This article originally appeared on InStyle.com.
One balmy afternoon this past summer, I sat in a salon in TribeCa as a cheery British man examined my straw-like blonde locks strand by strand, a process so precise that I was convinced this must be what it would be like to get checked for lice. Filled with fear of the unknown, I anxiously waited for the diagnosis of—gasp—what kind of health my hair was really in.
“You’ve got a lot of damage from dying it so blonde for so long, and your split ends are bad,” said David Adams, master colorist and co-owner of Fourteenjay Salon. I cringed. He was onto me and my dirty little dying secret. “But we can fix this all, we’ve just got to get you on a long-term detox plan.”
A detox plan for my hair? I was, at the moment of diagnosis, holding a bottle of carrot and celery juice, so I was no stranger to a cleanse. But a detox for my head? Would that work? Could my commitment-phobic self handle a long-term relationship of that caliber? I breathed a sigh of relief that I would still be allowed to hit the bottle (the bottle of hair dye, that is) and then confusion about what a hair detox actually entailed set in. Would I have to fast from shampoo for 7-21 days? Would I get headaches, acne, and overall weakness as signs my hair was deep in the state of detoxing? Would I ever be able to use a Beachwaver again?
So many questions ran though my mind, but I nodded yes and promised him I would do whatever it took to get my hair back into the shiny, bouncy shape that had disappeared about a decade ago.
“Healthy hair, just like a healthy body and healthy skin, requires work and dedication,” Adams tells me, in the gentlest but sternest way possible. “Healthy hair is connected to a healthy diet and lifestyle [read: drinking lots of water, balanced diet and regular exercise]. It’s all part of the same eco-system. Whatever impacts one part of the system, impacts the entire system.” So my nightly Bridget Jones-eque wine intake wasn’t helping my coif. Fine. Hair detox, here we come.
First step? Stop washing it so much and back off from all the heat tools and constant highlights. So far, it’s been a few months and I have already seen a massive improvement. And bonus; I’m still blonde—just not breakage blonde.
It is not necessary to shampoo the hair every day. If you do, then only shampoo once, and always use a gentle shampoo. Conditioner is meant to be used on mid lengths and ends only. It can make the scalp and hair oily if massaged into the scalp. Apply to the ends, comb through with a large toothed comb and then rinse, (leaving little in the hair to protect it). After shampooing, wrap the hair in a towel (turban style) and leave it for 10 minutes while you do something else. Whatever you do, no NOT towel dry your hair or rub it with a towel. This friction causes cuticle damage and will make the hair dry and frizzy.
Use the right product
If you like to blow dry your hair, apply a protectant (like Aveda Damage Control) to hair. Don't hold the hairdryer too close and do not have the dryer's heat control set on high.
Back off on the heat tools
If you like to use curling irons and flat irons, again, avoid using them every day and do not have the heat setting on maximum. Dry heat from styling tools is a major contributor to hair breakage. (Remember the girl on Youtube with the curling iron)?
Calm down on the color
Blonde, blonde, blonde. Beware of too much blonde too often. We can easily become addicted to blonde and the hair gets destroyed in the process. Chemical treatments are not always great for the hair. We recommend having a consultation first before committing to salon services. At Fourteenjay (pictured below), they offer ‘Lifestyle Consultations’ before the guest makes an appointment. That way you know all the options open to you, as well time in the salon, upkeep and price. Sometimes, Adams says, they have to say no to guests who come in and want a color or service that is going to damage their hair. Listen to your hairdresser, if they are offering you good advice. Sometimes we want things that are not going to be achievable or may not even look good. Do not sacrifice condition just to be blonde, curly, straight etc.
Commit to regular trims, no matter how much you don’t think you need them
Split ends will travel up the hair if they are not cut off. Regular haircuts and trims are a must to maintaining beautiful, healthy hair.
Beauty – Health.com