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The Ultimate Guide to Taming Frizzy Hair

how to tame frizzy hair guideEveryone knows that frizz comes from humidity. But friction, cuticle damage and medications can form frizz, too. Why care about the culprit? Because the best solutions come down to the cause and your curl type. From the best smoothing shampoos to the latest frizz-fighting remedies, here’s everything you need to know about taming frizz.

Frizz 101: What’s Causing Your Frizz?

If you want to manage frizz, get intimate with your cuticle’s condition and your hair’s texture. The cuticle really looks like the slats on Venetian blinds. If the cuticle is compact, the blinds are closed, the slats lie flat and the hair looks smooth. When dry or curly hair absorbs moisture, the slats lift up and hair looks frizzy. Dryness, friction or even minerals in the water can also raise the slats, which is why even stick-straight strands can get frizzy.

Says Kendall Ong, who owns Mane Attraction Salon in Phoenix, AZ, “Here, the air is so dry and the water so mineral laden that I see a lot of damaged hair and abraded cuticles, which split and get frizzy.”

Often, friction—from using excess heat when thermal drying, vigorously rubbing to towel dry or over-bleaching—creates the damage. In this instance, says Kendall, flat ironing to control frizz compounds problem. Why? Heat causes cuticle damage, cuticle damage can increase porosity, and damage-born porosity presents a particular problem because the hair absorbs moisture fast, but loses it just as quickly. This is why certain products don’t seem to step up to the frizz fight.

Improper styling and systemic causes are usually behind “baby” frizz. David Stanko, a colorist at Cutler Salon, NYC, says static can look like frizz, and he’s noticed that medications such as birth control pills can create haze of fuzz. “Sometimes, frizz is simply genetic or systemic,” he notes.

hair cuticleTo determine what’s causing your frizz, ask yourself:

  • Is my hair is curly?
  • Was my hair just born that way (with hazy frizz) or did it get frizzy in adulthood?
  • Is my hair is damaged? To check, hold a few strands taut and run your fingers up them. Drag and roughness indicate cuticle damage. Then perform a porosity test by dropping a few strands in water. Super-porous hair will sink fast, because it absorbs moisture quickly. For frizz-prone curly hair, run your fingers down a few strands as you pull them taut, then release them. If your hair doesn’t spring back into shapely curls, it’s porous and weak.

Next, add curl type to the mix and move on to exploring the best ways to fight the F word, based on your findings.

Why Curl Type Matters When Taming Frizzy Hair

Why does curly hair frizz up in humidity? The follicle acts as a mold to shape soft, newly formed hair tissues before they keratinize or harden. A round follicle produces straight hair and an elliptical one results in curly hair.

“Curly hair is driest and most fragile at each curve along the strand, where there’s an open cuticle,” says Diane Bailey a natural hair specialist, freelance celebrity stylist and beauty ambassador for Shea Moisture. “The tighter the coil and the curlier the hair, the more frizz you’ll get.”

If you’re curious about your hair’s frizz potential, Mizani’s Natural Curl Key identifies hair by curl characteristics and needs. Compare your hair to the Natural Curl Key photos—Types IV (4) and up are likely to frizz in humidity.

Mizani Curl Key

How to Control Frizzy Hair

Know the basis of your frizzy hair? Here are your frizzy hair solutions and the best products for taming your frizz.

How to manage frizz that’s genetic, medication-based or systemic:

If you’ve always had a bit of frizz, see it occasionally or suspect it’s from meds, don’t air dry your hair, blow it smooth.

Explains Stanko, “The solutions for static and hazy frizz are similar. Start with a sulfate-free shampoo and conditioner. Because these products have less surfactants, they add a tiny bit of weight by slightly coating the hair. Then, apply a medium-weight styling cream or a lightweight leave-in conditioner, like Redken Extreme Anti-Snap. As you blow dry, direct air flow down the cuticle; don’t aggressively blast airflow. Use your brush to smooth the sections from root to tip.”

Also key: Distribute styling products evenly with a wide-toothed comb; don’t work them in by hand. Try L’Oreal Hair Expertise EverSleek or EverCurl sulfate-free hair care.

How to tame your frizzy hair when it’s dry or damaged:

If your hair failed the damage or porosity tests, start with a clarifier to remove hard-water minerals. Malibu C products hold the patent on the most effective system. Then, says Ong, use a moisture-based shampoo and conditioner, and style with a moisture-based crème or a light oil.

“Oils get lumped together but there are different grades,” he notes. “The lower-priced ones are usually inferior.” His favorite for dry, damaged hair is Bumble and bumble Hairdresser’s Invisible Oil, which can be used as a pre-blow drying conditioner or a finisher.

While Ong avoids protein-based products for this hair (it can harden too much), Bailey says when hair is damaged and porous, you should apply a protein-based conditioner first to fill in the gaps in the hair fiber. Then apply a moisturizer to seal it in. Try Pantene Pro V Conditioner. Weekly, use Kerastase Masquintense for Dry Hair with moisturizing protiens. In salons, ask about KMS California Moist Repair Restructuring Therapy.

Curly or straight, damaged hair requires restorative products and deep treatments first. Adds Tony Maleedy, a UK-based cosmetic chemist and a trichologist, “In humid conditions, any cuticle damage allows moisture to penetrate the hair and disrupt the temporary hydrogen bond arrangement.  Then, the hair becomes frizzy.  Also, if naturally curly hair is left to air dry, the hair will look frizzy because the ends have been left to go in any direction.” (One reason heavier, blunt cuts minimize frizz, while cuts with lots of layers tend to frizz up.)

Also key: Only use brushes with naturally conditioning boar bristles. Dry with a blower that uses negative ions to seal the cuticle.

How to control frizzy hair when it’s curly:

hair densityCurly hair almost always lacks moisture, and solutions depend in part on hair density. According to David Barron, who owns Barron’s London Salon in Atlanta, GA, average hair has about 150 strands per-square-inch. Thicker hair is higher at 200-250 strands and fine hair clocks in at 120 or less. Why does this matter? Because fine hair can’t take heavy moisturizing products, but dense hair can be saturated with them.

Always use a moisturizing shampoo and conditioner (Barron likes UNITE), squeeze the hair to towel dry and apply an Aragon oil, like Moroccan Oil, or a silicone-based product. For fine hair, don’t use more than a pea-sized amount.

“Distribute product evenly with a comb,” says Barron. “Then, mist on a thermal protectant, place the hair in the cup of the blower’s diffuser and move the diffuser up and down the strand. Don’t scrunch curls; keep your fingers out of your hair.”

To maintain well-shaped curls, Ong prefers Aveda Be Curly Curl Enhancer, which is cream based. If your curls are inconsistent, use a moisturizing product (try Davenes MOMO Anti-Frizz Protective Fluid) and a heat protectant, then lightly run a flat iron over sections.

Diane Bailey says there are 4 keys to wearing natural curl and keeping it frizz free:

  1. Use shampoos and conditioners with an acid component, which closes the cuticle. These have a pH of 6 or 7. To find one, look for “frizzy or damaged hair” on the bottle.
  2. When you need a fast fix, mix tepid water with apple cider vinegar in a 2:1 ratio. Use this acid rinse to close down the cuticle.
  3. For medium-to-kinky curl, which is usually dry and fragile, apply a protein product before using a leave-in moisturizer or conditioner. Regardless of curl type, moisture is key.
  4. Seal in the moisturizer with styling products. For slightly wavy-to-curly hair, use a silicone-based product or a styling crème. Or, try Design Essentials Curl Enhancing Mousse. Foams are light enough to avoid weighing hair down but still seal the cuticle, says Bailey. If your hair is very coily or kinky, use a heavier styling butter. Bailey recommends Shea Moisture Organic Coconut & Hibiscus Curl Enhancing Smoothie, which is best for wash-and-go girls.

Silicones get a bad rap, but Maleedy says ones like dimethicone and cyclopentasiloxane are good frizz fighters because when they’re applied to the hair’s surface, they prevent humidity from penetrating the cuticle. “Natural oils can do a similar job, but they’re heavier than most silicones and weight the hair down too much,” he adds.

This is the reason many of the best-selling oils actually contain a very small percentage of Aragon oil; Moroccan Oil comprises mostly silicones. Use pure, natural oils sparingly; they’re best for dense, über-curly hair.

If you want to straighten your curly hair and keep it frizz free, you’ll have to fight reversion. Says Maleedy, “If it’s super humid, a few hours after flat ironing, the water molecules in the atmosphere penetrate into the hair’s inner fibers and disrupt the hydrogen bonds. Then, the temporary, straight structure of your hair begins to return to its original state and length.”

To avoid the return curl (via frizz), use a moisturizer like Marco Pelusi’s Anti-Frizz Leave-In Conditioner, and follow with proper blow drying. Prep your hair with a product that’s right for your hair type, from a styling cream to a lightweight silicone to a heavier serum or oil. Work it through evenly, apply a thermal protector and blow dry your hair. Follow by flat ironing. To finish, seal in moisture with an anti-humectant pomade or a shine spray.

Also key: When flat ironing, start at 250-degrees and only increase heat if necessary. Test the iron on tissue paper; if it burns after 5 seconds, the iron is too hot. Keep irons in motion—it’s better to do 5 passes than to hold the iron on your hair.

New Frizzy Hair Remedies

Many women turn to chemical-based Brazilian/Keratin treatments to fight frizz. They’re intended to straighten hair to varying degrees. If you’re worried about those that contain formaldehyde or aldehydes (and many don’t quite fess up), ask your stylist what brand he or she uses, then see how it faired in tests by the Environmental Working Group.

If you prefer Japanese Thermal Straightening, remember that these treatments break bonds with perming ingredients, which can cause cuticle damage and lighten haircolor. Newer Keratin treatments combine keratin, heat and other chemicals.

Barron says his Keratin Blow Out allows keratin to penetrate the curl to banish frizz for six weeks. “The hair is flat ironed in the salon, but once you shampoo, you still have curl, just no frizz.”

Another treatment women are clamoring for in super-humid Florida is Hair Botox. Touted as an anti-aging treatment for hair, it restores lost protein, infuses hair with collagen, and smooths it with glycolic acid and urea, a gentle, frizz-fighting alternative to aldehydes.

At Eclipse Salon and Day Spa in Wellington, FL, Claudia Diesti says it’s bound to be the next big thing. She and her daughter Monica do several Hair Botox treatments a month and charge from $250-$300. The service can take 1-2 hours, depending on the hair’s length and texture.

“For straightening, I recommend a Brazilian treatment; if the client needs conditioning and frizz control, I recommend Hair Botox,” says Claudia Diesti. “It slightly straightens curl, and it’s amazing for frizz control.”

How to Start Your Frizz Fight

If you prefer a chemical-free route, start simple. There are slew of smoothing shampoos, conditioners, gels, serums that all work in tandem to moisturize hair and keep the cuticle down. TRESemmé Climate Control products get rave reviews for fighting frizz on straight-to-wavy hair of any density, while the brand’s Keratin Smooth line provides a full regimen for keeping wavy-to-curly hair manageable and frizz free. Try them out, then follow the advice for your frizz and curl type.