Regardless of colour, style or length, there’s one thing that everybody’s been desperately trying to replicate during the past few months at home: Salon-worthy hair.
Whether you’ve experimented with box dyes (or worse, tried bleaching your own hair), spent hours curling your locks, or concocted a dodgy-looking hair mask out of pantry staples, chances are your hair’s now in a worse state than it was before.
Fortunately, according to hairstylist Zig Shee, the answer to beautiful, healthy hair, isn’t as unattainable as it seems. Armed with nearly a decade of experience in the hairdressing industry, the ex-Style Director of Toni & Guy and now founder of his eponymous Zig Salon has amassed incredible experiences from stints both locally and in Japan to gain an innate understanding of hair. His note-worthy portfolio also includes holding seminars for experienced hairstylists overseas, as well as collaborations with magazines and runway shows.
As restrictions ease and social lives resume, we’re here to assure you that even wrecked hair can be revived with a few little adjustments to your routine. Here, Shee shares a few trade secrets that’ll keep locks luscious and healthy, even at home.
1. Don’t be lazy
If you were inspired by reports touting the benefits of not washing your hair everyday, you might want to rethink your shower regime. Shee recommends washing and conditioning your hair daily, and blow drying it immediately after, especially if you live in humid environments like Singapore.
“Hair doesn’t dry as fast naturally because of the humidity here, and bacteria grows faster on wet surfaces. The same goes for the scalp, and it reacts to this bacterial overgrowth by producing more sebum, clogging up the hair follicles and causing it to be oily and itchy. If left untreated, this causes issues such as hair loss and dandruff.”
Studies have shown that while the heat of a dryer can cause damage, using it at the right distance and temperature can actually cause less damage than letting hair air-dry. Hairdryers like the Dyson Supersonic are good investments to make now as they are designed with temperature controls, as well as ceramic and ionic technology to make your hair shinier and less frizzy.
2. Choose the right shampoo
It might seem like a no-brainer, but choosing the right shampoo is more than self-diagnosing the condition of your hair.
“People often mistake a dry, flaky scalp for dandruff and start using an anti-dandruff shampoo, which ironically creates an adverse reaction by drying out the scalp even further,” said Shee. Hair breakage is also often mistaken for frizzy hair, which people try to combat with an overly nourishing shampoo that causes the hair to be too flat or look greasy.
One of the biggest misconceptions that he notices, however, is that those with coloured hair constantly use colour shampoo, which he recommends be stopped after two weeks because the colour molecule has already been trapped and doesn’t require as gentle a formula.
“To prevent over-washing your hair, a good rule of thumb is to use a sulphate-free shampoo as it’s gentler on the scalp. Your regular hairdresser should be able to advise you based on the state of your scalp and hair before shopping for shampoos and conditioners,” he advises.
For those with dry, damaged, and gritty hair, he points to Kevin Murphy’s Restore, a shampoo and cleansing treatment that works well for people who want an all-rounded solution, especially if they go to the gym.
3. Treat your hair
We put our hair through a lot of stress, whether it’s from exposure to the elements, bad daily habits or heat styling.
Shee recommends that people supplement their regime with hair masks weekly for an intensive boost and better results. “The active ingredients in hair masks are much more concentrated and have smaller molecules, so they are better absorbed by hair strands.”
Using it daily or too often, however, can be overly nourishing for the hair, making it too flat or greasy — unless, of course, your hair is highly damaged and requires that much more TLC. Kevin Murphy’s Young Again Masque has a restorative blend of amino acids, essential oils and rich moisturisers to restore and renew lustre and shine to dry, damaged, and brittle hair.
4. Release that ponytail
We get that it’s a perpetual inferno on our sunny island, but you might want to consider loosening that ponytail a tad.
“Tying your hair back too tightly stresses the hair follicle and causes traction alopecia, a hair loss condition caused by this repeated force. Besides, pulling out your hair tie also causes friction on the hair cuticles, causing breakages that many mistake for frizziness,” he said.
Shee suggests using hair bobbles (the telephone cord-looking ones) instead of rubber bands if you must keep your hair up, as these hold the hair in place without causing as much tension on the scalp. This minor tweak, he promises will result in less hair breakage and hair fall.
5. Eat right
If the saying “you are what you eat” is true, then the solution to your hair woes might just be a carefully planned meal away.
“Some people believe their diet to be balanced and healthy, when in reality they’re lacking in certain nutrients required for healthy hair,” Shee says. Here’s what he recommends be included in your daily meals:
“We need biotin as it’s essential for the production of a protein called keratin. A good start would be to eat two eggs a day for an adequate supply daily.”
Antioxidants are protective powerhouses for not only your skin, but also hair, especially since it’s one of the most absorbent natural materials in the world. Free radical damage from UV rays, pollution, and the metals in shower water can slowly deteriorate the condition of your mane.
“Berries are potent superfoods that can protect hair follicles against damage from the inside, besides also being packed with vitamin C that helps your body synthesise collagen, which strengthens the hair. It also aids in iron absorption which may bolster hair growth.”
Folic acid (Vitamin B9)
Folic acid is responsible for healthy cell growth, and can be found inside skin tissues as well as hair and nails. Foods like broccoli, leafy green vegetable and chickpeas are good sources of the essential vitamin.
Omega 3 & 6
These healthy fatty acids strengthen the skin’s barrier function for better hydration, suppleness and elasticity, including that of the scalp. This reduces hair loss and increases hair density, while also promoting strong, healthy hair.
Vitamin A and E
Vitamin A aids in sebum regulation and production, and is good for people with either dry and flaky or oily scalps.
Vitamin E also protects our scalp from oxidative stress and damage. The damaged skin on the scalp can result in poor hair quality and also the reduction of hair follicles.
Zinc plays an important role in hair tissue growth and repair. It’s also essential in the repair cycle, and can reverse the effects of hair loss caused by a deficiency.
This compound can be found in foods such as soy products, legumes, mushrooms and whole grains, and is found to prolong the active phase of hair growth.
Struggling to keep up with this list? Shee recommends finding a multi-vitamin that has all these nutrients, otherwise, do as he does and chug a serving of Glucerna with your morning coffee, which also provides all the nutrients for healthy hair.
6. Get regular trims
“Going to your hairdresser every three to four months is a great way to ensure that you’re getting the right diagnosis for any hair issues you might have. They’ll also be able to nip any split ends in the bud before they travel up the hair shaft, which equates to removing even more length than originally planned.”
7. Stay off the DIY treatments
As a hairstylist, Shee has seen his fair share of home treatments gone bad. DIY remedies such as the apple cider vinegar rinse and avocado mask are popular online, but he doesn’t recommend it because the molecules are simply not small enough to reach into the scalp and hair to make a difference. Besides, they might not be applicable to the humid weather here.
Instead, he believes in investing in the right products. “A lot of research and development has been put into professional haircare and salon products to target every single hair and scalp condition,” he shares.