Hair Care Products: Which Ones Do You Really Need?

Store shelves are lined with a dizzying array of shampoos, conditioners and styling products. Hair replacement surgeon Susan Craig Scott, author of The Hair Bible, tells you how to pick — and even make — the best ones for your type.

Ask yourself what specific benefits your hair type requires. Is your hair dry or damaged? Does it need more or less conditioning? Should you choose a clarifying shampoo to strip away residue that can build up on hair? Do you like the fragrance? Do you want a shampoo that will make your hair shine? Ingredients like macadamia nut, olive, jojoba oil, or shea butter have been used for years to give hair a shiny coat. Two-in-one shampoos are another option and ideal for women who want to save time, money, and space in their gym bags.

Make your own: Skip the soap, which can dry both the hair and scalp and may contain chemicals that penetrate the bloodstream through hair follicles. Instead, add a few drops of lemon juice to your regular shampoo each time you wash or combine triple-strength herbal tea (chamomile for light hair, rosemary or sage for dark) to an equal amount of your shampoo. You can also moisturize dry, brittle hair with vegetable oil to create an oil-enriched shampoo; add unflavored gelatin or an egg to your regular formula for a protein shampoo; or combine alcohol and water (1 to 3 parts) for a suds-less shampoo.

The most important ingredients to look for in choosing a conditioner are fatty acids. Look at the first five ingredients listed on the label and you’ll see mentions of acetyl or stearyl alcohol and other ingredients ending in “amine,” which are designed to combat static. A creamy-feeling formula, one that feels like a hand cream, will work best. It’s also relevant to choose a conditioner that’s designed for your hairstyle, like a volume conditioner to give hair a lift or a curl-enhancing conditioner to play up your curls.

Make your own: Avocado adds protein and oil for shine and manageability. Egg yolk mixed with two teaspoons of castor oil and one teaspoon of rum moisturizes dry hair. Mayonnaise mixed with one beaten egg yolk and one teaspoon each of vinegar and powdered kelp adds shine and body. Honey, on its own, conditions any shade. Massage any of these natural conditioners into dry hair, cover with a shower cap, and allow to permeate for 30–60 minutes before shampooing. To speed up the process, wrap hot, moist towels around your head.

Different products do the trick, according to your hair’s texture. But here are some guidelines: Hair sprays work well for any hair type; choose one with a lighter chemical grade if you have fine hair that gets easily weighed down. Gels add texture, volume, and shine, increase holding power, control frizz, provide moisture, and smooth hair. Choose a lightweight formula for thin hair, save the extra-hold for thicker, wavier locks. The same rules basically apply for other styling products. Mousse is designed to increase hold and shine and combat static; choose a formula that can be easily brushed out so hair isn’t sticky. Pomades increase the degree of hold, texture, and shine. Wax sticks add shine and help lock in moisture.

Make your own: Instead of gel, mix noncarbonated or flat beer with water as a final rinse to control flyaway hair and keep it in place. Try a stiffly beaten egg white as a protein-enriching styling mousse. Simmer one tablespoon of flaxseeds in 1 cup of water until slightly thickened for a setting lotion. Substitute your regular hairspray with a spritz of lemon juice from a misting bottle to add resiliency, body, and highlights. Put your wax stick on the back burner and try blending 1 teaspoon of instant, dry milk (whole milk for normal to dry hair, skim for oily hair) with 1 cup water to create a wave. For homemade pomade, brew double-strength rosemary tea to preserve curls in damp weather (use only on darker hair colors).

These chemical treatments are designed to help change the color, texture, and structure of your hair. For best results, try both types of treatments in a salon under professional guidance; if performed incorrectly, the results can be disastrous. And don’t attempt to create your own formulas. The risk of seriously damaging your hair isn’t worth playing chemist.

Make your own:
Chamomile and Calendula Hair Lightener: The bright yellow of chamomile and calendula flowers resembles the sun and is bound to brighten your hair the same way. This temporary rinse lightens and brightens blond hair, increasing its softness and adding movement. Gentle highlights add texture and depth of color. Botanical formula: 4 cups water, 2 cups dried chamomile flowers, 2 cups dried calendula flowers, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, and 1 tablespoon lemon extract.

In a saucepan, bring water, chamomile, and calendula to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 45 minutes. Remove from heat, strain liquid into a bowl or pitcher, and stir in lemon juice and extract. When cool enough for application, stand in your shower and slowly pour the solution over your head, massaging it into your hair to cover all strands thoroughly. Cover hair with a plastic shower cap. Leave on for at least 40 minutes, then remove shower cap and rinse hair thoroughly with warm water. Use every other day for lasting effects.

Black Tea–Rosemary Rinse for Dark Brown Hair: Use the strong qualities of black teas and richly roasted coffees to add natural dark brown highlights to hair without damaging it. Tea and coffee, which are known to stain, are perfect for coloring brown hair. Rosemary is also an exceptional coloring agent for brown hair. Use the following recipe every other day on light to dark brown hair to add richness to brown hair of any shade. For a milder effect, use one less teaspoon of coffee and one less tea bag.

Botanical formula: 7 bags black tea or 2 1/2 tablespoons loose tea, 2 tablespoons chopped oregano leaves, 2 tablespoons chopped rosemary leaves, 2 cups water, 1 tablespoon instant coffee, 1 tablespoon lemon extract. In a saucepan over medium heat, mix the tea, oregano, and rosemary with the water; steep for 45–50 minutes. Remove tea bags and filter out oregano, rosemary and loose tea if used. Place liquid in a small pitcher. Add coffee and lemon extract to liquid and stir until combined. Let cool, then while standing in your shower slowly pour the solution over your head, massaging it into your hair and scalp and covering all strands thoroughly. Cover hair with a plastic shower cap for 30 minutes. Remove shower cap and rinse hair thoroughly with warm water.

Oil Treatment: Weekly hot oil treatments can add luster and shine to the hair. Oils that most effectively penetrate the hair include olive oil, almond oil, avocado oil, safflower oil, and corn oil. Here’s how to do it yourself: Heat 1/4 cup of oil in a small saucepan over a very low flame until just warm. Remove from heat and let cool for about one minute. Massage warm oil into your hair. Cover hair with a plastic shower cap and then with a towel wrap. Leave on for 30 minutes, then rinse and shampoo as usual. Or, try this creative concoction from Philip B.:

Honey-Maple Hot Oil Treatment Botanical Formula: 1 teaspoon canola oil, 1 teaspoon margarine (softened), 1 tablespoon olive oil, 1 teaspoon coconut oil or extract, 1 teaspoon orange oil or extract, 1 tablespoon light sesame oil, 1 teaspoon macadamia nut oil, 1 teaspoon avocado oil, 1 teaspoon maple syrup, 1 teaspoon honey. Put all ingredients into a small saucepan, except for the syrup and honey. Heat over a very low flame until just warmed (about 2–3 minutes). Remove from heat. Cool for about 1 minute and add syrup and honey. Test with your finger to make sure it’s not too hot to apply to scalp. Massage oil mixture into hair and then cover with a plastic shower cap. Leave on for 10 to 20 minutes. Remove shower cap and apply a mixture of equal parts shampoo and water and work into hair. Lather and rinse.

Susan Craig Scott, M.D., author of The Hair Bible: The Ultimate Guide to Healthy, Beautiful Hair Forever (Copyright © 2003 by TimeLife Media, Inc.), is a cosmetic and hair replacement surgeon who received her medical degree from Columbia University. Board certified in surgery and plastic surgery, she is an attending physician at Beth Israel Hospital; Manhattan Eye, Ear and Throat Hospital; Lenox Hill Hospital; and the Hospital for Joint Diseases. She has appeared on such television programs as The Today Show and Eye to Eye and since 1996 she has been team physician to the WNBA’s New York Liberty.



Get Color Courageous: Tips for Getting Soft, Richly Colored Hair

Have you always wanted to be blond? Thinking of just a few highlights? Lose your inhibitions and follow this coloring advice from hair doctor Susan Craig Scott, author of The Hair Bible.

Letting people know you color your hair used to be almost as much of a taboo as talking about your sex life. Women only colored their hair if they wanted to completely change the color, or if they wanted to cover their gray. In the 21st century, however, with more than 50 percent of women in the United States coloring their hair, it’s not only acceptable, it’s a sign of being fashion forward and up with the trends. What’s more, it’s easy to do and less damaging to your hair than it was a couple of decades ago.

Finding a professional colorist is the key to soft, richly hued hair. Those colorists who have honed their skills are being well rewarded financially and raised to celebrity status. Therefore appointments often fill up months in advance. “A reputable colorist provides a very detailed consultation, taking the time to explain the techniques involved in the process,” says Bob Siebert, national director of education for Hans Schwarzkopf Professional. “A good colorist will also give you a road map for maintenance, explaining what you can do to maintain your color at home and make it last until you come in for your next visit, about five to six weeks later.”

It’s best to color your hair at a salon where experts use high-quality color and are experienced enough to know how to do it right — especially if you want a major change. For smaller jobs, like touching up your roots or covering gray, you can probably pull it off at home by reading the directions that come with the product.

Color Maintenance
Since bleach and dyes can dry out hair and damage the cuticle, color-processed hair needs a little extra TLC. Avoid shampoos that contain Castille soaps or oil or glycerin, which may fade the color, or clarifying shampoos, which may strip the color. Your best bet is to choose a shampoo with extra conditioning properties. Companies such as Thermasilk, Aveda, Revlon, Vidal Sassoon, and Artec offer these specialized formulas, and more and more color-maintenance lines are popping up regularly.

Permanent hair color is the most popular because it lasts the longest, delivers all-over, even color, and creates the most dramatic change. How it works: In a single process, peroxide and ammonia are mixed. “The ammonia opens up the cuticle and allows the pigment to penetrate into the cortex where the natural pigment is,” says Siebert. “The melanin in your hair is oxidized and loses its natural color.” According to Siebert, this single process procedure is ideal for women who want to cover gray or lighten their hair a couple of shades from their natural color. Permanent color, however, is the most damaging to your hair, and can make it look flat and unnatural, requiring frequent touchups. Although the formulations vary in potency, most ammonia-containing brands dry out hair and cause it to frizz.

“Double processing — the most aggressive form of coloring hair — requires two steps,” explains Siebert. “First, hair is pre-lightened with lightening powder or bleach, then the color or highlights are applied afterward.”

MYTH: Highlights and color need to be refreshed every three weeks.
FACT: Hair grows at different rates, and this affects how long color and highlights last. The color itself, and its difference from hair’s natural shade, plays a part in how frequently it needs revitalizing. Some women find they need roots “done” every two weeks; some can go a month.

Highlighting involves coloring or lightening selected strands, leaving sections of natural color in between. Typically, a comb or brush is used to isolate pieces of hair with color. These pieces are then wrapped in foil so that the colorist can get really close to the roots without touching the scalp. Sometimes a freehand technique is used to paint the color onto the hair.

Salon Shades vs. Home Hues
“Everything from cell phones to cars to communication has taken an edge toward fashion. Hair color is the opposite; we have always had the artistic edge, but now we have the technology behind it,” says Deborah Gavin, a stylist and colorist at High Tech salon in Philadelphia. “For many women, hair color is an important expression of who they are and how they want the world to see them.” Here, she shares her top reasons for having hair professionally colored:

  1. Professional color is more advanced and more durable.
  2. With professional color, you’re not just paying for the hair color itself, but also for a colorist’s technical and application skills.
  3. You are also getting the colorist’s ability to choose the right shade for your skin tone. When you do it yourself at home, what you see on the box isn’t exactly what you end up with.
  4. “Most women aren’t skilled enough to apply their own color, especially because the angle is difficult. The only time it works is when you get lucky with it. Otherwise, it can look uneven and may deliver the message that you don’t care as much about how you look,” she says.
  5. Professional hair color can be strategically placed. “Techniques for applying hair color are constantly evolving. Transformation color, one such method, involves using different shades of the same color on different sections of hair, depending on how you part your hair. “You can part your hair on one side and have the color there done in a natural shade of red, which may appear more conservative for work. Then, you can part your hair on the other side and color that section with a brighter shade for post-office hours.”
  6. Some experts argue that at-home brands contain lesser percentages of color so that you need to buy more to achieve the color you desire. Others say it is dangerous for women to do their own color because most at-home versions come in shampoo form and, except for the first application, you really just need to touch up the roots. It is more damaging to shampoo over previously colored hair.

“Highlighting and low-lighting give hair more dimension,” says Siebert. “Highlights brighten hair by adding light, while lowlights use darker tones to add depth to the hair.” The end result is a beautiful, subtly brighter head of hair, but the time-consuming process means you may not get to see it until you’ve been worked on for a couple of hours.

“Long-lasting semi-permanent or demi-permanent color is the quickest-growing color segment in the market for professional and retail color,” explains Siebert. “The benefit is that in most cases they are ammonia-free, so they are a little more gentle on hair. This is a great way for clients to try on color if they’re not ready to make a commitment; they fade out in 15 to 30 shampoos.” Semi-permanent color penetrates the hair shaft and stains the cuticle, so it isn’t as dense as permanent color and it’s less noticeable when it fades. Semi-permanent color can be used on permed hair and is applied in liquid, gel, or aerosol form. Demi-permanent color is used to enhance your natural color and cover 75 percent of gray. But since it only deposits color without lifting your hair’s natural pigment, it won’t lighten your hair. So while that means you won’t have roots to contend with, it will probably fade within six weeks. If you have a fear of commitment, try a temporary color or a rinse, which washes out in three to seven shampoos. “These are made of 100 percent pre-oxidized pigments that are not mixed with developer or peroxide,” explains Siebert. “They stain the outer layer of hair, then wash away.” Often made of a vegetable dye base, temporary colors are applied directly from the tube or bottle in the form of a rinse, gel, mousse, or spray. Funkier versions, such as hair mascara, are now available on the market, and can be fun for a night when you dare to go bold with your hair color.

Natural hair color is ideal for women who are allergic to aniline, a colorless liquid obtained from coal tar from which many hair colors and dyes are made. Reactions to aniline include itchy red patches and welts on the scalp. Natural colors stain the hair instead of dyeing it and don’t penetrate the hair shaft. While several hair color companies sell natural, commercial hair color, only pure Egyptian henna is truly organic. Made from the leaves of the lawsonia inermis plant, henna colors by coating the hair shaft and staining the cuticle. The color is unpredictable and hard to control and not for women with permed hair, since it can clash with the perming chemicals and cause discoloration. If you’re using henna at home, be sure to wear gloves so you don’t stain your hands.

In the 1960s, a hair technique called tipping was extremely popular. Using this method, bleach is applied only to the ends of the hair to make them a lighter shade than the rest of the head. Today, this method is often done using color instead of bleach. “Bleaching can be used in two different ways,” adds Amanda George, a colorist at Prive salon in Los Angeles, “for an overall blond effect à la Marilyn Monroe, or as a double-blonding process by lifting hair all over then bringing it up a tone to beige blond or platinum blond. When you color hair blond, there’s a limit to how light you can go, because it depends on how dark your hair is to begin with. If someone wants a really light shade of blond, pre-lighten with bleach, then add color. For a softer, honey blond, skip the bleach and use tint plus highlights to get the right shade.” At-home color is premixed and geared to cover a more generic range of shades, as opposed to salon color, which is individually mixed for you. Look for low-ammonia or low-peroxide products, which are gentler on your hair.

Susan Scott, M.D., author of The Hair Bible (Copyright © 2003 by TimeLife Media, Inc.), is a cosmetic and hair replacement surgeon who received her medical degree from Columbia University. Board certified in surgery and plastic surgery, she is an attending physician at Beth Israel Hospital; Manhattan Eye, Ear and Throat Hospital; Lenox Hill Hospital; and the Hospital for Joint Diseases. She has appeared on such television programs as The Today Show and Eye to Eye and since 1996 she has been team physician to the WNBA’s New York Liberty.



4 Steps to Great Hair

Whether you’re thinking of making a style change or just switching salons, these tips from hair care expert Susan Craig Scott, author of The Hair Bible, will help you get the right look.

Choosing a Stylist
You may think finding a good hairstylist is like putting a $100 chip on black 17 on the roulette wheel. But you’re wrong: Winning the bet is pure chance; finding the right stylist for you is pure science. So before you let just any old hairdresser start snipping, you might want to do some homework. Here is some stylist-searching advice from Joelle, senior stylist at Avon Salon and Spa, who says the most important thing is that you feel comfortable with your stylist.

  • Ask people whose hair you like where they get it done and the name of the stylist who cuts it.
  • Look at magazines to find out who did specific models’ and celebrities’ hair for specific events.
  • Call the salon where that person works and schedule an appointment for a consultation with the stylist. Most salons offer complimentary consultations.
  • When you arrive, interview the stylist. Start by introducing yourself, explaining who recommended the stylist to you, and ask how the stylist envisions your hair.
  • Be direct. Specify your problems; discuss what you want your hair to look like, and how much time you have to spend to maintain that look in your daily routine. If you need to wash and go, tell the stylist your hair has to function that way. Not speaking up is the most common mistake women make.
  • Keep in mind that one style may be great for your girlfriend’s hair but might not work well for you.
  • It’s a good sign when a stylist asks a lot of specific questions to make an assessment about you as a person, what your capabilities are, how much time you have to spend on your hair, what type of look your profession requires. It’s a bad sign if a hairdresser just wants to be creative and do your hair however he/she wants, if he/she dismisses your ideas and speaks to you in a condescending manner, or if the first thing he/she does is criticize your last stylist. A professional person who doesn’t agree with your current style will simply offer advice on how to take it from there.
  • Find out what the stylist’s vision is for your hair, and if you feel uncertain about it, discuss your hesitations.
  • Has he/she listened to you? Does he/she factor in what you said? All this is important in the hopes that this will be a long lasting relationship, not just a one-shot deal.
  • If you still don’t know if the look is right for you, you are under no obligation to go ahead with the cut. Thank the stylist and let him/her know you’ll think about it. Otherwise, you will end up getting a haircut, paying for it, and continuing the search for the right person at your own expense.

Giving a stylist free creative range is great if you’re a wear-anything, do-anything kind of woman, adds Joelle, and if you’re so confident that you’ll love whatever he/she creates.

Taking Your Haircut(ter) Home
If you can’t find the time to get to the salon for your routine trim, look for a pro who comes right to your door. New York City hairstylist Steven Shames is known as “the house-call hairdresser,” traveling to women’s homes to shear their locks. “You don’t really know someone until you’re in their home,” says Shames. “It’s easy for my clients because they can take a shower and wash their hair, then get their hair cut in the privacy of their own home. It’s very comfortable.” Shames, who comes equipped with a plastic floor cover so you don’t have to clean up shorn hair after he leaves, says seeing people’s homes gives him a good idea of what they are all about, which helps him create a cut that suits their lifestyle. “Many people leave the salon and their hair looks fabulous, but when they try to do it themselves, they are completely lost,” he says. “I’m very conscious of the fact that women have to do their hair themselves after I leave, so I tell them what they can do, which products they can use, and I explain what I’m doing to their hair throughout the cut. Seeing their hair for the first time is also indicative of what they can do on their own,” explains Shames. “I always look at the front pieces because 99 percent of the time, the hair around the face is styled the way they want it and the way they feel comfortable with it.”

How do you find a stylist who makes house calls in your town? If you live in an urban area you can often find them listed in the business section of the telephone book. They may also have websites, so search the Internet. Call salons — they may have cutters who are willing to travel. And word of mouth is good too. Many freelancers don’t advertise in conventional ways, so asking friends and colleagues may turn up some good leads.

The Right Shape for Your Face
“The final result of the shape should always read sexy and modern with a bit of edge or originality,” says veteran hairdresser John Sahag. “The right stylist can make any cut work for you by adapting it to your look. It’s a visual art; the way you shape the whole thing makes a difference.” Holding fast to the belief that straight lines are a thing of the past, Sahag’s method is to continually chip into the texture to make it more intriguing. Some argue that in the struggle to match style to face structure, the old rules still apply. Oval faces look best in longer lengths, featuring face-framing layers that skim cheekbones and add width; make a long face appear shorter with layers starting at the shoulder and bangs cut to eye level. Square faces can carry off anything but one-length bobs. Short or long texturized ends and a long fringe graduating downward add height to the crown and balance out a square jaw. Long hair layers starting at the jaw line lengthen the face. If you have a round face, stick to styles that fall below the chin. Face-framing layers from the lips down remove weight from sides, wispy and tapered ends de-emphasize roundness. For heart-shaped faces, try long, wavy layers that grace cheekbones and fall around the neck and take the emphasis off the chin; avoid blunt-cut lines, chunky bangs, or chopped layers that broaden the top half of the face. “What makes a cut modern is the feeling you capture in the end result, the uniqueness of the shape and how it’s carved,” adds Sahag. “It should look outstanding without looking outrageous. The shape should look like it belongs to you no matter what the length or texture, no matter whether you have short, medium-length, or long, curly, wavy, or straight hair.”

Fixing Cut and Styling Mistakes
“We think it’s the end of the world when we get a haircut we hate, when it’s not working for us,” says Mark Garrison of New York’s Mark Garrison Salon. “But hair does grow, we’re guaranteed of that. The best solution is to really do your homework, find the right stylist for what you want to do, discuss the details of the cut over and over, and don’t be afraid that you’re being neurotic about what it will look like or how to manage it. Remember, what you may think is a bad haircut may be a cut you just never learned how to style, so make sure your stylist shows you how to do it yourself.” Garrison says he always shows his clients how to manage their hair naturally, so they know that’s an option. If you still can’t seem to get the style right, feel free to call the salon back and ask for help.

Hair is a medium that’s forever changing and growing, and we are constantly readjusting, rebalancing, and re-proportioning our hair to compensate. “A great cut that’s grown out isn’t flattering anymore,” says Garrison. “There are three factors involved: whether or not the cut is shaped to flatter your bone structure, whether you’re trying to protect your hair’s natural texture, and whether the cut fits into your lifestyle. You can have a bad haircut if any one of these factors is not jibing.” It’s not a good sign if you have to work at it too much. Garrison suggests some solutions to some of the most common “bad haircut” problems: If there’s too much volume on the sides, have your stylist layer or angle the sides to reduce volume or pick up the length in back to balance out the sides. If your bangs have been cut too short or straight across the forehead, grow them out, then soften them with layers with a razor or texturizing scissors or cut into the tips with regular scissors. If curly hair is cut too short, it will end up looking like a ball around your face. To get a straighter, sleeker style, you may want to leave longer bangs in a bit of an angle, so a piece can dangle around the cheekbone, and keep the length long enough so that it stays flat on the sides or angles to correspond with your cheekbones and with the width of your face. Angling and layering the sides can lift hair up and away from cheekbones and reduce the pyramid effect. Keep in mind that what’s hot on the runway isn’t always right for you. The one-length, off-the-shoulder bob, which caused a stir throughout the fashion world, actually makes hair fall in a pyramid shape with lots of weight around the bottom and most women can’t handle it. The best remedy for bad haircuts? According to Garrison, it’s hair accessories. “Barrettes or clips hold back bangs that aren’t cut correctly. Headbands, combs, and scarves disguise bad cuts and dress them up at the same time.”

Susan Scott, M.D., author of The Hair Bible: The Ultimate Guide to Healthy, Beautiful Hair Forever (Copyright © 2003 by TimeLife Media, Inc.), is a cosmetic and hair replacement surgeon who received her medical degree from Columbia University. Board certified in surgery and plastic surgery, she is an attending physician at Beth Israel Hospital; Manhattan Eye, Ear and Throat Hospital; Lenox Hill Hospital; and the Hospital for Joint Diseases. She has appeared on such television programs as The Today Show and Eye to Eye and since 1996 she has been team physician to the WNBA’s New York Liberty.