Pick your shampoo and conditioner, wash your hair when it looks a bit grubby and use the styling products that have always worked for you, right?
Well, yes . . . but you could probably do it better, if only you knew how.
From knowing your scalp type to the diameter of your hair strands, Claire Coleman seeks expert advice for getting the most out of this mundane bathroom ritual.
Opinions are divided on this.
Trichologists used to argue that just as daily face washing is essential to keep the skin in optimum condition, so, too, is daily hair washing.
However, now they concede that if you style your hair with heat every day, this could outweigh the benefits of a daily wash.
If you want to know when your hair needs a wash, it’s your scalp you need to look at.
“The amount of oil your scalp produces and how quickly dictates timing,” says Estelle Baumhauer of online colour specialist eSalon.co.uk.
“The longer it takes for the scalp to get oily, the drier it is and the less frequent shampooing is necessary.
“If you have oily skin, you’re likely to have an oily scalp and will need to wash your hair daily or every other day, while those with drier scalps can get away with once or twice a week.”
Still picking your shampoo according to whether your hair is normal, dry or greasy?
Stop, you’re doing it wrong — or at least not getting the best from your hair.
“Using the wrong shampoo or conditioner won’t damage your hair,” says Anabel Kingsley, trichologist at Philip Kingsley.
“But your hair won’t be as manageable as it could be and that could lead to damage. For example, the more manageable your hair is, the less heat styling it needs.”
According to Anabel, pick your shampoo and conditioner according to your hair’s texture.
“There are some exceptions,” she says. “If you’ve got a scalp issue, you need a shampoo that addresses that. Your scalp is the bedrock of your hair follicle and you can’t grow healthy hair unless it’s in good condition.”
Others argue that if you have colour-treated or chemically straightened hair you should look for sulphate-free products — try L’Oreal’s EverPure, EverRiche, EverStrong rangeas sulphates can expand the hair’s shaft, causing colour pigments or straightening agents to escape.
The texture of your hair is a good place to start when you’re choosing products.
According to Estelle Baumhauer, the easiest way to work out whether hair is fine, medium or thick is to pull it into a ponytail.
Anabel Kingsley says: “With fine hair, there are more hairs per square centimetre of scalp and each has an oil gland.
“This tends to mean that hair gets greasy more quickly and, because it’s so fine, easily becomes flat at the roots as the oil weighs the hair down.
“You need haircare products that will gently but effectively cleanse the roots, while adding body. Look for those enriched with proteins, such as hydrolysed keratin.”
Those with medium-textured hair can find roots get greasy while ends stay dry, especially if hair is longer, but on the whole, this hair suffers from the fewest styling problems.
“You need to use products that will moisturise the full length of the hair,” says Anabel. “Look for ingredients such as wheat proteins, which add moisture without heaviness.”
”You want products that add moisture and strength,” says Anabel. “Hydrolysed elastin is a good ingredient, but you should also look for anti-static ingredients, such as guar, a conditioning plant extract.”
Afro-Caribbean hair is the most fragile of all.
“There are twists in the shaft of each hair that make it very prone to breaking,” says Anabel. “It’s porous and tangles easily, so you need ingredients that will impart a lot of moisture and aid the detangling process.
“Seek out cocoa butter and natural oils.”
Very few of us leave our hair to dry naturally and it’s at this point that you have a choice.
Do you apply a mousse? A curl spray? A smoothing balm?
Hair should be towel dry, not dripping wet, when you apply a product — that way you’re not running the risk of it just sliding off the hair.
“If you use straighteners, you want a product that will offer heat protection,” says Anabel.
Heat protector sprays work in a number of ways. They provide a barrier between the hair and the source of heat, as well as providing a slippery surface to help straighteners slide through the hair more easily, meaning they are less likely to damage it.
Look for ingredients such as silicones, binding ingredients such as PVP/DMAPA acrylates copolymer, wheat protein and conditioning ingredients known as polyquaterniums, such as quaternium-26.
TRESemme Protect Heat Defence Styling Spray contains amodeimethicone, a silicone, as well as hydrolysed wheatprotein.
Want to emphasise curls? Look for sprays or gels that contain ingredients such as PVP or copolymer — try Umberto Giannini Curl Friends Create A Curl Scrunching Jelly — which forms a film over each hair shaft, holding it in place.
For straight hair, seek out a balm that will smooth the cuticle and prevent water from penetrating it.
So you’ve washed your hair, dried it; now what? Do you go for hairspray, wax or serum?
“The product you choose should be based on the final finish you want,” says cosmetic chemist Dr Joe Cincotta, who developed John Frieda’s iconic Frizz Ease range.
If you want your hair to have a shiny finish, look for serums and oils. “These deliver a shiny finish by providing a smoother surface that reflects more light,” says Dr Cincotta.
Frizz Ease is one of the best. For luxury, try Shu Uemura’s Essence Absolue with silicones and camellia oil.
However, warns Anabel, be careful where you apply them. “Shine serums help to smooth the cuticle, but they’re most useful on the ends of the hair where part of the cuticle is missing, making the hair appear rougher and more prone to frizzing as moisture can penetrate the hair.
“I always suggest using serum from mid-length as it can weigh down the roots and make them look greasy.”
“Bees wax, carnuba wax and candellila wax have holding power and deliver a matte finish,” says Dr Cincotta.
Finally, if you don’t want your hair to move, you need a good old-fashioned hairspray, such as Elnett.
For something to really set your style, look for vinyl and acrylic polymers, says Dr Cincotta: “These are the strongest fixatives and deliver a semi-gloss finish.”