1. Don’t shampoo every day.
DeZarate says that daily washing isn’t necessary for most men. “You need to actually have some oil or build up in your hair otherwise you’re just constantly stripping your hair of its natural oils,” she says. “The more you wash your hair, the more you actually signal to your scalp that it needs to produce more oil to protect itself.” However, if you’re exercising daily or using lots of hair styling products, then you might be a candidate for more frequent or daily washing, she adds. On the other hand, guys with curly hair may want to avoid shampoo even more than the regular candidate, since they need to focus on excessive, constant moisture.
2. Separate your conditioner from your shampoo.
First and foremost, you need to use conditioner, regardless of how much hair you have. “When you shampoo, you’re stripping away the barrier that your scalp and body have built to keep moisture in your hair,” says DeZarate. “So you need to manually replenish it.” And that’s what conditioner does. You need to follow each wash with a conditioner, but never use them together, or else the shampoo will negate the replenishing effects of the conditioner. Instead, rinse out the shampoo, then apply a nickel-to-quarter amount of conditioner to your hair; comb it through, let it set for a minute, then rinse it free. If extra nourishment is needed, you can also use a conditioner on non-wash days, after rinsing your hair thoroughly.
3. Avoid sulfates.
You know that immediate, sudsy lather that the drugstore shampoos create? Sure, it feels nice to massage it through your hair, but it also mutilates your strands. This lather is created using sulfates, and it’s something you must avoid, says DeZarate. “[Sulfates] are over drying and generally just bad for your skin and hair,” she says. “They’re essentially just a filler in products and you need to use a lot more to feel that clean feeling. They also leave a residue that’s harder to break down and will need to be deep cleaned off.”
4. Incorporate a weekly mask or treatment—especially if you have curly hair, dyed hair, or are growing it long.
Both hair masks and leave-in conditioners can deliver a high dose of nutrients in a short amount of time. They can quickly revive the quality and buoyancy of your hair. This is especially important for guys with curly hair (who need the excess moisture), guys with dyed or bleached hair (whose hair is weaker and stripped), and guys who are growing out their hair (since they need to fortify it for the long haul). “These products are way more powerful and deeply penetrating for hair that needs it,” says DeZarate. “Leave-in conditioners can be used daily for curly haired guys and guys with bleached hair. Hair masks should be used once a week or every other week. You can definitely go overboard and over hydrate your hair, which will lead to greasy looking hair that falls flat. So it’s a balance that you need to pay attention to.” This is why it’s best to use them more sparingly—once a week at least, or twice weekly if you feel you need it. The biggest exception, again, would be curly hair; you can rely on curl creams and leave-ins on a daily or near-daily basis.
5. Prioritize scalp health to save your hair.
Don’t forget that haircare also includes scalp care, since that’s the “soil” from which those hairs grow. “When you wash your hair, make sure you actually massage your scalp to stimulate the follicles, and always use shampoos without sulfates and detergents,” DeZarate stresses. “All of that is going right onto your scalp and it’s either going to help slow down the hair loss process [if they’re good ingredients] or speed it up [if they’re bad].” Pick antifungal and antimicrobial ingredients that promote a healthy, balanced scalp, like tea tree oil or peppermint extract, and even consider introducing a scalp mask into your regimen for once-weekly use. Doing so can prevent flaking, itching, redness, and unnecessary/premature hair loss.
6. Do a monthly deep clean—especially if you have thick hair.
DeZarate recommends a once-monthly deep clean of your hair and scalp (at minimum), especially if you have thicker hair since you’ve probably use more products than other guys in order to tame your strands. This deep clean can be accomplished with a detoxifying shampoo, which uses ingredients like kale extract or kombucha tea. These shampoos can be used on a weekly basis, too, in order to fully “reset” and balance the hair and scalp, but at the very least once a month.
7. Prioritize good and pertinent ingredients.
One common theme in the above tips is a focus on quality ingredients, and an avoidance of bad ones. Pick brands that are transparent about the ingredients they use, and that clearly explain what they are including—and what each of those ingredients does to benefit you specifically. Just because something is deemed good doesn’t mean it’s right for you. Because every person’s hair has different needs, and one guy (let’s pretend he has curly, oily, thick hair) requires ingredients that may be irrelevant for another man (with thinning, straight, dry hair). So, stay conscious of the ingredients in each of your products, and shop to your specific health and needs.