Sleek, glossy strands turn heads, but they also reflect your hair's health.

By Rebecca Dancer
Photo: Look Studio/Shutterstock

"Shine is associated with enviable hair the way glowing skin is associated with youth," says Nunzio Saviano of Nunzio Saviano Salon in New York City. For one, it looks good, catching and reflecting light at every angle, but it's also one of the most visible signs of hair health, says Jeni Thomas, a hair-care scientist at Procter & Gamble. "Hair's shine is a result of two things: fiber alignment and the strength of the outer cuticle layer," says Thomas. "Both factors affect how light reflects off hair; the more regular the reflection, the healthier and shinier the hair."

Looking dull? Follow these steps to sparkle. (And don't neglect your roots, either: Here's how your scalp health affects your hair.)

Strip Down

"Hair that is coated with styling product, excess oils, and dirt will not shine," says Saviano. That's because it ends up becoming a landing strip for atmospheric debris, which sticks to the grease and interferes with the smoothness of your cuticle and the proper reflection of light. To keep hair from becoming weighed down, avoid applying product at or near the roots, and get to the uncoated strands by using a clarifying product, like Pantene Pro-V Charcoal Purifying Root Wash ($6, or Oribe The Cleanse Clarifying Shampoo ($44,, one to two times per month, in addition to your regular cleansing routine.

Go for a Gloss

"Cleanliness promotes sheen, but clean hair with a coarse cuticle won't necessarily be shiny," says Saviano. Those who color their hair or rely on other chemical treatments are especially prone to breakage of the outer cuticle layer, which leads to lackluster locks. In addition to regular conditioning, use an at-home glossing treatment, like John Frieda Luminous Glaze Clear Shine ($10, or Clairol Natural Instincts Shine Happy ($9,, to fortify the cuticle layer and improve its reflection of light. (Pair with these tips to save fried, over-processed hair)

Trim, and Do It Often

You know the drill here: Get a haircut, or at least have your ends trimmed, every four to six weeks. "Consistent haircuts are important," says Steven Picciano, a national artist for Goldwell. "Split ends travel upward, so if you don't get rid of them, they will creep up the shaft of the hair, giving it a dull, fuzzy appearance." Seal off clean-cut ends with a strengthening cream, like Rita Hazan Triple Threat Split End Remedy ($30, or Virtue Perfect Ending Split End Serum ($40,, so they're less prone to split. (Related: This $33 Shampoo Is Worth Every Penny If You Want Longer Hair)

Practice Safe Styling

"For coarse, curly, and processed hair, I always use a boar-bristle brush when it's wet and a ceramic one for touch-ups once it's dry," says Rita Zito, a senior stylist at Eddie Arthur Salon in New York City. Another good way to detangle wet hair, especially if your strands are on the finer side, is with a wide-toothed comb. Whatever your hair type, dry strands will benefit from a few strokes of a boar-bristle brush, which helps distribute the scalp's natural oils, leaving a shiny finish. Before you reach for your hot tools, spritz strands with a thermal protection product, like Goldwell StyleSign Smooth Control Blow Dry Spray ($20,, to prevent damage to the outer layer of the cuticle. And when heat styling, keep your tools below 395 degrees and make sure hair is fully dry before using a curling or smoothing iron, says Picciano. (Related: Shape Beauty Awards 2018: Game-Changing Hair Products)

Comments (2)

April 9, 2019
I also think that stress is a big factor. My father passed away 3 yrs ago and ever since then my hair has not been the same. I take care of my elderly mother and seeing how sad she looks day after day seems to have aged me. I have tried a ton of different products, but nothing seems to work. I feel that eating healthy, getting enough sleep, drinking plenty of water makes a big difference. I even started eating avocados since I have read that it has lots of vitamins and is good for the hair. I used to take biotin and it did help for a while, but then had to stop because too much of anything is not good. One last thing...I plan to try a hot oil treatment once a week to see if that works. I appreciate the article but doubt I will use the above mentioned products. I like natural things better. Thank you anyway and good luck to all.
December 30, 2018
You have shared an interesting blog. I am little worried about my hair. I have frizzy and dull hair, so I was looking for some tips have a well maintained hair, so that I can open my hair for any occasion. I have also read your article “regular cleansing routine” for hair. Silky hair takes little time to get ready if I left them open. For any occasion I always take less time for makeup. I have Vegan beauty products - “Lipstick” Mini Electric Facial Hair Epilator. It gives perfect facial makeover before any parties.