Created for Greatist by the experts at Healthline. Read more
We include products we think are useful for our readers. If you buy through links on this page, we may earn a small commission. Here’s our process.
If your hair care routine hasn’t changed since high school — or it’s limited to lather, rinse, repeat — it may be time to pay more attention to your mane. Whether you sport a low-key ponytail most days or live for blowouts, your hair deserves a little TLC.
Not every product will work for every hair type, so read on to find out what it will take to keep your unique locks in tip-top shape.
Step 1: Determine your hair type
Don’t overcomplicate typecasting your hair, says Megan Viton, a hair stylist in Boulder, Colorado. You can tell at a glance whether your hair is curly or straight. “Then ask yourself, ‘is my hair big and frizzy or flat and lacking fullness?’”
From there, you can get an idea of your hair type. You’ll see these letters and numbers on hair products sometimes, to help you figure out whether something would be too heavy or not moisturizing enough for you, for example.
|1 Straight||2 Wavy||3 Curly||4 Coiled|
|A||fine, thin, prone to oil||fine (has S shape)||fine or loose curls||tight, springy coils|
|B||medium (some volume)||medium (has S shape with some frizz)||medium or tight curls||Z coils|
|C||coarse, thick, won’t hold curl||coarse (has S shape, prone to frizz)||tight, thick curls||very tight, coarse coils|
Step 2: Determine your hair needs
Once you know your hair type, decide what it needs and what your “mane motivation” might be.
Here’s a quick rundown of some common hair concerns and needs:
Damage: Too much heat or coloring, friction (from yanking hair into tight ponytails or buns) and environmental exposure (sun, wind, salt, or chlorine in water) can damage hair, leaving it feeling dry and kinda gross.
Definition: Well-defined hair moves and hangs the way you want it to. When hair isn’t defined, it might look “heavy” or overgrown. With curls, lack of definition turns them into one big clump.
Frizz: When your hair is dry or lacks moisture (due to humidity, genetics or damage), it may be prone to “going rogue.” Frizzy hair stands up, sticks out, and resists being tamed.
Shine: Hair that’s coarse, frizzy, or damaged may appear dull, and products that are too heavy can leave behind a residue, too. Shiny hair is clean, moisturized, and healthy. The outer layer of hair lays flat, so it can reflect light.
Volume: While you can’t control the thickness of your hair, you can control volume to some extent. Volume refers to your hair’s apparent fullness, which you can boost with certain haircuts, styling techniques, and even products.
Create your routine
OK, so now that you know your hair type and your goals, it’s time to nail down your perfect daily hair care routine. Keep in mind that a hair care routine for dry hair is not going to look the same as a hair care routine for curly hair. Sometimes you might mix and match what’s suggested here.
Viton says for most people, washing once or twice a week is best. But, if you work out daily or sweat a lot and are prone to scalp breakouts, it’s fine to lather up more often. Just choose a gentle shampoo — and never skip the leave-in conditioner.
“Leave-in conditioners are the best for every hair type,” says Viton. “If you want to cut back on breakage and moisturize your hair as much as possible.”
Straight and wavy
- Wash once or twice a week, and choose a shampoo that’s sulfate-free (sulfates can dry out your hair and scalp).
Try: Bumble and Bumble Gentle Shampoo
- If your hair is fine or oily, feel free to wash more often.
- Touch up in between with dry shampoo. Think you’re overdoing it? You likely are, says Viton. “If you ask yourself, ‘Is this too much dry shampoo?’ It most likely is.” Use it sparingly to avoid drying out your scalp.
Try: Batiste Original Dry Shampoo
- Wash once or twice a week with a gentle, moisturizing shampoo. “Moisture is your best friend for curly hair,” says Viton.
Try: Pacifica Beauty Pineapple Curls Curl Defining Shampoo
- Use a conditioner that’s rich but not heavy, so you get those perfectly defined curls you want. If yours tend to get weighed down, skip the roots and concentrate on the length and ends.
Try: SheaMoisture Curl & Shine Conditioner
- Moisturize with coconut oil or a hair mask before washing once a week — choose a super gentle shampoo designed for natural coils.
Try: Pattern Beauty Hydration Shampoo
- Always follow up with deep conditioner.
Try: Aveda Nutriplenish Deep Conditioner
Drying and styling
Just like you give your skin a break from makeup now and then, do the same with your hair, says Viton, especially if “you’re a heat styling, blonde-obsessed person like myself.” Do a deep conditioner once a week.
She suggests taking a couple of days “off” a week — and “loosen up the rubber bands in those ponytails!”
Or, try: phone-cord hair bands like Kitsch Spiral Hair Ties
And no matter your hair type, use a heat protectant. “A spray or a cream to coat your hair is what protects your hair from heat,” says Viton. “That is a must for us styling junkies.”
Straight and wavy
- Towel-dry hair slightly, then apply light products that won’t weigh hair down.
- Stick with mousses and gels, which allow hair to move and retain its volume.
Try: OGX Renewing + Argan Oil of Morocco Voluminous Mousse
- Apply mousse or a light curl cream in the shower while hair is wet. Try: Aveda Be Curly Curl Enhancer
- Air dry or diffuse as desired.
- Between washes, refresh curls by spritzing with water and giving them a good squish.
- Apply curl cream to hair in the shower, while it’s still dripping wet, for the best definition and picture-perfect coils.
Try: DevaCurl Styling Cream
- Then you can let hair air dry or diffuse it as desired.
Cuts and trims
Viton specializes in blonde color treatments and curls, both of which require a little extra upkeep. But she says she prefers to see all her clients every 6 to 8 weeks for a trim or dusting. A “dusting” is like the tiniest of trims to keep your hair happy, she explains.
If you don’t use heat on your hair, you can stretch that out a few more weeks. And those with short hair or who color their hair may need trims or touch-ups more often.
Straight and wavy
- Find a good stylist whose communication style matches yours, says Viton, to avoid surprises at the end of a haircut.
- And make time for show-and-tell: “A few pictures of what you’re envisioning helps us get a better understanding of what you want to see,” so it’s a win-win, she says.
- Dry cuts allow curls to look their best, since hair shrinks as it dries.
- If you like to straighten your hair sometimes, talk to your stylist — layers that help define curls may look chunky and awkward when your hair is straight.
- Coils can actually go a bit longer — a couple of months — between trims, as long as you’re not using much heat on your hair.
- As with curls, always go with dry cuts, so you and your stylist can see what the final shape will look like!
Bonus treatments for luxurious locks
Beyond shampoo and conditioner, there are dozens of types of hair care products out there for specific hair types, concerns, etc. “These aren’t gimmicks to get you to spend more money on hair care,” says Viton. They’re designed to keep your hair looking and feeling its best.
Here’s a look at some you might want to try:
Dandruff treatments: Dandruff happens to the best of us — and it’s not a sign your hair is dirty. When it comes to dealing with an itchy, flaky scalp, Viton swears by Tonik by Cult + King. “It balances out the PH levels on your scalp while moisturizing it and has menthol crystals to soothe any discomfort,” she says.
Hair masks: If you color your hair or it’s prone to dryness, do a hair mask once a week as part of your self-care routine.
Try: Neutrogena Triple Moisture Deep Recovery Hair Mask Moisturizer
Hair vitamins: Yes, this should be part of your hair care routine for hair growth, says Viton, since healthy hair starts on the inside. While these vitamins aren’t going to turn you into Rapunzel, they provide essential nutrients your body needs for healthy hair, skin, and nails.
Try: Nature’s Bounty Vitamin Biotin Optimal Solutions Hair, Skin and Nails Gummies
Texturizing sprays: These add volume and, well, texture to hair. Spritz them on for updos or those perfect “beachy waves” or “bedhead” look.
Try: Garnier Fructis De-Constructed Texture Tease
OK, we covered a lot here. Just remember that an ideal hair routine is completely dependent on you — your hair type, your hair goals, and how much time you’ve got. Perfect your routine now, and enjoy healthy hair for days to come!