Photo Kevin Murphy
Tiny zigzags of my fried, damaged sad hair were falling into the sink in heaps. Obviously, I freaked.
The fractured, highlighted strands that stayed put had a weird filmy texture to them. I lost sleep frantically Googling damage control tactics for a bleach-job-gone-bad. I finally went to bed with my head drenched in olive oil. The next morning: same dead hair. I was traumatized. It all seemed completely apocalyptic. But two years later, my hair is long, strong and healthy once again.
If you’re in a similar predicament, trust me, there’s hope. Here’s how to care for and restore hopelessly damaged hair.
Fried and Damaged Hair Recovery 101
Start hair masking — stat
If you do any sort of processing, whether it’s coloring, blowouts or daily straightening with a flatiron, your hair will love a drink from a weekly mask. Amp up your masking routine to several times a week if you’ve got major split ends and breakage.
Straight coconut oil is the simplest option, and it works like magic on its own—it actually restores essential protein to damaged hair, according to a study published in the Journal of Cosmetic Science. Melt about ¼ cup and work it through your hair from roots to ends until fully saturated. (Use less for short hair, and more for long hair.) Leave on for at least 20 minutes, a few hours or overnight, if possible; the longer, the better. Shampoo it out, condition as usual and step away from the blow-dryer—air dry instead.
Leave the leave-in and reach for hair oil
Leave-in conditioners are tried and true, but hair oils are next-level because they’re free of additives and only contain active ingredients. Captain Blankenship’s Mermaid Hair Oil does just what its whimsical name suggests: It gives you glorious, shiny hair even Ariel would be jealous of. A botanical cocktail of argan, kukui nut, jojoba and sunflower oils, along with essential oils of wild sweet orange, fir needle, rosemary and cedarwood, it’s packed with nourishing plant power and smells like a coastal forest in heaven. Take a few drops in your palm, rub your hands together and lightly smooth it into your hair.
Go easy on the shampoo
This might sound crazy, but I’ve stopped using shampoo altogether; I only wash my hair with conditioner, every other day. Shampoo can strip your tresses of natural moisture. When I quit using it, it was a turning point for my hair—it really seemed to become visibly healthier, faster. And no, my hair isn’t dirty or greasy without it. Once my scalp started getting used to going shampoo-free, it stopped producing as much oil. In fact, whenever I’d try to reintroduce shampoo, my head would become greaseball within a day. Seriously, try it out for a couple of weeks and see how your hair changes.
Say farewell to heat styling
If you can, try dropping your heat-styling habit for a little while. Blow-dryers and flatirons are doing you no favors. Instead, embrace a more natural look with Captain Blankenship’s Mermaid Sea Salt Spray. (Psst: There’s even a version with gold mica, which lends a golden glow to both dark and light hair.) Yes, I’m touting this brand twice because it’s really that dreamy. Sea salt can be drying on your tresses, but it’s much better than a hairdryer. This is hands down the most incredible texturizing spray I’ve ever used. It doesn’t give you the same heavy, gritty feel as other formulas; instead it’s somehow super softening, lightweight and gives you easy California-girl waves that you can still run your fingers through. You’re welcome.
Get molecular with Olaplex
Our faithful editor-in-chief Kim Do swears by this. Olaplex is a patented three-step system that works on a molecular level to restore broken disulfide bonds in the hair caused by chemical processing and heat damage, ultimately repairing strands structurally. You’ll have to hit the salon to get the first two treatments: the Bond Multiplier, which initiates the rebuilding of broken bonds, and the Bond Perfector, which restores hair to a strong and shiny state. The Olaplex No. 3, the Hair Perfector, is maintenance you can easily do at home. To get started, find a local salon that offers the treatment here.
Eat your way to luscious locks
Whole body wellness depends a lot on diet and wellbeing obviously, and healthy hair is no exception. For luxurious locks, eat lots of lean protein and omega-3 fatty acids from seeds and certain nuts. The more variety, the better, so go crazy on hemp seeds, pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, flaxseeds and walnuts. And olive, avocado, and coconut oils aren’t just good on the outside—they can help do an inside job to bring hair back to its former glory.