The New Rules of Healthy Hair

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Out with old-school hair care. In with the new. And guess what? Our way is easier, faster, better.

Beautiful hair usually reflects healthy living," says stylist Steve Berg, of Pierre Michael Salon in New York City. A balanced, high-protein diet; minimal stress; and plenty of rest help keep hair gorgeous and luxurious, for sure. But that's not the whole picture. For all its glamour and symbolism, its glory and sex appeal, hair ultimately dead--not terribly different from a leather bag that needs to be kept clean, oiled, and protected from the elements. The problem is, old-fashioned hair-care options may actually do more harm than good. So Organic tapped the experts for alternative paths to the healthier ends we all crave and came up with five surprising new easy-to-follow rules that will get you the hair you want--now.
HAIR CARE NEW RULE #1 Shun squeaky clean

THE OLD WAY Sudsing up daily with detergent-based shampoos

WHAT'S BAD ABOUT IT When hair squeaks, it's a cry for help--a sign that much-needed oils have been stripped away. Heavy suds often mean that your formula is too harsh. Overwashing leaves hair dull.

BETTER OPTION Wash gently only three times a week with a mild, low-surfactant (nonsudsy) shampoo. "We're constantly stripping away our natural oils and then struggling to replace them with products," Berg says. If you exercise regularly and feel you need to wash daily, skip the shampoo on alternate days. Instead, just rinse hair and condition the ends.

TRY For a dry scalp, Barefoot Botanicals S.O.S Hair & Scalp Rescue Shampoo, $18, barefoot-botanicals, corn; for an oily scalp, John Masters Organics Zinc & Sage Shampoo with Conditioner, $20, johnmasters.com; for the frizzies, Pureology SuperStraight Shampoo, $22, pureology.com.
NEW RULE #2 Condition less often

THE OLD WAY Following every shampoo session with a dollop of conditioner

WHAT'S BAD ABOUT IT Although most daily conditioners effectively detangle, they can't penetrate hair. These products sit on the surface; the cortex layer, inside each strand, never gets the moisture it craves.

BETTER OPTION Deep-condition with a natural, protein-packed leave-in product every two weeks. Consider it a vitamin for your hair. "Look for HYDROLYZED PROTEINS on the label-hydrolyzed means broken down to the simplest state, which makes the product able to penetrate hair," says Stuart Gavert, of Gavert Atelier in Beverly Hills. "Test conditioner on your fingers," adds his partner, Cody Kusakabe. "If it absorbs as you rub your fingertips gently together, it will go into hair too. If it sits on your skin, it will sit on your hair."

TRY Bath & Body Works Botanical Nutrients Wheat Germ Almond Hair Reconstructor, $18, Bath & Body Works; Purehair ChamomiLe Aloe Moisturizing Balm, $15, 888-290-PURE for stores; Redken Extreme Rescue Force, $13, redken.com. For extra conditioning, try Kusco-Murphy Dry Leave-In conditioner, $23, 888-658-1761.
NEW RULE #3 Dance with your dryer

THE OLD WAY Using a traditional blow-dryer on a high-heat setting

WHAT'S BAD ABOUT IT Hair fries as it dries.

BETTER OPTION Use an ionic dryer. By delivering negative ions to your hair, it will break down water molecules into microparticles that are small enough to penetrate the shaft. As a result, hair absorbs the moisture and dries more quickly, which means Less damage to your hair. If you would rather stick with your current dryer, says Shaun Killy, of Blu Globefusion in San Diego, "switch to a cool setting, which closes the hair cuticle." Whichever you choose, protect hair from heat (the number-one source of damage) with constant movement. "Don't leave your blow-dryer in one spot," Killy warns. "Blow-drying should be like a dance."

TRY Bio Ionic's FR Series Intensive Ion-Conditioning Pro Dryer, which produces natural negative ions (as opposed to those generated electrically), $175, www.bioionic.com; Vidal Sassoon Ion Digital Ceramic Dryer, which offers precise control of heat and speed, $35, at drugstores.
NEW RULE #4 Straighten gently

THE OLD WAY Thermal straightening

WHAT'S BAD ABOUT IT Extremely hard on hair; thermal straightening kills the inner part of the hair root. Relaxing agents leave the cortex Layer weak and susceptible to breakage. Sealing the process with a hot iron is, according to New York curl guru Ouidad, of Ouidad Salon, "like killing hair and then shooting it."

BETTER OPTION Forgo stick-straight hair and get partway there with a softening treatment or a home product that weighs down curls. "Even when you hear the term 'natural thermal straightener,' it isn't," Ouidad says. "it's a chemical treatment that basically destroys your hair." Although home softeners contain chemicals, they are much easier on hair, but the effect is not as dramatic. If thermal straightening has hurt your hair, Ouidad offers a reparative treatment called Damage Control, which affiliated salons throughout the country are certified to give. Go to ouidad.com to find one.

TRY EasyStraight's at-home Hair Straightening System (at drugstores), which is gentler and less expensive than thermal straightening ($30 versus $400 and up) and takes less than an hour. Philip B. Drop Dead Straightening Baume ($20, beautyhabit.com) adds weight to curls and is claimed to be humidity-proof.
NEW RULE #5 Use the right hairspray

THE OLD WAY Fluffing up with alcohol-based volumizers or hairsprays

WHAT'S BAD ABOUT IT Alcohol dries out hair and is especially damaging when exposed to sunlight. Sprays leave hair feeling stiff and crunchy. And, yes, volatile organic compounds emitted by aerosol sprays contribute to smog levels.

BETTER OPTION Look for nonalcohol or low-alcohol volumizing products; if you use hairspray, choose a low-VOC version (easier on the environment) and don't subject hair to it every day.

TRY Aveda Air Control, an aerosol hairspray with a low level of VOCs and organic jojoba to help condition hair, $23, aveda.com; MOP Glisten Volumizing Spray, which contains certified organic lemongrass and soybean to give hair volume, $13, www.modernorganic.com.
Healthy Hair Habits to Start Now

FEED YOUR HEAD A balanced diet is essential for strong hair. Get plenty of protein, iron, biotin (from eggs, dried fruit, liver), and omega-3 fatty acids.

CHILL OUT Stress can cause hair loss--another great reason to meditate or to relax with a cup of tea.

COVER UP Wear a hat in the sun; cover ends with a moisturizer that protects hair from UV rays, chlorine, and saltwater (we like Aesop Violet Leaf Hair Balm, $25, 888-223-2750; and Redken Sun Shape Sun Milk, $13, redken.com).

RUN COLD Rinse shampoo and conditioner from hair with cold water (as cold as you can stand) to close pores and protect your scalp.

BRUSH BEFORE BED Move natural offs down the hair shaft by brushing from scalp to ends nightly. A natural-bristle brush carries oils best; for extra-thick hair, use a hybrid, with both nylon and boar bristles.

GET CLIPPED Refresh hair and lose split ends with a trim every six weeks.

SOAK YOUR STRANDS Spritz hair with fresh water before diving into the pool; wet hair is less porous, and won't be as affected by chlorine. More important, rinse hair with fresh water after a swim, especially if your hair is color-treated.
True Colors How to choose the gentlest, most effective hair color for you

IF YOUR WANT TO KEEP YOUR NATURAL COLOR, THEN CHOOSE SEMIPERMANENT KITS. GENTLE AND ALMOST GOOF-PROOF, they have low ammonia and no peroxide. L'Oréal ColorSpa Moisture Actif has no ammonia, little or no peroxide, and a citrus scent ($6, at drugstores). Surya Henna Cream contains more than 15 natural herbs and fruits and is ammonia-, peroxide-, and paraben-free ($9,877-997-8792).

IF YOU WANT A RADICAL COLOR CHANGE OR TO COVER GRAY, THEN CHOOSE A DEMI-PERMANENT DYE, which leaves out the harsh ammonia but may contain some peroxide. Clairol Natural Instincts (demi-permanent formula) is ammonia-free and conditions with aloe ($8, at drugstores).

TO COLOR HAIR THAT'S COARSE OR MORE THAN 50 PERCENT GRAY, CHOOSE A PERMANENT DYE, which contains ammonia and peroxide. Protect your ends from damage (and color saturation) by touching up only roots on alternate treatments.

IF YOU WANT A MORE NATURAL DYE, THEN CHOOSE HENNA. But stay away from other hair products with ammonia or bleach, which react with henna's natural metallic salts and can damage hair. Not all hennas will cover tough grays.

DETANGLE, DON'T MANGLE To protect hair from pulling, work through knots in the shower with a wide-tooth comb while hair is saturated with conditioner.

IF YOU BLOW-DRY Replenish depleted lipids with a weekly oil treatment. Try Phyto Huile d'Alés Intense Hydrating Oil Treatment ($24, beauty.com) or Neutrogena Triple Moisture Pure Strength Oil Therapy ($7, at drugstores).

PHOTO (COLOR): For gentler cleansing, choose sulfate-free shampoos and conditioners with hydrolyzed proteins

PHOTO (COLOR): Cut back on blowdrying: Heat causes the most damage to hair.

PHOTO (COLOR): Spritz hairspray on your roots to give hair volume.

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Text By Danielle Claro; Photography by Jose Picayo

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