For as long as I can remember, I've had thick, unruly hair. And more often than not, it refuses to be tamed. When my hair looks its best—voluminous and silky—it's one of my biggest sources of confidence. But when it appears fried and frizzy, I avoid it entirely. I often hide it away in an unglamorous top knot that would make my mother frown.
I used to be convinced that heat styling was the only answer to making my hair look healthy and pretty. But eventually (read: adulthood), I traded in my flat iron for products: hydrating hair masks, serums, scalp scrubs, and leave-in conditioners. Despite how much my hair craved the extra TLC, these formulas weren't the end-all-be-all answer to my haircare woes. They didn't breathe life into my flat roots or thoroughly cleanse them of the dry shampoo I doused them in.
Currently, as a beauty editor in my mid-20s, I have access to just about every beauty product on the market. Yet, I'm still not 100 percent thrilled with the way my hair looks and feels. For the sake of transparency, I admit: it wasn't until recently that I stopped and considered that maybe it's less about which products I'm using and more about how I'm using them. Seeking advice from the best, I reached out to celebrity colorist and Matrix brand ambassador and celebrity stylist George Papanikolas for his tips on how to wash thick hair correctly.
The author, as a pre-teen.
How To Wash Thick Hair
Forget everything you thought you knew about washing your hair, and let us introduce you to the concept of double-shampooing. This is a hair-cleansing technique that Papanikolas swears by. It's exactly what it sounds like: giving your hair and scalp two shampoos to ensure that your hair is as clean as possible. "The first shampoo breaks down oil and dirt," explains the pro, adding that "the second shampoo cleanses them from the hair entirely."
Here's how to try the double-shampoo method at home to wash thick hair:
Step 1: "Focus the shampoo at the root area where the natural oils build-up," Papanikolas says. Then, proceed to treat yourself to a mini scalp massage for up to a minute, working the shampoo into your scalp.
Step 2: After your first wash, apply a little more shampoo to your scalp, resisting the urge to lather up your full head of hair. "The ends only need a light going-over with shampoo," advises Papanikolas.
Step 3: Apply a dollop of conditioner to your ends, leaving it on for the duration of time outlined on the back of the product packaging. That should be somewhere between one to two minutes. Finish by rinsing to remove the product from your hair.
The author, flaunting freshly washed hair.
How often should thick hair be washed?
If there's one thing I've done right, it's washing my hair as infrequently as possible. I notice that my hair's natural oils make it look healthy and tamer. But if you love to clean your strands often, take this helpful tip from Papanikolas. "Thick hair shouldn't be washed every day as it can dry out and make it less manageable," he says. "Washing about every three days is ideal since it gives the hair a chance to build up its natural oils."
If you're hesitant to go longer than you're used to washing your hair, then it's most definitely time to invest in dry shampoo like Matrix Total Results Miracle Extender Dry Shampoo to help soak up oil at the root. Spray it where your hair looks and feels oiliest, making sure to hold the can four to six inches away from your hair. Massage the product into your roots and finish by brushing it through your locks. Just keep in mind that when your hair looks and feels greasy from root to tip, it's most definitely time to wash.
What shampoo is good for thick hair?
As tempting as it is to add the trendiest new shampoo and conditioner to your cart, it's important to stop and consider what's best for your specific hair type. "Thick hair benefits from hydrating products to keep it manageable and shiny like the Matrix Total Results Mega Sleek System," explains the hair expert. He recommends the Total Results Mega Sleek Shampoo, formulated with shea butter to help control rebellious, unruly hair and manage frizz against humidity. It can make thick hair appear up to five times smoother—a dream for those with thick hair like me.
In addition to its smoothing and shine-inducing benefits, Papanikolas adds that it's also an excellent option for damaged and color-treated hair. "It's great if you wear your hair naturally without using heat tools," says the pro—or if you've always wanted to go au naturel but feared your hair wouldn't cooperate.
Putting Papanikolas's Tips to the Test
I'm embarrassed to admit this, but I've never really had a method when it comes to washing my thick hair. I shampooed and conditioned religiously, always focusing a large dollop of conditioner on my parched ends. Besides that, I never did anything extra to ensure that it was thoroughly clean. I thought my bad hair days (characterized by flat, blah-looking strands) were random occurrences. At the time, I didn't realize that hair that's been shampooed and conditioned can still be unclean.
As advised by Papanikolas, I used Matrix Total Results Mega Sleek Frizz Control Shampoo, paired with Matrix Total Results Mega Sleek Frizz Control Conditioner. I was shocked when, upon shampooing the second time, the formula lathered up intensely, unlike the first shampoo, which was just to loosen up debris on my scalp. Hearing the hair expert spell out the process was one thing, but experiencing its benefits on my own was eye-opening. I finished by applying conditioner solely on my ends and waiting approximately two minutes before washing it out.
I wish I knew about this process before. For once—and potentially the first time ever, my hair was as clean as it is after a trip to the salon for a professional blowout. The most significant observation of all is that my roots were clean and voluminous, a struggle I've been searching for the answer to for way too long. My strands also felt soft to the touch and appeared smoother after letting my hair air-dry. Instead of heat-styling my full head of hair with a straightener, I only had to lightly touch up pieces to achieve natural waves.
If you're reading this, then take my word for it: this cleansing method is worth the hype if you have thick hair with a mind of its own, like me. Double shampooing doesn't sound life-changing, but once you experience that *aha* moment in the shower, you'll never go back. The best part? You can probably go at least another day or two without having to re-do the process all over again.
Interested in more personalized hair care tips? Use our salon locator to book an appointment with a stylist near you.