The majority of the people on this planet have one thing in common: their hair. Even those who’ve shaved their heads instead of dealing with receding hairlines still buy shampoo and conditioner—not to mention seeing a barber for regular trims. Each head of hair is unique, with its own quirks and needs. Learning how to take care of your hair can be a time-intensive process, a road that requires plenty of mistakes.
Whether you’re committing to becoming more comfortable working with your own hair or just hoping to look more professional at work, learning to maintain your mane can be a seriously rewarding process. There’s no need to envy celebrities on the red carpet when you’re capable of getting hair that shiny and beautiful at home.
As with all things, we prefer take our advice straight from the professionals. The following recommendations are general enough that even the most inexperienced hair newbie can follow them. For truly tailored product recommendations and color tips, a trusted stylist is the best resource you have.
If you’re ready to start learning, break out that notepad. We’re about to school you in the art of hair maintenance.
Identifying Your Hair Type
Imagine a doctor trying to manage symptoms without ever knowing what the problem was. Doesn’t make any sense, does it? When it comes to your hair care routine, understanding your mane’s texture and needs is the first step.
Ask yourself what texture you notice when your hair dries. Is there some waviness, or is it totally flat and straight? Do you often experience frizz, a crispy-feeling texture, or oiliness at the roots? Does it seem like your hair just won’t grow? Understanding your hair’s needs will help you develop attainable goals like increased shininess or less breakage.
If you’re not at all comfortable making these decisions solo (we get it!), give a stylist with positive reviews a call. He or she will schedule a consultation appointment before any cutting or coloring, which provides you with the perfect opportunity to ask about your texture and needs.
Once you’ve identified what kind of hair you’re working with, it’s important to seek out a cut that plays nicely with it. Any cut should mesh with your styling skill level, daily routine, and any color application you might be seeking. As a rule of thumb, understanding your face shape is the easiest way to find a flattering cut. Alternatively, a professional can trim your hair to highlight a facial feature or disguise anything you’d rather hide.
If there’s a general type of cut you love the look of, bring photos of the length and style to your consultation. Solid photo proof is the only way to ensure you and your stylist are discussing the same kind of bob. It’s a quick and easy way to avoid hair disasters!
After the snipping and styling are finished, be sure to come clean to your stylist if you’re not falling in love with the look. He or she wants you to be happy, so honesty is important. The same goes for styling advice: If you have no clue how your pro mastered the perfect messy texture or flippy ends, ask them to show you again.
The principles of color are much the same as those of cutting. Do plenty of research before coming to the salon, saving photographic examples of the exact shades you love. Don’t skip a trend just because it seems like the shade may not suit you—a skilled colorist can adjust the undertones of almost any color to make it work for you.
When it comes to finding a trusted colorist, most professionals recommend perusing social media to find an artist producing similar colors to what you’d like. They should be actively engaging potential customers in the comments section, indicating a desire to work with their future clients.
If you’re thinking of investing in a trendy shade (think rainbow hair or pastels), be prepared for several salon appointments over a period of weeks. Because these hues are so pale, your pro will use bleach to lift the existing color from your strands. The process will cause damage, but the right colorist will work with you to minimize the negative effects and leave you with beautiful-looking, soft-feeling hair.
Once your final color is in place, establish a regular routine for touch-up appointments. Blonde and pastel hair will show visible roots and can begin to grow brassy or fade, so an expert will work to restore vibrancy to your shade. If regular attendance won’t fit into your budget or schedule, ask for techniques like balayage and ombre. Both involve color that fades around mid-shaft, so they’re less likely to leave a visible line of demarcation as they grow out.
At last, you’re out of the salon and in your own bathroom. This is where the real challenge comes in. Learning to care for your hair at home is all about establishing a routine that addresses your hair needs while keeping it looking beautiful. As long as you feel good about your mane when you leave the house, you’re doing a good job.
Start with a salon quality shampoo and conditioner, following the wash with a weekly deep conditioning treatment. That last step is particularly important if you heat style or feel prone to dryness. Use the tips of your fingers to scrub your scalp with shampoo, then be sure to rinse the product from your strands completely. When possible, wash your hair in lukewarm or cold water instead of hot.
After you’re out of the shower, gently pat your locks with a towel to absorb some of the moisture there. Those with waves or curls may prefer to use a thin t-shirt, which can help your strands feel hydrated without leaving water droplets all over your bathroom tile.
There are two ways to approach styling your hair: heat and no-heat. The former can be quicker and more efficient, while the second is generally considered less damaging.
If you opt for heat styling, you’ll likely be the proud owner of a hair dryer, a curling iron, and a flat iron. Stylists recommend using any hot tool at its lowest setting, priming your hair with a heat protectant beforehand. Be sure to check that your product pick is formulated to handle the temperature at which you’re styling.
For air drying fans, giving yourself plenty of time is key. We like to recommend drying hair in loose braids and buns, which can boost movement and texture without slowing you down. When in doubt, naturally dried hair can always be pulled back into a ponytail or chignon. Finish the style with a light coat of hairspray to minimize flyaways and help avoid frizz.
Once your hair is cut, colored, cleansed, and styled, you’re ready to take on the day. Don’t hesitate to bookmark this page in case you’re ever overwhelmed again.