8 Hairstylist Secrets for Smoother, Shinier Hair
Experts share how to get blindingly bright locks.
If you've ever heard of the term glass skin, you probably get the gist of glass hair: hair that's so shiny it's just as reflective as glass. While there is much to appreciate about textured, second-day hair, we all covet that unmistakable, light-catching sheen that indicates your hair is at its prime health. Unfortunately, everyday exposure to things like showers, pollution, and hair styling products can decrease your hair's health, and therefore its shine. "Our outer layer of the hair has cuticles, which are like tiles on a roof," says Tina Outen, a professional hairstylist in London. "The more uneven and curled up at the edges they become, the more the light will be absorbed into the hair, making it appear dull."
"Damage is the number one cause of dull hair," adds Mark Townsend, a celebrity hairstylist in Los Angeles, Calif. "When strands get damaged, particularly from heat or harsh chemicals, they begin to break and won't reflect light properly. The most important thing for shiny hair is that the hair cuticle is closed and smooth so it can reflect the light."
But don't just lust after lustrous hair. We tapped in a handful of hairstylists to share some hacks for closing those cuticles and bouncing the light to the next megawatt level, both immediately and over time.
Moisture is key for shiny hair, but here's the deal with conditioners: You don't necessarily need a really heavy one when looking for shiny hair—nor do you need to double condition. Sometimes heavier conditioners end up leaving hair looking dull and weighed down. “I find double conditioning to be a waste of product. If you feel you need extra moisture after conditioning, use a leave-on treatment post-shower,” says Townsend. FYI, these are also referred to as shine enhancers, an umbrella term used to describe leave-ins like oils, serums, mists, and sprays.
Nope, it’s not just an old wives’ tale. For the brave, an icy cold rinse in the shower shuts all the cuticles down, making them lay flat so your strands will twinkle most, says Outen. But to do it right, Townsend recommends using hot water on your hair when conditioning. “The humidity from the hot water will open up the cuticle and allow the nutrients from the conditioner to soak into the cuticle and nourish hair. Then, blast the hair with cold water as you rinse out the conditioner to close the cuticle, sealing the nutrients in and allowing the hair to reflect light.”
There has been much more overlap between haircare and skincare in recent years, especially with the newfound focus on the scalp (which is also skin, after all). “Oftentimes, people will try and fix a hair issue with a topical product like hairspray or shine spray, when in fact you need to go deeper to the root of the problem (pun intended),” says Clariss Rubenstein, a celebrity hairstylist in Los Angeles, Calif. On the bright side (again, pun intended), ingredients that were once reserved for our faces are now being repurposed for our hair. Townsend recommends hyaluronic acid—try Dove Hydration Spa Shampoo & Conditioner, which has hyaluronic serum infused to imbue moisture and shine for 24 hours.
In the quest for glossy locks, you might find yourself piling on a ton of shine enhancers (see tip 1) on the daily. However, product pileup can end up counterintuitively harming your hair goals. According to Maria Elizabeth, founder of Salon deZEN, all that buildup clogs up the hair follicles and prevents your scalp from producing its natural oils, which are essential to maintaining a shiny mane. “If you think your hair may have buildup to the point that it is dull and not styling properly, try shampooing a couple times with a clarifying shampoo or apple cider vinegar rinse,” advises Rubenstein. “This removes all excess product buildup, hard water residue, and pollutants from the hair, sort of like a scalp reset.”
Hair that’s well-moisturized is naturally shinier—and applying hair oils is the fastest track to boost hydration levels. “Oils close the cuticle to help reflect light,” says Townsend. Just be sure you start with a small amount—according to Townsend, fine hair can quickly start to look oily and even get drier if used too often. A couple times a week is a good frequency; run the oil through your ends and hit it with a warm blow-dry to set the shine.
While 100 brush strokes may be a bit extreme, Marsha Brady was on to something with her nightly hair routine. The sebaceous glands produce natural oils to lubricate the scalp, and using your natural scalp oils to share the sheen is an effective tactic for shiny locks. The best strategy? “Run a boar bristle brush through your hair daily to evenly distribute oil from the scalp to the ends. A boar bristle brush will close the hair cuticle, which will help create more shine,” says Elizabeth.
According to Outen, darker hair reflects the light more than translucent lighter tones. That doesn’t mean you have to commit to going all dark. “A bit of contrast with highlights can make your hair appear shinier (as opposed to when it's one flat shade),” she says. “You can also deepen your hair color with a semi-permanent color. Using a semi permanent that sits on the outside of your hair strand fills up all the gaps in the cuticles so your strands will reflect light more evenly.”
Despite the term beauty sleep, in real life, we typically roll out of bed with weird grooves etched across our faces and hair that's visibly less shiny than it was the night before. Not only are silk pillowcases what you would imagine Disney princesses to sleep on, they also help maintain gloss levels so you wake up looking more like one. “Silk causes less friction to your hair so sleeping on one will leave it looking smoother and healthier come morning,” says Elizabeth.