"Plain and simple the only way to get my hair looking like actual hair and not a brillo pad is to hire a professional," says blow-dryaholic Jackie Schimmel. "It's now become a habit I'm required to keep up with."
But the writer in me has to ask: How much heat can our tresses really take? I've got thin, fine hair and I feel like eventually people would start mistaking me for Scarecrow from The Wizard of Oz. "A lot of women seem to think if they're going to a pro, the dangers of heat styling are no longer at hand," says beauty expert Alexis Wolfer. "All heat styling — whether done at home or by a pro — poses some dangers and should be done in moderation."
According to Dr. Robert Dorin, top New York City hair care specialist and hair restoration expert, over-frequenting dry bars can cause irreversible damage to your hair: "Collectively, the integrity of your hair's strength and flexibility is lost. In this state, your hair looks dull, dry and frizzy. It tangles easily and usually breaks off at varying lengths." He recommends keeping dry bar visits to a once a week maximum.
If dry bar hopping is a must for the look of your hair (or you just love pampering yourself), here are several tips to keep in mind:
"In general, one feels better with licensed stylists for a presumed basic level of competency," says Dorin. "But I've seen unlicensed stylists do just as good if not a better job because of their natural talent." Like with dating, play the field and go with your gut. You know what's best for you.
Because of this, it's important to talk to your stylist about your needs based on your hair type and texture. "Too often in the past has a new stylist fried my thin, fine hair by blasting it with super high heat because they tend to use the same technique from person to person," says Mally Steve Chakola, beauty expert and founder of M. Steves skin care. They also work hard to stay within time allotments — voicing your needs will make the visit a win/win for both of you.
If you find you're getting a lot of breakouts near your hairline and on your forehead, ask your stylist to cover your face more thoroughly when using product. "Hair product overload can clog your pores and lead to pesky breakouts," says Chakola.
"Most women resist using good protective products on their hair, and they break or burn their hair because they're doing it themselves," says Rosemary Camposano, President/CEO of Halo Blow Dry Bars, Inc. This is why it feels like you have healthier hair when you leave a dry bar than when you do your hair at home — because, in a sense, you do. Plus, says Camposano, there's a huge benefit to someone using both hands on your hair: They're able to evenly apply heat in a smooth, repetitive way, which prevents burning your hair or breaking it by pulling it in the wrong direction.
As for what to use at home if you're between visits or are on a strict budget, Chakola recommends using fractionated coconut oil. "Coconut oil easily absorbs into most hair types and is rich in omega fatty acids that instantly smooth dry strands and help prevent future dryness," she says.
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