Caring For Your Hair – A Primer

There has always been plenty of advice given regarding best practices of washing hair: scrub vigorously, massage gently, shampoo twice, don’t condition, etc.; and much of the advice is sound, especially when directly addressing individual needs. Herein lies the issue, though. Most of the advice given is told in general terms, the products are sold in general use terms and you— the client, is left with a false sense of knowledge about what your true needs are. So let’s turn our attention to product choice and usage as a way of answering how you care for your hair. I will address technique in a future writing.

Every reputable and professional brand has multiple systems to choose from, and these systems have certain benefits focusing on each need. The paradigm of a one shampoo and condition system is no longer viable. The focus now is based on individual needs and ailments. So let’s break these systems down.


fullsizeoutput_75bDry hair is considered normal and every brand has a system for such hair. This system can be best characterized as “normal to dry” and is safe to use daily. The product is hydration centered.

Dry, damaged hair has been aggressed by chemicals, swimming, environment and/or mechanical affects. This system, though hydrating, has a more protein based focus: feeding the hair what has been stripped from it. This system is still safe to be used daily.

Color-treated hair may seem self-explanatory, but far from it. Yes, when coloring your hair it is best to ensure longevity and vibrancy through a system for such needs, but colored hair needs much more than that which cannot be given by one system, alone. Most professional products are color safe, meaning they are not aggressive and depleting to hair color. A color-treated system though, is focused on stopping the color processing action and locking the cuticle down, thus ensuring the life of the color. When used correctly your color should remain vivid with minimal fading. Using this system exclusively will tend to dehydrate the hair, allowing for color to dull and fade. It is best to alternate a color-treated system with another (such as above).

Oily hair and scalp is a challenge for nearly 40% of us. The issue is actually exacerbated by too much washing or improper product choice, while the culprit is often harsh detergents or overactive oil glands. To curb this issue and create balance you will first need to address blood circulation on your scalp. Balancing the blood flow will calm the oil production. Many companies have products that are specific to this need: scalp oils and shampoos; as well as with dry hair and scalp issues, creating a better ecosystem on your scalp. This cleansing system should be paired with an alternating system of need.

Severely damaged hair sounds scary, right? It should! Your hair has been abused by over-processing, excessive usage of heat tools, and so on. This is hair that I would call anemic. It is starving and needs to feed. Lacking in almost every health category, this system, along with some serious treatments, will help to replenish hair and bring it back to a state of health and beauty. Not for everyday use and should be coupled with an alternate.

Thickening/bodifying systems do just as advertised. How they do it depends on each company and their science used. Some use what may best be called “spacers”— creating gaps between hair strands; while other systems individually thicken each strand. This system is best used when alternating with another, as multiple, repeated use without interruption can weigh hair down.

Thinning hair comes in two separate forms— temporary and permanent. Temporary hair loss is more commonly associated with pregnancy, menopause, recovery from cancer and stress, while permanent loss is most often hereditary in nature. These cleansing systems, along with their treatment counterparts, are meant to be used in an alternating manner with any of the other systems above, and seasonally. There are a few very good ones on the market, but beware those that can create a dependency ecosystem, setting in motion hair loss tied to addictive ingredients when not in use.

fullsizeoutput_764There are a few other categories that some companies address. Should you need answers, consult with your stylist and ask many questions, or contact me and I will gladly prescribe a system best suited for your needs. In the long run and with exception to the ‘daily use’ mentioned products, all others are need specific and should be paired with a daily.

Without exception, take good care of your locks. For every action there is a reaction that needs addressing. You cannot expect to bleach, color, relax or style your hair without incurring some form of ill-health. Given that, treating your hair as if indestructible is a sure bet for increased damage.

Great hair comes from great care.

Scott Smith can be found in San Francisco and San Diego, as well as at, facebook and instagram.