Unlike their curly cousins, those with straight hair generally fall into two categories: naturally straight and chemically straightened. While we will touch on different straight hair textures, the care advice in this article is meant for those with naturally straight hair. Chemical straighteners require their own unique aftercare and that largely depends on the professional straightening product used at the time of service. In any case, despite popular belief, those with naturally straight hair are not immune to styling snafus and hair health challenges. Here, we will cover the basics of straight hair care for optimal hair health (which translates into better-looking styles).
Before The Shower
Straight hair tends to be particularly susceptible to split ends (which is not the same as breakage, but more on that, later) so it should be handled with care. In general, for most hair types and textures, it’s not necessary to wash your hair daily, and in fact, skipping a day or two (depending on how much oil your scalp produces) is better for your overall hair health. If you have fine-to-normal straight hair, try stretching out your shampoos to 2x per week, with frequent brushing. If you are a heavy product user, however, you may want to up that number to 3x a week. For coarser hair, which traps more dirt and grime, you will want to suds up every other day. Before lathering up, run a boar bristle brush through to work out any tangles, snarls or knots. The brush will also distribute natural oils from the scalp through the length of the hair, which will help combat over-drying from shampoos or steam.
In The Shower
It’s not just what you use, but how you shampoo can also affect your hair health. With straight hair, it is best to start at the top and gently work your way down. This means you must resist the urge to pile it all on top of your head and get to scrubbing. Hear us out: making a big sudsy pile of hair will encourage tangles and snarls. It’s also harder to ensure that your hair will actually get clean. Think of it this way, if you were to just throw all of your dirty dishes in a pile at the bottom of your dishwasher, they probably wouldn’t come out as spotless as if you had lined them up neatly on the rack. It’s the same with your hair.
The “pile up” method also encourages scalp scrubbing, which is not going to do you any favors. The more aggressively you stimulate your scalp, the more oil it will produce, which means the more often you will want to shower, which leads to more scalp scrubbing, which leads to more oil. And here we are back again. It’s best to take the advice from the back of your shampoo bottle and “massage gently.”
When it comes to conditioner, this is where we break into groups. Fine-haired folk should apply their conditioner from mid-length to ends and comb through with a wide-tooth comb. Let the conditioner sit for about a minute or so, then rinse very, very thoroughly. Conditioner, along with its highly beneficial moisturizing qualities, also has a tendency to weigh hair down.
For coarser hair, use the same application technique, but let the conditioner sit a bit longer. Two to five minutes should suffice.
*TIP: If your hair is on the dryer side, try a shampoo with an oil such as argan, coconut, or olive in it. These types of shampoos have a conditioning agent in them and can help combat dryness.After The Shower
You’ll want to blot straight hair very gently with a soft, fluffy towel. Apply a leave-in conditioner from mid-length to ends and comb through to remove any tangles. A fun little styling tip for straight-haired ladies (or men, honestly, it’s becoming a trend in our current man bun era) braids are a great way to combat tangles. Tossing your locks into a simple braid after the shower will protect from snarls and create a lovely loose wave pattern as the hair dries. Just be careful not to tug or pull hair while styling wet, as this could cause additional damage.
If you opt for the “hair down” look, be sure to keep a soft hairbrush on you. You’ll want to brush your hair whenever it’s tangled and before you go to sleep. Please don’t just rake your fingers through to get them out. This causes more damage which can lead to more tangles. Brushing any more than that may actually cause more damage, but a little brushing here and there will help keep hair moisturized and snarl-free.
Straight hair tends to be particularly prone to split ends, however, a lot of people are confused by what a split end actually is. If you see a lot of tiny hairs sticking out all over your head, those are not split ends, that is breakage. Breakage occurs from hair being handled too roughly and/or being too dry. If you frequently put your hair into a ponytail while wet, opt for a hairbrush over a comb post-shower, or tend to twist your hair around your fingers throughout the day, you are asking for breakage.
Split ends, however, aren’t really preventable by altering your behavior. It’s natural. Splits happen. Let’s get a quick and dirty on how to spot a split end:
- Gather a section of your hair in your hand (if you have short hair, also gather a friend).
- Look for “Y” shapes at the ends of your hair strands. These are split ends.
- Split ends only occur at the end of the hair strand. Anything at mid-length is breakage, which is caused by distress.
- Split ends cannot be repaired, just made to look better (via keratin treatments). The only way to stop them is to cut them just above the split.
This is a fantastic segway into just how often you should be trimming your hair to keep it at optimum health. Since fine, straight hair is a little more fragile and therefore more prone to splits, you should go in for a trim every 4-6 weeks.
If coarse hair has been treated well, it could go a little longer between trims. 6-8 weeks is perfectly acceptable. If you are extra, extra careful with your hair, you may even be able to go a tad bit longer, just make sure to do frequent checks for split ends. Once a split starts, it cannot be stopped. Left unchecked, a split “end” will actually travel up the entire length of the hair and at that point, it’s really unfixable.