The Secret To Shiny, Healthy, PERFECT Hair

Photographed by Lauren Perlstein.
My hair has led a rather audacious existence in her 30-plus years. She’s dabbled in the murky waters of at-home kits, entertained a long and loving affair with foil highlighting, and even felt the tingling sensation of bleach applied directly to the scalp. She’s considered a permanent wave — more than once and during different decades — and she’s gone from bombshell blonde to oxblood red to coffee-bean brown and back again happily. In other words, she’s been around the block. This isn’t her first deep-conditioning treatment, ya dig?
I’m rather proud of my non-virgin hair. She’s sassy and seasoned and adventurous. And, by no means is she yearning to turn back the hands of time and revisit the days of (natural) dishwater brown. Sometimes, though, everyone wants their strands to feel a bit more…shiny and new. And, thanks to modern methods, getting that V-card back — or at least coming close — is within the realm of possibility.
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“There is no true way to ‘re-virginize’ your hair,” admits Kate Hanley, a senior stylist at Takamichi Hair in NYC. “That said, there are some simple ways to make hair stronger and healthier.”
Read on for tips from even more top stylists about how to reverse the damage of a (hair) life well lived — or, in the very least, create a semblance of a purer, simpler time.
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Illustrated by Ammiel Mendoza.
A Colorful Past
So, you’ve colored your hair so many times you hit double digits somewhere in the late '90s. Then, you stopped counting. No need to feel ashamed — or start growing out your roots. John Barrett of the John Barrett Salon in New York says color-processed hair can benefit significantly from the right products. “Hair that’s been damaged from dyeing or bleaching can be brought back to life, but it takes some time,” says Barrett. “The key to rejuvenation is intense conditioning.”

He suggests using Kérastase Fusio-Dose, an intense, customized conditioning treatment, or Elementage Be Healed Styling Masque, which acts like a swig of Vita Coco for dry, damaged hair. “It coats and penetrates the hair follicle from roots to ends and improves elasticity,” he says.

Also, if you’re in between appointments and feel desperate for a touch-up, there are ways to freshen your color and boost the health of your mane without going full monty, according to Hanley. “If you want to enrich your color without damaging it any further, put a gloss in your hair,” she says. “It will lighten the hair a bit, deposit moisture from root to tip, and rebuild the health of the hair shaft.”
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Illustrated by Ammiel Mendoza.
Chemical Romance
It may appear all silky and smooth, but hair that has been treated with chemical relaxers and straightening treatments is anything but immaculate. The chemicals in those processes loosen the natural curl pattern by penetrating the cortex of the hair — where it gets its elasticity and strength — making your locks more fragile and susceptible to breakage. “Once the hair has been chemically relaxed, it’s irreversible, so the best way to get it back to its virgin state is to grow it out,” says Shin An, of Shin Hair in Santa Monica, who adds that it is possible to get relaxed hair to a healthier state by treating it with care.

“Use minimal to no heat to style and regular oil treatments and weekly masks,” she says, citing LiQWd SiLK Professional Deep Conditioning Treatment as one of her favorites. Hanley agrees. “Moisture is the most important element here,” she says. “I tell my clients with relaxed hair to do weekly treatments with a hair mask and use products that are designed to add moisture to the hair, like Davines Natural Tech Nourishing Vegetarian Miracle Conditioner or Melu Serum."

You can also treat chemically processed strands with argan oil — it goes deeper into the hair shaft and adds a bit of shine, she says. If you choose to grow out your hair, An suggests regular trims and keratin treatments. “A keratin treatment can help the process of growing out your hair go smoother because keratin protein fills in the cracks in the hair shaft and repairs damage,” she says.
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Illustrated by Ammiel Mendoza.
Big Tool, Big Problem
Does gripping your jumbo-barrel curling iron give you a certain thrill? Have you spent many a lonely night basking in the comforting heat of your T3 Featherweight? Are you addicted to the smooth stylings of your ghd straightening iron? Don’t fret — you’re not doing as much irreversible harm as you might assume. “It’s much easier to bounce back from heat damage than it is to bounce back from chemical processes,” says Barrett, who takes an “absence makes the heart grow fonder” approach when it comes to repairing hair from heat styling. “For my die-hard heat-styling clients, I recommend taking a break from the tools during the summer, which gives the hair a chance to bounce back.”

Whether you’re prepared to take that step away or not, An says any type of hair will benefit from the protection of a leave-in styling product, such as Philip B. Oud Royal Thermal Protection Spray. “Leave-in product before styling creates a protective barrier for the hair,” she says, adding that allowing your strands' natural oils to build up can also help repair damage. “Water, with all of the chemicals and minerals, is your hair’s secret enemy,” she says. “Washing your hair two to three times a week can help facilitate healthier hair.”
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Illustrated by Ammiel Mendoza.
Dirty Girl
For those of you who are reading this thinking, I’m so lucky to have great natural hair color; I’ve never had to alter it in any way, or, It’s a good thing I love my curly texture; there’s no way I’d ever use chemicals to go straight, you may be slightly less corrupted than your salon-worshipping contemporaries, but you’re not as holy as you might like to think. Unavoidable environmental stressors, including UV rays and everyday pollution, play a huge role in the health of your hair.

“Sun damage is similar to bleach and should be addressed in the same way,” says Hanley, who suggests protein treatments and moisture-rich restorative masks as a way to help even untreated hair recover from a day at the beach. Barrett favors Elementage Be Conditioned Weekly Re-Conditioner as a way to stay on top of the environmental damage that creeps up on us as we walk to the subway each day. “Environmental stressors just continue to intensify, especially in New York,” he says. “This product reverses the often unavoidable damage that environmental stressors put on the hair after a busy day of trekking around the city.”

For us metropolis dwellers who face a barrage of pollutants — including exhaust fumes, dust and dirt, and even second-hand smoke — just by stepping outside, Hanley suggests using a clarifying shampoo such as Davines Authentic Cleansing Nectar once a week to remove any sneaky buildup.
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Illustrated by Ammiel Mendoza.
Age of Innocence (Not!)
Getting older comes with its benefits — more freedom, hard-earned wisdom, professional fulfillment, and so on — but all of this lovely life experience can take a toll on your hair, much like it does on your skin. An notes that hair isn’t necessarily damaged from aging as much as it's altered as our bodies go through different stages of life. “Hormonal changes during puberty, pregnancy, and in later stages of life can change the density, texture, and even the color of the hair,” notes An, who says it’s important to stay on top of the changing needs of your hair, whether you’re experiencing more dryness than before, your locks have gone from straight to kinky, or you’ve noticed it starting to go gray.

“Remember that what worked at 25 doesn’t always work the same way at 45,” she says, pointing out that it’s important to discuss changes in your mane with your stylist. “Most hairstylists will give tips and even lessons on how to make your life easier when you’re going through hair transitions.”

Some of the issues many women experience with aging include hair loss and thinning, Barrett notes, and he uses Kérastase Initialiste thickening hair serum to tend to clients who are experiencing those symptoms. “Aging hair needs to be treated with special care and nourished at the roots,” he says. “It treats the hair at the scalp and nourishes the bulb of the follicle to promote healthy growth.”
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Illustrated by Ammiel Mendoza.
Use Protection
We’ve all made mistakes with our hair. But, why try to be perfect? Everyone loves a gal with a checkered past, and that's especially true when we talk about hair. Of course, we’re lucky enough to live in a day and age when there are countless ways to keep our various beauty foibles and crises under control, but it also doesn’t hurt to be educated as we look toward the future.

For starters, Hanley notes that all women should be aware of the sun’s effects, but those who bleach or color their locks should be especially cautious. “When going in to the sun, make sure you use hair products with UV protection, just as you would for your skin,” she says.

If you're a heat-styler, An suggests purchasing a quality (which doesn’t necessarily mean the most expensive) styling tool that has a setting for temperature, typically ranging from 150 to 450 degrees. “The finer your hair is, the lower the temperature you should use, but that doesn’t mean the coarser your hair, the higher the temperature,” she says, noting that anything over 350 degrees should be left to the professionals.

She also cautions against using two, or several, different types of tools when doing your 'do. “It’s best to use a blowdryer or an iron, not both,” she says. An also points out that letting hair dry naturally is usually the best way to go if you plan on going over it with a flat iron or curling iron: “That way, there is less stress from heat on your hair.”

Finally, for those dye-hards among us? Barrett offers up this advice: “Be sure to assess the part of your hair that needs color,” he says. “Often, a few face-framing pieces are as dramatic as, if not more than, a full head of highlights.”
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