Tuesday, August 7, 2018

My Hair Care Mistakes

Post-haircut/blowout selfie

I went in for a haircut recently and found out from my hair stylist that apparently I have no idea how to take care of my hair. It's like finding out you don't know how to brush your teeth or take a shower. It's one of those things you learned to do a certain way when you were little, probably from your parents, who learned it from their parents, who learned it from their parents... And then you just end up always doing it that way without giving it much thought. So maybe I shouldn't be surprised that it turns out I've been making a bunch of hair care mistakes all these years.

First, some background on my hair. As you've probably noticed by now, I have naturally wavy hair, at least by Asian standards (more obvious in the second picture of this post). My hair is not that thick per se, but it's pretty voluminous since each hair is thick and a little wiry. When there's a lot of humidity in the air, it gets even bigger, turning kind of curly and frizzy. That's why I tend to wear my hair long. The length weighs it down and makes it more manageable. My scalp is on the oily side, so I usually need to wash my hair every 2-3 days. Yet my ends are very dry, so when I go too long without a haircut, I find a lot of split ends. I didn't think there was anything I could do about these problems, so I never thought to look for a solution. 

At the recommendation of my hair stylist, I made a few simple changes to my hair care routine recently, and I've noticed a big difference in the way my hair looks and feels. It's much softer, smoother, and less frizzy. The ends don't feel dry anymore (and it's not just because I got a haircut). The hair actually feels moisturized without being weighed down. In case anyone is curious, I thought I would share my mistakes (surely I'm not the only one doing these things!):

1. Using too much shampoo.
It turns out that I've been using waaaay too much shampoo this whole time. I use to like lathering up all of my hair, and since it's very long, I would use a big palmful every time I washed it. Apparently that inevitably dries out the ends. Nowadays I use a quarter-size dollop and only rub it into my roots, letting the suds run through the rest of my hair.

2. Not using enough conditioner.
Even though I was using a palmful of shampoo, I only used a nickel-sized dollop of conditioner. Now I use a quarter-size dollop, sometimes more if my hair feels dry, to help detangle and moisturize the ends (never apply to the scalp). I also switched from my drugstore conditioner to this sulfate-free conditioner (also here) that I really like. It's a little more expensive, but it smooths and moisturizes hair much better than any other conditioner I've ever tried. Also it doesn't add any extra weight, plus it smells like peppermint!

3. Never using a hair mask.
Sometimes your hair still feels dry, despite using plenty of conditioner. That's when I use my hair mask. I do it once every couple weeks. It seems to help seal the ends and keep them feeling soft. Previously I had never even purchased a hair mask, let alone use it regularly.

4. Not using the right products for my hair type.
As I mentioned earlier, my main hair concerns are dryness and frizz. My hair stylist recommended this extremely lightweight and moisturizing spray (also here) that is a combination leave-in conditioner/frizz reducer/heat protectant. I love it! It's become one of my holy grail items. (Also, the bottle lasts forever.) Previously I had used Moroccanoil, which worked okay but left my hair more oily than I would like. I also felt like the oil was just sitting on top of my hair if that makes sense. The moment I washed it out, it went back to feeling dry. This product is different. It seems like it's actually moisturizing and treating the hair. Now my waves are more defined and noticeably less frizzy. Best of all, it feels completely weightless. No stickiness or crunchiness at all. It's also supposed to be safe for color-treated hair, although I don't have personal experience with that.

5. Heat treating too often.
Because my hair is wavy, sometimes I like to blow-dry it straight, but honestly heat is pretty damaging for hair. Nowadays I air-dry most of the time and embrace my waves. Of course, it's easier to do that when the waves are also less frizzy! On the rare occasion when I do use the blow drier, I also apply my spray as a heat protectant. 

I realize everyone's hair type is different, but I think these tips are fairly universal. You don't necessarily have to use the same products as me, because what works for me may be different from what works for you. However, I hope this helps. Everyone deserves to have beautiful healthy hair that they love. 

Are you making any of these hair care mistakes? Do you have any extra tips to add?


  1. Have you ever looked into the Curly Girl method? Main idea is to go sulfate and silicone free, which helps keep hair moisturized. My wavy hair is much healty and shinier now and looks intentional wavy instead of randomly kinky. Might be worth a shot!

    1. Thanks for the recommendation! I haven't heard of the method before, but after googling it, it makes a lot of sense. I guess I'm starting to move in that direction anyway by switching to a sulfate-free conditioner and using less shampoo. I'm currently looking for a sulfate-free shampoo that I like, and I guess I better comb/brush my hair less too.

  2. I think we have very similar hair types. (At least when my hair hasn't just been permanently fried by a straight perm gone bad!) Like Amanda, I've also tried to go sulfate and silicone-free, though it's been surprisingly hard to find a drugstore-ish priced shampoo and conditioner combination that checks those boxes. I guess I don't prioritize those criteria enough because I think the only shampoo/conditioner set I've bought that is both sulfate and silicone-free was Loreal Eversleek, and that stuff was awful.

    I'd still never been able to coax out my natural waves much to make it look intentional, alas, as the top layers of hair are usually quite straight.

    1. I've actually never colored or permed my hair for just that reason (I'm afraid of damaging it semi-permanently). Yes, most sulfate-free and silicone-free products are super expensive. I was reading about the science behind it, and they're not actually proven to be any more effective. However, sulfates are known to dry out your hair, and they're bad for color-treated hair. I don't know if you have a Costco membership, but I read positive reviews of the Kirkland moisture shampoo/conditioner, which is sulfate-free and relatively cheap.

  3. Interesting, I’d never heard of a hair mask, but it seems worth trying. I recently got one of those henna blocks from Lush and applied it to my hair, and it seems to have had a similar effect to a hair mask - hair feels smoother, and it’s supposed to last quite long. Time will tell, though. Sigh, humidity is so tough. I always frizz up when I’m visiting the east coast, it just can’t be helped!

    1. So a hair mask is basically just a deep conditioner. You typically apply it to your hair and wait for a few minutes before you rinse it out. Interesting about the Lush henna block! I was reading about it on their website, and they described it as a varnish for your hair. My hair stylist really likes Lush, since they make natural products.