Beauty 101: Your Hair Questions, Answered

This weekend, our Beauty 101 series is focusing on all aspects of hair care and styling. Yesterday, I posted your questions, and today, your fellow commenters have provided the answers:



Sadly, I'm not able to use every single answer that was submitted on the original post or via email, though I do appreciate everyone's replies. I also urge everyone to read through yesterday's post, where our commenters have listed hundreds of hair care tips and tricks. And now, a few helpful highlights (no pun intended):

On Straightening Hair:
From commenter viklane:

For properly straightening hair, the number one tip I can give is to put all of your hair into a ponytail and then remove inch-wide strands and straighten them one at a time — starting at the back and moving to the sides and then the front

From commenter Polly Pocket:

Buy high quality tools. There is no short cut with this one. Get a good quality flat iron: Solia, Sedu, Chi, GHD are good brands. It's a lot cheaper to find a good quality curling iron. Hot tools is awesome for a good price.

From Laura, via email:

I have hair that is curly, wavy, and straight at the same time. Since I can't deal with the first two (hopefully I will after this post!), I have become an expert on doing the last.

After you shower, towel dry and put in some silicone based serum (John Freida is good and cheap). Then blow dry, using your fingers is fine, you aren't aiming for perfect straightness here- just get it consistently close to dry throughout. To add body, blow dry upside down. Too start tackling really curly hair, use a large round brush and work in sections. Be gentle, though, as not to break the hair.

Next comes the flat iron- and I highly recommend you get a high-end one. It makes all the difference in the world to have a high quality flat iron! One that is thin, an inch to an inch and a half wide is the easiest to use. If you are concerned about damage, add some more product now that protects against heat damage. Now comes my secret to shine: I always iron my hair in front of an open window or a fan: it cools the hair shaft while it is straightened, leaving it shiny. Starting with the bottom, in 2 inch sections, flat iron the hair gently but be sure to move quick to avoid damage and iron creases. I brush the section of hair immediately after ironing, in front of the fan or window, to cool it off right away.

Do this until most of your hair is done except for the parts around your face. These parts can be hard to do without burning yourself, especially girls with curls (gurls?) that need to get close to the root. To do these sections, I bend over and tip my hair in front of my face so I don't burn myself, and get really close to the root, working on much smaller pieces. Now you can style it additionally, i.e. to add body, use large round rollers for a few minutes to set some big waves, or curl the ends with a curling iron. Finish with a light shine spray.


On Adding Volume To Thin/Fine Hair:

From commenter Margot Keller:

I've got straight, somewhat thin, flat hair and being from Texas, I like it big, lol. Here's my tips for getting some volume at the crown:

1) You'll always have more volume the 2nd day after a wash; the product buildup helps stiffen the hair a bit, so don't shampoo every day.

2) When your hair is wet & clean, let it air dry a few minutes; then spray a good volumizer like Aveda Volumizing Tonic or Bumble & Bumble Thickening Spray all over, taking care to get some at the roots.

3) Flip your hair upside down and blow most of the moisture out, until it's just barely damp.

4) Blowdry the crown using a vent brush. Let the brush pick up a chunk of hair, point the dryer nozzle DOWN towards the roots, blast on hot for about 10 seconds, then either hit the cool button or take the dryer away long enough to cool the hair section.

5) Once you've done the roots, it can be tricky blowing the bottom half out to look smooth, because if you pull the brush down, you'll pull the crown flat. I use a hot-air curling brush or a regular round brush (gently).

6) When you're all dry, flip your hair over and using either a teasing comb or wide pick (my choice), tease the roots all over the top of your head.

7) Flip back over, smooth down any wayward strands and spray the shit out of the top with L'Oreal Elnett (available at Tar-jay...$$$ but worth it).

Secret weapon for adding volume to dirty hair: Ojon Rub-Out Dry Shampoo spray. Smells good, takes away the oilies and provides huge hair with minimal effort. Believe it or not, the above system only takes me 10 minutes flat.

From commenter ottska:

1. Fine hair rocks the pixie cut. The longest I can feasibly grow it to is a shaggy bob - anything longer looks pants.
2. Spray in some dry shampoo before blow drying - it's way less crispy than mousse, and way more effective than any volumising sprays/preps I've ever used. Often means I don't have to use any styling product on top, so nothing to weigh down my hair.

From mikskeezy, via email:

I have fine/thin hair and I've found the best way to get it to behave and be bouncy-flouncy is some mousse, a round brush and a hairdryer. After a shower, wait until your hair is about half dry before adding mousse (or other volumizing agent). Then, pin most of it up except for the lowest layer, and proceed to blow dry hair with the round brush, being sure to pull the hair up (ie: parallel to your head, towards Jesus!) and then down towards your shoulders. Continue with various layers until you're done! Learning to blow dry with a round brush is a bitch, but it's saved my flat hair's life. Volumizing conditioners and shampoos are not necessary; I've achieved these results with your run of the mill shampoos/conditioners. Also: LAYERS ARE YOUR FRIEND. The top layer of your hair needs to be a wee bit short so it not only will have volume on its own but it won't weigh down the hair below it.

If the hair is also mega greasy like mine, be sure to only put conditioner on the lower 1/4-1/3 of your hair or else you're going to weigh down the roots. I have to wash my hair every day and since I shower at night, by the end of the day my hair can be a little bit greasy. Using a dry shampoo (this one is my favourite so far; better than baby powder and smells delicious) is super helpful because all you have to do is put a little bit in your hands, gently massage into roots and voila! Goodbye oil. If your hair is really being ridiculous after the work day and you're going out, just re-blow dry your hair using the steps above. It redistributes the oils and tends to help fix any style mishaps that might have arisen during the day.

On French Twists:
From commenter LadyTudorRose:

For the French Twist, it's best if you have medium to slightly long hair (not short or too long) that's not too curly or too fine. Some hair types just can't pull it off.

1. Gather your hair like you're tying it up.
2. Pull it to the bottom.
3. Twist from the bottom up.
4. Pull your hair up, so the twist is against the back of your head.
5. Pin it with lots of pins and secure with hair spray.
6. If you have chunks that won't stay put or are falling down after pinning, use a hairclip close in color to your hair to hold in place. You won't be able to notice.
7. Use a second mirror/trustworthy friend/Mom to see how your hair looks in the back.
8. Add a pin/flower to make it look extra pretty and/or cover up any clips or pins that are showing.

On When, And How Often To Wash One's Hair:
From commenter petey-pablo:

some people with very oily scalps need to wash their hair every day, but for the most part, 2-3 times a week is best, some people can go up to once a week. if you do wash every day, use a gentle, sulfate free shampoo (especially if you have colored hair). you can also just use a tiny bit of conditioner daily if you need to style your hair everyday. if you was 2-3 times a week, shampoo twice. you'll notice the first shampoo won't really lather because it is breaking up the oils, the second with be much more bubbly and ensure that the hair is clean. use a good quality conditioner and leave on for 5-10 minutes before rinsing. regarding hair masks, do NOT over use protein based conditioners, they can over proteinize hair making it more brittle and stiff. about once every 2 weeks for dry hair and once a month for normal hair is fine.

From Julia, via email:

I have been told that people with curly to wavy hair should not wash it more frequently than every other day, and my experience has backed this theory up. My hair tends to be on the drier side, and washing it everyday strips your hair's natural oils away and leaves it drier than normal. By all means take a shower every day if you like, but don't wash your hair every time you do- besides, sometimes the steam alone can help reactivate your curl/wave and will save you the restyling time.

On Dealing With Curly Hair:
From Honor, via email:

Less is more with curly hair, as I've finally figured out after years of sticky hair gels, hairdryer attachments and tears (hey, I was sensitive in middle school). The No. 1 rule of curly hair - when you air dry (and really, who actually uses a diffuser?) keep your paws off of it! No patting, finger combing, or "scrunching" until it is 100% dry. This alone, will tame frizziness by 80%. No. 2 rule - conditioner is the only product you need! Ignore all those creams and serums. Buy a decent brand of conditioner - I use the AVEDA one for curly hair - use it to condition and rinse in the shower and then rub a nickle-sized amount into your hair after your shower. I hear leave-in conditioner works, too. No. 3 rule: shampoo the roots, condition the ends. No. 4: If you have the dough, buy an expensive Korean flat iron for the days you want straight hair. Just knowing that you can go straight if you want to makes you appreciate your curls more.

From Sarah, via email:

I have really long, thick curly hair. It was stick-straight until I hit puberty, and for a few years I had no idea how to handle it. Now it looks totally awesome. Here's what I find works to keep it bouncy and happy and tamed:

- If at all possible, buy shampoos without sulfates, which are drying to curly hair due to the porous hair shafts. Also avoid products with silicone, dimethicone, or most other -cones. They make your hair shiny, but also build up pretty heavily and weigh down curl pattern. Just check the ingredients on the back of the bottle. Most natural brands will be good (Burt's Bees, Nature's Gate, and whatever the Whole Foods store brand is, for example — bonus: the Whole Foods brand is way cheap), and some Suave/Herbal Essences/etc stuff is good too.

- Condition your hair! A lot! Always! And never, ever brush it when it's dry — use a wide-tooth comb in the shower, preferably while the conditioner is in it.

- I try not to dry my hair with terrycloth towels — the friction creates extra frizz. I usually dry my hair with an old pillowcase or t-shirt, and I usually dry it by scrunching my hair with the fabric, rather than turban-ing the whole thing. Sometimes I flip my head upside down, scrunch all my hair into the t-shirt/pillowcase, and then twist it around my head and secure it with an elastic if I need my hair to dry more throughly more quickly. Once your hair is damp rather than dripping, gently work a little anti-frizz serum and/or a light gel/styling cream into your hair. Then you can scrunch it up with your hands, or if you're me, detangle it into smaller sections and twist the wet hair around your finger to guide it into ringlets. Don't touch it once you've done that, and it should try in pretty, semi-frizz-free curls. Let your hair air-dry if you have the time. Often I don't, and I'll blow dry it, but only if it no longer looks wet (just feels wet...you know that feeling, right?). If I shower at night and don't want to wait for my hair to dry before going to bed, I like to put my hair in pin-curls to avoid bedhead and it's extra boing-y in the morning.

- In terms of styling, try to keep any ponytails/braids loose around the face so there's no tightness to clash with the soft poofiness of the rest of the hair. If your hair is flat or otherwise funky after sleeping on it or being out all day, scrunching some mousse into the ends often helps. Hairspray to the roots + some scrunching helps too.

- Lastly, and this is just a personal preference/plea: don't straighten your hair to try to "fix it"! Natural curls are so pretty and awesome! Rock them!

From commenter coffeespoon:

I have very, very curly, frizzy, messy hair. I rarely straighten my hair, so I've explored many ways to rock the curls. The best, hands down? HOT ROLLERS.

My curls love 'em, in spite of the fact that they are uber-80s. I have a set that is all differently sized rollers, and I usually don't heat them very high. I will roll warmed-up rollers into damp hair, give my head a squirt of hairspray, and let 'em set. If I'm in a rush (usually not, since I shower and fix my hair in the evening) I will use a blowdryer, with the rollers still in, to dry them. When I take the rollers out of the now-dry hair, my curls have obediently made themselves into lovely, bouncy waves.

This method is much, much better than using a curling iron or other tool, since (i) your hair, if you start out wet, will set in curls that won't fall out during the day and (ii) the hot rollers don't get hot enough to damage your hair like a curling iron or flatiron will.

Also, re: the hair washing, as a curly girl I shampoo my hair 1-2 times a week. Shampooing every day make curly hair quite thin and brittle — you need those oils. I do condition it much more frequently.

On Keeping Hair Healthy While Using Relaxers:
From commenter ceejeemcbeegee:

1. Stop playing kitchen beautician and get your hair done by a pro at least every other week, if not every week.

2. Yes... I said every week. You want your hair to grow and be healthy with a relaxer (yes, it is possible) you need to put down the pressing comb and let a pro do your hair. It's hard for a layperson to gauge the amount of heat and therefore people unknowingly burn their hair.

3. Avoid heat whenever possible. Get a wet-set: roll the hair while it's wet and sit under the dryer. I either wear the curls for a few days, then wrap it flat until my next appointment, or I wrap it flat from the beginning... it depends on my mood that week. I do not own a curling or flat iron. I do not put ANY heat in my hair... ever.

4. When I work out, I keep with wrapped and tie a funky scarf around it. Keeps it from frizzing.

5. I love to swim in the summer, so after I wash my hair with Swim Ease to remove all the chlorine, I use the same shampoo & Conditioner my stylist uses: Design Essentials Ultra Moisturizing Shampoo & their Leave In-Conditioner. Then I use A LOT of Elasta QP Mousse and let the hair air-dry. It creates waves I can wear all week.

6. regular trims (every 6-8 weeks) and root touch ups (every 5-7 weeks) will keep help your hair grow.


On Setting Vintage Styles:

From Chloe, via email:

No matter what, you need to start with a pin curl set - if you are sleeping on it, do flat pin curls. This video is great, but if you have naturally frizzy/curly/kinky hair, do this on dry hair and do not spray your hair with anything before wrapping each section toward your scalp. In order to avoid dents, I only use one bobby pin per pin curl, and I don't let it cross the entire curl.

(She also linked to this YouTube tutorial, for those interested.)

From commenter marviehead:

If you're looking for a particular style i.e: retro, updo, glam, etc. YouTube has a TON of great videos. There are even videos on how to style wigs. (which I used for Halloween when I went at Betty Draper)

Consider Asking A Pro For A Lesson:
From Bailey, via email:

Hi, I know this tip isn't very hands on, but the best $40 I ever spent was having a blowout class at my salon. I have heard of salons doing blowout bootcamps, but I just brought my dryer and brush and my hairdresser talked me through giving myself a blowout. By taking the time to section and blowdry correctly I save a ton of time on drying and straightening and my hair looks healthier too.

From commenter Heatherdazy:

The best possible answers to these questions will vary based on your hair type, budget, how much time you're willing to spend, and exactly what look you're trying to achieve (I mean, c'mon, there are infinite curled and straightened styles!). The best idea is to get a trusted hairstylist to talk you through how she styles your hair and have her style it differently each time you go in, so you can get new ideas.

Seriously, most stylists would much rather talk about your hair than about your sister's cheating boyfriend anyway.

Didn't get the answer you were looking for? Please take a minute to look through yesterday's thread, where there are over 500 comments providing detailed, helpful hints. Disagree with something you see in this post? Feel free to set things straight (or curly, wah wah waaaaah) in the comments. And as always, if you have a suggestion for next week's Beauty 101 topic, feel free to share your ideas and questions, as well.

Earlier: Beauty 101: The Hair Up There
Beauty 101: Your Foundation And Concealer Concerns, Answered
Beauty 101: Your Eyeliner Woes, Solved