Summer Hair Repair: ABCs of Sun, Water Damage (cont.)

"The mask step is essential if you want to keep coloring hair that is somewhat damaged; if you use the mask the day before coloring or highlighting you are less likely to harm your hair," says Juan.

Mother Nature Had Great Hair!

When it comes to choosing your hair care products, many experts now say that nature offers the best ingredients for hair repair.

"If it's chemicals that are damaging your hair, it makes sense to turn away from chemicals if you are trying to compensate for that damage," says Lamas. And, he practices what he preaches. When forming his own line of natural hair care products, Lamas says he shunned chemical ingredients and relied almost entirely on botanicals and natural oils.

"Chemical shampoo ingredients like propylene glycol, sodium laurels, ammonium laurels, and paraben get stored in your hair," says Lamas. And that, he says is one reason why even hair that receives minimal assaults can seem beat up and fragile.

"The formulas of some shampoos are so similar to dishwashing liquid, it's frightening," says Lamas.

Of course not everyone agrees that chemicals are bad for the hair. Juan says that leave-in conditioners containing chemical ingredients such as silicone will help coat the hair, repel damaging elements, and are actually good for your hair.

Meanwhile, Baker says the best products are those that successfully marry nature and science.

"It's true that some of the best hair care ingredients are found in nature but you have to get them to penetrate the hair so they can do their job," she says.

Either way, if your hair is damaged, our experts agree that some of the best natural ingredients you can look for include soy proteins, egg lecithin, wheat germ oil, carthum oil, safflower oil, rice and wheat proteins, as well as vitamins like B5 (panthenol); and also botanicals such as chamomile, comfrey, and goldenseal.

The Way You Do the Things You Do

When it comes to styling your hair, what you use, in term of tools, as well as how you use them also matters. The golden rule of thumb: The more damaged your hair, the less heat you should apply.

"The hotter the tool, the more you can damage your hair, since heat forces the cuticle to split open," says Lamas. If you want to blow dry, he says, use the medium or cool setting to keep the outside layer as smooth as possible.

Heated rollers, and curling and flat irons can do equal damage. If you find your hair is taking longer to curl, or won't hold your style for very long, then it's a clear sign you are using too much heat.

If you must set your style, Lamas says mesh rollers are best, and "always use end papers to protect the hair." Rollers to avoid, he says, are the self-stick loop-and-tape variety, which increase the risk of breakage.

What can be great for hair -- damaged or not -- is vigorous brushing, particularly with a natural bristle brush. While any kind of hairbrush will help distribute oils from the scalp to the ends where it's most needed, those with natural bristles can grab the oils more effectively and distribute them faster and easier.

"A lot of women avoid vigorous brushing because they fear hair loss, but actually brushing can be good as it helps stimulate the scalp," says Baker. If your scalp is also dry, she says, you can still brush, just do it more gently and use a brush with soft bristles.

While there's no question that you can make even the most damaged hair look and feel a whole lot better, our experts also say that for many women the real answer is a great haircut -- particularly if your hair has suffered heavy summer wear and tear.

"There is nothing you can really do to repair damaged hair -- it's all about masking the damage; and sometimes, if that damage is severe enough, you are better off going into the fall/winter season with a terrific new haircut, which can help you achieve a healthy, sexy head of hair a lot sooner," says Juan.

Once you've achieved that, experts say make yourself a promise to go into the next summer season with hair protection: Rinse hair as soon as it's exposed to salt water or chlorine, avoid direct sunlight on your hair, and use leave-in conditioners, shampoos, and styling aids with sun protection whenever you are outdoors.

Originally published Aug. 11, 2004.
Medically updated August 2005.

SOURCES: Melissa Baker, national training manager; and spokesperson, Renee Furterer hair care products, Paris, and Los Angeles. Peter Lamas, celebrity hairdresser,; and creator, Lamas Beauty and Hair Care Products, Los Angeles. Juan Juan, owner, J Beverly Hills salon,, and J Beverly Hills hair care products, Beverly Hills, Calif.

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Last Editorial Review: 8/19/2004 9:59:25 PM