Whether we choose long hair or short, curls or straight, colored or natural, most of us share the desire for our hair to feel and look soft, silky and shiny. It’s no accident that TV and magazine advertisements for hair products always feature a beautiful model or actress showing off her gleaming, perfectly conditioned tresses.
However, all too often our own hair disappoints us by feeling dry and looking coarse and dull with split ends and brittle strands. To correct this, we try washing our hair more frequently, or we pull out our heated styling appliances to smooth things out and create some shine. To top it all off, we then load our tortured strands down with expensive styling products. At best, these tactics achieve only slight and temporary improvements; at worst they can contribute to making our hair even more damaged.
UNDERSTANDING OUR HAIR
Hair fibers have a structure consisting of several layers. At the heart of each strand is a mostly hollow and disorganized area called the medulla. Wrapped around this is the cortex, which is made up of rod-like keratin bundles and contains the melanin that gives hair its color. The cortex provides the primary source of strength for the strand and determines moisture uptake.
On the outside is the cuticle, which consists of several layers of thin, flat cells that overlap each other rather like scales or roof shingles. The cuticle is topped by a single molecular layer of lipid that repels water. The sebaceous glands in human skin produce an oily substance called sebum that travels naturally down each hair shaft, delivering moisture and shine and protecting the hair from drying out.
UNDERSTANDING DRY, DAMAGED HAIR
Dry hair isn’t something we’re born with; it’s caused by several factors that can be loosely divided into three categories: chemical, mechanical and environmental.
Washing your hair is probably part of your daily hygiene routine, but too much hair washing can lead to dry, damaged hair. Most shampoos contain sulfates to make them foam, and these sulfates strip away not just dirt and grease but also the natural oils that moisturize and protect the hair shaft. Conditioning after shampooing simply helps to smooth the cuticles back down again after washing; it doesn’t replace the lost oils.
Permanent hair coloring has a more profound effect on the hair. The chemicals in hair dye open the cuticle of the hair to make color changes to the cortex. This process can damage the cuticle or internal structure of the hair, leaving it dry and weak. The damage is greatest when significantly lightening the hair. Similarly, perms and relaxing chemicals alter the structure of the hair, causing damage, dryness and breakage.
The scales of the cuticle are raised and open when our hair is wet. Brushing wet hair and using heated styling appliances like hair dryers, hot irons and hair curlers can lead to damage and breakage of raised cuticle fragments, exposing the cortex. The heat then attacks the keratin in the cortex, leading to thinner, dryer and more damaged hair.
Strong sunshine, wind and salt air and water can all affect your hair, strip away its protective coating and create damage. The summer months can be particularly damaging to hair, especially in the warmer southern states. Pollutants and chemicals such as chlorine also attack the hair, and the more damaged hair is to start with, the more vulnerable it is to additional damage.
TREATING DRY, DAMAGED HAIR
Damage already done to hair can’t easily be repaired. However, there are several hair treatments for dry, damaged hair that you can implement to try and improve the visible condition of your hair and to prevent further damage. These include treatments you can do yourself at home and treatments that can be provided at a salon. As a general rule, if your hair is very dry and damaged, starting with a salon consultation and treatment will set you on the right path.
Your consultant will diagnose exactly what sort of damage your hair has suffered and discuss with you the best choices for treatment. Most salon treatments are also available in an at-home version that you can usually purchase at your salon. So once you’ve found an option that works well for you, you’ll be able to maintain the condition of your hair through a combination of regular home treatments plus occasional visits to your salon.
Here are Barron’s London Salon’s picks of the best salon and home treatments available to treat your dry, damaged hair.
Keratin Complex Products
Starting with the signature Smoothing Therapy formula, Keratin Complex has changed the face of the beauty industry. With a full line of professional hair care products and styling tools, Keratin Complex provides customers with the power to rebuild, restore, and rejuvenate their hair. Some of our favorite Keratin Complex products include:
Formulated with advanced infusion technology, Infusion Treatment is a unique Keratin-enhanced moisturizing and strengthening system that penetrates deep into the hair cuticle. This high Ph replenisher opens the hair shaft to restore proteins at the core, and then locks the nutrients in place. Infusion treatment keeps hair silky smooth and protected from heat tool damage.
Enhanced with more than 25% of pure Keratin protein, Intense RX is a protein restructuring serum that uses electrostatic penetration to resurrect and rejuvenate extremely damaged or color treated hair. One treatment will provide noticeable improvements in elasticity and strength by fusing hair bonds to reduce breakage. Apply daily for healthy, luminous tresses.
Shield hair from heat damage with Thermo-Shine, an innovative silicone compound spray that preserves moisture and nutrients while reducing flyaways. This protective spray is applied before heat styling, or as a finishing spray to add a luminous glow. Designed especially for flat ironing, Thermo-Shine seals and smoothes hair follicles so the iron glides through hair leaving behind a sleek radiance.
Founded in Parma, Italy in 1983 by the Bollati Family, Davines Group started as a research laboratory, producing high-end hair care products for renowned cosmetic companies worldwide. After a decade of honing our expertise, they began creating our own brand of Davines hair care products exclusively for salons, and in 1996 founded [ comfort zone ] skin care for premier spas. Some of our favorite Davines Shampoo’s include:
This shampoo is ideal for long or damaged hair. Its formula, characterized by a soft and creamy foam, is designed to gently cleanse long or damaged hair, making it shiny and silky.
Natural ingredients include:
- Lentil Seeds from Villalba – ideal to nourish and repair;
- Mixture of mild surfactants – to clean the hair without making it heavy;
- Phenethyl Benzoate – strong shining effect.
Ideal for dry or dehydrated hair. Its formula, characterized by a creamy foam, is designed to gently cleanse dry or dehydrated hair, giving it a strong hydration.
Natural active ingredients:
- Cartucciaru Melon from Paceco – it gives lengthy hydration;
- Conditioning agents – softening action;
- Mixture of mild surfactants – to clean the hair without making it heavy.
Nourishing shampoo for damaged or very dry hair. ideal for bleached hair, with highlights, perm or relaxed. Its formula, characterized by a rich and full-bodied foam, is designed to gently cleanse treated hair, giving it body and nourishment.
Natural active ingredients include:
- Fiaschetto Tomato from Guaceto – it has a strong nourishing power and an antioxidant action;
- Mixture of mild surfactants – to clean the hair without making it heavy;
- Phenethyl Benzoate – strong shining effect.
When it’s gentle care you need to achieve the hairstyle you want, the BaByliss Pro Miracurl Nano Titanium curling iron provides bounce and shine without harshness. Perfect for long, medium and short locks, the Miracurl iron gradually takes hair into its safe, nano-titanium chamber and delivers even heat from all directions through a 450F heating element. A timer conveniently lets you know when your curls are complete, resulting in a well formed, professionally styled look.
Olaplex is a bond-multiplying treatment that strengthens and builds the keratin bonds inside the hair cortex and is the only salon treatment that claims to rebuild hair bonds in this way. It’s often used with or after bleaching or highlighting to mitigate damage and is compatible with all coloring products.
In the salon, it’s usually applied in a two-step process. In step one, the Olaplex product is mixed with the lightening or coloring product and applied to the hair where it starts to work on any broken disulfide bonds. Step two is applied after the coloring product has been removed and works to continue to repair any broken bonds. A final step is a conditioning product that you take home with you from the salon and apply once a week to provide ongoing protection from further damage.
Inphenom is a three- or five-step treatment that is applied in the salon immediately after coloring. It works to close the hair cuticle to lock in color, create glossy shine and protect the hair shaft. Fans of the treatment who notice a difference for several weeks after receiving it recommend the full five-step process. In step one, the stylist sprays a liquid that opens up the cuticle onto your hair. In step two, the stylist twists your hair into small sections and applies a foamy mousse that delivers moisture to the hair cortex. The cuticle is then smoothed by the application of a thick conditioner that works to keep the newly-delivered moisture safely inside. The fourth step in the process is a thin liquid that seals the cuticle, and finally the fifth step is applied to restore the outer protective lipid layer of each hair shaft.
Living Proof Restore Mask Treatment
This highly-rated hair mask treatment has a creamy texture and works to subtly reintroduce moisture, bounce and volume. Happily, it doesn’t contain any haircare nasties like parabens or phthalates. The buzz is that it does contain OFPMA, a moisture-controlling molecule discovered by Living Proof scientists that blocks humidity while smoothing the hair’s cuticles. Use it once a week at home, and its many fans say you’ll feel as though you’ve just had a salon blow-out rather than dried your hair yourself.
Christophe Robin Masque Fixateur de Couleur
If you don’t object to a strong herbal scent, this masque is a good choice for thick or curly hair. It aims to restore color and shine and reduce brittleness. It contains wheat germ oil, honey extract and provitamin B5 and does not contain any parabens, sulfates or phthalates.
Hask Keratin Smoothing Shine Oil
This inexpensive product is a leave-in conditioner infused with hydrolyzed keratin that leaves hair visibly softer and smoother without oiliness. Reviewers love its lightweight feel, its pleasant smell and the way it instantly reduces frizziness even in a humid climate. They are less keen on the packaging, which can get messy. The product is free of sulfates, parabens, phthalates, gluten, alcohol and artificial colors. It’s not a magic bullet by any means, but it may be worth a try for a quick daily fix at its modest price-point.
An inexpensive at-home option is to apply unrefined coconut oil to your hair as a mask every few days. The oil will naturally replenish moisture, reduce frizz and deliver shine. Coconut oil is inexpensive and widely available, but you may find it weighs down fine hair or, like many DIY hair mask treatments, may prove tricky to fully wash out without using a harsh moisture-stripping foaming shampoo.
Rita Hazan Triple Threat Split End Remedy
There are plenty of remedies for split ends, but most simply stick the split pieces back together temporarily. The Rita Hazan Triple Threat Split End Remedy is a serum that claims to immediately seal frazzled hair and split ends, prevent future breakage by strengthening strands from the inside out and shield hair from heat tools and environmental stresses.
Alterna Haircare Bamboo Smooth Moisture Masque
Dry hair needs moisture, so it makes sense to treat dry hair with a mask like this one from Alterna Haircare that is specially designed to reintroduce moisture. The product combines organic bamboo extract with kendi oil to work its magic. Reviewers recommend only using a little and avoiding the roots for best results.
Therapy Session Hair Mask from Eva NYC
Therapy Session Hair Mask from Eva NYC is a deep conditioning treatment that repairs and strengthens dry and damaged hair. The product contains argan oil, which feeds hair with vitamins and nutrients while Keravis delivers optimal anti-breakage benefits and is scientifically proven to dramatically increase strength and flexibility, leaving hair soft, smooth and manageable. Reviewers love the smell of this product and really noticed a difference in the feel of their hair.
Aussie Three Minute Miracle Moist
This much-beloved intense conditioner is inexpensive enough to use every day and contains aloe, jojoba and sea kelp. It works quickly and smells divine. It is recommended by 92 percent of reviewers on the Aussie website.
L’Oréal Total Repair 5 Damage Erasing Balm
If you’re looking for a drugstore brand deep conditioner, you won’t go wrong with the L’Oréal Total Repair 5 Damage Erasing Balm. It claims to remove five separate signs of damage: split ends, weakness, roughness, dullness and dehydration. Reviewers love the way it works, especially on thick and curly hair.
Neutrogena Triple Moisture Deep Recovery Hair Mask
Containing olive oil to penetrate the hair shaft, meadowfoam seed to moisturize and sweet almond oil to protect the cuticle, the Neutrogena Triple Moisture Deep Recovery Hair Mask is a budget-friendly purchase that gets a five out of five rating from reviewers on the Neutrogena website.
Redken All Soft Heavy Cream
A favorite fix of beauty editors everywhere, Redken All Soft Heavy Cream contains a basketful of yummy ingredients, including keratin to transform your dry, brittle locks. Argan, avocado and olive oils add softness, golden camellia adds shine and silk amino acids help to strengthen. Meanwhile, the interlock protein network aims to rebuild surface protection and provide progressive conditioning. Reviewers of the product consistently report that their hair is softer, shinier and healthier after each use.
Keratin Complex Salon Treatment
The Keratin Complex Personalized Blowout is a customizable salon treatment that smooths, softens and deep conditions the hair. Many Keratin salon treatments use formaldehyde, a known carcinogen, and are designed for straightening very curly or kinky hair. However, the Keratin Complex treatment does not contain formaldehyde and delivers a subtle healthy and shiny effect that can last six to eight weeks. It’s important to avoid shampoos containing sulfates afterward, or the effects of the treatment may be reduced or lost entirely.
The first step in a Kerastase Fusion-Dose treatment is to identify your major hair concerns. The stylist will take multiple close-up photographs of your hair to see what damage has been done and then discuss the findings with you. Based on the results and the issue that you most want to fix, the stylist will then mix up a custom blend of ingredients from a range of hi-tech concentrates that are designed to deliver shine, strength, nutrition and density. The stylist then adds boosters that are intended to address your secondary concerns. The booster range includes products for brilliance, reconstruction, nutrition, density and discipline.
The resulting cocktail of haircare goodies is then massaged into your hair and left for a few minutes. The effect is touchable, silky tresses that will last for at least a few shampoos. This is a relatively inexpensive salon fix that would be a great choice as preparation for a special occasion such as a prom or wedding.
Electric is known as one of the UK’s most exciting hairdressing brands, with each of its products carefully and expertly formulated to offer great results. The professional range offers a unique blend of technologically advanced ingredients special to the Electric brand which makes their product line one of the best on the market. Some of our favorite Electric products include:
H²-1 Hydrate Shampoo (Sulfate & Paraben-Free)
New, improved formula with no more nasties! Still perfect for dry, stressed out hair
H²-2 Hydrate Conditioner
A premium conditioning system to smooth and soften, leaving you with beautifully soft and shiny hair and improving the hair fibers flexibility and elasticity
Intensive Hair Rescue Kit
The Intensive Hair Rescue Kit contains the perfect combination of products containing superior softening, natural anti-oxidants and strengthening ingredients for stronger, healthier hair
ºC-1 Intensive Treatment Masque
Cocoon your hair in this nourishing masque, for supremely smooth and glossy results
Schedule a consultation with your most trusted hair salon to discuss which approach you should take to repair your dry, damaged hair. They can recommend treatments and products that will work best for your hair type and extent of damage, and have your locks looking luscious in no time at all!