It might sound strange, but my hair’s a bit like a security blanket for me. The more nervous, overwhelmed or shy I’m feeling, the more you’ll find me twizzling, preening and playing with it. It provides me with a strange sense of comfort, (especially if I get to detangle an especially knotty bit at the ends - so satisfying), and it instantly calms me down.
However, how much I actually do it only really dawned on me last week when the team was discussing an interesting piece of advice that top hair stylist and Redken UK Ambassador Larry King gave to us. “How you touch your hair should depend on your hair type” he’d said, and it could make all the difference between a good and bad hair day.
Like most people though, I don’t usually notice when I’m touching my hair, let alone how. Something that my friends agreed with too (turns out we’re a bunch of frantic hair fiddlers). Psychologists have associated it with everything from a coping mechanism for anxiety to feeling flirty. You could also just be doing it out of boredom too, but more often than not, it’s probably because you’re feeling stressed or self-conscious, or you’re trying to feel sexy (although if I’m trying to feel sexy, I guarantee you that I’m also feeling stressed and self-conscious too).
Had Larry meant hair touching in a subconscious sense, a quick volume-boosting zhuzh, or when you’re styling it though? “All three,” he told me. “The way you touch your hair during your blow-dry, how you apply your products and touch it throughout the day can make a huge difference to how good it looks and how long your blowdry lasts for.”
Those with fine, curly and wavy hair types are likely to notice the biggest difference by revising their hair twizzling ways. “The way you touch waves and curls is the opposite to how you should touch straight hair,” he explained. Much of what we see online though could be confusing things. “On social media, we see a lot of girls patting the front down, running their hands down it and flipping it behind them, but for waves and curls, this is the biggest no-no - it’s actually all about zhuzhing upwards instead of downwards.”
Across the different hair types though, there’s one particularly common fiddling faux pas that Larry sees people doing time and time again - touching the front of their hair too much (side note: just realised I'm doing this when reading this back). Oil and dirt move from hands to head without us realising, creating a nice glossy build-up of grease on strands and scalp and causing it to feel weighed down. Twirling hair is even worse (I’m definitely guilty of that too), as it can cause hair to tangle and even snap and break off.
From a styling perspective, a few hair touching resets can do wonders when it comes to keeping hair grease-free for longer and making the most of our products. Here’s what Larry recommends for making zhuzhing work for, rather than against you.
For fine hair...
“Where fine hair is concerned, you want to zhuzh from underneath and avoid that top layer of hair like the plague,” he recommends. “Add in lightweight products, nothing too greasy, by lifting up the top layer and applying them into the roots underneath.” If you’re looking to add some texture and thickness, rub ends like your sprinkling salt to break them up.
For curly and wavy hair…
“For curls and waves, learning how to direct your fingertips into the root to add volume is key,” says Larry. Avoid pulling your fingers through curls or waves as this will cause them to become limp and less defined. Instead, he advises squeezing hair upwards.
For short hair...
“It’s really important that those with short hair remember that they’re applying products like clay to smooth and give hair body,” says Larry. “To do this, distribute the product throughout hair using your palms, and rub hair in all directions. Always start at the back, and then style at the end using your fingers."
Keep efforts hands-on. “Most people add products to short hair by adding it in bits with their fingers. This can end up making certain areas look greasy because the product doesn't get distributed evenly.”
Switching things up can feel counterintuitive at first, but it can make a world of difference in Larry’s experience. Being aware that you're actually doing it makes for the perfect starting point. “We often touch our hair subconsciously or as a comforter, but it’s really important to touch it more tactically if you want to get the best out of your hair.” Until I’ve trained myself out of the habit, I might invest in a stress ball to keep my hands occupied.