10 Tricks for Gorgeous, Low-Maintenance Hair
1. Cut Layers "Long layers that fall between the jawline and the shoulder blades give you the most versatility," says Mark Townsend, a hairstylist in Los Angeles. "This type of cut looks great blown out but is even better air-dried. It also requires less frequent salon visits than a short style, a blunt bob, or heavy bangs, because the lines are more forgiving as they grow out. "You can get away with snipping a long-layered cut every three to four months," says Los Angeles hairstylist Mara Roszak.
2. Shave Time Off Your Blow-Dry "A smooth blow-dry is a waste of time if you plan to add texture," explains Nunzio Saviano, a stylist and salon owner in New York City. Also, "hair that is too smooth will not hold curl as well," says Los Angeles hairstylist Jen Atkin. Make blow-drying less tedious by "flipping wet hair upside down and blasting with a dryer until it's almost dry, then go over only the top layer with a big curling iron to create loose waves," says Saviano. The shorter your hair, the smaller your iron should be.
3. Style While You Snooze Save time in the morning by prepping before bed: Wash your hair, apply a smoothing serum, and set your hair, says Harry Josh, a stylist and a creative consultant for John Frieda Hair Care. For loose waves and smooth roots, Sarah Potempa, a stylist in New York City and the inventor of Beachwaver (a rotating curling iron), suggests splitting hair into two sections, then twisting each side back, away from the face, and wrapping into small buns, Princess Leia–style. Secure with bobby pins; release (and shake out) in the morning. With short hair, secure the top half into two ponytails, pulling the hair only halfway through to create a rumpled A.M. texture.
This technique also works on dry hair—just spritz on a salt spray first.
4. Go Easy on the Product To stretch out a shampoo for a few days, use very little styling product on day one, suggests Townsend, since stylers can attract grime from the environment and make hair look dirty faster. Townsend recommends a few drops of smoothing serum, such as Dove Regenerative Nourishment Serum-in-Oil ($6, target.com), applied from mid-shaft to ends.
5. Treat Your Locks With TLC "When hair is in good condition, it's easier to style, because you aren't trying to tame frizz or hide breakage," says Roszak, who is an advocate of a weekly deep-conditioning treatment, like L'Oréal Paris EverPure Damage Protect Mask ($9, cvs.com). "A treatment takes 10 minutes and helps repair heat damage and adds shine," she says. Townsend also recommends investing in a silk pillowcase: "It won't absorb as much moisture as cotton, leaving oils in your hair, where they belong." Finally, pros sing the praises of Olaplex, a salon service (olaplex.com for salon locations) that is done in conjunction with a hair coloring to repair broken bonds in hair and to make strands less apt to break.
6. Don't OD on Dry Shampoo A dry shampoo helps extend the time between shampoos. However, it's important to balance out all that powder with a few drops of oil, applied from mid-shafts to ends each morning. "Otherwise hair can get very brittle and break off," says Townsend. Use a dry shampoo for no more than three days in a row or you risk compromising the health of your new hair growth. "Dry shampoo can build up on the scalp and start clogging the hair follicles," says Saviano.
7. Twist and Go If you're going to air-dry, you can still shape your hair so that it dries in a polished way, says Jenny Cho, a hairstylist in Los Angeles. She recommends creating a defined part, then applying a light cream, like Suave Professionals Smoothing Weather Proof Cream ($5, jet.com). Divide hair into a few sections and twist them away from your face. Then don't touch your hair until it dries. Doing so minimizes frizz and controls hair without the hassle of a hot tool.
On short hair, twist back a two-inch section from either side and pin in the back.
8. Prolong Your Color The ombré hair-color trend that started a few years ago made darker roots OK. And they're still OK today. "I give off-the-root highlights to brunet or dark blond clients who want to stretch time between appointments," says Stephanie Brown, a colorist at the Nunzio Saviano Salon, in New York City. "I choose a color no more than two shades lighter than the natural one, then start the color about a quarter inch off the scalp. That way, the grow-out is very subtle."
9. Think: Big Picture For some, "it may pay to invest time or money in one high-maintenance service in order to be lower maintenance on a daily basis," says Cho. Some examples: Spring for a keratin smoothing treatment every three to four months to make blow-drying and frizz-fighting go more quickly. Splurge on a professional blow-out or "dedicate one day a week to giving yourself a blow-out," says Josh. That way, you can just do minor touch-ups for the next few days. Or cut your hair fairly short. This may require a salon visit every six weeks, but day to day, you'll be able to wash and go.
10. Focus on the Front If walking into work with wet waves (and damp shoulders) isn't an option but you have no time to blow-dry thoroughly, Potempa says to blow-dry just the hair around your face, then put the rest in a loose French braid to air-dry. "This will ultimately create soft waves and minimize frizz," she says. "And in the short term, it helps you look groomed, even if only 30 percent of your hair is dry. The key is making it appear like a deliberate style."
If your hair isn't wet or clean, spritz the front with water, then restyle just the part with the blow-dryer.