You know those women who seem to wake up with perfect hair every morning — as if by magic? Well, there’s a little more to it than that.
Though genetics certainly come into play, women with enviable strands do things differently than the rest of us. They’ve got their shampoo routine down to a science, they invest in the right treatments, they even go so far as to rethink their home decorating. To them, hair isn’t just something to be styled — it’s something to be cared for, like your skin or (in some more extreme cases) a small child.
You don’t have to take our word for it. Ahead, women with great hair share the simple tweaks that changed their hair game. Trust us, if you follow their advice, your strands will go from “so-so” to “so-so amazing.”
“Having great hair is having a great hairdresser,” says Eden Sassoon (daughter of the late Vidal Sassoon). “Your hair should have a look — it’s just as important an accessory as the jewelry or shoes you wear.”
To Sassoon, that means ditching one-length, long hair and going for bangs, layers, a bob, or something bold that stands out. “It makes a difference in how people look at you,” she says.
Hairstylist Jeanie Syfu says that’s especially key for short-haired ladies like herself. “With short hair, it’s all about precision and texture,” she says. Go to a stylist you’re familiar with and with whom you share the same personal style, she adds. And most importantly, “someone you can direct and it won’t be awkward.”
A thoughtful cut can also make your hair air-dry better, leading to — you guessed it — even better hair.
Tell a girl her hair looks amazing, and her response will likely be, “Thanks! I haven’t washed it in three days.”
Stretching a blowout to three or even seven days isn’t just a badge of honor, it’s key to maintaining healthy hair. Not only does less-frequent washing keep you from stripping your hair of its natural oils, it also tends to simply look better. “My hair has a nicer texture when it’s dirty and has a little product buildup in it,” says hairstylist Riawna Capri.
But just because these women don’t shampoo often doesn’t mean they coat their hair in dry shampoo day after day — which can be even more drying. “I rinse with conditioner on the days I don’t shampoo,” says Capri. “I’m always trying to add as much moisture as possible.”
Women with great hair know where it comes from: the scalp. And they care for it with the utmost respect. Some have a scalp routine that rivals most skincare regimens: “I use [Aztec Secret Indian Healing Clay Deep Pore Cleansing] combined with aloe vera juice and it resets my scalp,” says Priscilla of ShineStruck. Adds Nikisha of Urban Bush Babes, “Elucence Volume Clarifying Shampoo is key for me…It clarifies my hair while exfoliating my scalp, which promotes healthy growth of new hair and leaves it full of volume.”
Model Melissa Wood offers a DIY solution. “I add a tablespoon of baking soda to my shampoo. It cleans out excess impurities from product overload.”
The hair at the roots is not the same as the hair at the ends, which is why hairstylist Jen Atkin always cocktails her shampoo formulas. “I wash my scalp with something that’s really cleansing, like Bumble and bumble Sunday shampoo, then wash my ends with something more moisturizing,” she says. “The different shampoos balance out an oily scalp versus dry ends.”
And to make sure the ends are getting adequate moisture, hairstylist Mara Roszak always applies her conditioning products (she loves L’Oréal Olio Therapy Oil Essence) from the ends back up to the roots. The ends are most absorbent, she says, and that trick reduces the risk of over-applying product to the roots and mid-lengths, where it can look greasy.
If you’re slapping on a conditioner or hair mask and then rinsing immediately — you’re doing it wrong. Women with great hair also incorporate steam along with deep conditioning into their regular routine. (Lupita Nyong’o is also a fan).
“I put a mask on, comb through my hair, and put on a shower cap. It locks in more moisture from the steam penetrating and really allows the product to saturate,” says Roszak. Adds hairstylist Tippi Shorter, “I have a special portable hair steamer. I put the mask in and then massage my hair with the prongs. It’s fantastic.”
It seems obvious, but you won’t believe how averse to hair tools these women are. Every single woman we talked to either abstains from hairdryers, flatirons, and curling irons altogether — or, at the very least, spends every weekend air-drying.
“Avoiding heat styling will save your hair — especially with color,” says hair colorist Aura Friedman. “Heat pulls things out of the hair, taking away shine and drying it out. When I see people with a lot of damage in their hair, they’re washing it and drying and curling it way too often.”
Many had special tricks for making their hair air dry perfectly. “I flip my deep side part back and forth every five minutes to keep my hair from drying into any one flat shape,” says Capri. Or “I push my sunglasses up toward my hairline to create a little bump — which helps with volume,” she adds.
For something that seems second nature, smart brushing is key to maintaining gorgeous strands. (Kyle Richards has been vocal about her brushing routine, which includes working in sections and brushing from the ends up.)
“If it’s feeling dry or tangled, I’ll throw in a little leave-in conditioner,” says model Hana Mayeda. “When I’m on the road, I’ll use a wide-tooth comb to brush through tangles. At home, I swear by my Mason Pearson brush, which glides through the most unruly ‘do.”
It’s also important to comb through conditioners and other moisturizing products in the shower to evenly coats the strands, says Capri.
And brushing is what takes your beachy waves to the next level. “A lot of people curl their hair, set it, and spend all this time — and don’t want to touch it,” says hairstylist Sarah Potempa. “But if you allow it to cool and then brush through it, it brings the waves together and makes them look beachy and cool — not like you curled it.”
Leave-in conditioners, overnight masks, heat protectants, oils, and moisturizing creams are key to great hair. (And you better believe these women use them daily.) Many swore by coconut oil. And anyone with access to a salon could not shut up about Olaplex. (It was the winner of our Beauty Innovator Award for Most Innovative Hair Launch for a reason.) “Olaplex is the only treatment that actually adds length to the bonds of your hair. It makes your hair stronger, but doesn’t build up and make strands brittle like a protein treatment would,” says Friedman.
A nourishing diet is equally important. “Fish, fresh vegetables, green juices, and good fat, like avocado, olive, and coconut oils, are all a part of my diet and are great for strong, healthy hair,” says Mayeda. “I try to get most of my nutrients from food, but I always take probiotics, omegas, and a multi-vitamin.”
“I try to drink a lot of water and eat a lot of vegetables and fruits. I think this way of living is good for everything, including hair,” adds model Rose Bertram.
Your towels and sheets have a much bigger impact on your hair than you think. Silk pillowcases actually do make a difference, says hairstylist Ursula Stephen: She wraps her hair in a silk scarf when she sleeps to draw in moisture — and she uses a cotton scarf when she works out to draw out sweat.
Others avoid towels altogether. “Blotting the hair [with a paper towel] is really great for someone with curly or frizzy hair,” says hairstylist Jeanie Syfu. “That doesn’t disturb the texture.”
Work In Sections
Sectioning out your hair to curl or style it might feel like a pro move, but it actually makes life way easier — in addition to making any style look way more polished.
“Sectioning actually saves you time,” says hairstylist Sarah Potempa. “I use clips to section off the right and left and then curl one side at a time.” (If you have especially thick hair, try working in four sections at first — two in front and two in back.)
Like this post? There’s more. Get tons of beauty tips, tutorials, and news on the Refinery29 Beauty Facebook page. Like us on Facebook — we’ll see you there!