Months of sun, surf and chlorine can wreak havoc on even the healthiest of hair, making it brittle, faded and lifeless. In California, we face these conditions year-round, but hair can take more of a beating in the summer, when people tend to spend even more time outdoors.
The good news: With a little help from an expert and a couple of at-home treatments, you can whip your weather-beaten hair back into shape. Here are our five top tips for beautiful fall hair.
Get a protein treatment
At the end of summer, hair feels dry and brittle and a protein treatment can do wonders. "The cuticles get rough, like an open umbrella [opened] in the opposite direction," says Jennifer J. of Juan Juan Salon in Beverly Hills and Brentwood. Protein treatments fill in these gaps in the cuticle to make hair appear smoother. Salons offer intensive restorative treatments starting at $20 and $60 (for the Kerastase Chronologiste salon treatment favored by celebrities such as Blake Lively and Rachel Weisz). Kerastase Chronologiste ($145; http://www.kerastase-usa.com) is also available as an at-home product, enough for 10 to 15 applications, that combines caviar-like pearls with a creamy hair masque to activate concentrated ingredients. For a less pricey option, try Redken Extreme Deep Fuel ($21; http://www.redken.com).
Look for key words like "rebuild" or "reconstruct" in a product description, says Hollywood-based hairstylist David L. Calhoun III. After you shampoo, comb the conditioning treatment through hair, and cover with a shower cap or plastic wrap and a warm towel straight out of the dryer, says Jennifer J. Leave on for 15 minutes, then rinse. "Make sure it's rinsed out all the way or the product will weigh hair down," she says. Also, protein treatments should be used sparingly, once or twice the first week, and then only monthly. Too much protein can have the opposite effect and make hair even more brittle.
Spruce up color
Sun fades processed color, giving hair dull brassy or reddish tones. Fall is a great time to go a shade or two darker, and since going darker doesn't require ammonia in the color formula, it's gentler on already damaged and dry hair. If you're a brunette, choose rich, warm shades, such as chocolate, auburn or golden tones, says Jennifer J. For blonds, summer sun can make highlights look brighter and fresher but the undertone can turn brassy. A tinted gloss can tone down the color while infusing hair with shine and body. Those who don't tint their tresses can benefit from a clear gloss treatment. "It takes a little of the frizz out, and adds texture and body for people with fine hair," she says. Although salons can customize glosses to suit your shade, several companies offer at-home formulas. John Frieda Luminous Color Glaze ($9.99; http://www.johnfrieda.com) comes in two shades, clear and brunette, and Fekkai Technician Color-Protecting Glaze ($21; http://www.fekkai.com) incorporates UV protection.
Get a trim
The best way to shape up hair is to trim it. The carefree days of summer hair are over, and it's time to get a cut that reflects a new season. "When it comes to fall, you want to look more polished and structured," says Jennifer J. "A great opportunity to go shorter while getting rid of split ends." During the summer, we're more likely to wear hair up into a ponytail, which can damage and break hair, especially at the nape of the neck, so it's important not to neglect this area. A stylish new cut will prompt you to wear your hair down more often, giving this delicate area time to recuperate.
Consider a professional smoothing treatment
When hair gets dry and brittle it also looks dull and frizzy. Protein treatments can help temporarily, but those who are after a longer-term solution may want to consider a keratin-smoothing treatment, better known as a Brazilian hair treatment. Unlike processed hair color, these formulas don't dry out severely damaged hair. The treatment has been controversial because some formulations contain formaldehyde, but there are others that say they are formaldehyde-free. "The Brazilian keratin treatment makes hair healthy and gives it body," Calhoun says. "It works wonderfully on straight or curly hair." Keratin is a type of protein that improves the texture of the hair, giving it shine and softness. The temporary treatment washes out eventually but can last up to four months. Prices start at $250 a visit. Still, you might want to proceed cautiously until the formaldehyde issue is resolved.
Learn to protect your hair
We all know that the best offense is a good defense. If you can protect your hair and take care of it regularly, it will be easier to keep your mane healthy and shiny. First, get regular trims, every six to eight weeks, to avoid excessive damage from color processing or sun. Use hair accessories that don't pull or break hair; choose terry-textured bands over ponytail holders with metal pieces and condition hair regularly with a moisturizing product. Often, people are in a rush and don't apply conditioner properly. To do it right, you need to section off hair and make sure the product penetrates through the entire length, says Calhoun. Lastly, if you're going to spend a lot of time in the sun, wear a hat or spritz on a UV protector like Phytoplage Protective Beach Spray ($20; http://www.phyto-usa.com).