Aloe vera, coconut oil, almond oil, activated charcoal, and sea kelp might be in your fridge—but they belong in your hair too.
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Lately, the ingredient list on your shampoo reads like your smoothie order. And that’s a good thing. Coconut, aloe, and other natural extracts are packed with exactly what your hair needs. Here, we break down what each can do for you. (Just make sure that you're not making any of these common shampooing mistakes.)
If you have scalp issues, like dandruff or itchiness, then aloe may be your antidote. “It is marvelously moisturizing and soothing,” says Elham Eghbali, Ph.D., a cosmetic chemist in Germany. The succulent’s gel has anti-inflammatory properties and is rich in amino acids and polysaccharides, all of which can help calm an irritated scalp. You can scoop a bit of gel from the inside of an aloe leaf and apply it to your damp scalp pre-shampoo. Another easy way to give your head a dose: After you shampoo, massage Dove DermaCare Scalp Soothing Moisture Anti-Dandruff Conditioner ($6, ulta.com) into your roots, then wait a few minutes before you rinse. (Related: Is Customizable Hair Care the Future of Shampoo and Conditioner?)
You may already use this tropical-smelling salve to grease a pan or hydrate your lips. If you don’t put it on your hair as well, then start. Coconut oil has a low molecular weight, so it can penetrate the hair shaft, says Perry Romanowski, a cosmetic chemist in Chicago. Its conditioning properties make the hair more flexible and resistant to breakage. “That’s why it’s ideal for weak, fragile strands,” Romanowski says. One way to use it: Before bed, melt a spoonful of coconut oil in your palms and then smooth it through your hair, focusing on the ends. In the morning, shampoo and condition. (Here's everything you need to know about coconut oil.)
“I like to apply an oil before I hit the sauna or take a steamy shower, since the steam aids in the absorption of the product, deepening the hydration,” says Faith Huffnagle, the director of education for Prose hair care. You can also get the benefits of coconut oil—without the greasiness—in your styling products. To hydrate and protect hair from heat, spritz TIGI Copyright Care Heat Protection Spray ($20, tigi.com) throughout damp hair before you blow-dry.
Think of this as your hair’s suit of armor. Almond oil sits on top of the hair strand, protecting it from heat and chemical damage, Romanowski says. It’s a must for anyone who has color-treated hair, uses hot tools regularly, or gets professional straightening treatments.
Before you blow-dry, straighten, or curl, spritz Vibrant Sexy Hair Vivid Memory Spray ($18, ulta.com) on damp hair, then comb through to distribute evenly. Besides offering protection, the lightweight formula makes detangling a breeze and leaves hair feeling silky and sweetly scented. (Related: Try These Hair Masks to Combat Dryness and Frizz)
If you wash your hair once every few days (or less often), then your scalp and strands may have a lot of build-up: excess oil from your follicles, layers of hair product, even pollution from the air. Activated charcoal (which is more porous than regular charcoal) draws out and absorbs these impurities and contaminants, leaving hair looking brighter and less weighed down, says Kelly Dobos, a cosmetic chemist in Cincinnati. You’ll get the biggest detoxifying benefit from a charcoal-laced shampoo, like Pantene Pro-V Blends Charcoal Shampoo Purifying Root Wash ($6, amazon.com), which is also silicone-free. (Also read: Why You Should Treat Your Scalp to a Detox)
Hair is more than 90 percent protein. When that protein is frayed, split, or otherwise damaged, sea kelp can help fill in the holes that form in the strand’s cuticle layers. “Sea kelp contains tons of amino acids, which are the building blocks of proteins,” Dobos says. “It’s also very nourishing, and it helps keep hair conditioned.” Look for the power-house ingredient in conditioners (like Noughty Wave Hello Curl Defining Conditioner, $10, ulta.com), repair treatments (such as Oribe Power Drops Damage Repair Booster, $58, amazon.com), and hair-growth supplements (like Nutrafol, $88, amazon.com).