12 Haircare Mistakes You’re Probably Making (And What To Do Instead)

Bad hair days are the worst. Give them the boot with these easy solutions to common haircare problems.

September 26, 2018
img Woman drying her hair with a hair dryer at home

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Bad hair days happen to everyone from time to time. We’ve all had that cowlick that just won’t go down, waves or curls that turn to frizz as soon as we walk outside, split ends that stick out of braids, or strands that have a dull appearance. Locks that look less than their best certainly don’t boost our confidence, but the problem usually goes away the next day.

But what if your bad hair days start to happen every day? If it seems like no matter what you do, you just can’t get your hair to look shiny and beautiful, you might want to start taking a hard look at your haircare routine. Something as simple as using the wrong brush for your hair type or damaging your hair with heat when you blow-dry could actually be wreaking havoc on the condition of your mane. They’re easy mistakes to make—but they can have long-lasting consequences on your tresses.

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So before you give up entirely and resign yourself to a lifetime of bad hair days, consider exactly how you’re treating your hair and what you can do to improve it. Here are some of the most common haircare mistakes to avoid (and the things you should do instead); along with them are some products that’ll help you make the right choice—they’re just a click (or tap) away.

Haircare Mistake No. 1: You use products loaded with harsh chemicals.

Do you pick up the cheapest bottles of shampoo and conditioner from the drug store? While there’s nothing wrong with trying to save a buck or two, many of these ultra-cheap haircare products (and even some of their more expensive counterparts) are loaded with harsh chemicals that can damage your hair.

Not every ingredient with a long name is bad for your hair, but there are a few to watch out for. Namely, sulfates. These are chemicals that do a really great job cleaning your hair. They’re so good at what they do, though, that they often strip your hair’s natural oils away in the process. Look for bottles that say “sulfate-free,” and avoid common sulfate ingredients, such as sodium lauryl sulfate, to keep your hair clean and gorgeous.

Haircare Mistake No. 2: You wash your hair way too often.

Even if you’re using the very best shampoo available, washing your hair too frequently can come with some nasty repercussions. The fact is that the vast majority of people don’t need to wash their hair every single day. Over-shampooing removes the healthy oils from your scalp, leaving the skin dry and irritated and causing the hair to look tired and lifeless.

We’re not saying you should cut back on your shower schedule, just that you could probably stand to shampoo less often. Washing your hair every other day (or even every third day) is enough to keep it clean and healthy. On non-shampoo days, a simple rinse under warm water can rid your hair of any dust, debris, or product. If your hair looks a little greasy a day or two after your last wash, evenly spray some dry shampoo to absorb some of the oil and add volume. Dry shampoo is also an essential haircare product to use after a sweaty gym session. Once you have dry shampoo in your haircare tool kit, you’ll be amazed at just how long you can go between washing.

Haircare Mistake No. 3: You don’t wash your hair often enough.

Infrequent washing can be just as bad as shampooing too often. And with the rise of the “no-poo” movement, in which people wean themselves off shampoo altogether, many women are starting to have chronically dirty hair.

Not only will unwashed hair look less than optimal, it can actually cause major problems for the scalp. The detergents in shampoo work to remove sebum, a waxy substance secreted by the glands in your skin. When healthy, sebum adds protection to the hair shaft and helps your strands look glossy. But when there’s a build-up, it causes the hair to stick together and look oily. Plus, sebum resists water, so it can be a struggle to remove if you wait too long.

Think you might have neglected your shampoo schedule for a day or two too long? Don’t worry—a strong shampoo with scalp treatment can get rid of the excess sebum and revive your hair. Use your fingertips to scrub it in, then rinse thoroughly.

Haircare Mistake No. 5: You dry your hair with the wrong towel.

What do you do when you get out of the shower? If it involves vigorously rubbing and scrunching your hair with any random towel in your bathroom, then twisting it up into a tight turban to dry, you might be damaging your hair.

Wet hair is significantly more fragile than dry hair and needs to be handled delicately. Rather than scrunching and squeezing the water out, use your fingertips to shake out the excess water. You can also blot hair with a soft cotton fabric to help get the moisture out. It might take more time before it dries completely, but your hair will be in much better condition.

The towel you use matters. Old terry cloth towels tend to be too rough to use on wet hair. Plus, the tiny thread loops in the fabric act like hooks for your hair, causing major frizz. Switch to a microfiber hair towel, which is gentler on your strands and helps minimize flyaways.

Haircare Mistake No. 4: Using a blow dryer that’s too hot.

Few people enjoy sitting under a loud blow dryer for an extended period of time, so they use the hottest, most powerful setting to speed things up. That’s a major haircare no-no, though. Why? It can actually burn your hair! Even if you’re short on time, “fry drying” is not the answer to getting a quick style.

The best hairdryers have multiple heat and power settings. Always use the lowest setting when you go to dry your hair. Even though it takes longer to dry, your hair will look a lot smoother and stay healthier. Use the cool setting to lock in your style toward the end of your blowout.

Haircare Mistake No. 5: You don’t protect your hair from heat.

Using the lowest setting on your hairdryer isn’t enough to safeguard your hair from heat damage. If you’re not using a thermal protection on your tresses, they can still get ruined from any amount of heat from your straightener, dryer, or curling iron.

Before you use any hot tool on your hair, spritz on some heat protection spray. While you generally want to evenly coat your hair with product, it’s not a bad idea to give the ends a little more love, as this is the part of the strand that’s most vulnerable to damage from heat.

The main purpose of a thermal protector spray is to shield your hair from the effects of high temperatures. However, it’s not a bad idea to get in the habit of spraying it on your hair every day, even if you’re not using heat to style, because thermal spray also gives your hair some extra protection from the elements and leaves a smooth finish.

Haircare Mistake No. 6: You’re teasing your hair too much.

Big, voluminous hair is on trend. But since most of us weren’t born with naturally billowing locks, we rely on a trick of the trade to get a boost: teasing. We back comb our roots to make it look like we have plenty of dimension. It’s a totally harmless technique, right?

Wrong. While there’s nothing wrong with teasing your hair for an occasional special event, like a wedding or birthday party, backcombing your hair can harm the cuticles and leave the strands vulnerable to breakage. That daily va-va-voom from backcombing just isn’t worth the long-term damage to your hair.

With that being said, using a volume-boosting haircare product can give you locks that would make Dolly Parton jealous without incurring damage from over-teasing. Spray it into your roots, then blow-dry and style as usual for a voluminous finish.

Haircare Mistake No. 7: You don’t protect your hair at night.

How does your hair look when you wake up in the morning? If it’s super tangled and you look like you just got out of a windstorm, you’re probably damaging your hair while you sleep—and causing yourself a major styling headache in the a.m.

Just like old terry cloth towels, your run-of-the-mill pillowcase usually isn’t the best choice when it comes to protecting your hair. Switch to a silk pillowcase. It doesn’t grip the hair like cotton or synthetic fibers, so it’s more likely that you’ll wake up with smooth, tangle-free locks. Plus, silk usually has a cool feeling to it, creating a pleasant sensation as soon as your head hits the pillow.

You could always opt for a silk night cap instead. It will offer even more protection and increase the longevity of your style. Hey, blowouts don’t come cheap—make sure you’re making the most of your styling investment by treating your tresses well while you catch your beauty sleep.

Haircare Mistake No. 8: You’re too rough with your tangles.

Knots are frustrating—we totally get it. Sometimes hair can get so tangled that we aggressively try to brush all the knots out, usually losing a lot of hair in the process. Ugh!

It’s worth cultivating some patience when it comes to snarls in your mane, though. Being gentle as you try to remove knots can help you avoid broken strands and hair loss. One tool that can help is a detangling comb. These wide-tooth combs are designed to untangle knots a couple of strands at a time without ripping through your hair. They’re definitely a smarter choice than a boar’s-hair brush when it comes to grooming your hair.

Detangling spray can also help loosen up even the most stubborn of tangles. It lubricates the strands so you can work through the knots without damaging your hair. Bonus: Detangling spray can also act as a leave-in conditioner that won’t weigh down your hair. Talk about a double whammy for your haircare!

Haircare Mistake No. 9: You forget to use serum.

If you’re into skincare, you might already have a favorite serum that you use on your face every day. But did you know that serum is just as important for your hair as it is for your complexion? It acts as a mask for your strands and scalp, helping minimize dryness and frizz.

Hair serum also infuses your mane with a luster you can’t get from other products. Apply it with your fingertips, then run a large paddle brush through your hair to help distribute the serum evenly. When it comes to hair serum, a little goes a long way. You’ll notice an immediate improvement in your hair’s condition and appearance once you incorporate this product into your haircare routine.

Haircare Mistake No. 10: You’re not careful enough with your ponytails.

Whoever invented the ponytail is a genius in our books. This easy-breezy style helps you look polished under any circumstance, whether you just finished a workout or you’re running late to a job interview.

But the problem with this simple style is that it can cause broken strands if you’re not careful. Avoid ponytails that are too high or too tight, which can stress the hair. And choose your ponytail holder wisely. We recommend tossing out those old-school elastics (you know, the ones that always get tangled up in your hair) and opting for hair coils, instead. They hold your hair in place, and they slip out so easily, you’d never know they were there. Choose a set that matches your hair color for a sleeker look.

Haircare Mistake No. 11: You never deep condition your hair.

Daily conditioning is a great first step to keeping your hair healthy, but if you’re not deep conditioning at least a couple of times each month, you’re making a big mistake.

Between washing, removing knots, and styling, we put our hair through the wringer. Deep conditioning not only repairs some of the daily damage to your hair, it also helps prevent future breakage by strengthening your strands.

We suggest making a weekly self-care ritual out of your deep conditioning treatment. Generously slather on deep conditioner, lop your hair in a loose bun atop your head, and cover it with a shower cap. Then sit back, and let it soak in while you watch a movie. Your hair (and your mind) will feel completely restored after you wash out the treatment.

Haircare Mistake No. 12: You don’t protect your hair from the sun.

You wouldn’t go out on a bright sunny day without sunscreen, right? Of course not. So then why do most us still go out in the sun without protecting our hair? Just like skin, hair is vulnerable to damage from harmful UV rays. Overexposure to the sun can wear away our healthy oils and permanently damage the hair. Talk about a way to ruin your fun in the sun.

Keep your tresses safe by applying a conditioning spray with UV protection before you spend a day outdoors. A stylish hat can also come in handy, not only for shielding your hair from the elements, but for hiding bad hair days. But we doubt you’ll be having very many of those going forward, now that you’re not committing some of the most common haircare mistakes. Happy styling!

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