In these unprecedented times you might be dressing up less, but for most of us, the sudden prospect of a digital social or work life means our hair is still very much on show. The very notion of a “bad hair day” requires the parallel concept of a “good hair day”, where we appreciate that our hairstyle is doing what we want it to do and basically behaving itself.
Well, there are plenty of ways to improve your chances of having a good hair day. It has a lot to do with embracing, rather than fighting, your natural hair type and understanding the needs and wants that it requires – and that comes down to the right shampoo, conditioner and styling aids.
Before you shop around, there are two important tips to bear in mind when you’re choosing a new haircare product. First, read the label and pay attention to the ingredients list. Anna Carter, Creative Director at The Lion and The Fox, explains “shampoos that contain sulphates will strip the hair of natural oils and make your scalp dry, and an unhealthy scalp could mean hair loss, or lack of hair growth, so make sure shampoo and conditioner is right one for your hair type.” Avoiding sulphates will particularly help anyone with dry or curly hair.
Top session stylist, Daniel Dyer adds “using a product with a high alcohol content over time can dry out and damage the quality of the hair. If your style is short and regularly cut this shouldn’t be a problem, but give it a miss if you wear yours longer.” Second, understand that “most styling products, particularly gels, can be divided into two main groups: humectant or anti-humectant. This means they either attract or repel moisture,” says Daniel, which can either help or hinder the look you want.
With that in mind, we asked some of our favourite barbers to share the products they rate – explaining what works and why.
Actor Timothée Chalamet has done more than most men for the curly headed cause, and those who are blessed with natural waves or ringlets should feel smug knowing it’s the one hair type that cannot be bought.
The key to managing curls is in the cleansing process. Men with curly hair might find that washing less (2-3 times per week) helps control frizz and keep shape. “Co-wash” is short for “conditioner wash”, where once a week you can use it in place of shampoo to cleanse the hair without the getting the fluffy, frizzy aftermath. You can buy dedicated co-wash conditioners or use a regular one, provided it’s not too heavy.
“Curly hair is naturally dryer than other hair types, so a moisturising shampoo and conditioner is essential,” says Anna. “Redken Curvaceous shampoo is salt free and has a curl memory in it, plus it’s very lightweight so will keep the bounce in your curls. Again, avoid anything with sulphates as the salt absorbs moisture.”
The main way to style curly hair is to let it dry naturally or with a diffuser. After applying a styling aid to damp hair, work through in sections, twisting individual curls around your fingers – this will lock in the moisture and help hold the shape.
“Davines Curl Building Serum is great for giving hair even more curl with a gentle hold, which will still make your hair feel natural,” says Anna. Oi Oil is another lightweight product from Davines that can be used on wet or dry hair to eliminate frizz. Davide Barbieri, Robbie Williams’ scissorsmith of choice, likes to use “R+Co’s Curl Defining Crème or Aveda’s Be Curly.”
Fine hair tends to be straight, so creating texture can be a challenge. It’s also harder to disguise greasiness, so it needs to be cleansed (or dry shampooed) more frequently than its curly counterpart.
Keeping lengths cropped and short can help make it appear thicker, plus there are volumising shampoos and styling tricks you can use to add shape, texture and bulk. “A lot of volume shampoos work to open the hair cuticle, so it’s essential with fine hair to apply a lightweight conditioner to seal the cuticle again and prevent breakage,” says Anna. “It also tends to get greasy quickly as the natural oils travel down the shaft with ease, making it look and feel a little lank.”
When it comes to styling, choose products that help create volume through texture. “Sea salt spray is great for building natural volume and hold, whilst simultaneously adding texture to straight hair. Dry shampoo can also be used in conjunction with a salt spray or on its own by simply rubbing into the roots to absorb moisture and create a little more volume and hold,” explains Anna.
Davide says, “never use a wet gel on fine hair as it will clump the hair together, making it look very thin. A paste works better – it’s not greasy like a wax and it’s more texturising. On clients I use Kevin Murphy Night Rider for hold or Rough Rider for messy texture.”
A less lustrous mop is something that most of us will have to face, even if we’re currently enjoying a full head of hair. When it comes to thinning or receding hairlines, it’s important to take good care of your scalp. Think of it in the same way a gardener tends to the soil: get the foundation right and you’re creating the optimum environment for sprouting follicles.
Anna recommends using “a mild exfoliator once a week to remove dead skin cells and keep your pores open for hair growth.” Energising shampoos stimulate circulation and blood flow to the follicles to improve growth and strengthen the hair. Then, apply a mild conditioner that won’t weigh hair down.
“Styling wise, Pureology Sugar Spray will add volume and a little hold. It works like a salt spray without the moisture sapping effect of the salt,” says Anna. “Don’t use anything too oil based, heavy wax or shiny or wet look gels as this will weigh the hair down and lead to separation – making the hair appear more transparent.”
Adding moisture and lustre is important for afro hair, which tends to be dryer, especially if you’re wearing it naturally. Try a mild, sulphate-free shampoo and follow up with a hydrating co-wash conditioner.
In-between washes or on damp hair, a few drops of coconut or argon oil rubbed through the palms, or mixed into a homemade solution with water to spritz onto the ends, is the best way to hydrate dry ends and add shine. Oliver J. Woods Perilla Oil is a versatile product that can take care of beards, frizz and be used directly on dry skin – to soothe the scalp or even revive a flagging tattoo.
“My favourite hair gel is Proclaim Protein Styling Gel,” says Daniel. “This is a product designed for Afro/Caribbean hair but works equally well on most hair types and textures – it has a dark brown pigment so avoid using on blond hair as it will give a brownish tone. It’s oil and alcohol free and adds a healthy sheen.”
Even the unruliest hair can be tamed with a little love and attention. Anna says, “think moisture, moisture, moisture and something with smoothing qualities. When your hair is frizzy, the open cuticles are screaming for hydration. So, it’s essential to use conditioner to close and smooth the cuticles back down again.” Over-washing can be counterproductive to cuticle control, so look to shampoo your hair every other day at most.
The other common issue with this type of hair is that it can often appear dull. When the cuticles aren’t lying flat they don’t reflect the light as well, so avoid matte styling products. Leave-in creams and hair oils can be applied in between washes to keep the ends soft and smooth.
For styling, use hairspray, pomade or taming cream, which offers a soft hold but eliminates frizz. “On coarse hair, I use American Crew Pomade for good hold with a softer feeling,” says Davide.
Slick silver foxes understand two basic things about colourless hair: it’s thirsty and it can be prone to dullness. “Grey hair usually changes texture,” explains Anna. “As your hair loses pigment the oil-producing gland also tends to stop producing enough natural oils to keep your hair moisturised.”
To combat both, adding moisture through conditioners, oils and masks is key. “If your hair becomes a little dull, use a designated ‘silver’ shampoo and conditioner to combat this – the purple tone is great for combating brassiness and chlorine related discolouring,” says Anna.
When it comes to styling, choose pomades or creams for a hold that feels and looks natural without making the hair dry or tough, so you can still run your hands through it at any point in the day.