There is, perhaps, no crueler cause-and-effect in life: The moves that make your hair look great—the color, the highlights, the blowouts—are also the ones that hurt it the most. Here are the myths, and the equally hard-learned truths, of the science behind what makes for a healthy strand.
Myth 01: The longer you skip washing your hair, the more its natural oils can repair it.
New York trichologist Shab Reslan says this is the biggest hair-related misconception she’s been hearing of late. “Although oils can provide a layer of protection, the oils on your scalp are not capable of nourishing your strands like products designed with moisturizing ingredients and fatty acids that will actually penetrate and protect your hair.
Myth 02: Being on a shampoo schedule is smart.
Not exactly. According to Fresno, CA dermatologist Kathleen Behr, MD, sebum, an oily substance produced from the scalp, keeps hair healthy and smooth, but it can also make hair oily near the roots. “Wash your hair as often as it appears oily or dirty. This is often daily when you are younger and produce more oil, but that can change as we age,” she says. “I recommend applying shampoo mostly to the scalp where the oil is concentrated. Conversely, apply conditioner to just the ends and strands, avoiding the scalp.”
Myth 03: You can never have enough moisture.
There’s a tricky balance here, but Reslan says this one depends on hair type: “I prefer to use anything that promises ‘deep conditioning’ weekly, rather than daily, to avoid buildup from excess moisture that can be hard to remove, especially on thick, coarse hair like mine.”
Myth 04: If you don’t see dandruff, you don’t have a scalp situation.
Call this flake-related falsehood the invisible culprit. “Most people are not sufficiently washing their hair, and even though they don’t see flakes, their scalps are clogged and their strands are dull from being coated,” Reslan warns. “I recommend a weekly detoxifying shampoo that will manage the excess buildup on both the scalp and strands.”
Myth 05: You can repair a split end.
As celebrity colorist Chad Kenyon says, this one is straight-up false. “Once the hair is broken, it’s broken.” Dr. Behr, who explains that split ends are frayed strands of keratin caused by damage to the outermost part of the hair (the cuticle), concurs and says the only real option for fixing them is opting for a trim. “Different split-end treatments can smooth the appearance, but are not repairing them. It is better to try to prevent them in the first place.”
Myth 06: Regular cuts are the real solution.
Curly hair specialist Anastasia Stylianou says she hears this one all the time. “I have always found it very odd when a hairstylist tells you to cut your hair every six weeks to avoid split ends. You can cut your hair every week, but if you’re not looking after it properly and putting continuous heat on it, then it will still split just as much! I believe everyone is different when it comes to how often they should trim their hair.”
Kenyon readily admits that color gets a bad rap for causing nothing but havoc, but says “there’s so much that can be done ahead of that to prevent damage from happening” in the first place. Here are our experts’ picks.
Reverie Milk Nourishing Treatment ($42); Crown Affair The Oil ($40); Living Proof Revitalizing Scalp Treatment ($32); R+Co BLEU De Luxe Reparative Shampoo ($59); Crave Naturals Detangling Brush ($12); Hair Rituel by Sisley Restructuring Balm ($120)