Tips My Tips for Dealing with Dry Hair

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I've been dealing with my very dry hair most of my life. By very dry I mean the entire length of the hair is dry, from roots to the tips including the scalp. It's just the way it is, my whole family has such hair, it’s in our genes. My hair rarely gets greasy and I do see this as a positive, because I cannot imagine washing my hair every day or every two days. I've picked up quite a few tips through the years from various sources or just something I discovered myself and I'll share them with you. I wrote this post months ago, but I wasn't sure if I should post it, as I'm not an expert in any way, this is just based on my experience with my hair and not a lot of people has such dry hair. In the last years my hair got so much better, so I thought why not share how I did it. 


Here is a comparison of my hair from years ago before I knew much about hair care and picture of my hair now. If you're wondering why there is such a difference in colour, it's because it was taken in completely different lighting and the bottom third of my hair in the first picture was dyed red-brown. This is how my hair looked during my teens and my main problem was the dried up, "broom-like" ends. I avoided heat tools, something I regret because my hair just looked like a mess and regardless how many products I try or how well I take care of my hair, I've just come to realise that I can't have nice, sleek hair without the help of heat. I've tried every way I could find to do define my natural curls, but truth be told, it never looked that great or at least not for long. My second mistake was using mainly drugstore products. While it's fine for someone with normal or oily hair, if your hair is really dry, most drugstore products won't be nearly enough moisturising for you.

My hair is still far from perfect. The top layers are very dry and coarse, also it's frizzy if I don't use appropriate products, but the ends are in much better condition. I'm definitely not a shampoo-plus-two-minutes-of-conditioner kind of girl and I added a quick overview of my routine at the end, a sort of a cheat sheet. I know there probably aren't a lot of people with such dry hair, most have more oily hair or at least oily roots and dry ends, but you can still pick up a tip or two. A fair warning this will be a long post.


1. Oils as pre-wash treatment. This just makes the biggest difference when the hair is completely dried up. At such times I'll always resort to Le Petit Marseillais Huile Elixir Karité & Argan or coconut oil, but there are many other oils. Best for dry hair are macadamia, argan, coconut and jojoba oil. Try mixing your own personal blend and if you have a problematic scalp, add a few essential oils like tea tree for dandruff (avoid them if your scalp is sensitive). Apply it generously on your hair, including the scalp. Leave it on for at least an hour (overnight is best. I read somewhere that a study suggest it's best to apply coconut oil 14 hours before washing. I do it over the weekend and put my hair in a halo braid that day) and then continue with your regular routine. Hot oil is even more effective as heat lifts up the cuticle (somewhat) and helps absorption. Put it in a microwave for a few seconds (about 20, careful it can be very hot, in that case leave it to cool until it’s at a temperature you can already tolerate) and apply it on your hair, massaging it into the scalp. You can also wrap your hair with a warm towel or use a hair dryer on a slow setting. 

2. Don’t wash your hair too often. Washing often will strip your hair of that little natural oil it has and thus making it drier. Invest in a dry shampoo to give yourself at least one more day of presentable hair, also combing your hair with a very dense, thin comb or a dense brush will distribute the oils and keep it from collecting just at the scalp (great especially if you have long hair that's curly, but be careful and never forcefully go through knots. The comb or brush has to easily glide through the hair). 


3. Use a moisturising, but foremost a gentle shampoo. Go for a more creamy formula and find something that doesn't dry out your hair. I've tried a ton shampoos and my two absolute favourites are Kérastase Nutritive Bain Oléo-Relax Smoothing Shampoo and its cheaper kind-of-dupe L'Oreal Elseve/Elvive Extraordinary Oil (or the old Smooth Intense). These two are just amazing and they work almost as a shampoo + conditioner in one. Others I loved are: Herbal Essences Hello Hydration, Orofluido shampoo, La Roche Posay Kerium for dry hair, L’Oreal Everpure Moisture shampoo (sulphate free), Keune Ultra Mild, Moroccanoil Moisture Repair Shampoo, Garnier Ultra Doux Apricot & Almond shampoo and Fructis Oil Repair 3 Shampoo. If you think sulphates might be too harsh and irritating for you, find a shampoo that is free of them, however, I've had sulphate free and normal shampoos, and both sides have some good shampoos and bad ones. Some shampoos with sulphates were the most moisturising and gentle I've found, particularly the ones from chemists. I used to be very careful about ingredients and I still read them, but since I stopped worrying so much (though I still avoid some), I've found much better products. For example, Lavera shampoos made my scalp very itchy as did Alverde’s and since I've been mostly using shampoos from La Roche Posay this hasn't happened to me. I would still like to point out that allergy to sulphates is very rare.

4. Baking soda instead of cleansing shampoos. Cleansing shampoos are a big no-no for me because they make my hair dry as straw. Baking soda is not only cheaper, but also feels more gentle to my dry hair, however it's got a very high pH which is not a good thing, so don't do it very often. It's odd to use it by itself, because it's a powder and there is no lather. If you are bothered by that just simply mix it in your shampoo. It will make your hair shiny, lighter and will remove build-up from styling and silicone based products, but like I said don't too often. I keep a 500g box of baking soda, which I got in Eurospin, in my bathroom.


5. Use a conditioner or a hair mask after every wash. Don’t use it just once a week or less. If your hair gets greasy fast use a lighter conditioner only on the ends, but if your hair is dry, use a hair mask (or if it’s not so dry - a really moisturising conditioner) every time you wash your hair. Don’t use (only) drugstore conditioners, because most don’t do anything for dry hair. Instead go straight for the mask version. Some gems in drugstores are: L'Oreal Elvital Total Repair 5, Dove Oil Care, Fructis Oil Repair mask, Garnier Olia After Colour Care, Herbal Essences Hello Hydration (it's lighter, but still very good) and Bee Strong, John Frieda Brilliant Brunette, Lee Stafford Treatment for Hair that Never Grows Past a Certain Length and Aussie 3 Minute Miracle Reconstructor. Slightly more expensive are L'Oreal Professionnel products, Redken All Soft and Tigi Dumb Blonde. Have at least two at once, one deep treatment and one lighter conditioner or mask, and alternate between them, depending on the condition of your hair.

Since I wrote this post many years ago I also started occasionally co-washing my hair. It's washing the hair using a conditioner or a special cleansing conditioner instead of shampoo (most conditioners contain surfactants that also clean the hair). Since I have dandruff I don't do it very often because this method doesn't clean my scalp well, but I do this when I'm pressed for time and I can't do my usual 20-30 minute conditioning or when my hair feels so dry I want to just nourish the hair. I have two L'Oreal's Cleansing conditioners, both are great, but I love Elvive Extraordinary Oil Curl Nourishement Cleansing Conditioner more. I also use my good drugstore conditioners such as Aussie 3 Minute Miracle. 


6. Invest in a good deep treatment/ hair mask. Spend a bit more on a hair mask and you will see a significant difference. Some good salon ones for very dry hair are: Moroccanoil Hydrating Mask (my HG), Joico K-Pack Hydrator, Joico Moisture Recovery Treatment Balm (very, very thick and only for coarse, thick hair), Tigi S-Factor Serious Conditioner, L'Oreal Profesionnel Série Expert Absolut Repair Lipidium and Kérastase Nutritive Masquitense Épais - Thick. Use it every time you feel your hair needs a bit of a boost of moisture. It's fine if you use a deep treatment more than once a week, in fact, I sometimes use it two times a week or until my hair feels ok again. Be aware there is a difference between a moisturising/nourishing mask and a protein treatment. The latter are meant for strengthening the hair, but proteins can make the hair a bit hard to the touch, so you need to use an additional moisturising treatment (for example Joico K-Pack Deep Penetrating Reconstructor is a protein treatment and it needs to be followed up by a separate moisturising conditioner, in their case their K-Pack Intense Hydrator). Dry hair needs moisture, so look for moisturising and nourishing treatments. 

7. Leave it on longer than it says. This goes mostly to drugstore treatments that say it works in 1 minute. Honestly how can it have time to work in a minute? Sure certain ingredients do their job instantly, but some need more time to be absorbed or deposited on the hair. Conditioners and treatments do their best in 20-30 minutes. The only exception applies to salon treatments with keratin or proteins. Those should only be left a few minutes. Protein treatment will make your hair stronger, but can get drying it time, so don't forget your moisturising treatments. 

8. Don’t apply conditioners, hair masks and treatments on soaking wet hair. Soaking wet hair won’t get much benefits from the treatment as your treatments will just run off. Imagine your hair is like a sponge. If it’s full of water it can’t absorb much more, but if your hair is damp or dry the treatment will penetrate into the hair easier. Wrap your hair in a towel for a few minutes before applying hair mask, but don’t towel dry it by rubbing, you’ll cause unnecessary damage. 


9. I’m not going to say don't use a hair dryer. I've been avoiding it for the longest time and the reason for that was that every time a hair dresser dried my hair it was dry as a Sahara (going over the same strand several times might work for most people, but not for my dry hair). But, I learned to dry it myself and it looks better than it ever did. It’s sleeker, looks more healthy and it's not as knotty. Knottiness can be a big problem for us curly girls with dry hair because it causes damage, so it is essential to have a good detangling product. Best I find are packed with silicones, but they sure do help a lot - my absolute top pick is Dove's Advanced Hair Series Quench Absolute Supreme Crème Serum or their Style+Care Frizz Free Cream Serum (it's basically the same product in slightly different packaging). If I let my hair dry naturally it feels a lot drier than if I dry it with a hair dryer. The secrets are to use heat protection, don’t use a high heat setting (I use the lowest or medium), don’t touch your hair with the nozzle because you will torch the cuticle and use a big barrel brush, going just once or twice through each strand. It will make your hair sleeker but not poker straight and it won't be dry. 


10. Use heat protection. I can’t stress this enough, but so many people are too lazy to use it. Use it before everything - hair drying, straightening or curling, basically any time there are heat tools involved. I like Tigi S-Factor Heat Defender, because it feels like oil, but there are plenty on the market for different prices. Kérastase Nutritive Nectar Thermique is a great one for dry hair and also works as a leave-in conditioner. I also tried Tigi Catwalk Blow Out, Percy & Reed Smoothed, Sealed & Sensational Volumising No Oil Oil, Balea Beautiful Long Wunder Serum (using currently, but discontinued. Silicones tend to protect against heat, so any product with a high content should do the job) and Redken Extreme anti-snap, and all of these are light enough for someone with normal and I dare say oily hair, especially that Percy & Reed one which feels like nothing on the hair, but defrizzes wonderfully. 


11. Leave-in conditioner is an important step – and often overlooked. A good leave-in treatment will seal in the moisture and give that extra boost of hydration. Find one that suits you, but I love Sexy Healthy Hair Soy Tri-Wheat Leave In Conditioner as I really notice that my hair stays hydrated longer. It's been my staple for several years now. 


The previously mentioned Dove's Advanced Hair Series Quench Absolute Supreme Crème Serum or their Style+Care Frizz Free Cream Serum are my absolute HG products. They just make the biggest difference on my hair. They make it so much more manageable, sleeker and shinier, basically I never want to be without them. A lighter version with the same results, but for a higher price is Sebastian Professional Potion 9


12. Silicone oil hybrids – styling with some extra care. They make your hair look more shiny and healthy, but unlike the old school basic silicones, these have those few percentages of oil that add a little extra to the hair, but feel lighter than proper oils. For really dry hair, I like Macadamia Healing OilOrofluido Beauty Elixir and Moroccanoil Treatment, plus Avon's Advanced Techniques Moroccan Argan Oil as a budget version (though you only get 30 ml) and several others I currently have. I wrote more about them in the Introduction to Hair oils Series


13. I like to use oils when my hair feels dry on days between washings. By oils, I mean proper oils, not the ones with silicones. It's not really important what kind it is, either marketed as a hair oil or a body oil or an oil for cooking (macadamia, coconut,..), there are plenty on the market. Coconut oil is popular and I currently use that Physician's Formula argan one in the third picture, but sometimes I prefer something lighter like Nuxe Huile Prodigeuse which is a dry oil (the Or version works too). Another nice product that is a leave-in conditioner and oil hybrid L'Oreal's Elvive Extraordinary Oil Oil-in-Cream. Despite being a creamy product, it doesn't leave the hair limp and greasy, plus it has a high content of coconut oil, which is very impressive.
I use these when my hair feels very dry and I use oils with silicones, when I just need to tame it a bit and I feel pure oil might weight it down.


14. Invest in a Tangle Teezer or something similar – especially if your hair is really knotty. It makes brushing your hair so much easier and you’ll prevent a lot of damage.

15. I don't believe in the idea you should use everything from the same line. There could be a good shampoo in one line, but the conditioner is bad. Mix, customise your care, find what suit you best. I've found mine, but am still improving it.


16. My take on the whole silicone free thing. There are a lot of people and articles about silicones being bad for your hair, but my experience tells me otherwise. My giant pet peeve is when someone tries to make everything sound very one sided by saying something along the lines: "This has silicones in it and it will only make your hair drier and ruin it”. Come on, don’t make it sound so black and white. First thing you should know is that there are different types of silicones and personally based on what I read I find none truly bad, especially from those commonly used, but that's just my opinion. If you use silicone serums a lot, then yes, an occasional use of clarifying shampoo is a good thing to do, though I hear a double cleansing with any SLS shampoo will do the job of removing most of the silicone coat, but as far as sillicone content in shampoos and conditioners go, it's not such a big deal. Naive as I was, I really believed this silicones being really bad business for a few years. I completely cut out silicones and used only natural brands like Lavera, Alverde and the likes. During those years I never noticed any positive change. In fact, I hated it. My hair got worse, drier, more knotty and completely unruly. So no, it didn't work for me, my hair simply likes silicones. Try it at your own risk. In my experience, my hair got a billion times better when I started using salon brands, but everyone's hair is different



Now for my kind of cheat sheet. This is the order of use/application I do when I wash my hair. The pre-wash oil is something I use only when my hair is very dry and needs a good pick me up/reset button, but the rest I use every time, only the conditioner changes (this one is one of my favourite "saviours"). Silicone oil is applied after styling if I  feel my hair need some taming. Both Balea's Wunder Serum and Dove's serum can be applied on either dry and wet hair, but the Healthy Sexy Hair leave-in works best on damp hair.

So this completes my epic post. It sure took a long time to write it and I probably forgot something. I hope this was useful, at least a few tips and thanks for reading.

More hair care related posts:
                                    How I Curl my Hair || Drugstore Recommendations for Dry Hair

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