Before I started seriously thinking about going from dark brown highlighted hair to blonde, I’d been very low maintenance with my hair, getting color and cuts about once a year, deep conditioning once every couple weeks and using heat on my hair a couple times a week. Before getting my hair bleached, I wanted it to be in the best condition possible and started browsing online for hair care routines, going from brunette to blonde and maintaining color. Check out my journey to blonde here.
There is a lot of information (contradictory information) and many hair care routines to be found. I wanted to compile some of this contradictory information here and share my hair care routine.
Silicones – Two conflicting thoughts here – Use products with silicone, it protects the hair and makes it shiny; never use silicone, it builds up and dulls the hair. Silicone seems to be one of the more controversial hair care ingredients. It’s in almost every hair care product; shampoo, conditioner, oils, masks and treatments. Silicone offers protection from the environment (UV, pollution) and makes hair shiny and healthy-looking (even if it isn’t). It detangles hair and gives it a feel of slip. It protects hair color from fading and prevents frizziness.
Silicone builds up on the hair over time even through shampooing, weighing it down, eventually making it look dull. Silicone blocks other treatments, hydration and nutrients from getting to the hair. So if the shampoo used doesn’t take out previous silicone and the conditioner used contains silicone, other treatments used after such as oils, treatments and moisture will just sit on top the silicone and not penetrate the hair. Silicone coats the hair, making it shiny. Silicone isn’t going to build up indefinitely on the hair, the hair only has so much surface area.
What about water soluble silicones? These are silicones that rinse away with water, mild shampoo or cleansing conditioners. Two common silicones, dimethicone and cyclomethicone, are not water soluble. Silicones modified with PEG are water soluble; look for PEG in front of the silicone ingredient. While sulfate shampoos are harsh, this is not the only ingredient that can remove silicones. Shampoos with coco-betaine and cocamidopropyl betaine can remove silicones, water-soluble or not.
I’ve recently been moving toward silicone-free, but after a color service, will use a silicone conditioner for extra protection. I currently switch between the BlondMe Keratin Restore Bonding Mask (with dimethicone) and the Don’t Despair, Repair deep conditioning mask from Briogeo (silicone-free). To get the slippery feel on the hair without using silicone, look for brassicamidopropyl dimethylamine (from the broccoli family, but can also be synthetic), look for the fatty alcohols (cetyl alcohol, stearyl alcohol, cetearyl alcohol as examples) and look for oils. One of my favorite silicone-free all natural conditioning masks is Enrich from Josh Rosebrook. This is made of many oils and herbs and has the slip and detangling feel of a silicone-based conditioner.
Washing – Something as “simple” as a hair wash seems anything but. Color safe shampoos, sulfate-free shampoo, drug store, salon quality, no-poo and cleansing conditioners, apple cider vinegar rinse, baking soda; wash hair every day? twice a week? once a week? once a month? Is dry shampoo okay to use?
It is pretty well known that you shouldn’t wash your every day. As natural oils are washed from your hair, color can fade quicker and mineral buildup occurs on the hair faster. I read in an Instagram post from Josh Rosebrook I believe who says it is okay to wash your hair every day as long as you use organic, all natural, gentle ingredients (he sells an all natural hair care line). I disagree with this. While gentle all natural ingredients are likely better and less harsh, natural oils are still washed away and mineral buildup from water occurs, plus I would be annoyed at having to wash and style my hair every day.
I’ve never tried no-poo for any length of time, but have used cleansing conditioners from Deciem’s Hair Is Fabric, but I do prefer a good moisturizing, foamy, cleansing shampoo. I’ve recently been using Briogeo’s Super Moisturizing Shampoo from the Don’t Depair, Repair line. I also use a purple toned shampoo from Schwarzkopf to maintain the cool tones in my new blonde hair. I go as long as I can between washes, about every 3 to 4 days, and wash in cool water.
As for what makes a color-safe shampoo, as far as I can tell, it should be sulfate-free (SLS and SLES). Sulfates are harsh detergents, making hair dry and washing away color. I’ve used sulfate-free shampoos for a long time; years ago from Pureology and more recently from Malibu, Briogeo and Schwarzkopf.
Some people use apple cider vinegar and/or baking soda in place of shampoo or conditioner (or both); I wouldn’t, even diluted I think it would mess with the pH of the scalp and doesn’t seem like it would clean as well. I use apple cider vinegar rinses after an oil treatment, however. ACV seems to break up the oil and is better than shampooing the oil out three times in a row which would negate the hydrating oil treatment. I also use it as a sort of clarifying treatment for oily scalp or product buildup. I then follow with shampoo and conditioner. I have been using John Masters Organics Herbal Cider Hair Clarifier and Color Sealer, but when I run out, will just mix up my own.
Air dry – Should you air dry your hair? Two thoughts on this – Don’t air dry, water swells the hair, damaging it; Yes air dry, the heat from a hair dryer is more damaging. You could blow dry on the cool setting. I let my hair dry, but my hair is pretty thin and dries relatively fast.
Dry shampoo – Dry shampoo comes in spray or powder form. I have used sprays from Batiste and Marc Anthony. I haven’t used a powder one, but am looking at Briogeo or Barber and Fritz for my next dry shampoo purchase. Dry shampoo can extend the time between hair washes. I don’t use dry shampoo too often and wouldn’t want to use it multiple days in a row, as it builds up on the hair.
Conditioners – In addition to the above conditioners, I use a leave-in conditioner from Belegenza called EnCore. I saw a recent article, saying people should condition the hair first, rinse, then shampoo. That makes no sense to me; conditioner closes the hair cuticle and makes the hair hydrated and shiny.
Protein – If hair is stiff and brittle, it might have too much protein, and stringy or limp hair, not enough. If looking for a protein treatment, products should contain hydrolyzed protein, so the molecule is small enough to penetrate the hair. The leave-in conditioner I use has three different kinds of hydrolyzed protein and I use it every 3 or 4 days after I wash my hair. Another option is hydrolyzed protein drops. Barber and Fritz makes Strengthening Tonique, a treatment with soy, corn, silk, wheat and keratin proteins in a dropper bottle that you can apply to washed hair, add conditioner over top and rinse, add into an overnight mask treatment or mix into other styling products and use as normal.
Oils – There are penetrating oils that can hydrate the hair and sealant oils that coat and protect the hair. Everyone seems to use coconut oil. Two opposing thoughts here – Coconut oil molecules are small enough to penetrate the hair and is very hydrating; the molecules are too big and the oil just sits on the hair. I couldn’t find a definitive answer here. I generally use coconut oil or jojoba oil as a sealant.
Hydrating oil examples include olive, avocado and argon. Sealant oils include jojoba, grape seed and sweet almond.
Water is the best hydrator, so after a hair wash and condition, I towel dry, mix a leave-in conditioner with argon oil and marula oil (I find marula to be lighter than argon), put that on the hair and seal that in with jojoba oil, then air dry. For my hair length and thickness I use a two-pea size leave-in conditioner, 2 drops argon oil, 2 drops marula oil and 4 drops jojoba oil. If I want a refresh without washing, I’ll spray some rose water with aloe vera (I like the rose water from Akita) and put a few drops of oil on my hair. I use The Ordinary marula and argon oils. These are organic, cold pressed and inexpensive.
For hot oil treatments, I’ll usually use a mix of argon, black castor and marula oils, comb that through the hair, put on a shower cap and then use a heated hair cap. The heated hair cap is much better than a hot towel. A towel is drippy, heavy and loses heat fast. The hair cap has gel inside that is heated in the microwave and stays hot for about 20 minutes. If doing a scalp treatment as well, I’ll use rosemary and/or peppermint essential oils to increase blood flow to the scalp, a cooling sensation and antimicrobial benefits. Oils and essential oils can be mixed with regular shampoo and conditioner as well.
I’ve also read that some people don’t like hot oil treatments, as the heat opens the hair cuticle, causing color fade. I haven’t had an issue with this so far. The open hair cuticle also allows for penetration of the oils to get the benefit of the hydration and nutrients.
Treatments – Malibu C makes many different types of treatments for common issues in one-use packets; Color Prepare, Hard Water, Malibu Blondes, Swimmers, Scalp Therapy, Curl Partner and Relaxer. The only one I’ve used thus far is Color Prepare.
Thicker hair – There is so much anecdotal evidence about castor oil thickening hair and regrowing hair on bald patches; I have doubts about that, but haven’t tried it for any length of time to try and get thicker hair. Essential oils like clary sage, peppermint and rosemary are added to products to stimulate the scalp and contribute to hair growth and thickness. Again, I’ve not tried this long term, and I have doubts this will actually work despite all the anecdotal evidence online.
There are a few treatments and shampoos that claim to thicken hair; Belegenza has their GrowOut shampoo and conditioner and GrowOut Scalp Energizing Spray. (I tried this spray with no results, but perhaps didn’t give the product enough time to work). Grow Gorgeous has a hair density serum. Tropic Isle living makes shampoo with castor oil and red pimento oil to get thicker, longer hair. Deciem’s The Ordinary relatively recently came out with their Multi-Peptide Serum for Hair Density. I’ve been using this for about 7 weeks now, as the ingredients sound quite promising. You can read about this serum here. Products like these serums need time to work, at least 6 months.
Bond builders – There are a few of these types of treatments on the market. Olaplex is well known and has a home version that strengthens and protects the hair by relinking broken disulfide bonds from chemical services, heat and mechanical damage. Bond and Seal and Brazilian Bond Builder are others. I use Olaplex before and after getting a color service.
Combs and brushes – Wet hair is more fragile than dry hair. Avoid using a nylon brush on wet hair (or dry hair). This can cause breakage and frizz. I use Tek’s wide tooth wooden comb to gently detangle wet hair. It can also be used to comb through oils, conditioners and masks. It does a good job at removing debris. It does not cause hair static like a plastic comb. It is said that it can distribute the scalp oils through the hair, but I would think that a boar bristle or paddle brush would do a better job. I haven’t tried a boar bristle brush yet, but apparently it is said this should replace your nylon brush for gentle detangling, distributing oils and cleansing the hair.
Heat and UV protection – Use minimal heat, but if you do, use a heat protectant, I’ve just recently started using UV protection for my hair as well with the Bumble and Bumble Hairdresser’s Invisible Oil that is a heat and UV protective primer.
Supplements and diet – A diet rich in vitamins and minerals can help the health of the hair, skin and nails. Look for foods with protein, iron, vitamins A, C and E and omega 3 fatty acids. I like to drink green smoothies in the morning with spinach, mango (alternating with other fruits and vegetables), flax seed, whey protein and yogurt.
For supplements, a hair, skin and nails vitamin usually contains the above vitamins, in addition to minerals, B vitamins and biotin. You can also supplement with collagen via a powder, capsule or bone broth. I sometimes take a multivitamin and omega 3 supplement and have recently been using the Sproos Up Your Skin and Hair enhanced collagen supplement.
Haircuts and trims – While I had previously never gone to the same hair stylist twice, I had gotten the same haircut for a few years, a shaggy bob, but it always had to be flat-ironed to look good or would dry in a dome shape around my head as it grew out. With the right haircut for your face shape and customized to your lifestyle, a good haircut can have a good grow out. I found a hairstylist who gave me a great haircut that grows out nicely and requires no heat or product to look great. This cut made me a repeat and now permanent customer (Style Theory in Calgary, Alberta, Canada).
Get trims regularly. This prevents split ends and keeps frizzy ends away which allows you to keep length as well.
Split ends – Two opposing thoughts here – Use “this” cream or treatment to fix split ends; nothing will fix split ends, the hair must be trimmed. It seems the way split end creams and treatments work are to temporarily stick the two split ends together. So, the only way to fix split ends permanently is by trimming the hair regularly. That way, the split end won’t continue to travel up the hair shaft.
Scalp health – Probably the most important factor for healthy hair is a healthy scalp. Like your face, the scalp should be cleansed, balanced and exfoliated. I just found out there are toners for the scalp that are applied after shampooing and conditioning that aren’t rinsed out. Exfoliating the scalp once a week or so can remove product and oil buildup from the hair, and can contribute to hair growth; Briogeo makes Scalp Revival Charcoal + Coconut Oil Microexfoliating Shampoo and Christophe Robin sells a sea salt scalp scrub shampoo. I have yet to try scalp toners or exfoliants on the scalp. As mentioned above, hot oil treatments with essential oils such as rosemary and peppermint stimulate the scalp.
Satin/silk pillowcase or hair wrap – Using a satin or silk pillowcase rather than cotton reduces friction on the hair as you sleep, resulting in less breakage and frizz. This reduced friction can also diminish crease wrinkles on your face. Cotton absorbs more moisture than silk, potentially making skin and hair drier.
Summary – My Hair Care Routine:
- Wash every 3 to 4 days. Alternate with a moisturizing shampoo and purple toned shampoo.
- Condition using a deep conditioning mask (with silicone) after a color service, alternating with a moisturizing deep conditioning mask (no silicone).
- After each wash and condition, mix argon and marula oils with a leave-in conditioner and seal with jojoba oil.
- Apply the Hair Density Serum to the scalp in the evening.
- Once a week use Olaplex No 3.
- Once a week do a hot oil treatment with argon and marula oils (mix with rosemary and peppermint oils for scalp treatment) and use the heated hair cap. Rinse with apple cider vinegar. Shampoo and condition as normal.
- Morning green smoothie. Supplement with collagen, occasional multivitamin and omega 3.
- Use a mulberry silk pillowcase.