The ABCs of healthy hair
26 tips for bringing your hair back from the brink
Editor / July 17 2023
Cast your mind back to learning the alphabet – okay fine, you were like three, maybe you can’t recall. Our point is that it happened early! And from there, your letter knowledge was set for life. Maybe you even learned to rattle it off backwards as a party trick, you clever thing!
Something a lot of us are still trying to figure out as adults, however, is how to keep our hair healthy. If you ask us, that’s what we should be teaching our young! With all the hot tools, ocean dips, and brunette-to-blonde transformations our generation have sampled, it’s no wonder we’ve all accumulated some hair damage along the way.
But we don’t have to live like this! The journey back to shiny, smooth, silky hair is simpler than it seems. Well, it is now that we’ve written the ‘hair health alphabet’ for you. See, we’re clever too!
Here are the ABCs of healthy hair, bound to get your mane bouncing and behaving better than it has in years…
Air-dry whenever possible
Step away from that blow-dryer! An air-dry will always serve your hair health, as it’ll help you maintain moisture and lessen heat damage. If you can get to a place of air-drying for everyday outings, and only whipping out the blow-dryer when you want to feel a bit fancier, your hair will seriously thank you. And when you do blow-dry on those special occasions, make sure to apply a hit of the Redken Acidic Bonding Concentrate Leave-In Lotion ($45 at Adore Beauty) to provide hair with heat protection up to 232°C.
Begin your routine with a pre-treatment
Used to starting your shower off with shampoo? We suggest a switch-up. The first step in Redken’s Acidic Bonding Concentrate regimen — the ABC Intensive Treatment ($45 at Adore Beauty) — is all about reinforcing weakened bonds (caused by heat styling, colouring, and the like) to repair damaged hair and prevent future breakage. Its other priortity? To prime hair for the full benefits of its accompanying Acidic Bonding Concentrate Shampoo and Conditioner. Prep is the secret to success, and this prep step is a must for getting your hair health back on track.
Commit to a full range to reap best results
Some things were just designed to work together, you know? While you might love one brand’s shampoo but really rate another’s conditioner, you’re always going to get superior results if you commit to a consistent lineup. So, if a shampoo promises to strengthen your hair and improve overall hair health, make sure to grab its accompanying pre-treatment, conditioner, mask, etc. to let it reach its fullest potential.
Detangle your ends before brushing all the way through
We’ve all tried to drag a brush from roots to ends and wanted to cry out in frustration/pain. Not only does it genuinely hurt, but trying to brush from top to bottom right away is bad across the board. Hacking away won’t help; it’ll just result in more hair fallout! Instead, work in vertical sections, starting with the ends and moving a little higher with each pass until your entire head is beautifully brushed.
Elevate your wash with bond-repairing haircare
If you’re a fan of a drastic colour change, a dip in the pool, or a sleek straight look one day and voluminous waves the next, chances are you’ve racked up a fair bit of all three of the aforementioned types of damage. But don’t let the guilt of putting your hair through the ringer consume you – it’s not too late to say sorry. Sorry in the form of a bond-repairing shampoo and conditioner combo, that is. Redken’s Acidic Bonding Concentrate Shampoo ($45 at Adore Beauty) and Conditioner ($45 at Adore Beauty) were both formulated to nurse your hair back to health, strengthening weakened bonds and reducing the look and feel of breakage and split ends. After rinsing out the ABC Intensive Treatment, apply a teaspoon worth of shampoo evenly throughout your hair, lathering gently as you go. Massage into your scalp, then rinse and repeat. For conditioner, take a 50-cent piece amount and work through hair, concentrating on the lengths. Rinse out and say hello to nourished, glorious locks.
Favour silk pillowcases and scrunchies
In addition to looking extremely chic, silk pillowcases are a big help in your battle against bedhead. The coarse texture of cotton fibres can cause friction while you sleep, triggering knots, frizz, and snags during the night. Satin is less drying than cotton, too, a win for dehydrated manes everywhere. We also advise swapping to silk scrunchies instead of classic hair elastics; they’re snag-free and won’t leave pesky kinks.
Give your hair time to adjust to new products
As with anything, consistency is key. It takes time for your hair to adjust to new products, so don’t count anything out if you don’t see a major change after just one application. We recommend at least four washes or applications – consistent use will allow your hair time to get used to new formulas and begin reaping the benefits.
Have patience while products sink in
Speaking of allowing haircare time to work its magic, if a product recommends letting it sink in for a full 10 minutes, only committing to a single three-minute shower song before rinsing won’t do the trick. For example, the Redken ABC Intensive Treatment was specifically designed to be applied to damp hair (prior to washing) and left on for 5-10 minutes. If you want to see the best results possible, you must allow the product the full 5-10 minutes to actually do its job!
Identify the different types of damage
‘Damaged’ may be the blanket term we use when struggling with hair health, but there are three types under the umbrella. Chemical damage refers to issues caused by colouring and bleaching, mechanical damage is the work of heat tools and brushing, and environmental damage stems from UV exposure and water. It’s important to choose your haircare based on what your hair actually needs help with. Or if it’s all three, make sure your range is designed to handle the trio. Otherwise you simply won’t see the results you’re after!
Jumpstart your hair health journey with nutrient-rich foods
If ‘strong’, ‘shiny’, and ‘smooth’ are all words on your hair’s vision board, diet will be a big factor in getting it there. Your hair needs certain nutrients to thrive, so consider dialling up your consumption of foods rich in nutrients like omega-3 (think salmon, walnuts, broccoli), B6 (try bananas, potatoes and spinach), and folic acid (citrus fruits and tomatoes are your best bet).
Keep your pH levels balanced
Your hair’s natural pH level is somewhat acidic, usually sitting around 4.5 to 5.5. If that level gets thrown off balance, your hair can become dull, dry, and frizzy – not the goal! Using acidic haircare like Redken’s Acidic Bonding Concentrate range is an easy way to rebalance your pH level, minimise moisture loss and make strides toward smoother, shinier, healthier hair.
Leave your split ends untouched
Is it tempting to pick away at those damn split ends?! Absolutely. But it’s basically the worst thing you can do for them. Yes, a split end forming means that you’ve got some reparative work to do, but tearing a strand of hair in two means that the end is no longer just split, it’s officially severed. You’re damaging the hair shaft further, and we know you know that’s not the right move.
Massage your scalp to stimulate growth
Ah, a scalp massage. Even saying it has our senses tingling! The good news is that they’re as beneficial as they are indulgent. On top of stimulating hair growth by boosting blood circulation in the head and neck area, a scalp massage will also help to dislodge build-up and strengthen hair follicles.
Nourish your hair based on its needs
Letting your hair concerns inform your haircare choices will ensure your routine genuinely suits your specific needs. For example, if your concerns are things like breakage, frizz and dullness, Redken’s ABC regimen (consisting of the pre-wash Intensive Treatment, Shampoo, Conditioner and Leave-In Lotion) is equipped to leave hair noticeably more moisturised and less damaged (AKA smoother, shinier, and softer).
Only use a microfibre hair towel
Sadly you can’t trust your regular towel when hair health is on the line. The coarse texture of classic towels can damage the hair, even causing small craters along the hair shaft, leading to frizz, weakness and more pronounced split ends. Instead, use a microfibre towel – they remove the need to ‘rub’, plus they dry the hair quicker without snagging or roughing up the cuticles.
Protect your hair from the sun
UV rays can damage hair just like it does skin, with too much time in the sun even leading to damage of both the structure and colour of the hair – yikes. But no, you don’t want to slather classic SPF onto your strands (um, oily) – simply add a UV defense hair mist (or something similar) into your routine.
Quit wearing an updo to bed
Nobody loves having their hair in their face while sleeping (and an overnight down-do can cause ridiculous amounts of frizz), but tying your hair into a tight pony or bun isn’t the answer. Sleeping with your hair in an updo (especially a severe one) means that your eight hours will be spent placing major tension on your roots. Make a habit of it and you’ll be dealing with breakage and hair loss right at the root – very hard to disguise/deal with. Instead, a loose, low braid keeps hair controlled but relaxed while you rest.
Rotate your style and accessory placements
You know how if you always sit in the same spot on your lounge that area wears away quicker? Well, the same goes for your hair whenever you’re placing clips, pins, or hair ties in it. The solution? Try and alternate between low, mid, and high styles to switch up where the hair tie tension sits, and avoid always putting pins, clips, or other accessories in exactly the same spots over and over.
Seal your shower with a hit of cold water
A post-wash cold water rinse is key to sealing the elevated cuticle layers in your hair, keeping the protein bonds intact and helping to reduce frizz and flyaways. It might not be your favourite way to finish a relaxing shower, but hey, do it for the shine levels…
Trim your hair frequently
This isn’t exactly news to anyone, but a reminder is always handy, especially considering trims are something we all tend to put off. Just think of the blunt, fresh ends! And remember, even though it can feel like backtracking, a trim often means you’ll see more growth once you shed those split ends.
Use your hairbrush before you shower (not while hair is wet)
If you’re someone who knows you shouldn’t brush hair when wet (AKA when it’s at its weakest), but doesn’t understand when you’re supposed to detangle it, this message is for you. Simply give your hair a good brush before jumping in the shower. Once you’re in (and shampooed), try to stick to combing conditioner through with your fingers (or a gentle wide-tooth comb at the most) and wait for hair to dry again before picking up your brush.
Verify which ingredients do what
Just like with skin care, having a solid understanding of what all these fancy ingredient names actually do for your hair is a game-changer. For example, Redken’s ABC range features citric acid, a concentrated bonding care complex able to reinforce weakened bonds within hair. So, if you want to improve hair strength (and defend against the negative effects of heat styling tools, hair colouring, and even water) it’s one worth remembering.
Wash your hair based on feel, not based on the day
How often should you wash your hair?” is a question that has been answered about a zillion times, and yet it continues to be asked day-in, day-out. Here’s the final answer – wash based on what works for you. That doesn’t mean a rigid ‘three times per week’ or an ‘every Sunday and Thursday, of course’ approach, but rather this: wash when hair is visibly oily, your scalp is itching, or there’s flaking due to dirt. Your hair and scalp will tell you when it’s time…
X-out your late-night washes
Remember what we said about hair being most fragile when wet? Keep it in mind whenever you feel tempted to head in for a late-night hair wash. It’s never ideal to realise at 9pm that you probably should’ve shampooed earlier, but at that stage, you’re going to have to leave it to dry shampoo or wait ‘til the morning. With all the tossing and turning we do in our sleep, there’s a higher risk of breakage when sleeping with wet hair. Plus, hitting the pillow while hair is still damp can even put you at risk of developing a skin or scalp infection because of bacteria build-up. Er, no thank you…
Yank the sulfates off your shower shelf
Sulfates may be great at stripping oil and dirt away from the hair, but unfortunately, they’re just not discerning enough to tell the undesirable oils (that stem from product build-up and dirt) from the good, healthy, natural ones. Hair relies on a bit of its natural moisture to stay healthy, so skipping sulfates is a must if you don’t want to dry out your hair. Luckily, Redken’s ABC range is sulfate-free, so we advise pulling anything else off the shower shelf and swapping it in ASAP.
Zone out your hair when washing
There’s a reason your shampoo and conditioner specify different application areas – each one is designed to work within its designated zone. Shampoo is specifically made to cleanse away oils and residue, but considering those only tend to build-up at the root area, taking it any further down the lengths can damage and dry out the hair. On the other hand, conditioner on the roots can equal flat, greasy hair (AKA exactly what you hopped in the shower to correct). Stick to the sections they were designed for, and you’ll be living in a world of hair harmony! And isn’t that everyone’s dream?!
Delaney Loane is BEAUTYcrew's Editor (and resident cateye connoisseur). An expert in everything from sensitive skin solutions to lip oil options that won't leave your hair permanently attached to your face, her words have also appeared across mastheads such as ELLE and marie claire.