps smooth damaged brunette strands, leaving them feeling soft and touchable.
Our Best Heat Protectants for Soft Hair
Redken Extreme Play Safe
We mentioned the importance of protecting your hair during heat styling, but Redken’s multi-benefit Extreme Play Safe goes beyond that. The formula helps protect strands while helping repair existing damage and reducing the appearance of split ends. See how this product plays with the rest of the Extreme range in our Redken Extreme Review.
Kérastase Genesis Defense Thermique Fortifying Blow-Dry Fluid
Here's another heat-protecting product that multitasks for you: Kérastase Genesis Defense Thermique Blow Dry Primer. It's a fortifying formulation, making it excellent for weakened hair that's prone to breakage from brushing and styling.
Our Best Rinse-Off Treatments for Soft Hair
Redken Acidic Bonding Concentrate 5-Min Liquid Mask
Unlike traditional deep conditioners, which tend to be thick and heavy, Redken’s Acidic Bonding Concentrate 5-Min Liquid Mask has a fluid texture that melts into hair and feels weightless on locks. The ultra-conditioning mask provides deep hydration and repair for all hair types and hair textures.
L'Oréal Professionnel Serie Expert Absolut Repair Instant Resurfacing Masque
Boasting ingredients like gold quinoa and protein, it’s no surprise that L'Oréal Professionnel’s Absolut Repair Instant Resurfacing Masque will leave hair silky and ultra-luxurious.
Pureology Hydrate Soft Softening Treatment Mask
Pureology’s Hydrate Soft Softening Treatment Mask hydrates dry, color-treated hair. Featuring the brand’s exclusive AntiFade complex, it also ensures that your salon color stays visibly vibrant and fresh.
Shu Uemura Art Of Hair Silk Bloom Hair Mask
Damaged hair doesn't stand a chance against Shu Uemura Art of Hair’s Silk Bloom Hair Mask. Ceramides, vitamin E, and argan oil help repair the structure of damaged hair fibers and the bonds between the hair cuticle for soft locks.
Our Best Oils for Soft Hair
Redken All Soft Argan-6 Oil
You might hear hair oil and think, "too heavy for me," but Redken’s All Soft Argan-6 Hair Oil is incredibly lightweight. It softens and replenishes strands with omega-6 fatty acids and argan oil. Best of all, there are five different ways to use the oil:
• As pre-shampoo primer for boosted moisture
• Before blow-drying as a heat protectant
• On dry hair for enhanced shine
• Cocktailed with your favorite leave-in treatments for additional softness
• As a leave-in overnight treatment for deep conditioning
Shu Uemura Art Of Hair Essence Absolue Nourishing Protective Hair Oil
Thicker hair can really benefit from hair oil, like Shu Uemura Art Of Hair’s Essence Absolue Nourishing Protective Hair Oil. This formula rebalances the hair's moisture level from mid-lengths to ends, providing intense nutrition and UV protection.
Kérastase Elixir Ultime L'Huile Original Hair Oil
Think of Kérastase’s Elixir Ultime L'Huile Original Hair Oil as an all-in-one potion for your locks. Five precious oils work wonders on your hair, boosting shine, nourishing, and preventing breakage. You can use it before, during, or after your blow-dry to reap these rewards.
Our Best Leave-Ins for Soft Hair
Mizani True Textures Curl Enhancing Lotion
Those with textured hair should seek products made specifically for their hair type, such as the True Textures Curl Enhancing Lotion from Mizani. Infused with fatty acids, it leaves curls soft and bouncy—not stiff-looking or crunchy.
L’Oréal Professionnel Serie Expert Curl Expression Long-Lasting Intensive Moisturizer
Dehydrated curls and coils sometimes need a bit of extra help to spring back to life. Enter: L’Oréal Professionnel Serie Expert Curl Expression Long-Lasting Intensive Moisturizer. Formulated with glycerin, urea, and hibiscus seed extract, this indulgent leave-in deeply moisturizes for a silky-smooth result that lasts.
Shu Uemura Art Of Hair Essence Absolue Overnight Serum
Hello, sleeping beauty! Shu Uemura Art of Hair’s Essence Absolue Overnight Serum is meant to be applied on dry or damp hair just before hopping into bed. While you sleep, it works its magic to create soft, shiny, frizz-free locks. Easy peasy.
Biolage Professional Hydra Source Detangling Solution
Brushing dry, tangled hair is a recipe for breakage, so don't even think about it. Instead, make sure to apply a detangler before reaching for your brush. Biolage Professional’s Hydra Source Detangling Solution will help the bristles glide through easily.
Redken Extreme Anti-Snap Anti-Breakage Leave-In Treatment
When you’re in between salon visits, don’t let split ends take away your good hair days. Instead, use Redken’s award-winning Extreme Anti-Snap Anti-Breakage Leave-In Treatment. Formulated with Redken's Strength Complex, it reduces friction from brushing to help further prevent damage and leave hair more resilient.
Armed with our tips and product picks, you can face the world with softer, healthier-looking hair. Read our editor reviews of Redken’s All Soft collection and Matrix’s Food For Soft range to see the sort of soft hair transformations that are possible.
Interested in more hair care tips? Use our salon locator to book an appointment at a salon near you.
Header photo credit: @josscollective and brand