I recently got my hair dyed while in NYC! I’d heard horror stories about healthy hair turning brittle and dehydrated after dyeing, and refused to let that happen to my own locks. So I set out to look for nourishing, moisturizing products that would keep my dyed hair happy.
Since going lighter, my hair-care routine has now become as elaborate as my skin-care routine. The days of washing my hair with whatever shampoo is around, sometimes skipping conditioner (actual shudder), and air-drying in the humid summer air are behind me. I now (daily!) use hair masks, leave-in conditioners, oils, and hydrating sprays. I’m proud to report that as a result, my hair is so visibly healthy that my friends and some strangers have been asking if I would please spill the beans. I’ve tried and tested all the products my colorist recommended, done some of my own research, crowdsourced from other people who have gone lighter, and now feel as though I’ve found the best products for my very high-maintenance hair.
Shampoos & Conditioners
Styling air-dried hair starts in the shower, so it’s important to use shampoos and conditioners that hydrate and lock in moisture. “Smoothing shampoos and conditioners help to seal down the outer layer before you apply your products,” said Nora Cannizzo, instructor supervisor at the Christine Valmy International School of Cosmetology and Esthetics. Losada, who explained that the main cause of frizz is lack of moisture, likes this shampoo, especially for thick curly or wavy hair. If your hair is thinner or needs more volume, she recommended AlfaParf’s volumizing shampoo.
My favorite drugstore conditioner, more than all the fancies, is Aussie 3 Minute Miracle. It’s the only thing that keeps my hair from being dry, and it is so insanely affordable!
This is the best shampoo to use if you’re worried about damaging your color. It doesn’t feel as moisturizing as some of the shampoos on this list, but I’m always really happy with how my color looks after I use it. On days when I use this, I use one of the below masks afterwards to protect my texture.
When I first bleached my hair two years ago, I had to slowly work my way back to my ‘natural’ texture. First things first, I use Living Proof Restore shampoo and conditioner to combat the inevitable dryness of dyeing. It’s the best I’ve ever tried.
“Sadly, I have a dry scalp … and dandruff shampoo is a scam and just makes everything worse. I’ve been using New Wash, which is an all-in-one, essential-oil-based shampoo and conditioner replacement. It took about a month for my scalp to adjust to it, but once it did, it made my hair feel like silk and totally cured my dandruff situation.” – from @anotherlongweekend‘s DMs
I know this one is expensive, but I got it last year through the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale for dirt cheap and it does a great job of cleansing and taking care of the oiliness without completely stripping your hair.
As Jen Atkin herself put it, this product is perfect for “when you’ve put your hair through hell but you want it to feel like heaven.” Another incredibly gentle yet effective option that will clean your hair without over-stripping it or making it feel dry or brittle.
Since going lighter, I’ve become a little scared of shampoo; my colorist told me that if you use the wrong one, it can seriously dull your color. The key is to find something that cleanses well but is also super gentle. I love this intensive hair shampoo from Sachajuan — it also gets rid of excess oiliness but doesn’t feel at all stripping. It also smells like a luxury spa!
And for the days you need a nourishing shampoo with va-va-volume, turn to this tried-and-true favorite!
I don’t use this mask all the time, but every few weeks when my color is looking worse for wear, I use this mask from Christophe Robin to restore the perfect beige color. I recently started to panic because my hair was looking a little brassy, but after one use I saw a major difference. Since this product is more about color maintenance than moisturizer, I use a ton of leave-in conditioner after washing this out.
I leave hair masks in for different amounts of time depending on my schedule, but regardless of how long you leave your mask in for, it should be put on wet hair, immediately after shampooing. Sometimes I’ll leave it in for 10 to 15 minutes while I’m shaving, other times I’ll get out of the shower and leave it on for an hour, then get back in to rinse it off. Some other times I’ll even sleep in it (with a towel over the pillows, or with a shower cap on) and rinse in the morning. One of my all-time favorite masks is this regenerating one from Christophe Robin, which I usually leave in for an hour. Out of all the masks mentioned here, this is by far the most hydrating. It makes my hair feel so bouncy, fluffy, and soft. I love using this after spending a lot of time in the sun or when I can feel the ends of my hair getting a little crispy.
Last year, I got my hair dyed in India and it got so dry when I got back. This product completely saved my hair. I recommend it for ANYONE with dry hair, especially those that bleach and color.
Another really great option for giving your hair nourishment without weighing it down. Honey is a known wonder ingredient: It helps with acne and digestion, and also, as it turns out, on hair. This mask leaves my hair looking super shiny, fluffy, and bouncy. I don’t use this overnight; I either rinse it out immediately, or keep it in for an hour. This one is pretty expensive, but I got it with an Urban Outfitters gift card and my life really changed for the better.
Another trick of mine back when I had long, frizzy hair was this hair mask from Moroccanoil. It smooths, hydrates, and makes your hair look super shiny. I honestly bought this for the first time from Marshall’s on a road trip and it made my vacation so much better.
If you have bleached or dry hair, odds are you’ve tried this or at least heard a million people rave about it. Here’s how I use it: I shampoo, apply a generous amount on my hair, sleep in it, wake up, shampoo again with another reparative shampoo, and then use the Gisou hair mask as a quick five-minute leave-in product. The Olaplex and Gisou hair-mask combo is simply divine.
I like to sleep in this one. It’s really great at nourishing and restoring color-treated hair. Since it’s not really as thick as the Christophe Robin one, I’ll leave it in overnight to let the treatment really do its thing. I’m also addicted to the smell. I choose this over the Christophe Robin mask on days where I want my hair to feel really bouncy and light — this one is just a little less intensely moisturizing and thickening on the hair.
Ouai makes the best masks for travel: They come in small, packable containers, and work exceptionally well. I got them last year as a pack of ten from Sephora’s online samples and it made my hair soft and smell great!
Besides the Rahua shampoo and conditioner that everyone loves, I also really love their deep-conditioning treatment. It’s a mask, so on your clean, wet hair in the shower, instead of your conditioner, leave it on for 15 to 20 minutes and rinse it out.
My hair type is naturally very curly and frizzy and doesn’t take well to humidity. In the summertime, especially in DC, if I don’t use Love my hair is a complete mess. I put Love in when my hair is damp, right out of the shower, and then I scrunch my hair with my hands — it enhances my curls and keeps them in place! It also does a really good job of separating my curls without making them crunchy, which I find a lot of products do.
Buy. This. Cream. Damage and split ends are a given when you’re a repeat bleach offender, but this cream helps to smooth everything over and keep your split ends from fraying out. I use it after blow-drying to style and shape the tips of my hair.
An extra moisturizing step, a leave-in conditioner post-shower is a second line of defense against frizz. All leave-ins are not created equal so try to find something that is hydrating enough for your hair type but won’t weigh your hair down. This means avoiding oil-based products that make hair look shiny, but don’t get inside the cuticle to actually add moisture. Many hair colorists recommended Evo’s leave-in conditioner which seals the cuticle, preventing and minimizing the appearance of split ends.
Okay, I know this product is middle school as hell, but before I made the big cut, and I was suffering from poofy, dry, fried hair, this was a total lifesaver for me! When I am unable to find travel sizes of my fav products, I buy this and put them in TSA-approved containers to keep my hair under control.
After I’ve washed out whatever mask I’ve used, I spray this leave-in conditioner into my towel-dried, damp hair. It just gives my hair that one final kick of moisture and nourishment it needs to ensure it feels perfectly silky and smooth once dry. It sounds crazy that you’d need yet another step after you’ve already done so much work, but it really will give your tresses phenomenal finish.
For fine or thin hair that’s easily weighed down, this “extremely light” conditioning spray from R+Co is a great buy. Sweet almond protein and cucumber fruit extracts soothe damaged hair while aloe leaf and prickly pear add moisture.
If you’re working with naturally curly or wavy hair, Eliut Rivera, founder of Eliut Salon, recommended this Rene Furterer cream to enhance your hair’s natural texture while protecting hair from humidity. “Apply to towel-dried hair, concentrating the product on the ends and working the product upward,” he said.
This is a really nice creamy consistency, and it makes your hair really nice and soft. I have really fine hair and I put a ton in my hair. It’s really great for wavy-haired girls too, on day two of no hair washing.
Curly hair does need extra protection from the sun — otherwise it can be dried out. I use this almost like a sunscreen for my curls. Not only does this save my hair from drying out and getting frizzy from the sun and ocean, but it’s super thick, holding my curls in place all day so that my hair can still look nice while I’m on vacation!
Technically you’re supposed to sleep in this as a kind of overnight treatment, but I just treat it as I do any leave-in conditioner and use it no matter what time of day I showered. Like the above, I use this on towel-dried, damp hair. It does a great job at taming frizz and flyaways.
Shine, first off, smells amazing. I like it because it fights with the weather to make sure my hair doesn’t frizz, but it also adds a nice glimmer to my hair without making it greasy.
I spray this oil all over and then crunch my hair in the palms of my hand. This softens, detangles, and defrizzes the curls so that they hang nice and delicately.
I use hair oils by keeping them by my side at all time, and running one or two pumps through the ends of my hair whenever it’s feeling dry. And I’m obsessed, obsessed, obsessed with this oil. It’s super thick and honestly looks like you’re about to apply straight-up honey onto your hair, but it never makes my hair feel weird and heavy. When I apply this, it feels like I am pumping life back into my strands. Sometimes, I add a drop of this hair oil into my hair masks (especially the Gisou mask) when I want an extra kick. Again, this is on the pricey side, but if you wait for a sale at Urban (like I did), you can actually get it for more than 60% off!
I bought this as a recommendation from my colorist in NYC and it is cheap, does the job and smells great. It’s also great to revive second or third-day hair, so keep it in your bag for when your begins to disappoint.
This hair oil isn’t as intense as the Gisou one, but it’s great for a quick, light, boost when you’re rushing out the door and don’t have much time to style your hair. I use a single pump and run it all over my hair. I also absolutely love the way it smells.
And there you have it! Keep your hair under control with any of these options and you’ll forget why you were sad about your locks in the first place 😉
Cover photo courtesy of Vogue India.