It’s all about the hair. But is there a secret to consistently achieving that ever-elusive, don’t-touch-my-coif perfection?
As a longtime stylist and colorist, I know that not every day can be a good hair day. When you give someone what they consider to be a bad haircut or blowout, for example, the pain all parties feel is very real, indeed.
Hair matters to nearly everyone -- even tough, muscle dudes with buzzcuts can somehow spend a half-hour zhuzhing the perfect look. Seriously. Mr. Muscles can apply a little cream and oil on his head for shine and softness, some control paste or pomade on the sides, and a wee-bit of gel for the tips. And, at a quarter-inch long, our guy can still use a comb, a blow dryer, and a hairbrush (or two). Crazy, right? But news flash: the more hair we have and the longer it gets, the more we have to protect it.
Even if your hair is not chemically processed -- as in colored, bleached, relaxed, or Keratin-smoothed -- your hair may still act as if it were processed anyway. In fact, all of us have processed hair to some degree through everyday situations: a day at the (chlorinated) pool or the beach and its seawater mixed with sun and sand. Even your daily, five-minute steam or long, hot shower is likely using hard water, meaning you're dosing those locks in high-mineral content. All of these activities expose the exterior cuticle of hair strands. Daily blowouts and ironing further the degradation of hair. Anyone with naturally wavy, curly, or super curly hair can tell you they can't get enough moisture into the strands of their hair. And that's the key.
While the essential list of ingredients to avoid can and does change monthly (sulfates, phthalates, parabens, etc.), our goal is to protect your hair -- keep it healthy and nourished -- and most importantly, not change its color (unless you want it to change). While even the best shampoos aim to not strip hair color, the latest trend comes from hairdressers asking clients to stop over-shampooing their hair!
Personally, I've been charmingly screaming this mandate to all of my high-end clients since at least 1985 (yes, when I was an infant). Bottom line is this: Don't over-shampoo your hair, as it really only requires a power-scrub rinsing with water and cleanse-conditioning (without shampoo) up to six days a week, while hydrating and silkening at every stage of styling. Even the right gels and pomades have conditioning humectants integrated into their fixative formulas.
Note: "Working sprays" or light-hold hairsprays allow you to layer and finesse your look until you get it just right. I like to pile on the leave-in creams, serums, and silky sprays every day. Today's products can even refresh hair without water and allow you to manipulate your look. To achieve this, here are your soon-to-be favorite brands that treat hair right.
Most people know me as a longtime skincare expert, but I've been a hairdresser and colorist my entire adult life as well, and I've watched Davines reignite people's passion for hair again. Where street-smart hipster meets luxury grunge, this organic Italian-style brand checks every box from nutrient penetration to sustainability chic. The OI collection (pronounced "oye") is made of the rare and absolute best-smelling ingredient on the planet, Roucou oil, which not only provides superior health, shine, and softness to hair, but also to skin and scalp. Not convinced? Start with the Absolute Beautifying Potion (OI oil), OI All In One Milk (spray), and OI Body Wash to make those parts irresistible or OI Hair Butter for decadent strand nourishment. ($25-$45)us.Davines.com
The moment my overprocessed pompadour used SH-RD, I knew my hair would be saved. The Truffle Moisture Shampoo and Truffle Semi-Treatment (daily) are rare finds. The Protein Hair Mask and Gold Deluxe with rosemary and D-panthenol are rich and transformative. I'm a believer. ($23-$80)SHRD.us
Mizani has always made super curly, coarse, or textured hair center stage with penetrating humectants made precisely for this delicate hair type. True Textures Cream Cleansing Conditioner may be the least damaging all-in-one ever. Ever, people! The 25 Miracle Milk Leave-In Conditioner spray or clever Coco Dew (P)Restyling Spray refresh yesterday's styled hair. ($18-$36)Mizani.com
Milk_Shake is another deluxe Italian innovator that won me over big time, with its Moisture Plus Whipped Cream leave-in conditioning mousse (unique!), Incredible Milk spray, K-Respect Smoothing Conditioner with recyclable refills, and its Active Yogurt Mask. #LiteCakeScent ($14-$44) MilkShakeUSA.com
When I use Philip B. Botanicals, I think of actors, fabulous heiresses, and #BillionaireBlondes because nothing is spared when it comes to this indulgence. Philip B.'s all-in-one hair and body washes are sensory perfection with Nordic Wood, Peppermint Avocado, and Santa Fe (my favorite). The Russian Amber Gold Masque is crazy good and black card optional. ($34- $225) PhilipB.com
Once reserved for the super-exclusive few, Olaplex can nearly bring hair back from the dead, or make it manageable enough to stave off a crew cut. This now-famous layered cure is considered "skincare for haircare" and the Complete Hair Repair System($196) will give frazzled, brittle, or stressed hair a second chance with initial resurrection, then daily maintenance. Olaplex.com
Billy Jealousy offers the first beachy texture with ratted softness I've ever truly loved. Texture Sea Salt Sprays are packed with conditioners, great for fi ne hair, and edgy but never crunchy. It comes in Devil's Delight, Original Gangster, Ocean Front, or Gnarly Sheen. ($16) BillyJealousy.com
Aluna: Whether you're looking to help your scalp with a follicle boost or attain some new-age freshness, Let It Grow or Onion-Peppermint (no onion-scented hair) will blow you away! Each with their respective cleanse-and-treat duo. ($34) AlunaHerbalCare.com
With elegant, street-smart styling products, Joico delivers K-PAK Color Therapy with a wide range of color-protecting, deep-conditioning, and glossy styling creams, serums, and leave-in sprays, featuring Luster Lock. Brunette? Please discover Color Balance Blue. ($23-$37) Joico.com
You'd never know that this manly brand is delicate enough for the most genteel Beverly Hills doyenne. While 18.21 Manmade put me in my place with its sulfate- and paraben-free, all-in-one shampoo-bodywash-conditioner formulas, the Noble Oud, Sweet Tobacco, or Absolute Mahogany are super sophisticated smelling ($26). It's so money. The Premium Hairspray($24) is a "working" spray, which allows you to slowly mold your hair into place. Hell, yeah! 1821Manmade.com
Hair loss is genderless, but the topical solutions to treat it are actually hormonally different. I've toggled both a Propecia prescription and 5 percent Minoxidil spray for more than two decades, all the while maintaining a full head of hair. So. Many. Compliments. A newer twist, and why I love Pura D'Or's Men's Hair Loss Regrowth Treatment Set, is due to its 360 approach, which adds a derma roller (microneedle) to assist in scalp circulation and penetration of superior products. ($20) PuraDOr.com
An originator of hair replacement surgery introduces penetrable colostrum as a key growth factor in non-invasive restoration. Sulfate- and paraben-free and color-safe define Dr. Ziering's dynamic duo, Follicle Cleanse and Follicle Sustenance. ($199) ZieringMedical.com
Eons ahead of the Hollywood color-saving curve was Marco Pelusi with his Collagen Color Guard collection, including Hair Reconstructor foam, Anti-Frizz Leave-in Conditioner, and Color Smoothing Gloss. ($29-39) MarcoPelusi.com
For the skilled DIY warrior, the Remington Virtually Indestructible Haircut and Beard Trimmer Kit is built tough ($25). I like to layer products, meaning a little Body-Building Hair Gel($15) over Sleek Finish Texture Cream($15). Amazon.com, GetJackBlack.com
Pureology practically created safe cleansing for color-treated hair in 2001 -- as a carcinogen-free alternative. With Pureology's patented, vegan, Zerosulfate, and Antifade Complex, its Color Fanatic lineup sets your hair free with Multi-Tasking Leave-In Spray and Deep Conditioning Mask while Nanoworks Gold Conditioner restores very dry, processed hair. #Respect ($29-$51) Pureology.com
At some point in our hair journeys, who among us hasn't tried to get that ironed pompadour look? Or tried to smooth, straighten, or unwind curly, wavy, or kinky hair? Can't twirl a round brush and dryer simultaneously? Forget that. First, grab any serum in this article to relax, polish, and flatten hair. Next, Denman provides amazing brushes, but specifically the D79 Thermoceramic Straightening Brush or "Clamp Straight"($30), and the D92 Edge Tamer($33) to stretch, smash down, and calm frizz. DenmanBrushUS.com
Want your movie star hair to be fully automated with minimal effort and without it looking too precious? I've weeded out more than a hundred brush-iron tools to narrow down three that should have a permanent home in your war chest.
Note: They're a bit bigger in person and bend the hair just enough. The One Step Oval Hair Dryer & Styler by Hot ShotTools($70), the two-inch BaBylissPro Titanium Rotating Hot Air Brush($66), and InStyler's Prime Rotating Styler($73) will change your hair forever -- and possibly your life. With a huge selection, great prices, and major LGBTQ+ support, Sally Beauty's got you covered. All of us. SallyBeauty.com
Then, we'll step up our blow styling game with the Rolls Royce of hair dryers: Dyson Supersonic and its genius, under-the-hood innovations, including an onboard brain and quiet acoustics. The Supersonic has four heat settings, three airflow settings, and a cold shot for setting perfected looks into your brush. Amazing. The attachments include a styling concentrator, smoothing nozzle, and wave/curl diffuser for nonfuzzy curls (finally!), while its online how-to hair videos are quite helpful. And it's all boxed up in a tight, Ritz-Carlton-worthy travel tote. So good. ($400) Dyson.com/hair-care
Writer MARCO MEDRANO is a multi-state licensed cosmetologist and beauty/grooming expert. @mrmarcomedrano