You know silky hair when you see it: shiny, healthy, and free of tangles. But if you, like me, put your hair through the ringer, styling it with hot tools, using tons of product, and coloring it regularly, silkiness seems only but a dream. Luckily, with the right products, you and I both can improve the look and feel of our hair in just a few weeks—especially since silky hair relies on the health and condition of the cuticle (the outside layer), according to Steven Picciano, a national artist for Goldwell.
"The surface of your hair is kind of like shingles on a roof," he explains. "When all of those shingles [aka the cuticle layer] lay downward and smooth from roots to ends, that's when your hair looks and feels smooth and shiny—not knotty and tangled; it's also when it reflects the most light."
That said, if you're reading this because you deal with dullness and tangles daily/weekly/whenever follow the eight tips below to transform your strands and restore your natural ~*shine*~.
Be mindful when shampooing.
When shampooing, the tendency is to pile your hair on top of your head and wash the entire length of your strands. This technique not only creates tangles, but also dries out the ends of the hair, which already lack moisture—especially of those with curly hair.
"With naturally straight hair, oil from the scalp can go from roots to ends very quickly because gravity will pull it down," Picciano says. "But with curly hair, the oil has to travel around the coiled shaft, so the oil doesn’t get there as quickly."
What this means is that people with curly hair don't need to shampoo their hair as often. And, when it is time to wash, consider swapping out your reg shampoo with a cleansing conditioner to prevent stripping your hair of its necessary natural oils.
Comb when wet, brush when dry.
Picciano says most people are not delicate enough when brushing, which can prevent your hair from looking its best.
"If you're raking through wet hair with a paddle brush, that detangling noise that you're used to hearing is actually the sound of your hair ripping. Instead of smoothing the cuticle, this action is causing damage to the outside layer."
A gentler way to detangle hair? Using a comb when it's wet (or a brush designed for use on wet hair), and only using a brush when your hair is dry. Work through the knots and tangles by starting at the ends before moving to the middle and roots, rather than working from roots to ends, which could worsen the problem.
Use a T-shirt to dry your hair instead of a towel.
Somewhere along the way, we wrongly learned to "rough dry" hair by rubbing a towel back and forth against it. This action creates friction, which fluffs up the cuticle. And when the cuticles are fluffed up, they catch on one another, cause knots and breakage, and result in frizz.
"The number one key to having smooth hair is no friction," Picciano says. "When someone’s hair gets super tangly, it's usually because the cuticle is open. The tighter the cuticle, the more resistant it is to opening, and the smoother the hair is overall."
So, switch out your fluffy friction-causing towel for a smoother cotton T-shirt. And instead of rubbing your head, wrap the ends in the shirt and squeeze all the water out, working it down to the ends.
Sleep on silk pillowcases.
If you're currently using a cotton pillowcase, that very well might be the cause of your frizzy or tangled hair. Makes sense if you think about it: a silky smooth pillowcase leads to silky smooth strands. Cotton absorbs all the moisture from your strands, while silk or satin maintains the oils necessary for nourished hair.
Always finish blow drying with a blast of cold air.
It sounds like a time-sucking extra step, but Picciano argues that finishing a blow out with cold air is key for not only locking in the amount of volume, the direction of your style, and the movement of your hair, it also helps close the cuticle.
"Make sure to always use a nozzle or concentrator," he says. "It makes sure the direction of the air goes from roots to ends, closing the cuticle rather than roughing it up," he says. Use your hand like a rake to comb your hair. "Simply put your fingers into your hair with them open, gently close them, and then slide them down the hair shaft to squeegee that cuticle closed, followed by a cold shot of air to seal it."
Incorporate healthy fats into your diet.
"Light reflection and smoothness is all about moisture and having the proper lipids," Picciano says. "It's harder to have beautiful, shiny, reflective oils in your hair if you don’t have any oils in your diet. That's why eating healthy fats, like nuts, avocados, and salmon, is important—it will help keep your lipids higher. Even an Omega-3 supplement is great for that."
Picciano also stresses the importance of hydration and drinking lots of water each and every day. "I know it sounds so obvious, but if your skin is dry, your hair will be too," he adds. "If your interior body is dry, there won't be any water to feed your cells. It’s all about being hydrated and having a balanced lipid diet."
Add baking soda to a clarifying shampoo.
Water with heavy metals or minerals can not only wreak havoc on your expensive color, but also dry out your strands and cause dullness—aka the opposite of silkiness. If the area you live in has hard water, try an at-home remedy, like adding a little bit of baking soda to your clarifying shampoo once a week (or every other week for those with color-treated hair).
"Baking soda increases the level of surfactants, giving you a little bit more scrub," Picciano says. "It'll also open the cuticle a little more, helping to remove more buildup. If you have color-treated hair, this should happen once every other week; another solution is to purchase a filter for your showerhead."
Look for products with hydrolyzed keratin.
When shopping for your haircare, search the label for an ingredient called hydrolyzed keratin, which Picciano says is the best ingredient for achieving silky hair. Keratin (a structural protein) is necessary for restoring strength in damaged hair and hydrolyzed means it's in a smaller liquid form so it can penetrate and work on the interior of the hair.
This article originally appeared on Cosmopolitan.com. Minor edits have been made by the Cosmo.ph editors.