All over the internet, you’ll see splashy articles that tell tales on how to get amazing hair. This normally includes some sort of in-depth routine and picking up products at your local Sephora, but do these things actually work for normal, everyday women? And what is the secret to getting that gorgeous “shampoo model” hair anyway? We decided to turn to an expert to get the details.
Younghee Kim has been a hairstylist for 30 years. Working under the likes of Vidal Sassoon, she now owns a salon in New York City, Younghee Salon. When asked about the secrets of perfecting a hair routine in order to get healthy hair, she said it all comes down to one thing: your scalp.
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The Most Common Mistake
Kim said that in order to figure out your hair type, you should turn to your skin. “Look at your skin, if your skin is dry, your hair is dry,” Kim explained. “So, it’s important to know your skin type.”
Your hair type and scalp type work in conjunction. While it might be necessary to determine the type of hair you have—such as fine, thick, curly, or color-treated—it’s also necessary to define what type of scalp you have, which many people look over.
Most hair products only look after the ends and middle shaft of the hair, instead of looking at the root of the problem—pun intended. When you look at hair products, they rarely treat for scalp type. Often, they advertise for hair type, such as a shampoo for curly hair and conditioners for only taming split ends. While acknowledging scalp type is not a new practice in the hair-care industry, it’s certainly not as common. “The industry has been talking about ‘scalp care as skin care,’ but education for consumers and available products are a bit behind,” Kim said. This is a challenge for Kim and other hairstylists alike, as it’s often difficult to educate their clients on the importance of taking care of the scalp.
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Knowing Your Scalp Type
Even though the scalp is often overlooked, it’s easy to address. You can determine your scalp type at home. Simply look at your scalp as you would look at the skin on your face. Just like your facial skin, scalps come in several forms: oily, dry, combination, or sensitive; your scalp type, coupled with your hair type, can then determine your hair-care routine.
You might think that you need to use toners, masks, and a hair essence, but that isn’t always necessary. The most important part of achieving healthy hair is listening to your body. Kim emphasized the process of trying out different products, observing their effects, and then sticking to whatever works best. There is no one method or a specific product you should use when crafting your hair routine.
Just as you would stop using a product that irritated your face, watch your scalp and stop using products that don’t suit your hair. “Every shampoo has a personality, you have a personality, and you need to have the right fit. It’s like matchmaking,” Kim explained.
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What to use in your hair-care routine
So, what products should you use? With international markets bursting at the seams with new products left and right, it can be overwhelming to even choose a product to test. A constant “no-no” for Kim is silicone. “Silicone is the worst for hair,” Kim said. She explained further that “the silicone found in shampoos and conditioners is intended to stay on the hair after washing, and as a result it doesn’t leave the hair and scalp easily. Over time, the silicone will weigh down your hair, making it limp, dry, and dull. Additionally, the hair follicles on your scalp can become clogged and lead to breakouts and scalp sensitivity.”
Kim also explained that she tries to stay away from organic products, as she’s found through her experience that they can make her customers’ hair flat. There’s also no way to know exactly what percent of the product is actually organic, but an easy way to find certified organic product is doing some quick research online and to read reviews from other experts and users.
READ: The Celeb-Favorite Haircare Product That Gave Me My Best Hair Days
While the products included in Kim’s own line are 100 percent natural, they are not organic. The main difference between Kim’s products and others is that because they are natural, they do not contain silicone. According to Kim, “silicone is a synthetic ingredient that makes hair smooth and shiny. There are products on the market that claim to detox or clarify, but they contain silicone, which is the main culprit in residue build-up.”
While natural products are not certified and have fewer rules compared to the intensive certification process of organic goods, they both do not contain parabens. In order to see whether natural products are truly worthwhile, it’s best to study the ingredients on the label. Products that have the least synthetic ingredients should be your go-to products if you’re looking for things that are cleaner and more natural. If you’re not sure if a product is good for you, ask your stylist their opinion.
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Kim noted that while she believes natural ingredients are important, getting a shampoo that balances the pH of your scalp is also a factor. A shampoo with a pH of 6.5 is a great place to start. Some companies will list the pH on the company website, or at times companies may list the pH in training manuals and product brochures for the stylist. But unfortunately, it is not always common knowledge for the consumer. Because of this, it’s important to choose your hair products carefully and talk to your hair stylist for recommendations.
READ: Can You Train Your Hair to Be Less Greasy? We Asked An Expert
She also recommended using a toner. Just as all soaps do, “shampoos leave residue behind,” Kim said. She further explained that you need to tone your hair with a comb to get the residue out. While there aren’t many purifying hair and scalp toners on the market, Kim suggests trying diluted apple cider vinegar or diluted witch hazel. The scent may be strong, but it will fade as the hair dries. Alternatively, Kim also suggested using a clarifying shampoo to get rid of any silicone residue build-up, but she recommends that “you use it once in a while, as it is like using dish detergent and can dry out your hair and scalp if used too frequently.”
After a toner, Kim said that she normally goes in with a small amount of conditioner at the ends, and in her experience, she’s noticed that “if you have a good product, you won’t need a lot of it.”
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There is no one-size-fits-all routine
In a world where there’s a lot of restrictions, Kim sees the world of hair a little differently. When asked about if there are additional products people should use or if there’s a certain way to treat hair, Kim noted that “nothing is bad. If you overdo it, it’s bad…[But] nothing is set in stone.”
Kim’s point of view brings to light the thought process behind hair care and what it really means to have a “hair routine.” After all, just like skin, everyone has different hair, and while some people might work better with a certain routine, others might not. Kim made an analogy that just like how “some people can sleep with their makeup on and their skin looks [fine]. For others, they need to cleanse and moisturize, otherwise, they will break out and/or have dry skin.”
What matters is that you watch and react to your personal hair needs and adjust accordingly. While Kim has a lot of recommendations on the best way to treat hair, at the end of the day she does really suggest one thing: “Have fun. Enjoy it!”
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