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You've Been Washing Your Hair Wrong Your Whole Life, Experts Say

Want luscious locks? It’s time to turn your hair washing routine upside down.

If it seems like good hair days are few and far between, chances are your locks need some love—and luckily, the solution to your problem might be as simple as changing up your shower routine. Though many of us tend to "lather, rinse, repeat" without any further thought to the matter, professional hairstylists say your go-to routine could be putting your hair through the wringer. As celebrity stylist Marc Mena recently told Today, the best way to tame your tresses for a smoother, silkier look is by conditioning not just after shampooing, but also before. This can make all the difference between a movie star mane and conspicuously keeping your hat on all day.

According to Mena, the key to getting gorgeous hair is to focus on cleaning the scalp while protecting your hair ends. "I always recommend to my clients that the first thing they do in the shower is condition the ends, even before they shampoo," he explains. "Shampoo cleans, but it can also dry the hair out, so you want to protect your ends first. Then, after you shampoo, lightly condition the ends again."

Mena shared another common mistake that people make while sudsing their strands: applying shampoo to the entirety of their hair. "Shampoo is made to clean the scalp, so that should always be your focus in the shower — not shampooing from top to ends. The lather in your shampoo should be strong enough to clear out any residue on the ends when you are washing it out," Mena shares. For maximum protection, be sure to then apply your conditioner directly to the ends of your hair, working the product upward toward the roots.

Especially for those with curly or fine hair, these two techniques—strategic shampooing and double conditioning—will put you on the fast track to a softer texture and better body. After all, double the hair conditioner means double the impact—setting you up for a good hair day every day. Read on for other tips on washing your hair like a pro stylist, and for more on helping your hair look its best, check out these 40 Ways to Have Amazing Hair After 40.

Use the right products for your hair type.

Woman putting product in her hair in front of the mirror in the bathroom

Figuring out your hair type is a crucial step in setting your hair washing routine, and it goes far beyond labelling your hair as "straight" or "curly." Instead, find the hair products that best suit your needs by assessing aspects beyond texture, including hair structure (thickness of the strands), hair porosity (how well it retains moisture from products), and scalp moisture (your natural oil levels).

Turn down the temperature.

woman washing her hair in shower with shampoo

Using lukewarm water rather than hot water to wash your hair can help protect your scalp from drying out. This can ultimately help to fight brittle hair and breakage, which can cause excessive frizz and split ends—not your best look. By turning down the temperature, you can preserve your scalp's natural oils and keep your hair looking healthy and shiny. And for more ways to make the most of your shower routine, find out  How Often You Should Really Be Showering, According to Doctors.

Skip a day (or two).

Man looking at his hair

If shampooing your hair is part of your daily ritual, you're probably washing your hair far too often. As Anthony Cole, stylist for Sebastian Professional Haircare recently told Teen Vogue, "Most young women today wash their hair way too much! Three times a week is sufficient for most hair types." Stick to that timeline for best results, or—if you've got very curly hair—you may be able to skip shampoo altogether.

Follow up with a protectant.

young black woman drying hair with towel

As any expert will tell you, what you do after you wash is just as important as what you do in the shower—especially if you plan to style your hair with hot tools. After stepping out of the shower, dry your hair with a cotton t-shirt and apply a protective serum, oil, or leave-in conditioner to help retain optimum moisture. And for more ways you've been showering all wrong, check out The Body Part You're Forgetting to Wash Every Time You Shower.

Lauren Gray
Lauren Gray is a New York-based writer, editor, and consultant. Read more
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