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Five Hair Mistakes You Are Probably Making. Right Now! OMG! Stop!

Jul29

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So after a long discussion with Phillip during my haircut last weekend, I realized something. I get question after question about hair products. Which product should I use? What will fix this problem and that problem and can you recommend a good shampoo?
But sometimes, it’s not really a product that will solve your hair’s problems. Especially if your problem is frizz, breakage or general all-around limp blahness. Sometimes these problems are caused by our bad habits — bad habits that you might not even realize is a bad habit. Lord knows it took me long enough to figure all this stuff out.
So forgive me if this is all old news for you, but here are five bad habits a lot of women do, and five bad habits all women need to STOP DOING before plunking down the cash on expensive salon fixes.
1) Don’t put your hair in a ponytail overnight. Soooo tempting, I know. But hair bands (even the “ouchless” ones) are NOT your hair’s friend. They cause breakage and stress at the band AND at your scalp. And breakage and stress = frizz and flyaways. The occasional ponytail during the day is fine, although if you regularly wear your hair up, you should consider switching to a clip instead.
2) Don’t shampoo your ends; don’t condition your roots. Shampoo 101, here, kiddos, and it applies to pretty much all hair types. “But my hair is…” No. Try it.
3) Don’t overtreat the problem. This one is the same idea as proper skincare: throwing tons of harsh oil-control products at acne-prone skin actually makes your skin overcompensate and produce more oil. You’re trying to achieve balance, not beat your hair and skin into submission. Trust me, you won’t win.
If your roots are oily, toss the oil-control shampoo in favor of a clarifying or volumizing one. If your hair is dry, do a deep conditioning treatment once a week, but use something gentle everyday (and check your styling products for high alcohol content…these could be the culprit). Switch up your shampoo occasionally — I think most hair will benefit from a clarifying treatment every now and then.
4) Don’t wrap your hair in a towel turban after the shower. I do this one. It’s been easier to resist since my hair is shorter, but Phillip was able to look at my hairline and scold me about it. You know all those crazy short baby-hairs around your forehead? Quit the turban habit and you’ll see a lot less of those, PLUS more natural lift at your roots. The weight of the towel is pulling at your roots and causing breakage, especially since you’re wrapping it when it’s wet and at its most vulnerable. (Oh, and those small shammy-like turbans aren’t any better. While they aren’t as heavy as a towel, you tend to wrap them much tighter, which causes the same problem.) Use a towel to gently squeeze off excess water and then let your hair air-dry instead.
5) Do use the cool setting on your blow-dryer. Would you believe I had no idea why my blow-dryer even had a cool setting for years? Finally, I asked a stylist for a detailed blow-drying tutorial and she revealed the secret: When drying your hair with a round brush, hit your ends with cool air to set the style. And BOOM! Less frizz, and my hair stayed curled under or flipped out or straight or however else I styled it.
Do you have any other mistakes to add? Have you ever had a forehead-slapping I-can’t-believe-how-simple-that-was hair moment that solved everything for you?

About the author

Amalah

http://www.amalah.com
Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy's daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it's pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to amyadvice@gmail.com.

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.


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35 Responses to “Five Hair Mistakes You Are Probably Making. Right Now! OMG! Stop!”

  1. Sharon Jul 30 at 11:06 am Reply Reply

    So, not to sound like a complete idiot who doesn’t know something that maybe the whole rest of the universe knows…but:
    I put my hair up in the pony tail to sleep mainly because if I leave it down I get too hot, sweat like crazy (ew!) and then end up breaking out where the hair was trapped between my face and the pillow. I am the only one in the world that has this problem?
    I have the baby hair problem to the EXTREME and would love to follow your advice but bad skin on my cheeks and forehead is almost worse than bad hair…

  2. Kimmy Jul 30 at 11:19 am Reply Reply

    The solution the the overnight pony-tail:
    Many hair supply places will have these, but especially ones that cater to African-American hair.
    Buy a hair cap.
    It’s like a shower cap but made of lightweight, breathable fabric instead of plastic. You simply pile your hair on top of your head (no clips or anything, just a loose pile)… hold that with one hand, and with the other hand, slip the cap over. You may have to stuff some hair up under it that didn’t make it in, but once it’s in… you’re set.
    Mine stays on all night. And in the morning, I take it off, and my hair is still often much the same as I left it the night before, style-wise. And, no damage.

  3. robin m Jul 30 at 11:22 am Reply Reply

    I sleep with satin/silk pillowcases and they have really alleviated the “halo” effect from all the breakage. I also don’t turban, I rarely heat-style my hair, I don’t shampoo my ends (but I do condition-only “shampoo” most days, too, fwiw). I only use boar hair brushes or combs that don’t rip my hair. I do color my hair, but I baby the hell out of it the rest of the time.
    I don’t know if I can live without putting it up in a ponytail/bun to sleep, though. The cap is a good idea.

  4. OneSmartCookie Jul 30 at 11:30 am Reply Reply

    I was all pleased with myself for following the rules until I got to number 4. Wait… no turban? But…?? What do I dooooo? I thought I was doing the right thing by not blasting the hair dryer at soaking wet hair. Are you telling me that I will achieve the same level of pre blow drying dry-ness without using the turban? You’ve never steered me wrong before, but I’m sorry to say that I am doubting this.
    Although… going without the turban might bring a measure of dignity back to my morning routine.

  5. Deborah Svoboda Jul 30 at 11:57 am Reply Reply

    Great tips! The best one I ever got from a stylist was…paper towels. I have super-fine, easily-damaged curls, so blow-drying is something I avoid doing as much as possible. Just blot your hair dry with paper towels and squeeze gently…cuts down on the amount of blow drying you need and the damage it can cause, especially to fine hair.
    Although, I did get some very weird looks the other day at the gym for it. White paper twoels work MUCH better than the yucky brown ones in public restrooms!

  6. KatieMick Jul 30 at 12:06 pm Reply Reply

    Don’t fight your hair texture – work with it as much as possible. I have thick naturally curly hair. In the summertime, I don’t even try to blow it out straight – I use a diffuser, let it be curly, with a smoothing milk after it’s dry to tame the little frizzies. I have gradual layers cut in to enhance the curl and also to avoid the trapezoid-head effect that can come with all-one-length-curly hair. Roseanne Rosannadana is not a good look.
    Beating your hair into submission, much like trying to reason with a three year old, is an exercise in futility.
    Oh – also ask for a hairstylist that is experienced with curly hair when getting a haircut. If you don’t, you run the risk of getting your hair cut WAYYYY too short; your stylist has to allow for, um, shrinkage.

  7. erika Jul 30 at 12:12 pm Reply Reply

    Please add: don’t attempt to cut your own hair. Whoops! Too late!

  8. Stephanie Jul 30 at 12:25 pm Reply Reply

    But… but… if I don’t wrap my hair in a turban, then my clothes will get all sopping wet.
    I have a ponytail question. I don’t wear one when I sleep (I actually appear to be one of the few who cannot stand having my hair up when sleeping), but I wear ponytails pretty often. Any suggestions for what to use instead of hair bands? I’m sure I can’t get away with anything other than hair bands for when I need it to stay up at the gym, but I’m open to suggestions for when I wear a ponytail other times. (P.S. My hair is pretty thin, although there is a lot of it, and I always need two elastics to get it to stay in place.)

  9. Valette Jul 30 at 1:27 pm Reply Reply

    But… but… if I don’t wrap my hair in a turban, then my clothes will get all sopping wet.
    This is true! My hair is suuuper long, down to my butt, and if I don’t wrap it for at least five minutes everything gets very wet. And I can’t stand the feeling of wet hair down my back.
    Does the turban thing apply to short-term use as well? Is five minutes just as bad as 30?

  10. katishere Jul 30 at 2:01 pm Reply Reply

    i too can not get away from the towel turban thing. maybe on the weekend when i have more time to hang out and let it air dry. seriousl my hair is super thick and straight and would just make my shirts sopping wet.
    i started using an anti-frizz serum and that helps my hair dry faster but i just *need* to turban my hair. there’s no getting around it.

  11. jomama Jul 30 at 2:05 pm Reply Reply

    I am so guilty of the ponytail to sleep thing, but twisted into a bun is my everyday style, so that’s going to be a tough habit to break.
    As for the no turban rule, I think I can deal with that, but I have to ask for for the people who are concerned, what about a terry cloth bonnet? I used to have one years ago and I would put it on after I washed my hair so I didn’t have to worry about the towel falling off whenever I bent over. Just towel dry so it’s not sopping wet, and slap on the bonnet.

  12. jamimess Jul 30 at 4:26 pm Reply Reply

    I have been having huge hair dilemmas related to exactly these issues. I had my hair cut at a “curly girl” salon about 5 weeks ago. Was pleased with the cut; they cut it dry, curl by curl, which helps prevent shrinkage issues. Since then, I’ve been using their “no poo” cleanser, plus conditioner, plus a leave-in conditioner, plus a light styling gel. I really like all the products, but I swear, I am having more issues with frizz than I ever did before I started all this nonsense! I have medium textured, curly, not-too-frizzy hair, but I’ve been getting a layer of frizz toward the crown. Very annoying.
    They are also fans of the paper towel scrunch method, and if you want to be environmentally conscious, they recommend old t-shirts instead. I’ve been using my shammy towel, turning my head upside-down and scrunching upward gently, and I find that leaving a little more water in my hair actually gives me larger, more “piece-y” curls. However, my hair takes a year and a half to dry. I put the shammy towel around my neck like a cape to prevent my shirt getting wet. I also lift my hair a little at the roots and clip it (about 6-8 clips), which takes off some of the weight and helps it dry better. And if I have time, I diffuse it dry.
    The problem: I’m spending more time than I think is reasonable on my hair. And I don’t think it looks appreciably better than when I used to spend 3 minutes on it and shampoo it with all that sodium laureth sulfate that’s so bad for you. Is it possible it’s just going to take two months for my hair to settle into its new routine, after being mildly abused for years?
    Help is appreciated; I’m considering calling the salon for assistance! (They’re in NY and I’m in CA. And yes, I got my hair cut on vacation in NY because I am nuts and wanted to try it out. The stylists had GORGEOUS curls. And no, I haven’t dismissed the possibility that my hair changed after having a baby 9 mos ago, except that it didn’t change with the birth of my first baby, 3 years ago.)
    Thanks for the post and the tips, Amalah!

  13. robin m Jul 30 at 4:55 pm Reply Reply

    I think the turban TOWELS are ok – like those quick dry towels? Just don’t lift your hair up like that over your head when it’s wet. Hair is much more fragile when it’s wet than you think.
    Also this applies to when you are washing it – don’t pile it on your head and soap it up – just massage your scalp and hair in its natural position.

  14. Alison Jul 30 at 5:32 pm Reply Reply

    But I love my turban! I love it. Is it really that bad?
    Here’s a question for all of you who sleep with your hair in a ponytail? Are you doing a top-of-the-head ponytail? If not, how do you sleep on it? I always want to put my hair up when I sleep, but the bump it makes on the back of my hair is too uncomfortable when I’m lying on my back.

  15. Amy Corbett Storch Jul 31 at 12:19 am Reply Reply

    Ok! So just checking in on the comments. (You know, LIFE.)
    Alternatives to the overnight ponytail, besides the cap: I’ll gently pin my bangs back with bobby pins, or wrap my hairline in a wide headband or plain cotton scarf (ripping up an old t-shirt works really well), knotting the fabric wherever it won’t bug me. I sleep on my side almost exclusively, so knotting it at the back of my head works. It might not stay put all night, every night, but it works well enough to keep the oil slicks at bay AND is way gentler on my hair.
    As for the towel turbans: AH KNOW. I’ve been doing this for ages. I had no idea it was a bad thing. But seriously, do whatever you can to avoid it for more than a few minutes. Like Robin said, your hair is SO delicate when it’s wet. Paper towels, old t-shirts, wrap a towel around your shoulders for awhile and then hit your ends with a diffuser. Don’t pile your hair up, and don’t put a lot of pressure on your hairline.
    And for jamimess: I’m not a curly hair expert, so I’m not really sure what to tell you. Could be old damage, could be the products you’re using. There’s no crime in going back to your old shampoo and seeing what happens. While I know I tend to delve into Grand Sweeping Pronouncements here, I’m way more of a fan of “you do what works for you” than anything. If you don’t see an improvement or see more frizz, then ditch whatever they sold you and go back to whatever you were using. And then find a salon and stylist near you. (Also! I always say: don’t buy products on your first visit with a stylist. Establish a relationship and make sure you see eye-to-eye with them before subscribing to their newsletter, yanno?)

  16. Tamara Jul 31 at 9:06 am Reply Reply

    I am pretty good about all of these except the first one. I leave my hair down at night, but during the day?? I am the queen of the ponytail. In this humidity, my wavy (but irritatingly, only in the back of my head) hair tends to grow and resist my attempts to straighten it. Anyway, I have always wanted to use a clip, but my hair is incredibly thick. Freakishly thick. So thick that whenever I try a new hair salon, all the hairdressers come over and touch it. I have never found a clip that is big enough or strong enough to pull it all back. I end up breaking ALL OF THEM. Does anyone have a better suggestion? Right now, the only thing that works is a heavy-duty, ouchless Goody rubber band.

  17. JunieB Jul 31 at 12:30 pm Reply Reply

    My hair is extremely short. How do I avoid not shampooing the ends or conditioning the roots when the ends and the roots are about 2-3 inches apart? I’m thinking I should start using waaaay much less product than I already do?
    Also, from time to time I give my hair a good rinse with plain white vinegar, as I’ve heard this will help rinse out extra product and leave a nice shine (which it does). Good idea or bad idea?

  18. jen Jul 31 at 3:16 pm Reply Reply

    beauty confession: I always comb out my hair when it’s still soaking wet from the shower. this goes against the “your hair is super delicate when it’s wet OMG you are torturing your hair if you brush it out of the shower” but I do it anyway. I have straight hair and if I’m in a rush, I can get away with a shower+brushing+air dry.
    sigh. that felt good.

  19. AmyM Jul 31 at 6:36 pm Reply Reply

    NOOOOOOO!!!! You’re taking away all that is sacred! First, I have to ditch the cheap shampoo and now you’re going to make me give up my turban AND my bedtime ponytail. I’m really starting to wonder if you are some sort of sadist.
    So anyhow…
    is it ok to comb your hair w/ an extra wide tooth comb when it’s wet, or is THAT a ‘no-no’ too?

  20. AmyM Jul 31 at 6:39 pm Reply Reply

    And just so we’re clear… if you try to take away the cream from my coffee or my precious falafel, I’m done here.

  21. BridehoodRevisited Aug 01 at 10:48 am Reply Reply

    I had no idea about the towel turban thing. Ack! That explains a lot.

  22. robin m Aug 02 at 1:12 pm Reply Reply

    AmyM, if you are gentle with the comb and the comb has no “extraneous” items on it that will tear your hair (seams, etc) then it should be fine. If your hair is long, start combing at the bottom and gradually go further up.

  23. amani Sep 11 at 5:30 pm Reply Reply

    i use a turban sometimes but thts not my problem.
    im 13 and i like my hairrr, but not 2 school.
    i straightened my hair 2 school but my mom didnt let me. So i tried 2 blow-dry my hair everytime i got out of the showerr. she didnt approve of tht either.
    So wht do i do 2 my hair 2 school now?
    i put it up in a ponytail like once a week,
    but wht do i do for the other 4 days?
    PLEASE HELP ME!
    email me at syedaam@aol.com & let me know.
    p.s. i have silky wavy hairr.

    • Jaine Feb 25 at 10:13 am Reply Reply

      I THINKT THat u should take showers the night before it WILL HELP! It also makes u feel refreshed the day after the night before because u dont have to hurry on and glance at the time (Waiting for a sibiling to get out of da bathroom)! So do it the night before and maybe put it in a braid after u take the shower “The night before” BEcause it will make CUTE WAVES in ur hair!!! I hope this helped a bit,
      Jaine! :)

  24. Alison T. Mar 06 at 9:06 pm Reply Reply

    Well I never ever sleep with a pony tail, I find it extremely uncomfortable. I have tried the shampoo only on the scalp and conditioner only on the ends but my scalp got dry. I could give it another try. No towel turban! Hmm, I guess I could try it but with my thick hair my shirt will get wet. Here is a question for you, what about ringing your hair out right when you turn the water off? I’m guessing thats bad considering I ring it pretty tightly to get as much water out as possible.

  25. Bree Mar 09 at 3:46 am Reply Reply

    For the towel wrapping thing, curly girls shouldn’t even use regular towels. Us a big old T-shirt. The many little loops on towels will make your curls frizz! And many women of color cannot sleep with their hair down, and use a silk scarf to cover it. This retains you hair’s natural oils and protects it. If you sleep with it down, a silk pillowcase helps. And about conditioner on the ends, this really OS not true for girls with curly hair. If you are curly and wear it natural, you should lather your hair in conditioner and ONLY comb it when it’s like this. Curly hair and black hair are totally different worlds and most generic hair tips don’t apply to them or are only half true. What is a hair mistake for someone with straight hair (conditioner everywhere) is a lifesaver for a curly girl. Overall good article though. :)

  26. Missy May 28 at 7:20 am Reply Reply

    Our stylist recrecommended using a strip cut from an old pair of hosiery or tights as a hair band. It won’t tug on your hair. My daughter has been using this for months and it works great .

  27. Aruna Jun 08 at 1:55 pm Reply Reply

    But the towel wrap feels so good! It makes me head all warm & cozy. I so look forward to the post shower towel turban. Damn, I’m gonna miss that. Is there a correct way to keep this comfort?

  28. loreleion Jun 30 at 9:50 pm Reply Reply

    I don’t know if it’s completely okay for your hair, but here’s what I do instead of the normal towel turban.
    *Lay a big t-shirt you don’t care about down sideways near the edge of a surface about knee level (beds and sofas are good).
    *Lean down to the shirt, letting your hair fall in front of you; direct it towards the center of the shirt, then rest the top of your head against the shirt, but a little closer to the edge than where most of your hair went.
    *Pull the side of the shirt that is ‘above’ your head (farthest from the edge) over the back of your head, making sure it goes completely over your hair. Check for wet hair stuck to the back of your neck and tuck it under.
    *Wrap the same side toward the front and tuck it under your head just a little.
    *Take the top and bottom corners near the edge (use the sleeve if it has one) and tie them together snugly behind your head. Make sure the other side of the shirt doesn’t move away so your hair doesn’t get caught in the knot.
    *Stand up. Scooch the shirt up your forehead if it’s over your eyes.

    Took some practice to get it right, but you should end up with a loose-ish cap secured by a makeshift band that is mostly or completely under your hairline.

  29. emy Sep 24 at 4:27 am Reply Reply

    I normally not only do all of them but I love to keep my hair in a bun all night and all day with my hair dry or wet wonder what Phillip would say about that

  30. Jenn Oct 22 at 7:51 am Reply Reply

    Just did the not wrapping towel over hair, just placed hair gently inside, didnt brush when wet. Hair still wet a little, the wet hair sticks together, drying it…its all stuck with the wetness. So, urgh. Pass on that tip

  31. Kara Jan 02 at 1:04 am Reply Reply

    Don’t cut your own hair (someone added in the comments)…

    Well, I do this- I used to have long hair and always save money by trimming the ends myself. After one bad salon cut when I went shorter- I never let anyone touch my hair but me. Rather be upset with myself than pay money for someone to give me something I DON’T want. And it’s not that difficult, I get compliments on it all the time. :)

  32. Tashanna Mar 06 at 9:04 pm Reply Reply

    My hair is the kind that won’t curl. One day a stylist tried a curling wand and it stays overnight!! I guess it’s because the wand gets to 450 degrees. So I use a thermal protector as well.

    Same stylist. My hair is chronically oily as of a year ago. No changes in habits or lifestyle. Hormones?? So I had to wash it every single day. I tried not washing to see if it balanced and it was just awful. So she said, “I know you hate hair products, but try putting a bunch of product in it.” And she had me try this Big Sexy Root Pump spray. I now wash my hair every four days. It’s a beautiful thing.

  33. Daisy Apr 11 at 9:40 am Reply Reply

    So umm I cannot sleep without my hair in a twisted bun at the top of my head.
    I can’t stand it if my hair is going in my face when I’m trying to sleep! ._. I use a hair scrunchy and I don’t make the bun too tight. And as I mentioned I make the bun at the very top of my head, although it may look silly, it keeps the bun from getting in the way! :) I feel like that somewhat protects my hair from rubbing too much on my non-satin pillowcases..(I toss and turn a lot in my sleep) So yupp that’s the one thing I can’t stop doing. Other than that, I follow these rules everyday(:

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