The first step to treating dry hair is making sure you know the signs. Your hair might suck up styling products quickly, or dry faster at the ends than everywhere else after a shower. Even constant battles with static electricity let you know that hair is a little dry, says hairstylist Nathaniel Hawkins.
Hawkins' favorite way to quench thirsty hair is with a preshampoo oil treatment. Before getting your hair wet, work the oil through your hair and let it sink in for at least five minutes. "Apply it everywhere your hair feels dry -- if you're experiencing dryness only from ear level to the ends, concentrate it there," he says. Shampoo it out, then condition like normal. Try Garnier Fructis Haircare Sleek and Shine Moroccan Sleek Oil Treatment ($5.99; walgreens.com).
When it comes to battling dry hair, avoid the siren call of a steaming hot shower, Hawkins says. “Super hot water swells open the hair shaft, and if your hair is dry or damaged, it’s usually not able to completely close back up, which means moisture will seep out once you style it,” he says. Stick with warm-to-hot water, and try a cool rinse at the very end of your shower. “It’s a salon trick that helps make the hair look shiny,” he says.
It can strip hair of much-needed natural oils. Shampoo your hair every other day, using just conditioner on your off days for added hydration.
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That means a shampoo and conditioner formulated for dry or damaged hair -- they're designed to replenish lost moisture. Try Dove Nourishing Oil Shampoo and Conditioner. But if your hair is very dry, Hawkins recommends switching to a cleansing product, such as Wen Cleansing Conditioner ($32; sephora.com). They're gentle enough to remove dirt and buildup without stripping your hair of its oils.
It's like a regular conditioner on steroids. We like Pantene Expert Collection Age Defy Rejuvenating Hydrating Masque. And if you're going to make the effort, do it right: After you've shampooed, gather your hair into a ponytail and apply the mask to that portion of your hair. Twist it into a bun, then cover your whole head with a shower cap. "The heat that is released from your head will warm the mask, helping it penetrate deeper into your hair," Hawkins says. After 15 minutes, rinse it all out.
All it takes is a squirt of one little product to help continue the hydration you built up in the shower: a leave-in conditioner. "These are full of humectants, which will continue to draw moisture to the hair," Hawkins says. Try L'Oreal Paris EverCreme Nourishing Leave-In Spray.
Just because you're trying to get your hair into place doesn't mean you can't hydrate, too. Look for creamy formulas or serum versions of your styling products, Hawkins recommends. We like Nexxus New York Oil Infinite Nourishing Oil ($19.49; drugstore.com), which helps fight frizz and adds shine in addition to hydrating your hair.
Hot tools are a major enemy to dry hair -- repeated use only dehydrates it further. We're not saying you need to ditch them altogether; just make sure you're using ones designed to lessen the damaging blow (no pun intended). Your best bet: A tool that lets you control the temperature, such as T3 Luminous Flat Iron ($99; ulta.com). "You really only need something to be 390 to 400 degrees to get results, but some people turn their irons up to 450 degrees or worse, and that can really damage your hair," Hawkins says.
The same goes for your blow dryer: avoid the urge to crank the buttons to the hottest setting. And before you use any hot tools, always saturate your hair with a heat protectant spray, like TRESesmme Thermal Creations Heat Tamer Protective Spray ($6, walgreens.com).
You might not actually be suffering from chronically dry hair -- it could just be that your ends are dry. If you notice they air-dry immediately after a shower, while the rest of your hair is still wet, Hawkins says that's a sign it's time for a trip to the salon. "Those dry ends are roughly a good indicator as to how much you should cut off to get that instant healthy hair feeling back," he says.