How to Make Hair Softer, According to Top Stylists

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Though most of us have different preferences on the cut, color and style of our hair, we can all agree on one thing: We want softer, healthier strands. To that end, we sought the help of five top stylists for their best tips for accomplishing this at home.

1. Assess how often you wash your hair. 

Many of us grew up being taught to wash our hair daily, but a better approach would be to shampoo only as often as you need based on your individual hair texture. So, for people who have very fine or naturally oily hair, they might need a daily cleanse, whereas someone who has drier, thicker strands can go for a couple days between washes. And in fact, if you do have this type of hair, over-washing it can strip it of moisture and make it drier. 

2. Shampoo smarter.

On that note, let’s take a closer look at how you wash your hair. For starters, you should always make sure that your hair is completely saturated with water before you apply any shampoo. After you wet your hair, squeeze a dime- to nickel- sized amount of shampoo into your palms and massage it into your scalp, starting at the nape of your neck and working your way forward to the crown of your head. According to Helen Reavey, a celebrity hairstylist and co-founder of Act + Acre, we tend to neglect the back of our heads, which leads to a buildup of oil and styling products on our scalp.

3. Take care of your scalp.

Soft, healthy hair starts at the top. Once a week, use an exfoliating scrub or a pre-cleansing oil before shampooing. Take your time and really massage the treatment into your scalp, section by section, using the pads of your fingertips. Like a palette cleanser for your strands, a weekly scalp scrub will remove any dulling residue so your hair feels lighter and softer.

4. Rinse your hair with cold water.

“If you can handle it, try rinsing your conditioner out with extra cold water,” advises Clariss Anya Rubenstein, a celebrity hair stylist in Los Angeles. Doing so will help seal off the cuticle, which will make your hair extra soft and shiny. And if the thought of standing under cold water is too much, take a page from Rubenstein’s book and try rinsing your hair in the kitchen sink instead.

5. Get a showerhead filter.

Laura Polko, a celebrity hairstylist, recommends replacing your showerhead with a filter. “A filter helps to remove harsh minerals from your water, which will make your hair softer” says Polko. Bonus: It has a similar effect on your skin as well.

6. Comb your hair when it’s wet.

After you’ve applied conditioner, take a wide-toothed comb or detangling brush (Rubenstein swears by Olivia Garden’s detangling brushes because the bristles are flexible and they’re tailored to different hair types) and work from your ends and slowly move your way up towards the roots using light, even strokes to prevent snags.

7. Dry your hair with care. 

Drop the cotton towel and grab your softest t-shirt or a microfiber towel instead. Use it to lightly press and squeeze the excess water out of your hair, rather than rubbing it dry, which causes unnecessary friction on your strands. 

8. Lay low on the heat styling.

Air dry your hair whenever you can, but when you do use a heated tool like a curling iron or flat iron, always apply heat-protectant first and put the tool on the lowest setting possible (no higher than 300 degrees Fahrenheit to minimize damage).

9. Use a hair mask regularly.

Or as Rubenstein exclaims to her clients: “MASK, MASK, MASK! It doesn’t matter what kind of hair you have. Everyone’s strands could use a little extra love. In addition to offering an extra dose of conditioning and moisture, a mask will even out the porosity of your hair, so it lays smoother.”

For those who color their hair, Guy Tang, a celebrity hairstylist and founder of MyDentity, recommends a restorative treatment that has keratin and amino acids in it. Keratin strengthens your hair, while amino acids “easily absorb into the hair to rebuild the hair’s inner matrix, while smoothing and sealing the cuticle for stronger, softer and fuller strands.” 

10. Get trims regularly. 

Split ends have a tendency to travel up the shaft and cause breakage when you don’t tend to them. As a general rule of thumb, getting a trim every eight weeks is recommended to keep your ends strong. However, if you have generally healthy hair (i.e., not overly processed by bleach, dye, or other chemicals like straighteners or relaxers) you can extend that to every twelve to sixteen weeks. 

11. Look for the right ingredients in styling products. 

"Moisturizing products increases the flexibility of the hair, which produces a softer, silkier feel," explains Mark DeBolt, a hair colorist and co-founder of MarkRyan Salon in New York City. Some key ingredients to look for: Moisturizing compounds, such as fatty alcohols, oils and silicones, that when used in styling products, help maintain hair’s overall health, increasing its softness, shine and manageability. "Oils like jojoba, argan and shea can help dry, porous hair become more soft and pliable.

12. Use them correctly.

Think of a styling product as your finishing touch. “An oil or cream will make your hair soft and keep it conditioned until it’s time to wash again,” says Rubenstein. Whatever you decide to use, start with a little (a dime-sized amount for oil; a nickel to quarter-sized dollop for cream) and add more as needed. Rub it between your palms before distributing it throughout your strands, starting in the back, where your hair is thicker and using the leftovers for the front.

13. Have a pre-swim routine.

And since we’re still in the throes of summer, Rubenstein has a word of caution for any beach or pool goers: “Please throw some conditioner or conditioning spray on before hopping in the water. Doing so will create a barrier between the chlorine or saltwater and your hair, which will keep it from drying out.”

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Beauty Director

Jenny Jin is PureWow’s Beauty Director and is currently based in Los Angeles. Since beginning her journalism career at Real Simple magazine, she has become a human encyclopedia of...