Despite all of the hair woes and potential struggles we have to deal with, it seems like the battle against frizz is one that unifies most of the population. The second the weather report predicts a humid heat wave, or you spend a little too much time basking in a steamy shower, there’s a good chance you’ll have to deal with some frizz in your near future. But while we associate these situations (and oftentimes, just having the hair type you were born with), what causes frizz exactly?
In general, frizz is caused by a lack of moisture in your hair. This can be caused by several different things: damage from heat styling or a chemical treatment, split ends, or breakage from friction or styling. Regardless of what caused the damage, the cuticle of your hair (its outermost layer) rises up to attempt to let moisture into your parched strands. As someone who’s lifelong blow dry technique could best be described as “JUST HEAT BLAST,” I’ve had many frizzy hair days to tackle myself. This is why you probably notice frizzier hair most consistently when it’s humid out, since your dehydrated hair is trying to pull moisture from the environment. After the moisture enters the dry strands they fatten up, which is how you end up with frizz.
Honestly, a lot of the time frizziness just ends up being a part of what your natural hair looks like — the second thing Hermione Granger was known for after her smarts was her probably signature frizzy hairstyle. But if frizz is something you’re looking to get rid of, and even though it seems to be an unavoidable and often regular occurrence, there are ways to learn how to control frizzy hair both before and after it happens.
The first step toward healthy hair in general is making sure you’re getting your ends trimmed. Any time you have damage or split ends, letting it go untreated often means that the damage slowly works its way up the hair shaft. This means chronically frizzy hair, so make sure you’re scheduling salon trims about every eight weeks. When it comes to fighting frizzy hair, cutting off damaged or dry strands is essential to helping your hair look its best.
Since we know that frizz is a result of dehydrated hair, it’s important to make sure that the hair products you’re using will help restore it to balanced levels of moisture. First, pick a frizzy hair shampoo that will gently cleanse and detangle your strands, leaving them shiny and smooth. The hair conditioning treatment you use should have a similar effect, restoring elasticity and softness to your hair while smoothing away any excess frizz. While you’re using these products, also try to control how hot your shower water gets. Since we know frizz is made worse with steam and super humid conditions, its best to try and minimize the potential for frizz while your hair is wet.
You should add a hair mask into your general hair care routine as a best practice, but this is especially beneficial if you’re trying to figure out how to fix frizzy hair. Look for a moisturizing hair mask that can add onto the benefits of your hydrating shampoo and conditioner, helping to nourish and lock in a deeper form of moisture for your strands. And if your dry, split ends are experiencing their own form of frizz, you can multi-mask to distribute different concentrations of nourishment depending on the specific needs of your scalp, lengths and ends.
Wet hair is vulnerable hair. Rather than use friction-causing cotton towels that can lead your delicate wet hair toward breakage, invest in using an absorbent microfiber cloth or head wrap instead. I personally use the AQUIS hair turban, and can confidently say that it was one of my smartest haircare purchase decisions. My waves look more defined, and I’m noticing less hair shed compared to my usual towels when I dry off. Another bonus: it folds up neatly to be easily portable when you’re on the go. Being away from home or on vacation is no reason to let your hair suffer!
For mild cases of frizz (and especially after using the frizz-fighting hair products mentioned above), you can usually get away with air drying your hair. For me personally, the key to smooth, defined waves is the leave-in products and how I style it. After towel-drying my hair, I apply a leave-in hair smoother to help moisturize and tame my frizz-prone waves. Then using a technique I learned from my stylist at Rob Peetoom salon in Williamsburg, I twist about a dozen sections of my hair into individual ringlets, then allow them to air dry. After my commute to work, I gently separate and tousle the ringlets, letting them open up into smooth, frizz-free waves.
For those days when air drying isn’t an option (flashback to me wearing wet hair to school in 20 degree weather), smart styling can still yield you beautiful, frizz-free results. No matter if you’re just doing a quick blow dry or styling with heat tools, always use a heat protecting spray beforehand. Spritz it onto towel-dried hair to help protect the hair structure from heat and the stress of hot tools, while also helping to add a little extra softness and smoothness to your hair.
If you’d like to focus on air drying your hair but need to speed up the process, there’s a way to partially blow dry with minimal damage. After prepping your hair with the necessary products, let it air dry about 90% of the way, then blow dry on a low heat setting and finish on cool. This will help smooth and seal the cuticle of your hair with minimal damage, while also giving you the control of styling.
Here’s another piece of wisdom I wish I could have imparted onto my middle school self: just because a straightening iron goes up to 450 degrees, doesn’t mean you need to max it out. Any time you use a heat styling tool like a curling or straightening iron, try to see what the lowest possible temperature setting you can use (that’s still effective!). Different hair textures and thicknesses have different needs when it comes to the temperature of devices you use, and the lower the temperature = the less potential for damage or further dehydrating frizzy hair. And after you blow dry, blast your hair for about 20 seconds on the cool setting; the cold air helps the cuticle of the hair lie flat, which means smoother locks and way less frizz.
For those with curly hair, air drying or blow drying usually doesn’t yield the best results, especially when it comes to frizziness. To get defined, smooth curls, you’ll probably want to use a diffuser. Start by drying the ends, slowly working your way up to dry hair at the scalp — and for additional volume, flip your head upside down while you’re diffusing.
After your hair has been styled and dried, you may notice little flyaways starting to pop up. Finishing your style with hair oil not only helps to smooth flyaways and control frizz, but it also adds a beautiful shine to your hair. Apply a few pumps of a shine-enhancing hair oil to your hands, and smooth the surface of your hair from top to bottom, to ensure the cuticle of your hair lays flat. For anyone with particularly fine or thin hair, consider using a lighter hair oil that focuses on adding hydration, instead of risking your hair looking a little too greasy. And to make sure you’re tackling flyaways and frizz from every angle, be sure to check out our blog post on how to get rid of static hair.
Just like you should avoid touching your face to stop the spread of germs, you should also try to keep your hands out of your hair to preserve anti-frizz styles. Constantly messing with your hair increases the likelihood that you’ll roughen up the strands, resulting in more frizz. Once you’ve finished styling, trust the process and let your hair go!
Even if you’ve taken every precaution to use the best smoothing products, the way you style your hair can still lead to some mishaps. Traditional rubber bands often cause creasing in your hair, and when they’re too tight you run the risk of breakage or damage from friction. Try swapping out your usual rubber bands for a silk scrunchie instead — no creasing, and your hair will run through it smoothly. And hair accessories can actually help achieve smoothness while you style: when I’m curling my hair, I’ll often use bobby pins to smooth and hold down different sections. This lessens the likelihood that frizz develops, and helps keep strands smooth while I finish the rest of my hair.
And finally, it’s time to get some true beauty sleep. Standard cotton pillowcases will leave you with several morning-after woes, from sleep lines on your face to frizzy, crumpled hair. That’s because they generally inhibit movement, leaving you to roughly drag your hair around as you toss and turn. Try investing in a satin or silk pillowcase instead: the slippery material lets your hair and skin glide smoothly over it, lessening the likelihood you wake up with crazy, breakage-prone hair. And if you’ve finally perfected a frizz-free style by following the steps listed above, why wouldn’t you want to help preserve that style for another day?
Figuring out how to fix frizzy hair can be frustrating, but it’s possible to tame the situation even if you’ve dealt with it since birth. First, invest in quality, hydrating hair products that work to restore the lost moisture that often causes frizz in the first place. After prepping your hair with hydrating leave-ins, carefully choose the proper heat settings to cause the least damage or moisture loss possible, and finish off the style with a sleek hair oil. Or if you can, the even better option is to just let your hair air dry. Then continue these best practices all the way to bed time, by sleeping on a smoothing silk or satin pillowcase that lets your hair slide safely across, reducing the risk of friction-based damage. Rainy, humid days may be a mainstay of our lives, but frizzy, unruly hair definitely doesn’t have to be.
By Lauren Hannel, staff contributor
All photos by @karlibobarley