The cold weather is creeping up on us, which makes me inclined to take longer, hotter showers. I know, I KNOW — shame on me, but it's the truth and I promise that I recycle and turn off lights when I leave a room. That means, of course, that I'm styling my hair wet more often, which can lead to even more damage to my strands.
When I finally bring myself to step out of my steamy safe place (which is usually at the point when my fingers are unbearably pruney), all I want to do is dry off, slip into my snuggle suit, and get my hair dry as fast as possible. Whether that means swaddling it in a towel or plugging in the hairdryer, the quickest way to dry my hair is synonymous with the best way.
This is not according to Maria Hatzipetros, a senior hair stylist at Chez Ann Salon in Buffalo, NY. You all have heard by now that you shouldn't take a brush to a wet head of hair (something about stretching and breaking and generally ruining your strands), but that's not the only worry that comes with caring for your locks while they're still sopping wet from the shower.
In fact, Hatzipetros shared with me some hair care advice that makes me wonder how I have haven't managed to totally mess up my locks in my 24 years of having hair. But now I know how to properly take care of my hair when it's wet and now you will too:
1. Avoid Wrapping Your Hair In A Heavy Towel
Wrapping my hair into an oversized plushy towel has been a post-shower ritual of mine (and probably yours) since middle school. There's something kind of glamorous about it — like Julia Roberts at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel — and I like how it keeps the cool drippings of my still-wet hair off of my back. Ugh, I'm getting shivers just thinking about it!
Now, I've always heard that towel turbies were rough on wet hair, but 1) I'm willing to risk it because I hate feeling chilly and 2) my hairdresser wraps my hair in a towel after she washes it, anyways. And if she does it, how bad can it really be?
Well, as it turns out, there is a distinction after all. The towel that my hairdresser uses is always a small, lightweight one like a washcloth, which Hatzipetros says "won't overwhelm your hair," unlike heavier towels. So, yes, it's okay to use a towel to remove some of that moisture.
"When I'm done washing hair, I wrap it into a bun and then wrap it into a towel. Then, I'll do my face makeup first and then my hair, because you want your hair to be more damp than soaking wet before you style it." And when wrapping your hair in that bun, don't use any elastics because it will pull and break your hair. But more on that later!
2. Wait Until Your Hair Has Dried A Little Before You Blow It Out
Blow drying your hair immediately after you step out of the shower is not your most effective approach because it's going to take longer and expose your hair to more heat than necessary. "You should not have your hair super soaking wet," says Hatzipetros. "It should be damp and then apply products from mid-shaft to ends." For a little extra lift, add any remaining product to your roots.
The exception to this rule is for women with coarse, kinky, or curly hair. "When I blow out somebody who has natural, coarse hair, I'll blow it out right away." But if your hair is on the finer side then you'll definitely want to wait it out.
To keep your hair healthy, apply a heat-protecting product on strands before blowing dry. My latest obsession is Drybar's Hot Toddy cream. Just a dollop fights frizz and seals split ends. It's one of the few items in my arsenal that I can recommend wholeheartedly. And if you're in the market for a new blowdryer, Drybar's Buttercup is worth the investment.
Of course, it's never a good idea to use a straightening or curling iron when your hair is still wet or even damp, unless you're into that fried-n-frizzy look.
3. Wash Your Hair With Lukewarm Water
The best way to make your hair color fade fast is washing it under scalding hot water. But if you're like me (read: a mostly sane person), then you you know that cold showers are where dreams go to die. But don't worry, that's why shower caps were invented! To quote Hannah Montana: "You get the best of both worlds!"
But for days when you actually need to clean your hair, washing it under lukewarm water is the way to go, especially if it's been treated or colored. "You never want to go too hot with anything," advises Hatzipetros. "Virgin hair you can go a little warmer, but doing a cool rinse on it will help." The reason for this is that the cuticles in your strands are opened up when it's warm, but the cold water will close them right back up, which is exactly what you want for styling purposes.
Oh, and in case, like me, you didn't know what "virgin hair" was, it's a term for super-natural hair that's never been treated or colored. The more you know, guys!
4. Brush Your Hair Until It's Shiny
You know that scene in Now and Then (best movie ever!) when Chrissy is brushing her hair and counting each stroke? And we all laughed at her for it? Well, sounds like Chrissy gets the last laugh on this one because brushing your hair is more important than you probably thought.
To be honest here, most days I don't even brush my hair. It's not because I'm lazy, but my hair is naturally curly and I feel like I get better curls and more volume if I just let it do its thing. But Hatzipetros told me that brushing your hair three times a day will actually improve the look of your locks. "You should brush your hair two to three times per day — with 100 strokes each time — so that your scalp is healthy and you can have shiny hair." You know how fitness people say that you should use commercial breaks to do crunches? I'm advocating that we use the time to brush our hair, instead. Just a thought.
"I'm loving the Wet Brush right now," says Hatzipetros. "I think it's fantastic. It's got these nylon bristles with little bulbs on it. It goes through the hair really softly and helps massage the scalp." For an even healthier scalp, apply a dab of hair oil to your roots every few days to keep it hydrated.
And if your hair happens to be a bit tangly when you're brushing it, then remember to be patient and give your locks a little TLC. Grab on to a section of hair and start brushing it with small, quick strokes until the tangles are gone. Then, run your brush from roots to ends in a fluid sweep. Still having issues? Try a detangler, like this one from Beauty Protector, which is vegan and works on all hair types.
5. Put Down The Rubber Hair Ties
Pulling your hair back when it's still wet is a serious no-no, no matter if it's in a bun, ponytail, fishtail, etc. Just don't do it! All that tension will snap your strands, causing breakage all over the place. But even worse than pulling your hair back when it's wet is pulling your hair back with a rubber hair tie when it's wet. Rubber is too abrasive and will, without a doubt, leave you with more than a few bits of broken hair.
Now, here's the conundrum: it's best to blow dry hair in sections. So how are you supposed to keep hair out of the way when working with it in pieces? Here's your answer:
These clips are gentle on hair so they won't cause any breakage. To use, simply twist sections of wet hair and clip them atop your head. Then work section by section for a better blow out.
6. Learn When To Use Different Products
It's important to apply a bit of heat-protecting product to your wet hair if you're going to be blowing it out, but beware of applying products that are meant for dry hair, like thick pastes. These can leave unwanted residue and give your hair a sticky, gummy texture. "Stick to products on the softer side," says Hatzipetros. "And if you're going to use something that's jelly be very careful about how much you're using. It's about how much you're using and not really the product, per se." It's a lot easier to add sprays and creams than it is to fix hair that's over-saturated with styling products.
I rest my case.
Image: Giphy (6); Getty Images (1); Courtesy Brand (5)