Get glossier, stronger hair with a hands- off approach.

By Elizabeth Passarella
Updated December 16, 2009
Craig Cutler

A little extra effort pays off when painting a living room or baking a birthday cake. But when it comes to getting great hair, it’s better to do some strategic slacking. Experts refreshingly suggest: Stop trying so hard. In turn, you’ll have hair that’s in top condition (not to mention extra time in the morning and money in your pocketbook). Here, six no-nonsense tips for cutting back.

Comb Early, but Not Often

Prevent post-shower snarls before you step under the water by using a wide-tooth comb on dry hair. (Wet hair is more fragile and prone to damage.) Then don’t pick up a comb or a brush again until your hair is partially dry.

Shampoo Strategically

“People who have dry hair can easily go four to five days between shampoos,” says Harry Josh, a New York City stylist. Oilier hair may need lathering every other day. Consider subbing in a dry product, such as Oscar Blandi Pronto Dry Shampoo Spray ($23,, to break a daily-shampoo habit. If you develop greasy bangs or a limp-looking hairline, pull your hair into a shower cap but leave out the hair around your face. Then wash just that area, suggests Mandie Joslin, a stylist at the A Line Salon, in Corte Madera, California. Otherwise simply restyle between washes by wetting hair and drying it.

Skimp on Conditioner

If your conditioner bottle is empty before the shampoo bottle, chances are you’re using too much. A dime-size dab of conditioner suffices for most people, says Michael Jacobson, a co-owner of the Michael & Michael salon, in Chicago. Applying more than you need not only costs more but also creates a dirt-attracting residue that necessitates more shampooing (and the vicious cycle begins again). Use conditioner from midshaft to the ends only, and rely on your scalp’s nourishing oils to keep the hair closer to the roots healthy. (Occasional strokes from a natural-bristle brush will help distribute these oils.)

Blot Dry Before Blow-Drying

Trying to dry sopping-wet hair can take forever and invites heat damage. Speed things up by blotting hair with an absorbent towel (no rubbing, which roughs up strands). Next, gently wrap your hair turban-style until it’s 80 percent dry and move on to other tasks, like applying makeup and getting dressed, while your hair dries naturally. Then enlist a dryer.

Use Medium-High Heat

Try to give hair a break from heat styling at least three mornings a week. When you do wield a tool (be it a dryer or a curling or flat iron), stick to a medium-high setting. “If your iron has a temperature gauge, never turn it past 410 degrees,” says Chrystofer Benson, artistic director for Logics, a hair-care line. “Many irons go up to 450 degrees, but that setting is only for pros giving Japanese straightening treatments.” Before heat styling, apply a protective spray, like John Frieda Frizz-Ease Heat Defeat ($6.50 at drugstores). Then slowly run or roll the tool over each section of hair once or twice (instead of doing it quickly three or four times). “This is more effective, reduces damage, and lasts longer,” says Josh.

Don't Touch!

Your fingers deposit debris and oil, so mindlessly stroking, tucking, or twirling your hair during the day is one of the quickest ways to dull it down and dirty it up. Always style hair with clean hands, then do your best to keep your paws off.