How I Learned To Be Nice To My Hair


My hair is incredibly average and unnoteworthy. It rarely behaves badly—even as I’ve bleached it, permed it, and hot tooled it into oblivion. I often preface haircuts with, “Don’t worry about pulling my hair, I’m used to it,” and when left to my own devices, I’ll hack away at knots with unwavering command. Some days I won’t brush at all, and let the tangles pile up as they please. None of these are good habits, I know—but admitting I have a problem is the first step.

The second step is an action plan. Because even I know these bad habits will come back to haunt me soon enough. So, for the past few months, I’ve been doing something radical—for me, at least. I’ve been...gentle! You could even say that I've been nice, paying attention to what my hair actually needs (and what it doesn't). The difference has been significant—for the first time in a really long time, my hair is long, healthy and has that squishy, thick feeling when I wrap my fingers around the base of a ponytail. And all it took was a little bit of kindness—no crazy tricks needed. I'm calling it the "nice hair routine," and it looks a bit like this:

The AM Routine

I am a breakfast person by nature, but also, studies like this one suggest that eating food with protein makes for healthy hair. So I start my days now with various hearty egg dishes, because facts are facts!

Next, I head to the bathroom and give my hair a good zhuzh. I brush it through with a Tangle Teezer—this one is specifically made for fine and fragile hair, but thicker-haired folks like Georgia Moot use the original. Something about the mix of short and long bristles detangles and smooths without getting caught in the knots. A hairstylist once told me to start brushing at the ends, tackling tangles there, and then gently brushing down the tangles above them—so now I do that, too.

To preserve my hair's natural oils, I'm shampooing less. But that means I have to wear it up more. These Slip Skinnies are silk scrunchies for people who hate scrunchies—they’re gentle on hair but not big and fluffy like traditional scrunchies at all. Hair Bungees look even more like average hair ties, but because they close with a hook, they won’t pull your hair out upon removal. Or, skip the hair tie altogether and twist it up with a claw clip. Seoul Import makes the best ones—they’re pricey, but think of them as jewelry for your hair. I promise you’ll get more use out of them than any other tiny gold chain. If you’re reading from the US, I buy mine from Dressmate.

The PM Routine

When I come home from work, it’s pants off, makeup off, and then a shower soon after so I can give my hair enough time to dry before I hit the hay. Washing my hair about once a week seems to be a safe sweet spot, so I’m trying to not take Playa’s Every Day Shampoo too literally. It’s sulfate-free, and made to be gentle enough even to forgo conditioner on my straight hair. I alternate every few weeks with Goop’s G. Tox scrub for a deeper clean—because the scrub is suspended in a whipped base, it’s equal parts sudsy and gritty, so it gets into all the hard to reach places. Taking the time to massage it in until it dissolves helps me stimulate my hair follicles, remove product and oil buildup, and simulate that good scrub you can only really get in the salon. Then I brush through again, this time with a Wetbrush that I keep in the shower—it’s specially made to be used on wet hair. If your hair is thicker, most hairstylists recommend a wide-tooth comb like this one from Ouidad, used while the hair is coated in conditioner. But for those who prefer a brush, Felicia Leatherwood’s version has rows of bristles that widen to accommodate curls or waves.

When I get out, I wrap my hair up in an Aquis microfiber towel. I used to use a terrycloth towel, but its rough texture can cause breakage around the root. (And also: it never worked very well. My hair was always wet when I took it down!) Microfiber, on the other hand, is smoother, gentler on strands, and also dries better. The result is less frizz and a better air dry.

After some takeout, a movie, and two hours of Google searching for the perfect pair of white shorts, I go straight to bed. You probably know by now that a silk pillowcase is good for hair—there are fewer tangles to brush out in the morning when there’s less friction. So, why haven’t you taken the plunge? This one costs $32 and comes in 14 colors and five sizes, so it’s guaranteed to suit whatever bedding situation you already have going on.

The Long-Game

And then, there are the things that a simple “I’m sorry” and complete routine overhaul can’t fix. Your hair holds grudges, and forgiveness takes time. Any time you’re headed somewhere you know you’ll sweat and have to wash your hair anyway, take the opportunity to put on a reparative hair mask. That way you know you’re getting at least an hour with the mask on, without having to budget waiting time for it—I find it’s the only way to get myself to actually do a hair mask. I like this one, from Sachajuan, because I like anything where I don’t have to stick my fingers in a pot of mush. Other good opportunities: when you go for a facial, when you’re on a flight, when you want to wear a super sleek bun anyway. Heck, you can even do it at work. Also, make sure to get a trim every two or three months. Your hair will thank you—mine already has, and our relationship’s never been stronger.

—Ali Oshinsky

Photo via ITG