The average woman spends hundreds of hours washing, drying, and styling her hair each year, and yet 81 percent of women report that they're not always happy with their coif. What are the most common complaints? Most of us wish our locks were either fuller or shinier (or both). It should come as no surprise then that more than half of all styling products sold are designed to make tresses either glisten or thicken up. Before you run out and buy another serum or spray, read on to learn the inside scoop: which products really work, the tools worth your investment, and the styling strategies used by the pros.
Shiny Hair Secrets
1. Go natural. Daily brushing and styling can take a toll on your tresses, robbing them of natural oils and leading to breakage. Trade in your plastic brush for one with natural bristles (look for boar), which redistribute oils throughout hair as you brush, boosting shine. "The only time I use anything but a boar-bristle brush is to detangle wet hair," says Harry Josh, creative consultant for John Frieda Collection. Natural bristles are also less likely to break hairs. Use them consistently for fewer flyaways. Try the Mason Pearson Sensitive Boar Bristle Brush ($130).
2. Avoid alcohol-laced products. "Alcohol, pollution, and humidity all rob hair of its natural shine," notes Arsen Gurgov, a top hairstylist at the Louis Licari salons in New York City and Beverly Hills, whose clients include Susan Sarandon and Melanie Griffith. "Most mousses contain alcohol, so if your hair is dry, try a cream or serum instead," adds Josh. All of the shine-enhancing products in Aveda's Brilliant line are blissfully alcohol free ($12 - $23).
3. Wash the right way. Though many of us lather up daily, experts insist that washing a few times a week is sufficient. Skipping shampoo helps hair retain shine but can also leave it limp. "I tell my clients who wash every day to apply conditioner first, keeping it away from the roots," says Gurgov. "Then, without rinsing in between, apply shampoo just to the roots, lather, and rinse everything out," he instructs. "Your roots will be lifted, but the rest of your hair will retain its shine." Try L'OrÃ©al Paris Vive Pro Nutri Gloss Conditioner ($4.99).
4. Rinse with cold. Rinsing hair with cold water closes the cuticle, leaving a smooth, shiny surface. Blasting with cold air after a blow-dry has a similar smoothing effect, and most dryers have a cold setting for this purpose.
5. Fight frizz. Hair is porous, absorbing moisture from the environment, which is what causes it to frizz in humid climates. To prevent midday flyaways, make sure your hair is dry before you head out; any water left in your locks can lead to frizzing later on. Gurgov recommends using a flatiron on the hair that frames your face after you blow-dry, which will remove any excess moisture.
6. Smooth with silicone. Products with silicones lie on top of the hair shaft to seal the cuticle and create a barrier between styling tools and hair, reducing friction and limiting heat damage. Try John Frieda Frizz-Ease Thermal Protection Serum ($9.99). But like many other things, silicone works best in moderation. "Use too much of it and your hair will fall flat or begin to look greasy," warns stylist Tommy Buckett, a spokesman for KÃ©rastase Paris. Buckett advises his clients with thinner tresses, like Rachel McAdams, to use a misting of a silicone shine spray instead. Try KÃ©rastase Paris Vernis Nutri-Sculpt ($29).