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Four Steps to Healthy Hair

Washing every day with drugstore shampoo? You're doing your hair more harm than good. Here's how to overhaul your routine for fuller, healthier hair.

"Lather, rinse, and repeat" may have been your shower mantra for years, but it's not the best protocol to follow if you want healthy hair. Washing regularly with supermarket shampoo, most of which are full of harsh cleansers, can irritate your scalp and strip your hair of the natural oils it needs to be healthy, smooth, and easy to style. Here's how to change your shower routine for fuller, healthier hair.

Go sulfate-free.

What's wrong with that $3 bottle of supermarket shampoo? Although economical, it's most likely packed with harsh chemicals known as sulfates, which show up on ingredient labels as "sodium lauryl sulfate," "sodium laureth sulfate," and "sodium lauryl esther sulfate." While these detergents help make products sudsy, they also deprive your hair of its healthy oil, leaving it dry, brittle, and difficult to manage. To avoid these effects, look for a low-sulfate or sulfate-free shampoo, which cleans without removing oil. Sulfate-free shampoos can be difficult to find in drugstores, so ask your barber for a suggestion, or personalize your product with our list in the last slide.

Shampoo less often.

Most barbers and stylists recommend shampooing hair only once or twice a week. Why? Washing daily with any shampoo, even with the low-sulfate kind, will strip some oil and dry your hair and scalp. What's more, most styling products like gel and hairspray are water-soluble, so they don't need shampoo to rinse out of hair. Although switching to a once- or twice-weekly washing can cause your hair to look greasy at first, it won't after a few weeks, and your hair will be healthier and softer.

Condition daily.

You don't need to shampoo first to condition. Conditioning hair daily helps protect and moisturize it while soothing rough cuticles – the jagged, shingle-like shells that surround hair shafts. "People have been doing it backwards for years," says Rich the Barber.

"We should be conditioning every day and using shampoo twice a week instead of the other way around." Men with curly hair can benefit the most from daily conditioning, since smoothing the cuticles of kinky hair will help prevent that bed-raggled look, he adds. Just wet your hair in the shower, apply a light amount of conditioner, and rinse.

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