These are the must-have hair tools, styling products, and treatments in my haircare routine.
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This is part of our new weekly series called Test Drive, where our team of beauty experts demystify products and tools, as well as explore new techniques IRL.

Thanks to my Greek heritage, I have thick, wavy hair and I’ve had long hair, well past my shoulders, for most of my life. One bad haircut when I was younger (that resulted in hair about 5 inches shorter than I wanted it to be) made me never want to get rid of my long hair again. I also find that styling long hair is a lot easier because, in addition to leaving it down, I can twist it up into a bun and pull it back into a French braid without any loose hairs falling down.

Admittedly, this means I don’t get my hair cut very often. Stylists typically recommend regular trims every six to eight weeks. But I wait as long as six months or more, which leaves my ends vulnerable to damage. “Weather, temperature and exposure, blow-drying, styling, and coloring all play a role in split ends. If your hair is longer, you notice more split ends because your hair has been exposed for a longer amount of time to these elements,” says Herbal Essences celebrity hairstylist Bridget Brager.

While my split ends aren’t as super noticeable (my wavy texture hides them), my hair feels dry and gets easily tangled when I try to brush it. That’s a red flag, according to Nunzio Saviano, founder of the Nunzio Saviano Salon. “Hair starts off hydrated and healthy at the roots and then starts to become dry and brittle at the ends. Once you get to the brittle stage, you begin to have trouble combing through your hair and the hair starts to break and split,” Saviano says. That’s when you need to up your moisturize levels to keep the hair fiber sealed longer and to prevent damaged hair from getting worse. “As soon as your ends are getting dry, you really need to deep condition your hair at least once a week,” Saviano adds.

Unfortunately, the only true repair for a split end is to get it cut. If you want to attempt this at home, be sure to invest in a sharp pair of shears and focus on the split ends around your face. Brager recommends only trimming when your hair is dry, otherwise, you might cut too much off. The key to at-home trimming is to make small snips and to only do it if you’re comfortable. For further guidance, watch some step-by-step Youtube videos.

I personally don’t feel comfortable trimming my own hair, so I’ll be sticking to styling creams and products to hide split ends until I can get back into the salon. From towel-drying wet hair to styling with my favorite hot tools, hair breakage can be minimized with the right products. Here are my must-haves for keeping my hair protected from any extra damage until I can get back to see my stylist.

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wide-tooth comb
Credit: Courtesy of The Body Shop

1 Wide-Tooth Comb

Saviano suggests using a wide-tooth comb to help prevent breakage and damage while detangling your hair. I love this wooden comb because it’s safe to use in the shower and is wide enough to brush through my thick, long hair.

Buy It: Detangling Comb, $7, The Body Shop

leopard print towel for hair
Credit: Courtesy of Kitsch

2 Microfiber Hair Towel

Damaged hair can be caused by something as simple as towel-drying your hair. The trick to avoiding unnecessary friction? “Use a microfiber towel to dry the hair. This absorbs water from the hair without ruining or disrupting its structure,” Brager says. This turban makes it easy to twist your hair back after showering, and it comes in fun colors and patterns!

Buy It: Microfiber Hair Towel – Leopard, $23, Kitsch

hair strengthening oil
Credit: Courtesy of Sephora

3 Strengthening Treatment Oil

Brager says that all oils are super hydrating. “They help to reflect light and drive moisture into the hair shaft, giving the hair a healthier appearance.” I love this strengthening oil because a little goes a long way. Two or three drops is all I need!

Buy It: Briogeo Don’t Despair, Repair! Strengthening Treatment Oil, $30, Sephora

panteen shampoo
Credit: Courtesy of Target

4 Nourishing Shampoo

Sulfate-free shampoos are gentle and won’t strip your hair, while ingredients like natural oils are great hair hydrators. Right now, I’m loving this castor oil shampoo. Not only is it full of Vitamin B5 and antioxidants, but the castor oil contains Vitamin E that adds moisture and leaves my hair feeling hydrated and soft.

Buy It: Pantene Fortifying Damage Repair Shampoo with Castor Oil, $6.99, Target

leave-in serum bottle
Credit: Courtesy of AQUIS

5 Leave-In Conditioning Serum

After shampooing and conditioning, I use a spray-on leave-in conditioning serum to further hydrate my hair. This product doubles as a 2-in-1: the avocado oil and amino acids moisturize from root to tip while detangling, leaving my hair frizz-free.

Buy It:Restorative Leave-In Serum, $28, AQUIS

hair mask jar
Credit: Courtesy of Target

6 Hydrating Mask

According to Brager, weekly masks are key to keeping your hair hydrated. “The molecules of hair masks are so fine, they penetrate the hair shaft and really condition your hair from the inside out,” Saviano adds. The aloe coconut fruit extract in this mask hydrate my thick waves without weighing them down.

Buy It: Herbal Essences bio:renew Coconut Milk & Aloe Hair Mask, $6, Target

white bottle of hair cream
Credit: Courtesy of Nunzio Saviano

7 Styling Cream

Styling creams can act as a temporary fix for hiding split ends. “They seal the cuticle of the hair all the way from the root to the ends to make them look healthier. The split end is still there, but it camouflages it,” Saviano says. The coconut water and coconut milk in this nourishing cream leave my hair looking like I just left the salon – with no split ends in sight. I rub a small dollop into my towel-dried hair, making sure to target the mid-length to ends that are noticeably dry, and then comb through to make sure it’s distributed evenly.

Buy It: Time-Release Anti-Frizz Styling Cream, $28, Nunzio Saviano

heat protectant spray for hair
Credit: Courtesy of Ouidad

8 Heat Protectant

Heat styling without the proper products can do so much damage to your hair. For extra protection, keep the temperature of your hot tool on the lowest setting possible. “As a rule of thumb, don't go higher than 400 degrees,” Saviano says. This spray seals the hair cuticle and forms a protective barrier, shielding the hair from damage caused by heat styling and environmental stressors.

Buy It: Advanced Climate Control Detangling Heat Spray, $24, Ouidad


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