You guys, hair washing is confusing. We grew up being taught to wash it every day, and then later we learned you should probably only be sudsing up a couple times a week—and, to be honest, we’re still pretty confused about how to wash your hair correctly when it comes to the actual process of cleansing (the “no ‘poo method” floating around the internet certainly isn’t helping things).
Using the correct techniques can make a world of difference in your hair’s health, bounce and shine—but if you’re making some common mistakes, you could be damaging your lovely locks without even realizing it. We asked two of New York’s foremost hair pros, hair stylist Nunzio Saviano of Nunzio Saviano Salon in New York and Kyle White, lead colorist at Oscar Blandi Salon, to share their best tips for lathering up—and doing it the right way.
1. Start with a rinse
Just like your laundry needs a rinse cycle before you add detergent, hair should be thoroughly wet before you add your shampoo. “Hot water will open the cuticle, which is good for removing any dirt or product trapped in the hair,” says White. Another bonus: “When your hair is rinsed in warm water, it loosens the oils through the scalp and opens the cuticle so it is able to absorb the oil” in your conditioner, says Saviano.
2. If you have long hair, condition first
Yes, really! “If you have hair beneath the shoulders, protect fragile ends from drying out and further damage by running a small amount of conditioner through them and lightly rinsing, before any shampooing. This will not only keep ends healthy, it will fill any holes in the cuticle with moisture, making it smoother and boosting shine,” says White.
3. Lather up — but only at the scalp
“You only need to shampoo the hair at the scalp, particularly at the nape,” Saviano says.
White agrees. “The best way to lather up is from roots to ends. The hair closest to the scalp is the youngest and will inevitably be the oiliest, while the end of the hair is the oldest and usually driest, most fragile part of the hair.”
Don’t use more shampoo than you need; both Saviano and White say that a quarter-sized amount of shampoo is enough. If your hair is particularly long or thick, go ahead and double that.
4. Be gentle!
Friction can permanently damage your hair’s cuticle, leading to breakage and frizz. Think about washing your hair like you hand wash your delicates — very carefully.
“Start your lather at the roots,” says White. “Increase blood flow to the scalp and stimulate hair growth by using vertical strokes with medium pressure.” Don’t use circular motions, which can tangle your hair.
Next, “Smooth the lather over the ends in a straight stroking motion,” White advises. “Do not scrub the fragile ends or use a back and forth motion like you’re washing a rag on a washboard.”