Run your hands through your hair. Does it feel a bit dry? As you hold the ends up against a good light, can you see frayed pieces shooting in various directions? Now try the scrunch test. Grab hold of your hair and gently squeeze. Do you hear a faint crackling sound? A “yes” to any of these questions means you have a compromised cuticle. The cuticle is the outermost layer of your hair and it’s made up of overlapping cells. It protects the inner cortex that houses protein and your hair’s pigment.
If the cuticle is healthy, it serves as an effective barrier to environmental and chemical assaults. If the cuticle is damaged - and most of us have some damage - the hair shaft becomes ragged. Instead of smooth, hydrated and strong tresses, you have bristly, parched and weakened hair. Even more troubling, whether your hair is natural or color-treated, an open cuticle means access to your hair’s pigment headquarters - and your color will fade.
Shampooing your hair every day strips hair of natural oils. Combing and brushing chafes the cuticle, sometimes stretching strands to break. Blow dryers, flat irons and other heat styling tools can extract too much moisture and result in brittle locks. The sun’s UV rays, rain and pollution all break down the cuticle, leading to frizzies and split ends.
Perms, relaxers and straightening formulas loosen the cuticle and alter the bonds that give your hair its shape and texture. And the chemicals in bleaches and permanent dyes penetrate cuticles in order to replace your inner cortex’s pigment. In all cases, a damaged, porous cuticle leads to color fading.
A ravishing head of hair is intoxicating, so take these steps to ensure healthy shine and vivid color. Choose shampoos and conditioners that are ultra-hydrating and packed with nutrient-rich extracts to lock in color. These products will restore radiance to redheads, put the brilliance back in blondes, revive the richness of brunette shades, add gleam to black hair and awaken a glow in grays. And shine-amplifying styling products will provide even more color hold: apply keratin protein mists before using heat tools, use balms with organic botanicals to control frizz, massage in nourishing masks to rejuvenate chemically-treated hair, and spray on lightweight oils for a lustrous finish.
To keep your color from fading, shield your hair from the eroding effects of the sun, sea and pool. Wear a hat or scarf when outdoors. Pick shampoos, leave-in conditioners, and sprays that contain UV protection. The galanga root naturally fortifies your hair against sun damage - look for it as an ingredient in hair care products. Salt water and chlorine will not only dull your hair, they may discolor it, as well. Before diving into the water, saturate your strands with a waterproof, oil-based spray and then put on a swim cap. After swimming in a pool and to remove any residual chlorine, use a gentle shampoo suitable for color-treated hair.
Remember, long-lasting color starts with a cuticle that lays flat and keeps elements from harming the color molecules of the inner cortex. To pamper your cuticles, shampoo infrequently, but make sure to condition daily. Warm and cold water is best - hot water can splinter your cuticles. Avoid products that contain sulfates and sodium chloride, as they may cause color fading, skin irritation and hair loss. Consider shampoos, conditioners and styling products that include pigments to boost your color.
You can also purchase pigment drops to add to your favorite products. If you have to detangle, use a wide-tooth comb that controls static electricity. Air dry your hair. If you must use a blow dryer or flat iron, apply a protective spray first and use tools with tourmaline technology that will speed styling and help your hair retain moisture. To restore limp locks, visit your professional stylist to trim away split ends and perform deep conditioning treatments. And to have healthy hair, you have to hydrate your body. Make sure to drink plenty of water throughout the day.