Dry, dull and fried hair? Here’s your ultimate anti-damage plan for fighting the effects of heat, hard water and over-processing

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If festive festivities have left your hair with a hangover that’s lasted into the new year, fret not, as a hair detox could serve as the perfect way for helping your mane get its mojo back.

“January is the best time to refresh your hair routine and to give your hair a detox so that it can recover from the overindulgences of the festive period,” explains ghd UK ambassador, Zoe Irwin. “The build-up of styling products from more frequent styling, as well as a change in diet, can have repercussions on your hair health as well as your body and skin.”

A ‘diet’ that isn’t about deprivation, but rather alteration in terms of targeting key hair care concerns, what are the most common signs that an overhaul is needed? “Hair that is dull in colour, flat in body and dry on the ends,” explains Craig Taylor , Creative Director of Hari’s . Manifesting themselves in a range of different ways depending on your hair type, what’s the best plan of action for transforming weak and brittle hair? From at-home TLC to in-salon R&R, I spoke to the hair experts to find out how to hair detox like a pro.

1. Go heat-free...without breaking into a sweat

If the prospect of going heat-free causes you to break into a cold sweat, I can relate. Post-shower beachy waves are the dream for my unpredictably textured hair, yet the reality is usually more tossed salad than tousled locks. So if you’re looking to wean yourself gradually rather than go cold turkey in the heat stakes, then I can certainly vouch for this expert guidance from ghd Global Ambassador Adam Reed: “Leave your hair to dry naturally for as long as possible and then use the Cool Button on the  ghd aura® professional hairdryer , £125, to finish off drying your hair,” he says. “This not only helps to lock your finished style in place for longer, but is also better for protecting your scalp.”

To help reduce drying time, my Aquis Long Lisse Luxe Hair Towel , £29.16, has also proven valuable and while granted, it’s an awful lot to spend on a towel, its added absorbency and friction reducing fabric delivers, working for a range of different hair types.

For Afro hair types, there’s a multitude of options available in order to give your locks the ultimate heat-free twist according to Afro Hairdresser of the Year 2014 and 2013 Charlotte Mensah : “Corn rows sets, Bantu knots, plaits, twists, flat twists, flat twist sets and spiral rod sets are all great techniques to create beautiful styles without heat,” she recommends. “Get regular trims every 4-6 weeks to maintain your style and keep ends healthy,” she adds, in addition to making time for some night time nurturing. “Cuddle your hair at night,” she says. “Take five minutes to pamper your hair before bedtime - that means moisturising and if necessary, securing the ends and covering with a silk scarf.”

MORE GLOSS: 20 ways to simplify your Afro hair care regime

One guideline that applies across the board? A degree of experimentation in order to see which adaptations suit you most. “Find the preparation method that works best for your hair by trying different orders of applying products,” suggests Craig. “Whether that be combing or brushing through, needing to position hair and letting it dry, scrunching and naturally drying with fingers or keeping it wrapped in a towel to blot out moisture.”

2. Go up

In terms of achieving maximum heat reduction with minimal effort, the simplest hair hack you can do is to forgo your usual routine altogether and just, pull it up instead. “Give your hair some time out, use a treatment and tie hair back to avoid styling and heat to give your hair a rest,” advises Craig. Whether a low ponytail or an undone updo  is your hairstyle of choice, there’s thankfully a wide range of hairbands that not only look stylish, but don’t snag and also leave hair kink-free. Two of my favourites are these clear Invisibobble hair ties , £4, and these beautifully designed Henna hair ties from Kitsch , £6.45, (which look great on buns and wrists alike).

3. Reach for the right brush

According to a report published by L’Oréal scientists, forceful hair brushing has been proven to cause hair damage, including breakage and split ends. It was these findings that inspired Kérastase’s latest hairbrush innovation - the Kérastase Hair Coach (read more here)  and while we’ll have to wait until mid-2017 to try it ourselves, these are some of the brushes ready to try now that carry our experts’ and my seals of approval.

Denman D14 Small 5 Row Styling Brush , £6.50

With wide-space pins and an anti-static rubber pad for added control and grip, this handbag-sized pick makes for a great on-the-go solution for finer hair types.

Tangle Teezer , £10.60

“This is ideal for wet hair or dry hair, combing through conditioner and brushing children's hair,” says Craig Taylor.

Mason and Pearson Large Bristle and Nylon Brush , £84

“Perfect for brushing through medium to thick hair,” says Craig.

Kent Brushes CSFM Medium Pure Black Natural Bristle Cushion Brush , £27.50

For Afro hair, Charlotte Mensah highly rates Kent brushes in particular. “Boar bristle brushes carry the sebum (oil) from the scalp and evenly distributes it to the ends of the hair,” she says and this cushioned choice is her top pick. “Denman brushes also provide a smooth shiny finish on natural or relaxed hair too.”

ghd paddle brush , £20

“Paddle brushes are essential for a January hair detox,” says Zoe Irwin. “Sweeping your ghd paddle brush along the scalp lightly can help stimulate hair growth by improving blood circulation to the scalp. Paddle brushes are also the most gentle forms of brushes. The rounded end ensures you cannot scratch the scalp and the evenly spread out plastic bristles cause less tension with fibre interaction when detangling to ensure the scalp isn’t damaged.”

4. Massage your scalp

Taking the last point further, a more hands on approach can help boost hair growth too - and it’ll only take up a tiny portion of your day. “Massaging your scalp daily for 10 minutes has an incredible effect on the hair,” says Zoe. “It will relieve tension and also increase the blood flow for thicker, healthier and longer hair.”

5. Up your hydration

Upping hydration levels is no doubt a commonly held New Year’s resolution - and the same principles also apply in hair care too when it comes to putting right the wrongs of party season hair excess. Whether it’s in the form of a hair mask or shampoo and conditioners with extra moisturising moxy, there’s a range of possibilities at your fingertips.

The new Dove Advanced Hair Series Regenerate Nourishment Serum-in-Oil , £6.99, acts an effective add-on for rectifying the problems caused by over-processing overwhelm, helping to restore softness and shine to dry ends. Simply apply on damp hair before blowdrying to strengthen defences and resources.

“If you find your hair is getting dry and in need of a treatment, try Color Wow’s Coconut Cocktail , £22, which is one of a new collection of hair supplements designed to keep hair silky and supple,” recommends Nicola Clarke, international hair colourist and stylist and Creative Director of Color Wow. "Apply after conditioning your hair to damp hair and blowdry – it really does give an instant transformation.”

For Afro, curly and thicker hair types, heavier textures and richer formulations really do come into their own. “Shampoo your hair weekly with a good moisturising shampoo that has extra emollients such as the Charlotte Mensah Manketti Oil Shampoo , £22,” says Charlotte Mensah. “After your weekly shampoo, take a few more minutes to condition your hair with a nourishing conditioner, deep treatments, hot oil or rich creamy masques. My Manketti Oil Conditioner , £22, is a great multi-tasking conditioner that can be used as a deep penetrating conditioner.

Simply apply to the hair, comb through with a wide tooth-comb such as the Kent Brushes SPC83 Rake Comb , £2, and leave on for 15-20 minutes.”

For a dose of extra help, a pre-shampoo treatment could also help restore valuable moisture and reduce further damage. Philip Kingsley Elasticizer Extreme , £31, delivers brilliantly on both counts, thanks to its formulation containing higher active doses to the original.

MORE GLOSS: Who, what, hair - the best hair volumising products

6. Pop on a hard water hat

Living in a hard water area, I’ve gotten used to the effect it has on my hair. However, it’s only when I’ve travelled to somewhere where soft water runs in abundance, that I really do notice the difference it makes to its softness and shine. There’s definitely something in it and, as Nicola Clarke explains, it’s not just in my head. “Hard water causes hair to feel rough and dry and colour is prone to becoming brassy,” she says, “So use a sulphate-free shampoo, as sulphates dry out and fade colour treated hair,” she recommends. Color Wow Color Security Shampoo , £16.50, works a treat in this regard. “A shampoo should gently cleanse the hair and scalp, and that’s it. Color Wow’s advanced tech sulphate-free shampoo formula is a total departure from other colour-care formulas, which are typically loaded with silicones, conditioners and pearlising agents…ingredients that not only make your colour look dull and dark, but can actually clog your hair follicles and interfere with growth. Color Wow is build-up free. It’s a very healthy formula for colour-treated hair because your colour AND your hair stay clear and fresh.”

Having coloured hair personally, I've certainly noticed a marked reduction in dullness and an increase in manageability since going sulphate-free plus, it’s helped improve the longevity of my colour too. Current favourites also include Maria Nila Luminous Shampoo , £12.98, for adding a noticeable boost in shine (which is also vegan too) and Wella Professionals Elements Renew Shampoo , £12.49, for adding extra suppleness.

If you’re particularly burdened by build-up, a clarifying shampoo could also hold the key. “Use a clarifying shampoo to remove any build-up of hair products or hard water,” advises Craig Taylor. “Good clarifying shampoos are Moroccan Oil Clarifying Shampoo , £18.45, Kérastase Specifique Bain Divalent Shampoo , £17.90, and Neutrogena Anti-residue Shampoo , £7.42.”

7. Can hair colour and a hair detox co-exist?

Yes, with some provisos. Just because you’re ‘hair detoxing,’ doesn’t mean you can’t colour your greys if you so wish. Just exercise caution, advises renowned hair colourist and L’Oréal Professionnel UK Colour Spokesperson Jack Howard : “You might think that giving your hair a break from an all over colour would be a great detox but it’s not - modern day hair colour is loaded with great conditioning agents so there’s no benefits to skipping a month or two,” he advises. “The resulting long regrowth if you do may also mean that your colour has to be applied differently, so that means more money and more time...leaving longer between colours also means more chance of oxidation and so more chance of colour fade throughout the hair. If your greys are just popping through, use one of the many cover-ups out there that can be blow dried in or applied dry. I’d rather a client do that than come in every 2 weeks for a colour touch up as this runs the risk of overlapped colour on such a short regrowth; 3-6 weeks is the optimum time between colours, depending on the individual, but anything more than this for all over colour is unnecessary.”

In terms of temporary cover-ups, one of my favourites at the moment is the new EVERPRObeauty Zero Grey Root Touch-up Magnetic Powder, £12.99 (launching at Superdrug on the 9th of January). Providing impressive staying power and easy to apply coverage for emerging grey hairs, its targeted sponge applicator offers precision and control in one portable product.

In terms of hair protective add-ons, Jack is a particular advocate of ones that help protect hair from external aggressors. “Modern life is full of pollution and one of the big buzzwords in the hair and skin industry is oxidation, which can be caused by pollution,” he says. “This is why I add L’Oréal Professionnel Smartbond, from £30 ( find your nearest salon here ), to my colours: it contains maleic acid which helps protect from the effects of pollution (predominantly colour fade) and works internally to preserve and strengthen the strong bonds in the hair. There’s also a conditioner for home use, £16.49, that continually strengthens fibres by allowing the weak bonds in the hair to reform, week after week.”

Regarding at-home picks, Jack also recommends shampoos that help offset the effects of environmental damage. “A clarifying shampoo to remove any product build-up once a week will work wonders, and look for shampoos that also help with oxidation such as Shu Uemura Urban Moisture , £24.”

Upping your superfoods this January? They can also pay dividends in the hair care department too. “I always recommend that my clients use the Color Wow Kale Cocktail , £22, to keep their hair in good condition if they’re bleaching,” says Nicola Clarke. “It improves the strength of the hair and reduces breakage by 50% in just one use and the effect is cumulative.”

Pre-colour prep can also make all the difference to the long-term condition of your hair. “Healthy hair makes for healthy colour; be sure to give your hair lots of TLC to get it into optimum condition before embarking on a new colour,” Jack advises, “...especially if you’re looking to go for a complete colour change. I would definitely recommend Kérastase Masque Force Architecte , £29 - it will reinforce even the most brittle, sun-damaged hair, leaving it strong and shiny.” He adds, “I also love Viviscal Professional , from £22.49, a hair supplement that really keeps hair healthy. I see a huge difference in clients who’ve been using it for 3 months onwards.”

8. Book in for an in-salon treatment

If hair needs a further professional helping hand, look no further than some valuable in-salon services that provide extra strength for your savings. From bespoke dry hair hydration courtesy of Kérastase Fusio-Dose , from £20, to the Hard Water Detox at John Frieda Salons , (from £20), there’s something for every hair care concern. For an organic treatment, our Deputy Editor Victoria Woodhall also highly recommends booking in for one of the Onira Detox and Restore Hair Rituals at top hair haunt, DryBy  (from £60), to help cleanse and condition in equal measure.

9. Any final words?

Don’t rely on products solely. “Even if you're using the best products, if you're not taking care of yourself mentally, physically and spiritually and don’t make your personal health a top priority, it will show in your hair,” says Charlotte Mensah. Combining the above with a healthy lifestyle will ensure you reap optimal rewards both in the short and long-term.

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