If you’re wondering why so many of us deal with unwanted frizz, here’s what a scientist would tell you: Frizzing is due to a reconfiguration of the hydrogen bonds within the hair. Hydrogen bonds occur when molecules on keratin strands each form a weak attraction with the same water molecule, thereby indirectly bonding the two keratin proteins together.
Humid air has way more water molecules than dry air, so a strand of hair on a humid day will form many more hydrogen bonds. The result is the hair folding itself back. So curly hair gets curlier and loses its definition, and any damage—split ends, breakage, etc.—will become more apparent. This effect is exacerbated by humid days, a sweat session at the gym, or even going out dancing. But fear not, with the right frizz fighting techniques, tools and ingredients, you can avoid any unwanted frizz.
Start in the shower
Unwanted frizz and flyaways are inevitable for hair that’s even the slightest bit dry or damaged. So the first step to fighting it is giving your hair exactly what it needs—dry hair craves moisture and damaged hair needs ingredients that repair and strengthen it. Argan oil is specifically called out for its moisturizing properties in an article in the International Journal of Trichology (that’s the science of hair and scalp). It was found that increasing the moisture content of hair “improves the conductivity of the hair and neutralizes the static charge”—in other words, hair is less frizzy and prone to flyaways when argan oil is applied. It also states that lubricating the cuticle with argan oil helps stop the absorption of water molecules and prevents split ends, all while adding shine.
Do you know how to properly wash your hair?
Apply products properly
Start with how you’re shampooing. The only part of your head that needs a good scrubbing is the scalp, any further down will encourage unwanted frizz. “Placing shampoo and conditioner along your four fingers not only cuts back on overusing product, but will also help aid in targeting the scalp instead of the halo of the head,” explains Faith Armstrong, Prose Director of Education and veteran stylist. No matter how good the product you’re using is, it can work against you if you apply too much, or unevenly distribute it. The result? Areas of limp locks mixed with areas of flyaways. To prevent both, Washington D.C. stylist Dennis Roche recommends applying a small amount to towel-dried hair, starting at the ends (which are the most damaged and usually require the most product). Gently work your way up to your roots, and start all over again if you need more. “This reduces wear and tear, plus you’ll get consistent results every time, without bare patches,” he adds.
Use these ingredients
Do not go into the fight against unwanted frizz without being armed with arginine and cellulose. Over 90% of our strands are made up of keratin—amino acids that are a must-have for hair. The cuticle (outer layer) of hair has more amino acids than the inner parts of the hair fiber, and this is because proteins break down into amino acids, and more so at the cuticle. Keratin’s resilience really depends on the composition of amino acids, so if it’s lacking certain ones, it will be more prone to breaking, splitting, and will generally be brittle, dull, and dry.
Arginine is one of the most important amino acids in keratin. It strengthens the hair, minimizes hair loss, and for those who color their hair, it helps protect from the damaging effects of bleach. It is also essential for the production of nitric oxide, a molecule that’s important in facilitating hair growth and reducing inflammation.
In fact, arginine has been shown to help counteract three types of damage:
Mechanical: In which combing and brushing lift the cuticles and break individual fibers, resulting in duller, frizzier hair.
Chemical: When dying, bleaching, relaxing, or perming increase the porosity of the cuticle and weaken the hair fiber, making it dull, lifeless, brittle, and prone to breakage.
Heat: UV-rays and heat treatments generate reactive oxygen species (ROS) that damage the hair and scalp, weakening the fibers and speeding up the aging process of the hair and scalp.
Cellulose is just as important for those of us with curly hair. It maintains the definition and manageability of curls, even through movement and humidity.
Skip the hairspray
If you’re spritzing your blowout with spray to smooth down flyaways, you may be setting yourself up for failure. Once you sweat or hit humidity or otherwise expose your strands to any moisture (think the gym, the beach, or body showers between shampoo days), your strands could become a sticky mess. “Hair spray is not formulated to be used on damp hair…even hair that starts out dry and then becomes damp,” explains stylist Nunzio Saviano. “It makes it impossible to get the brush through. You’ll break hairs while trying to restyle, and the result will still be dull, sticky, and frizzy.”
Use the right fabrics
Instead of using a towel to dry wet hair, opt for an old T-shirt. The cotton is absorbent but gentle because the fabric is so thin. Make sure to squeeze your strands instead of rubbing them. The friction from rubbing wet hair can easily cause breakage.
At night, pamper your tresses on silk pillowcases. Not only do they allow your strands to slip around without tugging or tangling, but the fabric doesn’t steal the hydration from your hair. Cotton pulls moisture from hair, whereas silk doesn’t affect it at all. And the slick surface really protects it from friction-related damage.
Reach for sea salt
You know how your hair looks after a day of frolicking at the beach? It’s because salt is amazing at creating texture and volume without over-drying or causing unwanted frizz. Salt-based sprays work with your natural texture, not against it, creating a tousled, bedhead look. After misting hair, scrunch and touch up any waves with a curling iron.