The Ultimate Healthy Hair Handbook
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The Ultimate Healthy Hair Handbook

Reader, heal your hair! You've written us by the boatload, asking for help in repairing dull, limp, frizzy, or damaged locks. Here, a guide to all the beauty know-how you'll need for gorgeous hair.

"My hair feels dry and rough to the touch!"

The hair sins responsible: Your hair is crying out for help -- moisture help, that is. By far, the most common causes of dry hair are heat styling and lightening your hair color. (Unlike darkening your color, lightening uses damaging bleach.) While it's okay to indulge in both -- in fact, we recommend that you do, as they can really make your hair look better -- it's crucial to replenish the natural moisture that these procedures can take away. Philip Pelusi, salon owner and maker of his own hair-care line, explains the phenomenon: "Adding lighter color to your hair causes the cuticles to rise, which creates little potholes in your hair that makes it rougher and less able to retain moisture." Whenever you place intense heat on your strands, you're compromising this protective outer layer too; when this outer layer of the hair strand is standing up, you'll literally feel it.

Hair Healers

Techniques If your hair color is significantly lighter than what you were born with, consider darkening it a bit. Continue to use your beloved blow-dryers and curling irons, but, as hair-care expert Marc Anthony, a salon owner based in Toronto, Canada, and maker of his own line, recommends, "Keep the tool moving over your hair -- leaving it on one spot too long makes the hair more susceptible to breakage." As for the aforementioned "potholes," conditioner will help to fill them in, making your hair look immediately restored.

Products Conditioner, conditioner, conditioner! In addition to a daily product, treat your tired locks to a weekly mask with soy, wheat proteins, and silk amino acids -- 10 minutes in the shower is the magic amount of time. Also, coat your hair with a heat-protection spray before you style with heat. This will form a barrier between your hair and the heat source, and some formulas even work with the heat to infuse restorative ingredients into the hair.

"I can't do a thing with my thin, wispy strands!"

The hair sins responsible: Over time, hormonal changes do a number on our hair, causing us to lose some of it as well as making each strand thin out. That doesn't mean, however, that we should simply live with it! That said, bad hair habits can aggravate this condition. "Continuously pulling the hair into an updo or ponytail can weaken it," says Pelusi. Again, as hair health gets compromised with excessive heat styling and color, it also weakens the hair, so try to cut back on both.

Hair Healers

Techniques "Take more time to style your hair -- use rollers to give fullness, shampoo it more regularly to cleanse the scalp so it can breathe better and fuel hair growth," advises Pelusi. Also, don't be heavy-handed with silicone styling products. A pea-sized dab will give you great shine without making you look greasy.

Products Try thickening shampoos and conditioners, which are formulated to temporarily boost the width of your natural strands.

"My hair always falls flat on top!"

The hair sins responsible: It starts out lush but by midmorning it's flatter than a pancake. Sound familiar? The key problems here: over-conditioning, shampoo buildup, concentrating the blow-dryer down on the roots instead of up (for height), and bypassing any styling products.

Hair Healers

Techniques Rest assured, fixing this problem is a matter of balancing the right products with the right styling moves. It all starts in the shower, when you're shampooing. Instead of plopping a glob of shampoo on your head, rub it into your palms first and work it through all parts of your hair evenly. Also, make sure to rinse thoroughly, as any residue will weigh it down later. Concentrate conditioner mostly on your ends and use a wide-tooth comb in the shower to distribute the rest through your hair before rinsing out. As for styling, spritz a volumizing spray or mousse into your roots and concentrate the heat right on the roots before moving to the rest of your strands.

Products Since product build-up contributes to flatness, it's helpful to use a clarifying shampoo at least once a month. Also, consider using mousse, which has made a huge comeback due to many of today's formulas that provide great hold without stickiness. Concentrate that on your roots and set it with the blow-dryer.

"How do I get rid of my brittle split ends?"

The hair sins responsible: When your ends are visibly damaged, the best thing you can do is to cut them off. How does our hair even get to this point? Unlike the rest of your hair, the ends have been around longer so they're now significantly more fragile. Aggressive heat styling on the ends contributes to serious damage, as does detangling it with a brush when it's wet. Conditioning is key, so make sure to apply to the ends first, allowing it to sink in while working on the rest of your less-needy hair.

Hair Healers

Techniques "Women are inclined to hang onto their hair forever," says Michael O'Rourke, a Los Angeles-based salon owner and maker of his own hair-care line, Sexy Hair Concepts. He recommends a trim every two months for long hair, and once a month for shorter hair. Once your ends looks better, aim to keep them that way by treating them carefully and bypassing the blow-dryer whenever possible.

Products Again, conditioning is essential, as it deposits restorative ingredients into this damaged outer layer. No, it won't mend ends back together permanently, but it helps to strengthen them. A styling pomade will help to fuse them temporarily, giving your hair a healthier appearance.

"My hair is coarse and thick. Help me control it!"

The hair sins responsible: We understand that as beautiful as a full head of hair can look, it can also drive you batty with its unruliness. And careless detangling of full hair often leads to breakage and damage. Your best defense? A great haircut, conditioning and smoothing products, and a few savvy styling tips.

Hair Healers

Techniques De-tangling is a major issue with coarse hair, and few of us do it properly. "Never detangle from the root to the tip as this will just mat tangles through the ends," says Anthony. Blow-drying is one way to take some of the bulk out of your hair, but unless you're willing to take the time to smooth out every wave, you're better off working a conditioning styling product through it and letting it air-dry.

Products Look for post-shower conditioners that promise to soften and detangle. Gels are too drying, adds Pelusi, so reach for a soft wax, pomade, or cream, instead.

"I would love to have shiny hair."

The hair sins responsible: Shine is a hallmark of healthy hair and we all want it! Unfortunately, a lot of factors dull our natural shine, including the sun (yes, it does a number on your hair, too!) and again, coloring and overstyling with heat. And remember that by washing it too often or too aggressively, you're removing your own natural oils.

Hair Healers

Techniques Happily, shine serums work beautifully by reflecting light, and today there's a version for every hair type, from fine to coarse. When blow-drying, make sure to point the nozzle downward. That way, you're forcing the hair to lie flat, in the process closing the cuticle and encouraging great shine.

Products Choose shampoos and conditioners that are packed with pampering ingredients such as proteins and soy to add back shine that gets stripped out by cleansing. Choose a shine serum based on your hair texture and layer it with a thermal styling product that is activated by heat to provide both shine and hold.

More Rescue Products

Moisture Infusion (for dry, wispy hair)

Cleanse Philip B. African Shea Butter Shampoo, $22.50, is packed with emollient shea butter, helping to renew your parched locks. Apivita Propoline Shampoo for Dry, Colored Hair, $14.50, is chock-full of nurturing botanical ingredients.

Treat Charles Worthington Results Moisture-Seal Maximum Moisture Conditioning Treatment, $5.99, is formulated to strengthen and hydrate the hair.

Style Pantene Pro-V Hydrating Comb-In Treatment, $3.99, helps lock in moisture before heat styling. Aussie Dual Personality Mousse + Leave-In Conditioner, $2.99, both holds and moisturizes.

Damage Repair (for split ends and coarse hair)

Cleanse Finesse Moisturizing Shampoo, $2.99, is enriched with hydrating silk and soy protein. Treat Redken Smooth Down Anti-Frizz Conditioner, $9.95, helps replenish essential conditioning oils, and reduces unruly volume. Culture Moisturade, $4.99, with panthenol and wheat protein, is meant for once-weekly conditioning. Style Healthy Sexy Hair Soy Tri-Wheat Leave-In Conditioner, $10.95, detangles and softens hair with moisturizing proteins. Phyto Phytonectar Ultra-Nourishing Oil Treatment, $26, applied on dry hair before shampooing, treats and repairs.

Luscious Volume (for flat hair)

Cleanse Samy Volume Shampoo, $5.99, kick-starts the volumizing process with its proteins and vitamin-rich formula. Treat Collective Wellbeing Full & Clean Hair Conditioner, $8.99, with tea tree oil and rosemary, thoroughly cleanses the scalp of styling product buildup. Style Kenneth Root Body Boost, $18, lifts the root area. Binge Hair by Freeman Whipped Cream Root Boost Mousse, $3.99, provides lovely lift. Davines Bio_O Invisible Hair Spray Strong Hold, $17, adds volume and texture without adding unwanted weight.

Shine Boosters (for dull hair)

Cleanse Paves Flawless No Sulfates Allowed Repairing Shine Shampoo, $5.99, gently cleanses and leaves hair radiantly shiny. Treat Freeman Papaya & Lime Overboard Shine Conditioner, $2.99, combines the hydrating effects of papaya with the shine-enhancing properties of lime. Philip Pelusi P2 Repair Hair, $34.95, strengthens the hair while protecting it from heat styling. Style Deva Curl AnGell, $12, provides gentle hold. Thermasilk Heat Activated Smoothing Shine and Shape Gel, $3.99, locks in moisture while providing flexible hold.