Val Answers Your Top Haircare Questions
A: I just want to say one word to you—just one word. Are you listening? Silicone. It's found in many haircare products. It minimizes frizz because it's water resistant, and so it prevents humidity from entering the hair shaft and swelling it. Using a shampoo, conditioner, and styling serum all containing silicone will not only control frizz but also help with detangling and shine, says hairstylist Amy Abramite, creative director of Maxine Salon in Chicago. Abramite suggests the following 12-step program for fighting frizz. I have to warn you: It exhausted me just to read it. But it works.
- Shampoo and rinse.
- Massage in conditioner. Leave on for five minutes, then rinse.
- Gently press excess water from hair with a towel. (Do not rub.)
- Detangle with a wide-toothed comb.
- Apply leave-in serum with fingers, working from ends to scalp.
- Section wet hair in two halves, top and bottom of head. Fasten top section with clips.
- Starting with the bottom section, use a paddle brush to stretch curls straight while blowing dry from scalp to ends.
- Do the same with the top section.
- Section hair again, top and bottom, fastening top with clip.
- Use a flatiron on bottom section.
- Use a flatiron on top section.
- Apply serum with fingers, working upward toward scalp.
Q: What can I do about flyaway hair?
A: You're not just talking about your hair sticking up when you whip off your hat, right? Because if that's the only time you have flyaways, there's probably no problem with your hair's health—you're just triggering a plethora of positive electrical charges. But if it's sticking up most of the time, you've got cuticle damage, which means that the strands' outer layers are peeling up, exposing the inside fiber. An intact cuticle protects the fiber; when it's interrupted, the fiber is more susceptible to static, says Paradi Mirmirani, MD, assistant professor of dermatology at Case Western Reserve University. The best method to tame flyaways is to use a silicone-based or leave-in conditioner after you shampoo. The conditioner coats the fiber, making it less prone to static, says Mirmirani. A natural-bristle brush (not synthetic) will also help keep things under control.
Bottom line: Condition your hair to make it behave.
Keep reading: How to banish static for good
Q. Will I get better results if I use the same brand of shampoo and conditioner rather than mix brands?
A: I put your question to my email friend (and cosmetic chemist) Mort Westman of Westman Associates, a research and development consultancy firm outside Chicago, who responded, "During my 30-plus years of working with hair products, I have never encountered companion shampoo and conditioner that produced a perceivable synergy when used in combination." Meaning: No, you will not get better results if you stick with one brand. Mort being Mort, though (always striving to paint the full picture), he added that if you do choose to use products from the same line, you might be sparing yourself what he called "fragrance conflict"—and you'll benefit from the aesthetic bonus of matching containers in your bathroom. But you should feel free to switch products without any adverse effects.
Q: Will switching shampoos keep my hair from looking flat?
A: When we have a series of bad hair days, we tend to blame our shampoo. Is it wrongly accused? Probably, says Mort Westman of Westman Associates. "The surfactant [cleaning agent] in shampoo has a negative charge that could attach itself to the positive charges in the hair strand, causing a buildup of product. In most cases, though, there wouldn't be enough to be noticeable." But too much of any conditioner or styling product containing wax or petrochemicals (such as propylene glycol) can have a flattening effect, says hairstylist Jon Reyman.
Bottom line: If you choose a shampoo and conditioner specific to your hair type and don't overuse conditioner, you'll be more likely to avoid the itch to switch.
Keep reading: Do expensive shampoos work better than drugstore brands?
Q: My hair is dull; I'd like to try a gloss or a glaze. What's the difference?
A: Such an innocent question. It seems so simple: Gloss, glaze, which is which? But you, dear reader, have sent me down the rabbit hole. Marie Leppard, senior colorist at the Julien Farel Salon in New York City (who gives me my highlights), told me authoritatively that a gloss is a bit more permanent than a glaze. It adds shine and adjusts the tone (say, if your highlights are too bright or brassy, a gloss will subdue them), she explains. A gloss penetrates the hair's cuticle, so it lasts two to four weeks. A glaze, on the other hand, simply coats the shaft with shine and semipermanent color; it's like putting a top coat of polish on your hair, and it lasts a week or two. But here's the problem: Haircare companies use "gloss" and "glaze" interchangeably. According to cosmetic chemist Mort Westman—our ultimate resource for clarification about all things confusing in the beauty business—originally, a glaze added shine and deposited semipermanent color, and a gloss added only shine, but the word "gloss" was added to dye products because it's appealing to people who are coloring their hair.
Bottom line: If you want just shine, look for a "clear" gloss or glaze (like Frédéric Fekkai Salon Glaze Clear Shine Rinse, $28). If you're looking to boost your color or bump up your highlights, choose a gloss or glaze with "semipermanent" color (like John Frieda Luminous Color Glaze, $16).