Some women are slaves to fashion. Even more are held hostage by their hair. They’re constantly rushing to the colorist to beat back grays, fussing with rebellious bangs, waging war against their natural texture—and losing precious hours of their lives. But it doesn’t have to be this way. Here are some common time-wasting traps into which you may have unwittingly fallen, along with hair care tips that will set you free.
Time Drain: You Start Blow-Drying Too Soon
In the morning rush, do you attack your hair with a brush and a dryer immediately after stepping out of the shower? “There’s no upside to this,” says Kristina Barricelli, a celebrity hairstylist and a co-owner of the Gemini 14 Salon, in New York City. “It takes longer to style dripping-wet hair, and hair is less elastic when it’s wet, so it’s more prone to breaking from the tug of the brush.”
“It’s the last bit of moisture left in your hair that provides the set,” says Mark Garrison, the owner-stylist of the Mark Garrison Salon, in New York City. With that in mind, start by taking the nozzle off your dryer, flipping your head over, and blowing your hair around, just to get the excess water out. Then let it air-dry while you put on your makeup. When it’s about 80 percent dry, you’re ready to start styling. The exception: If your hair is very coarse, curly, or dry, air-dry by only 25 to 50 percent, to avoid introducing frizz into the equation. To make the most of your blow-out time, tailor your technique to the effect you’re after. If you’re going for volume, dry the roots first; that’s where liftoff happens. For a sleek look, blow all your hair to one side of your head (using it like a giant roller) until dry, then flip and flatten it to the other side.
2 of 7Plamen Petkov
Time Drain: You Color Too Frequently
Do you have your colorist on speed dial, ready to pounce at the first hint of root growth? You’ll be doing your hair a favor, not to mention saving a few hours, if you extend the time between color jobs. Barricelli says it’s ideal to hit the salon every six weeks. If you can make it eight, even better.
There are a few things you can do to stretch the time between salon visits. First, “if you have hard water—and you’ll know you do if it’s difficult to make soap or shampoo lather—use a shower filter, as heavy mineral content can strip color,” says Marie Robinson, a celebrity colorist and the owner of the Marie Robinson Salon, in New York City. Washing less frequently will extend color, too; when you do shampoo, use a formula that’s color-safe (which preserves vibrancy) or color-enhancing (which adds pigment). Last, “at-home glosses and glazes can protect the integrity of your hair and help seal in color pigments so that you experience less fading,” says Harry Josh, a stylist and a creative consultant for John Frieda. Try a product such as Oscar Blandi At Home Salon Glaze ($27, oscarblandi.com). Once a week, apply it after shampooing and conditioning, leave it on for three minutes, then rinse it out.
If grays are your issue, buy some time with a root touch-up kit. Try Clairol Root Touch-Up by Nice n’ Easy ($8, at drugstores). It’s designed to blend away grays with shades that match most colors. In fact, if you’re only about 20 percent gray, a root touch-up may let you skip every other trip to the salon. If you need to eke out a few more days, try the TouchBack Marker (available in eight shades, $30, touchbackgray.com) to literally draw over grays between shampoos. Finally, never underestimate the power of optical illusions. Simply parting your hair in a different spot can uncover less exposed, and therefore less faded, hair. A blow-out can also amp up shine and make your hair look more vibrant.
3 of 7Plamen Petkov
Time Drain: You Don’t Know How to Fix a Bad Hair Day
If your hair has gone haywire—because you have a cowlick or bed head or weather-induced frizz—you can rectify it in less than five minutes. But you need the right go-to style.
If you have short hair, make messiness work for you. “Apply a dime-size amount of pomade to your hair and tousle it with your fingers,” says Garrison. “This makes your hair instantly look modern yet put-together.” If you need a more polished style, make a deep side part and slick your hair down on both sides with gel or wax for a sleek finish. For longer hair, there’s always the artfully disheveled topknot (shown above), which is actually easy to execute: Garrison recommends putting your hair into a high ponytail, then dividing the tail into three sections, as if you were going to braid it. “Wrap the first section loosely around the elastic and bobby-pin it in place,” he says. “Continue with the other two sections, wrapping them in the same direction around the elastic and securing them with pins. This will create a big, slightly messy, high bun.”
4 of 7Plamen Petkov
Time Drain: You Use Too Many Products
This may be your problem if your hair is greasy, dull, limp, or lifeless, or if you get “product dandruff” (little dry flakes of excess styler that fall on your shoulders). If you’re layering product upon product and still not getting the results you want—then compensating by layering on even more—that’s another sure sign you’re overdoing it or choosing the wrong products, says Paul Labrecque, the owner and creative director of the Paul Labrecque Salons and Spas, in New York City. “You need only four things: shampoo, conditioner, styler, and finisher,” he says. Any more and you’ll weigh down your hair and diminish the results—besides wasting time and money.
If you’ve got a case of product overload, get the excess gunk out by adding a tablespoon of white vinegar to your shampoo. (You can do this every week or two.) Then pick one product for each of your hair needs: for example, a color-protecting shampoo, a moisturizing conditioner, a root-lifting spray, and a shine-boosting silicone-based hair spray. If you can’t get the results that you want with those four products, then you may have the wrong haircut. (Keep reading.)
5 of 7Plamen Petkov
Time Drain: You Have the Wrong Cut for Your Lifestyle
If you can’t maintain your cut at home yourself, it’s probably too high-maintenance.
A good (that is, easy to style) haircut is a matter of engineering: The key is to work with the texture of your hair. If it’s fine and straight, consider a blunt chin- to shoulder-length bob; the hair will fall in sheets that stack up, building volume. Thicker straight hair works best with graduated layers that are shortest at the shoulder and taper down the back, which gives hair movement, so it doesn’t just hang there. If it’s fine but wavier, go for a shoulder-length or shorter layered look (think shaggy). The layers build body, and you won’t constantly be struggling to make your hair hang straight, as you would with a precise bob. And if your hair is thick and wavy, “you’ll look great with a one-length, at-the-shoulder or longer bob that flaunts your curl and has some weight, so it won’t get puffy,” says Ted Gibson, the owner-stylist of the Ted Gibson salons, in New York City and Fort Lauderdale. Another rule of thumb: “Use the weight of your hair and its natural texture to your advantage,” says Labrecque. In other words, when it comes to minimizing styling time, if you have heavier and thicker hair, you may want to wear it longer so that gravity will help keep it in place.
6 of 7Mary Rozzi
Time Drain: Bangs
You shouldn’t have to fight them every morning—or every time the wind blows. “Not everyone is cut out for bangs,” says Labrecque. If you have bouncy curls, then a wispy fringe may be an impossibility for you.
For everyone else, the key to maintaining your bangs and your sanity is to ask the stylist to work with your natural texture and part, says Garrison. If you have a cowlick, your bangs will need to be thick and heavy enough to overcome it. If you have coarse or wavy hair, ask the stylist to cut your bangs on an angle—shorter over one eye and longer over the other. This style means they won’t have to lie perfectly flat. If your hair is completely straight, don’t try to fight what nature gave you with a side-swept part, says Alan Tosler, a co-owner of the Tosler Davis salon, in New York City: “Go with short, straight bangs that just graze the eyebrows.”
7 of 7Plamen Petkov
Time Drain: You Wash Your Hair Too Often
Chances are this has become automatic: You get in the shower, you wash your hair—whether it’s dirty or not. But that’s a mistake, say the pros, unless your hair is very oily. Over-washing will remove too much sebum (oil) from the scalp and dry out strands, even if you’re using shampoo touted as gentle.
Most women need to shampoo only three times a week—and less often if their hair is on the dry side. “Many of my clients can stretch it up to six days,” says Harry Josh, a stylist and creative consultant for John Frieda. Less frequent washing means you’ll avoid not only excessive cleansing but also excessive blow-drying, another move that can leave hair parched. If you feel compelled to do something between washes, “rinse your scalp with water and condition the ends only,” says Ted Gibson, the owner-stylist of the Ted Gibson salons, in New York City and Fort Lauderdale.