I am a slave to my hairdryer and color treatments. It started when I was in the third grade with permanent waves (it was the 80’s and Ohio) and has evolved, thankfully, out of the perm stage and into the color-me-beautiful lifetime commitment. The caveat: dry, damaged hair. But it doesn’t have to be that way, thanks to leave-in conditioners.
My quest: take control of my over-processed hair in exchange for healthy, shiny locks. So I went on a hunt to mend my ends. I called some of New York’s distinguished salons, studied the aisles of Sephora and talked to stylists, application specialists and women who want results.
The timing couldn’t be better. “I think it’s a great product for this time of year. The season’s have changed, hair gets dryer and more difficult to control”, said Jennifer Lusardi, a stylist at Arrojo Studio in the West Village. Add the chemical-ridden city H20, and “in the cold, dry winter, the water is really drying on the hair”.
Some basics: Whether your hair is curly, coarse, ethnic, fine or grey, there is a product that can help. It’s advised to talk to your stylist about which product works best for your type because you “can’t generalize hair”, said Stephen Knoll, the creative genius behind Stephen Knoll Salon. Don’t forget to ask how frequently you should use it, how you should apply it, and if there are other ways to use the product. Some leave-in conditioners can be used as a monthly treatment or for daily use. The wrong product for your hair type can leave your hair feeling greasy and weighed down.
In the end, I put about a dozen products to the test. Here are some of my favorites:
Frédéric Fekkai Protein Rx Mask, 5.5 oz. Jar, $28.50 (also available in a spray for $18.50) Available at the salon, and at select stores. https://www.amazon.com/
I knew my hair was going to be silky as soon as I applied the white mask to my hair. Made with soy and milk proteins, the mask left my hair smooth, shiny and manageable.
I applied an amount about the size of a quarter entirely though my hair, which hits just below my shoulders. After 15 minutes, I rinsed with cool water. The end result: my hair was light and bouncy just like after I leave the salon. My ends no longer looked brittle or dry. My hair is fine, but there’s lots of it, and it did not weigh down my hair.
Stephen Knoll’s Healthy Intensive Rehydrating Treatment, 6 oz.$38.50Available at the salon, select stores or through the website: http://www.stephenknoll.com
Like many leave-in conditioners, Healthy Intensive Rehydrating Treatment has more than one use. Stephen Knoll said that his product can be used as a treatment or “as a blow-dry tool for everyday use”.
Make use of your normal activities. “If you are exercising or traveling”, Knoll said, shampoo, put a little of the conditioner in your hair, pull it back and go. If you are traveling to Europe or on an overnight flight, use this”, he said. “When you arrive at your destination, rinse it out and style”.
As a tool, he recommends targeting the frizzy or troubled areas of your hair. Use about a dime-sized portion and massage in into the trouble spots. But be sure to apply before frizziness occurs, he said. If your hair is curly, it can be used to eliminate frizziness and define the curl or near the scalp to add body. The nettle extract in his rehydrator helps “smooth the cuticle”.
I used this as an overnight treatment. It gave my hair lift and did not make my hair dull. But this intensive treatment is not for everyday use. “Strictly for a treatment only”, Knoll said, “probably use once a month”.
Terax Hydrate, 6.7 oz. $24.00
Available at select salons. To find availability, call 1-800-213-5531, http://www.teraxhaircare.com
If Terax is good enough for Madonna, Gywneth and Demi, then Terax is good enough for me. According to Terax corporate literature, these ladies are only a handful of celebs who use their products. Not on the celebrity list is the Original Hydrate Lotion. Although they offer a few different choices for dry and brittle hair, Hydrate seemed appropriate for the dry blustery fall air.
Hydrate, a leave-in moisturizer, is designed for dry and damaged hair. I applied this smooth, light lotion to the last five inches of my hair and let it do its work overnight. I rinsed in the morning and styled as usual. Even though Terax didn’t transform me into Gywenth, it did leave my hair bouncy, smooth, and soft.
KMS Silker, available in a lotion and spray, $15.00 In New York City, KMS products are available only at Arrojo Studio, 180 Varick St. http://www.kmshaircare.com
KMS offers their Silker in both a lotion, recommended for thicker and curly hair, and a spray, for thinner or fine hair. They also have a Daily Repair for a more intensive treatment. “More intensive products are more for fixing hair that is broken”, Jennifer Lusardi said.
I tested the spray in Silker, as Lusardi recommended for my hair type. I already tried the lotions, which seemed to work fine on my hair. I sprayed on the last four inches of my hair and styled as usual. There was not a noticeable difference in the result between the lotions and spray that I tested on my hair. The Silker spray detangled my ends, and left my hair light, smooth and static-free.
“A lot of women ask about it now [leave-in conditioners] because they are hair colored”, Lusardi said. “Even if it’s a spray on, it protects it from heat the blow dryer, flat iron”.
Aveda Daily Elixir Leave-On Conditioner, $ 8.50 Available at Aveda concept salons, http://www.fragrancenet.com
One of Aveda’s original products, the Daily Elixir remains on the market for a reason: it isn’t heavy and leaves hair smooth, soft and adds body. It’s recommended for textured and curly hair, but it worked great on mine.
I massaged the Elixir through about the last five inches of my hair, using about the size of a nickel. I did not rinse and styled my hair as usual.
Now, I am one of those girls who must wash her hair every day. On a recent Saturday morning after I used the Elixir the day before, I woke up to what could be a life-altering discovery my hair didn’t feel dirty or greasy. In fact, it was as smooth, static-free and somehow tame as the previous night. In a fleeting moment of morning bliss, I decided to do what stylists (and my friends) have been telling me for years: I didn’t shampoo my hair that day. It’s healthy for your hair, they said. After 24 hours, my hair still looked great.
My new theory is that if you treat your hair well, then, like on that Saturday morning, your hair smiles back at you.