What do I do with my hair?
August 19, 2012 1:44 PM   Subscribe

I'm 32 years old and I've never learned how to properly care for my hair. How can I make it look appropriate for my professional job?

You can see a picture of my hair here. My hair is fine, thin (not thinning, just not thick), and straight. I always get it cut at places that will take walk-ins and give you a cut in ten minutes, and my usual hair cut is to get it cut collar-length, and then when it gets long enough just put it in a ponytail until I feel like getting it cut again. I'm really self-conscious about it.

Some women are able to keep their hair in some kind of shiny, soft curtain, but my hair is just always a sloppy-looking mess. I'd love to make it look...nice. I can't even articulate what I'm thinking of because I have no idea what nice would be.

If possible, low-maintenance is better. I usually wash my hair at night and let it air dry, then use hair spray in the morning on the top to keep hairs from popping up around the part. If anyone has recommendations of products or haircuts or other things (someone told me that vitamins would help my hair, but I'm not sure if it's true!) I'd love to hear it. I'm clueless.
posted by christinetheslp to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (39 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
It looks like you need to blow dry your hair with a big round brush. That will give you body and style, and it won't take that long to do.

I would suggest next time you get your hair cut, let the hair dresser style it and have her tell you the step-by-step of how to properly blow dry. You don't need to go anyplace expensive, just maybe tip a little extra.

I promise you it will take a minute to learn, and make all the difference in the world! I have fine straight hair too (just longer than yours) and it made the difference between messy and polished.
posted by katypickle at 1:51 PM on August 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

Pay for a very expensive haircut. It'll last longer.
posted by k8t at 1:54 PM on August 19, 2012 [6 favorites]

That shiny soft curtain is a result of either fabulous luck in the hair gene lottery, or a professional styling every few weeks plus space-age hair product.

As a once long-haired professional, a shampoo and condition twice a week, plus a tiny bit of gel (a blob a few mm in diameter) spread on your palms and worked evenly into your hair, can go a long way towards making it stay straight, untangled, and unfrizzy. You will need to try different conditioners to see which works best.

This will get you 60-80% towards your goal, I suspect. But for supreme results, finding a stylist in the above-Supercuts range and going to them for regular maintenance is where you will get the remaining 20-40%.
posted by zippy at 1:56 PM on August 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

Don't wash your hair every day.
posted by c'mon sea legs at 1:57 PM on August 19, 2012 [3 favorites]

You just need to find a good stylist. Ask a friend or coworker with good hair for a recommendation, go there, and tell the stylist to make you look pulled together. If you aren't choosy about the specific outcome, just that you want it to look sleek and professional, there is a close to 100% chance you will come out of there with your goal met.

If you don't want to go that route, I cannot emphasize enough that at the very least you need to blow dry your hair. I also have fine, straight hair and the difference between air drying and blow drying is night and day. I don't even really need to bother with trying to brush it into a specific style in order to effect a huge positive difference - I wash my hair in the morning and blow it dry with my head upside down while I read a book that sits on the bathroom vanity. Just doing that will help a lot.
posted by something something at 2:04 PM on August 19, 2012

If possible, low-maintenance is better. I usually wash my hair at night and let it air dry, then use hair spray in the morning on the top to keep hairs from popping up around the part.

Some maintenance is necessary, unfortunately. If I air dry my hair or sleep on it wet, the result is about the worst my hair could possibly look. If you are set in that routine, you could try flat ironing it or some light curling with an iron in the morning to give it more polish. Neither of these options should add more than 5-10 mins to your morning routine. If you are heat adverse, you could also try rag curls or pin curls. With a cut that length, you shouldn't definitely not be washing your hair every day. Any style you spend time on should last at least a few days. I use dry shampoo to prolong my styles. My hair is very healthy despite being colored. If I were you, I would have your stylist add some layers in there. And a good blow-dry tutorial could be helpful for when you want to look extra polished.
posted by two lights above the sea at 2:04 PM on August 19, 2012

Also, YMMV on washing every day or not. I hear that recommendation a lot, but it would not work for me at all. Last Saturday before I had showered, my husband touched my head and said, "is your hair wet?" Nope, just dirty and greasy, thanks!
posted by something something at 2:07 PM on August 19, 2012 [3 favorites]

Er, you should NOT be washing your hair every day!
posted by two lights above the sea at 2:07 PM on August 19, 2012

You might try going with chin length. It might help it look a bit beefier. And if you hate it, it won't take all that long to grow it back out. Plus, chin length can still be pulled back and tied off. I have had a chin length blunt cut in the past and loved the ease of care.

Although it is a really bad pic, I get the impression you would probably do better with bangs or at least a side part. I don't think your current do is framing your face in a flattering way. It should. It can. You just need to figure out what works.

I am someone who always had great hair when I was younger. Then I had a health crisis and my hair went to hell. Getting healthier again got me my great hair back. So, yes, I think eating better, taking supplements or otherwise improving your baseline health can help.
posted by Michele in California at 2:10 PM on August 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

(A sulfate-free shampoo may help if your hair gets excessively greasy after only one wash. I'm sure I'm not the only one who will suggest this, and if you do a cursory search for this you will find a lot of people suggesting this in the past. There is a reason for this: it works! Sulfates are known for creating a gross amount of buildup.)
posted by two lights above the sea at 2:11 PM on August 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

Biotin is the vitamin that is routinely recommended to help with hair growth - if you take a good B complex that should do it.
posted by something something at 2:12 PM on August 19, 2012

Find a good stylist who can give your hair layers. Done right, this will add shape. Find a very light-weight product that will add a bit of volume.
posted by unreadyhero at 2:12 PM on August 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

I have hair like yours and I would recommend washing and styling in the morning as then you're not trying to work out the bedhead. The blow drying with a big brush is probably the best styling advice, although I'm too lazy to do so myself. My hair dries so quick that I just wrap it up in a towel until it's mostly dry, then brush it out upside down to get some volume. Layers will totally help. I was afraid of layers for my fine, limp hair but it turned out very flattering and slick. Look into something shorter like a "reverse bob" so you don't have to worry about your hair just hanging there. I found when my hair was shorter, it was really easy to keep it looking nice.

Also, for me not washing my hair everyday makes it clump up and look greasy. Some people seem really insistent you shouldn't wash it every day, but I have a feeling they don't have naturally fine, limp very straight hair. I wash it every day unless I have really short layered hair in a messy style, then I can get away with a couple of days between washings if I'm using product like hair "glue" to keep it "messy" in a good way.
posted by smartypantz at 2:26 PM on August 19, 2012 [2 favorites]

You need a hairdresser. You have crappy hair because you have crappy haircuts. A good haircut makes your hair fall nicely and look fuller. Also, colour makes your hair look full and shiny, too.


1) Start looking at friends' hair: do you know anyone who has thin, limp hair like yours *and* has a fabulous haircut? Ask for their stylist's name. Good haircuts are expensive, and the men and women who do them are often highstrung, so a little ego massaging of the genius with the scissors and blowdryer will help, as will a nice meaty tip (15% to 20% makes you a Valued Customer that the stylist is always happy to see).

2) wear your most fashionable clothing when you go in the first time. They're going to judge what you want by your style. If you don't like trendy, fashionable stuff, then you probably want a very basic, very conservative cut: this doesn't mean a bad one or a cheap one.

3) You can go to a high-end school (Aveda Academy or Institute is a good one) and get a student to cut your hair for the same price as a Supercuts, or you can ask for an instructor to cut your hair: my hairdresser is an instructor at the Toronto Aveda, and he's wonderful. People who teach other people to give haircuts are generally good at it themselves. Don't go to a cheap beauty school.

4) you have Virgin Hair, which is a good thing and which a good stylist will be excited about. You will probably be sold product and shown how to use it, and while this helps a good cut and colour is the really important thing.

5) Learn to use a blowdryer: you don't need to wash your hair every day, and if you style it it will look much better immediately.
posted by jrochest at 2:34 PM on August 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

I have hair like yours and blow drying was a revelation. That said, I am too lazy to do the round brush and the sections and all the rest. I usually either just flip my head over and just sorta blast my head, or, now that I have bangs, I blow dry the bangs and front bits so they'll lie how I want them to, then do the upside down blast treatment. Even my half-assed blow-drying technique looks worlds better than air drying.

Also agree with washing in the morning.

Another thing that changed my hair life was paying more for a good cut. Especially if you're OK with having a versatile bob and letting it grow out till you get sick of it. This is what I do, with occasional bang trims, and while each cut is expensive, I only go a few times a year. A better stylist will know how to give you layers that frame your face better and make your hair look more voluminous. He or she will also be able to give you a cut that will grow out gracefully.

I find that the $15 SuperCuts walk-in folks don't cut straight hair well at all.

I don't think you need to flat iron (your hair is already straight, and worrying about frizz will just send you down a pointless rabbit hole of self-hatred). You can curl it if you want, but I don't think it's going to make a huge difference. It's not that your hair is wrong/bad/ugly in its natural state and needs a huge texture change to be acceptable to the outside world. You just need a little more grooming to look polished.
posted by Sara C. at 2:41 PM on August 19, 2012

1. Find a good hairdresser. You'll want to splurge on something higher end than Supercuts. If you're still at a loss about what this means, I've had good luck with Aveda salons. Let them know it's your first time there and you'll want an appointment time where the hairstylist can spare a few minutes at the beginning to do a consultation for a haircut.

2. If you're at a good salon, the hairstylist will have a talk with you *before* your hair gets washed. This is the time to BE CHATTY! Say what you want and also what you DON'T want in as much detail as possible. Include current habits and anything you are willing/ not willing to do in as much detail as possible.

Eg. "I work in an office setting so I need something professional. I don't know exactly what I want (I dont care how long or short the hair is) but I kind of wish my hair wasn't so flat. The most important thing is that the cut is low-maintenance because I am very lazy with my hair. I prefer to air dry my hair but can manage a rough blow dry if necessary (but no brush because I'm too uncoordinated!). I currently don't use products but am open to product and styling suggestions if you think they will help. Also, I prefer a style that grows out well because I can't commit to a trim every 4 weeks.

3. You and hairstylist agree on course of action. Hair gets washed and cut. Interject as necessary, eg if they are parting hair in the middle but you prefer it parted on the side, SAY something (eg. "just so you know, I usually wear my hair parted on the side"). As hair is dried ask the stylist for tips on how to style hair at home eg. what products should I use/ why should I use them/ show me how to blow dry with a brush. The best stylists volunteer this information unasked and are more than happy to answer any questions you have.

4. When they hand a mirror to you to check out the cut, let them know if there's anything you feel eh about. Eg. funny bits are sticking out etc. This is the time to adjust the cut as needed.

5. Do a shampoo commercial hair flip! You look gorgeous! (And if you're happy with the cut, tip well!)
posted by kitkatcathy at 2:46 PM on August 19, 2012 [2 favorites]

I have fine, limp, straight hair (although mine is pretty thick). I find that a better haircut means less maintenance and better looking hair, despite less maintenance. In fact, I rarely use anything on my hair more than shampoo and my fingers (no comb, no brush, no conditioner or styling tools or products). I find that a walk-in place--or having a different person cut my hair every time--leads to stray hairs that don't lie where they are supposed to, or shaggy edges where there should be clean lines and hair that requires blowdrying and product to look neat and/or shiny. So, I'll echo the suggestions above to spend a little more on your haircut.

I would not claim to have the best hair ever, but it usually looks professional and tidy. It's totally embarrassing, but I find the best way to get a good hair cut is--when you see someone with good hair that looks similar to your type of hair, say "excuse me, who cuts your hair?" and then book an appointment with that person.
posted by crush-onastick at 2:48 PM on August 19, 2012

Seconding an Aveda salon. I get my hair cut at their school in NYC when I'm too broke for my usual spendy place. I find that their stylists are trained to cut straight hair well. I don't know if they specialize in straight hair, or if they just have the training and precision and it shows in straight hair. If you can get an Aveda-trained stylist, I highly recommend that.
posted by Sara C. at 2:58 PM on August 19, 2012

I have very thin, fine, limp straight hair, and I've found that short cuts with lots of layers have been a lifesaver. I used to do a bob, and now I keep it even shorter - I don't really know how to describe it, but the layers are all in front, coming right to the bottom of my ears, with the back really short (even razor cut in the back). I am also super lazy about styling and drying (I don't even have a blow dryer), so I told that to my stylist, and she makes sure that I can wash, air dry, and go. I absolutely HAVE to wash it in the morning, though, if I want it to look remotely presentable. So I wash it first thing in the morning, and because it's short and fine, it's dry by the time I'm ready to leave the house, and then I put in a little product for volume. I still envy women who can have long, glorious manes, but I also recognize that my hair will NEVER do that, so I'm happy rocking the short, layered hair because it is the best cut I can do.

Also, for finding a stylist, I have found that Aveda usually has good stylists, and once I wasn't working or living near an Aveda salon, I found one near my office through Lifebooker. I don't know if you have that, or Groupon, or any of those programs near you, but they allow me to get higher quality cuts without paying full price.
posted by Neely O'Hara at 3:00 PM on August 19, 2012

You're looking for expensive haircuts. An expensive haircut will also grow out nicer, so it will look good for a longer time. You can ask most women where they get their hair done and they will be happy to give recommendations. Plan to budget 60+ for your haircut if you're in a city, more if you're in a very expensive city. The stylist will also help you learn how to deal with your hair easily.
posted by jeather at 3:01 PM on August 19, 2012

If you decide to style your hair. blow-dry it most of the way and then finish up using a brush on the ends. I lift sections of hair, first blowing the hair that's underneath first, and dry nearest the scalp pretty thoroughly. To avoid flatness on top, I lift the hair on top of the head straight up and hold it slightly taught... it's best do do this after pre-drying as well.

I don't change stylists often, but when I need someone new I usually ask some stranger whose hair is like mine and looks good. Women don't seem to mind being asked, and sometimes they even have the stylist's card with them. If you do this, ask the person if she'd mind telling you her name so the stylist will know who referred you.

When you go to someone for a haircut, ask their opinion re layers vs. one length. Layering can improve the shape of your hairstyle -- and for me, a layered cut requires less effort. I'm not talking about many different lengths all over the head. Even long layers near the face can look more like an actual style.

Since you're not used to fussing with your hair, you might want to avoid bangs. They're easy to screw up and require maintenance.

Most hairdressers will suggest product for you to buy because there's a big mark-up. You can always do that later. He or she can use the product on you and you can see how you feel about it after several hours. In my experience, salon shampoos usually are noting special. I never buy one unless i'm crazy about its fragrance. When I do buy a styling product in a salon, I usually end up finding something equivalent elsewhere and buying that when I need it.
posted by wryly at 3:02 PM on August 19, 2012

You can absolutely get healthier-looking hair with the right care. I can recommend a place to start, with the following info:

1. Are the individual strands fine, medium, or thick?

2. Does your hair air dry quickly? When you pinch a strand of hair between two fingers and run them up the strand, does it feel very rough and irregular, relatively smooth, or somewhere inbetween?

3. Pull a hair from your head and stretch it. Does it snap right away, or can it stretch for ~20% of its length and return to its original shape? Somewhere inbetween?

I think women with thinner hair look *fantastic* in short, layered cuts. Back when my hair was straight and fine, a short, layered cut was super easy. I'd wash it in the morning, air or blow dry, put a little styling pomade or wax or whatever in, and go. Blow-drying is annoying and can be damaging, but it does add volume.

My thinner hair gets droopy and greasy-looking if I don't wash it every day. There are gentler shampoos and non-shampoos that help your hair look fresh without drying it out.

Nthing to find a good hairstylist if you can afford one.
posted by moira at 3:12 PM on August 19, 2012 [2 favorites]

You are most likely going to get exactly the haircut, and resulting style, that you pay for. In my experience, a cut at a place like SuperCuts is going to look just like a cut from SuperCuts.

If you don't know where to go, look for women who have cuts you like, and go up to them and ask who does their hair. I've never met someone who was offended by a stranger saying "you have lovely hair, can I ask who you see?" Just ask around. You'll find someone.

You might also want to consider going short. Having less length to fuss with might help. And color treatments can make hair look and feel fuller and shinier. And use GOOD products. I like Moroccanoil volumizing shampoo and conditioner - and I wash my hair only once every 5-7 days - and it makes a huge difference.
posted by Lulu's Pink Converse at 3:13 PM on August 19, 2012

Keep in mind that if you go shorter, you will have to have much more frequent haircuts. And those haircuts will have to be absolutely impeccable, done by someone you really trust to get it right.

I had awful hair for years because I wore it short and tried to economize on haircuts, either by getting cheap ones or by trying to go too long between cuts. Now that I'm wearing it in a relatively simple bob that can handle a few inches of growth before the layers go apeshit, I need a lot fewer cuts and can thus spend more on them.

If you really feel like you want to go short, I'd find a stylist you really love, keep a more low-maintenance style for the time being, and after you establish a rapport, then consult with said stylist about what would work for you in terms of the frequency of haircuts and degree of maintenance required.
posted by Sara C. at 3:30 PM on August 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

I never believed the don't-wash-your-hair-every-day advice until I tried it. It looks so much shinier and fuller after washing. I have long hair now, but either blow-drying it or drying it in loose twists leaves it looking sleeker than just letting it hang to dry.

Nthing a $tylist you can trust. And maybe try some side-brushed bangs?

Also, you're adorable! Quit scowling.
posted by mochapickle at 3:44 PM on August 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

Hi, I have fine hair and for various reasons I know I'm not going to do massive amounts of daily prep with it. Things that have worked for me:

- I have a short cut with regular maintenance trims. My hair is too fine to support much length without getting flat no matter how much product I put in it.
- I get a relatively expensive cut. Nthing that supercuts prices get you a supercuts look. I get mine cut in a mall place but I've got a good stylist and I pay $60ish in Austin per cut. My stylist has cut my hair often enough that she knows how to make it flatter me and if I wanted a radical change, she'd know what would look good and work with my hair/face/routine.
- I get highlights, which give my hair more body but require maintenance (color-safe shampoos) which are also pricey. I find they work better for me than perms.
- I wash my hair in the morning, let it air-dry partway while dressing, and do the air-blast thing with a smidge of product to help it hold so it's not flat against my head. Unless it's terribly humid, this works pretty well for me.
- I have to wash my hair every day or it gets greasy, which makes it look lank and nasty.
- Improving my general health (eat generally right/multivitamin/exercise/drink enough water/etc.) has helped my hair look better.
posted by immlass at 3:49 PM on August 19, 2012

My hair is a little like yours. From your photo, it kind of shows that you washed your hair the night before. Hair like ours doesn't overnight well; it's so fine that the direction of the roots a) gets changed when we sleep on it, and b) has a large effect on how the hair hangs on the head.

I cut my own hair. It's fine (fine == not thick and fine == not bad).

I wash it in the morning, and use _two towels_ to dry it: the first one dries first the hair then the whole body, then I brush the hair with a wide-spaced wooden-bristle "brush", which straightens the hair but doesn't pull too much out. The hair is then flat/slick and a lot of the moisture is available for the second towel, which I use to gently dry the hair further. If you're in a hurry, use a third small towel, but the two-towel approach gets my hair dry enough that it's generally done drying by the end of dressing + breakfast.

This saves energy and, importantly for life in the South, heat, and gets my hair in good shape for controlled tousling or, if I can bear the fragrance, a hair product. I do OK with no product, but if you still want to look decent by 5:00 then try some light gel or mousse. Be careful -- some will make your hair look greasy or flat, but careful application can work well.

Also - try different conditioners! Unfortunately, I need unscented ones, but the last time I was trapped into using someone else's awesome stuff (Garnier Fructis, it's at the grocery store), my hair was truly fabulous afterwards.

FYI, I did get a couple of expensive haircuts recently. They looked awful, partly because my aesthetic is not the same as most salons, but also because professional stylists just can't cope with someone who can't use "product". So, be prepared to use product if you go this route.
posted by amtho at 4:30 PM on August 19, 2012

I have similar hair to yours. Short is the answer! You'll need more regular cuts, and it might take some time to find a stylist that is good for you and your style.

I also don't do a whole lot of maintenance, but more than 6 weeks between cuts and it starts to look pretty bad. So there's that to contend with. I don't own a blowdryer (shh, don't tell my stylist!), but I do have a $15 flat iron I use regularly. Because I also like to shower at night, so it gets all weird as I sleep. I just wet it down, brush it into position, and iron it if it needs it. I use very little product, but have found, unfortunately and after buying almost everything in the drugstore, that pricier really is better and SOMETHING really makes a difference in looking polished. On the plus side, with short, thin hair, a $25 tub of hair goo will last 6 months or so.

All that said, after years of bad, stringy hair, I regularly get compliments from strangers on my hair, and if I complain to friends about having basically no hair at all compared to most people, they don't believe me. Cut it off!

Oh, and yeah. Maybe not washing every day? I gave the no-shampoo thing a go for a few months years ago, and it was never not greasy and gross. But every other day or so is a lot better than every day. And color (damage!) helps give it a little more texture, too. But that's more upkeep.
posted by ruby.aftermath at 5:40 PM on August 19, 2012

My hair is similar to yours. It's really fine. I have a lot of it, so hairdressers are amazed at how fine it is because it does look like it should be thicker.

I have done all of the following:

-Washed my hair everyday
-Washed my hair everyday with only shampoo
-Washed my hair every couple of days
-Once spent a couple of months using only water to wash my hair
-Blow drying --- hair upside down, with roundbrushes, with combs, with straight brushes
-Pin curls -- sometimes with pins, sometimes with newspaper strips
-Hairspray of all types and costs
-Paying up to $60 for a haircut (before tip)
-Paying as little as $20 for a haircut
-No layers
-Really short chin-length hair
-Really long mid-back length hair

And probably many, many more things.

No matter what I do, my hair down ends up a sectional mess by mid-day. It just does. Every hair stylist of various caliber has said, "I know. That's just your luck!" when I ask what else I can do to make my hair look great down. On days I wear my hair down, I try to give it a quick brush through every so often, and that helps a ton. But otherwise? I've had the most luck with pin curls, even though my hair is naturally straight, believe it or not.

What I've learned mostly is to just wear it up --- french twists are my best friends when I want a good professional look, and it doubles as nice evening out look. I've also found buns and varying pony/half pony tail looks to do better than just plain down.

Some of us just get terrible wear down hair.
posted by zizzle at 5:49 PM on August 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

If you still want to shower at night, maybe you could just spray your hair with a mister of water in the morning to dampen it so it's ready to be blow dried. Yes, blow drying with a round brush or a brush you curl under as you dry will make a load of difference in the look of your hair. (As much as I'd like to air dry, I look so frumpy when I do!) You can experiment with product, but fine hair gets weighed down, so go light on the application. I don't use product every day.

Cut - simple and maybe just soften the ends. You might like to try a real aggressive hairstyle change in the future, but you should master the art of hairstyling first to see if you really want to keep up a style that might require more attention.

I wash every day (egads!) because I get a really yucky scalp if I don't, but I try to use a light touch on the shampoo every few days. I like Neutrogena's conditioner.

One thing that took me years to learn was that the little doo-hicky that fits on the end of your hairdryer is magic. It helps to direct the flow of air to better aim it at the hair on my brush rather than blow all over and make a mess of fly away hair as I blow dry. And you'll get the hang of doing it faster. Good luck!
posted by LilBit at 5:49 PM on August 19, 2012

I have superfine hair, and I wear it long (always have). How good it looks is, as many are saying, directly related to the quality of your stylist. If you want low-maintenance hair that looks good, get a good hair cut. It will grow out better and just generally have an easier time looking good on its own.

I googled, and there is a Toni & Guy in your area, and that is the salon that I go to here where I live. I know that they engage their people in continuing education and most of the people in my salon are well capable of giving a high quality cut. I've been seeing the same person for 9 years. You can pry her from my cold, dead hands - and I get my hair cut almost literally 4 times a year. Her cuts grow out like a dream.
posted by Medieval Maven at 6:56 PM on August 19, 2012

n'thing blowdrying your hair in the morning BUT use a heat-activated styling/volumizing cream as well. I like this stuff but a quick scan of internet reviews shows it is hit or miss for most because of the smell or using too much. I skip the round brush - I am too uncoordinated to use that without getting my hair tangled in it with embarrassing frequency. My process is:

- shampoo with a sulfate-free shampoo (I do this daily, I like Alba Botanica stuff)
- skip conditioning (I do a deep condition 2x a month instead)
- towel dry hair and do not comb out
- pick out tangles with a very wide-tooth comb just before blow-drying
- rub the tiniest amount of styling cream into damp hair (seriously, less than pea-sized)
- bend over, flipping my hair over my face, and blowdry with my head hanging upside down

If I do this process but use conditioner daily, my hair gets too heavy/weighed down through the course of the day to look decent. If I skip the styling cream, it barely looks any different from air-drying. If I don't dry it upside-down, it lays flatter than I like. If I comb it right out of the shower, I lose some height (if you don't have naturally tangly hair you might not get this 'benefit')...
posted by par court at 7:08 PM on August 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

You want Dana Scully's hair, updated to be less 1990s. Basically a bob with some layers to add volume and something that frames your face, not a severe part. Bangs or a side part or something. Get a good stylist and ask for that. Also consider having it colored a bit. Just a few highlights around your face or low lights underneath. Something that fools the ye into thinking it's thicker and more textured than it is.

That means washing every few days and blow drying when you do wash it. If you buy a good brush, a good blowdryer and a curling iron to curl the ends under this should be pretty darn easy and it will make a huge difference.
posted by fshgrl at 7:50 PM on August 19, 2012

Any reason you don't want short hair? I had short hair for years when my hair was straighter, and that's right in the sweet spot of "looks polished" and "takes no real work." Something like that? Or that? If you're anywhere near a Vidal Sassoon salon, I enthusiastically recommend them for short cuts that grow out well.
posted by Charity Garfein at 8:56 PM on August 19, 2012

Good (possibly expensive) haircut, and a good blowdryer. My last salon (just moved, haven't found a new one yet) was Sassoon-trained - I don't know anything about techniques and all that but they did a great job. I love my Chi Air - it is really hot so it takes less time, and it makes my hair a lot more shiny than regular dyers.
posted by radioamy at 10:19 PM on August 19, 2012

I came late to blow drying too, for me a Babyliss Big Hair rotating brush has been a godsend. I used to get cramps trying to wrangle my hair with a round brush and dryer and always found it difficult to style the left side.

This seems to be the equivalent to the Babyliss in the US.
posted by Ness at 3:51 AM on August 20, 2012

For sure, spend a bit more on a haircut, and be sure to schedule your next cut 6-8 weeks out while you're already at the salon.

All pretty hair requires effort and maintenance but once it's a part of your routine it won't be a hassle I promise!

So a few of my tips for hair maintenance:

My hair stylist said the shampoo you use doesn't matter it's about the conditioner. Use a conditioner that will bring in that moisture! I use Davines Mellow Anti Breakage Conditioner. Its great for growing out your hair and for making your damaged hair healthy (especially with the fact that you are now going to use a hair dryer!) With the shampoo be sure whatever you decide to use that you only use it on your scalp. There is no need to scrub the ends of your hair. That will only damage your strands and cause split ends. So only scrub your scalp with shampoo, rinse and then only use conditioner on your tips. Be sure to let the conditioner sit on your tips for a few minutes

Now once a week or once every two weeks use an in-shower hair mask. You comb it through your hair then 7 minutes later rinse it out. I live by the Macadamia Oil Deep Repair Hair Mask. It's pretty potent so don't use it daily!!!

Well now that you are showered and your hair is clean. A leave-in oil treatment will keep your hair healthy and will give you that shine you're asking for! A dime size of CHI Silk Infusion and rub it in starting at the tips and then move up.

And the final product I suggest is a hair protectant. You must be sure to protect your hair from the hair dryer's heat! Just two spritz of CHI 44 Iron Guard Thermal Protection Spray before you blow dry and that should do it.
posted by xicana63 at 6:54 AM on August 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

I second everybody's advice about getting a good haircut, blow-drying (I don't use a special brush or anything), conditioning in the morning, and brushing during the day. Those things work really well for me.

The other thing that has worked for me is going to see good stylists who are happy to answer questions like "how do people get their hair to look so smooth and shiny all day?" or "why is my hair so flat and how can I change it?". The stylists I've seen have LOVED examining the texture of my hair (flat, thin, straight) and advising me on low-cost, low-effort styling tips. They also have made sure to give me haircuts that don't require lots of product to maintain and are sure to grow out pretty well.
posted by treefort at 7:44 AM on August 20, 2012

I've got hair like yours and in my experience there are two ways to go about this.

The first is to get a really short, layered haircut in a messy style. This will probably look nice without you having to put in a lot of time and effort (maybe use some wax or mousse to style it). The downside is that you're going to need a haircut every 4 to 6 weeks or so, and that your haircut is going to look seriously bad if you wait too long between haircuts and allow your hair to grow out too far.

The second is to get a chin-line bob or a shoulder-lenghth cut. This may allow you to go longer between haircuts, but it also may require more effort on a day-to-day basis (like blow-drying) to make it look nice.
posted by rjs at 11:00 AM on August 20, 2012

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