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Shiny hair usually equals healthy hair, which is something most people are after. However, few have the time or professional knowledge on how to achieve and maintain hair that’s consistently shiny, smooth, and soft to the touch.
If you’re looking for some quick routes to enviably shiny hair, we rounded up some easy-to-do and easy-to-buy options.
Whether it’s a tried-and-true skin care regimen, how often you wash your hair, or the cosmetics you’re curious about, beauty is personal.
That’s why we rely on a diverse group of writers, educators, and other experts to share their tips on everything from the way product application varies to the best sheet mask for your individual needs.
We only recommend something we genuinely love, so if you see a shop link to a specific product or brand, know that it’s been thoroughly researched by our team.
Each individual strand of hair is covered in tiny shingles that serve as the outer layer. When the hair becomes dried out, like from heat styling or humid weather, the ends of those shingles stand up.
To get shiny hair, you have to make sure those shingles are closed. Once the hair cuticle has “opened” due to damage, it can lose the moisture that keeps it shiny.
In summary: Heat is the enemy of smooth, silky hair.
That said, there are a number of techniques and products on the market that you can use to combat frizz, dullness, and dryness. Here are some suggestions.
Use a clarifying shampoo once per week
Clarifying shampoos are designed to clear product buildup. Hair products that haven’t fully washed out of your hair can clog the pores in your scalp, preventing the oil your scalp produces from penetrating your hair.
The Moroccan Oil Clarifying Shampoo cleanses your scalp without silicones and sulfates. A more affordable option is the Nexxus Clean and Pure Clarifying Shampoo, which is also free of harsh ingredients.
Rinse with cold water
If you go to a salon that provides a wash before the cut, you might feel the water temperature drop when the stylist rinses your hair.
That’s because, though heat opens your hair cuticle, cold will close it. Rinsing your hair with cold water helps lock in moisture.
Use a silk or satin pillowcase
Most pillowcases that come with your regular sheet sets are the same fabric as the sheets, which can be rough on your hair. Silk and satin ones are smooth, so they don’t rub against your hair as harshly.
You can try this affordable satin option by Kitsch.
Load up on hair-healthy foods
Fatty acids found in foods like fish, avocados, and olives have healthy fats that are beneficial for skin and hair.
Other hair-healthy food options include:
While these supplements won’t necessarily make your hair shinier themselves, they may boost the health of your hair — and that, in turn, may help your hair appear glossier or shinier.
Add temporary shine
There are plenty of oils, serums, and sprays on drugstore shelves that can boost shine by adding a layer that reflects light.
Use a boar bristle brush
Boar bristle has been used in hairbrushes for ages for its gentle touch on hair, as opposed to plastic or nylon bristles, which can tug and cause breakage.
Use shine-enhancing hair color
Brands, like Feria and Revlon, make colors specifically designed to add shine, or you can ask a stylist for a salon treatment.
Hair that’s just one color can look flat and dull to the eye. Adding some variation can trick the eye into detecting shine.
Focus on your scalp
Healthy hair starts with a healthy scalp. One way to promote a healthy scalp (and give yourself some TLC) is to give yourself a scalp massage.
Massaging your scalp may help stimulate blood flow to encourage the production of natural oils and loosen buildup before it starts.
Bonus: A 2016 study found that scalp massage may also promote hair growth.
Not sure how to start? Follow these easy steps:
- Use the pads of your fingertips to apply gentle pressure to your head.
- Move your hands in a small, circular motion, making sure to cover your entire head.
- Do this at least once or twice per day for 5 to 10 minutes at a time.
Try a co-wash
Some people may prefer moisturizing shampoos and conditioners, but, for some, a co-wash can work better.
Co-washes leave out the ingredients that can add shine at first, but strip hair of essential moisture over time. Co-washes also help cut down on product buildup that can dull hair’s shine.
Co-washes are still a little hard to come by on drugstore shelves, but they’re plentiful online. Some options include:
Here are some items and methods to avoid when trying to keep hair as shiny as possible:
Minimize heat styling
As previously mentioned, heat causes the protective outer layer of hair to open, leaving it vulnerable to damage.
Of course, many people heat-style their hair from time to time. You may want to consider trying a lower heat setting to reduce your impact.
Also, if you’re using your hair dryer, hold it at least 6 inches away from your head, and try not to hold it for too long on one spot.
Avoid using sulfates and silicones
These are the ingredients that create a luxurious lather and a squeaky-clean feel, but they can dry out your hair and create buildup in the long run.
Try to not use heavy conditioners
Thick, creamy conditioners work best on thick, very dry hair.
If you have fine hair, a heavy conditioner can weigh it down and deposit grease.
Don’t rinse with hot water
Think of hot water like humidity. When your hair is exposed to warm water, it’s more likely to frizz. Try turning the temperature down as low as possible when it’s time to rinse.
If you’re trying to increase your hair’s shine, there are plenty of things you can do or buy that help add a healthy sheen.
Start with small changes, like changing shampoos or turning your hair dryer down a notch. If your hair is still feeling a little dull and lifeless, see a hairstylist for professional options.
Jody Amable is a freelance writer and editor from the San Francisco Bay Area specializing in music and subcultures. Her work has been seen in KQED Arts, Atlas Obscura, and local weeklies.