The phrase “summer hair” might conjure visions of soft waves and flower crowns, but the reality is seldom so charming. Humidity and sweat can quickly ruin a hard-earned smooth ‘do, and the ravages of the sun, chlorine and frequent washing can leave hair dry, brittle and faded by the end of the season. But don’t fret: There are ways to keep your crowning glory healthy and beautiful, and we’ve called on the experts to share their wisdom. Read on for their top tips for getting the summer hair of your fantasies.
Prep with protective products
The battle against summertime hair aggressors starts the moment you step out of the shower.
“If you have hair that leans toward being frizzy, you want moisture, moisture, moisture,” says Justin German, hair stylist and co-owner of Bang Salon in Toronto.
“Go for a cream-based leave-in conditioner right out of the shower.”
Applying your product at this stage is key, agrees celebrity hair stylist Cindy Duplantis.
“Natural texture starts when your hair is sopping wet, so that’s when you want to add product,” she says.
If you towel or air-dry first, you’re more likely to get frizz and less defined waves or curls.
After your leave-in conditioner, says Duplantis, you should also add a heat protectant, even if you’re not planning on using any hot styling tools.
“It doesn’t really block UV rays, but if you’re sitting in the sun, you’re going to get heat on your hair, so the heat protector will help keep your hair healthy,” she explains.
If you are planning to use heat-styling tools for a sleeker look, your best bet for keeping it smooth is to apply an anti-humidity spray once your hair is styled, adds German.
Embrace your natural texture
For most of us, hair enemy number one at this time of year is humidity, an inescapable fact of summer life in many parts of Canada.
“Humidity can do one of two things to your hair: It can make it super flat and lifeless or it can actually give it a life of its own,” says Duplantis.
“If your hair is lacking moisture, that’s why it gets frizzy – it’s literally reaching out into the air to get that moisture.”
But rather than fighting it and using heat-styling tools – which will dry out your hair and ultimately lead to more frizz – try leaning into what the humid weather does to your hair.
“I feel like hair should be a little more natural in the summer anyway. It kind of goes with the season,” says German.
“If you have naturally wavy hair, I’d be looking at some wave sprays, like sugar sprays, salt sprays and surf sprays – those are a great way to get that undone, beachy texture – and then scrunch your hair with your hands to promote the wave.”
If you aren’t blessed with natural waves, one of German’s expert tricks for faking them is easy enough to try yourself at home.
“Use a wave spray to dampen your hair, then take a section at the nape of the neck and roll it into a very loose bun. Take another section at the crown of the head, again wrapping it into a bun. Then lightly blow-dry them with a diffuser.”
When you take it down, says German, it will look almost like you’ve put a curling iron through it.
For Afro-textured hair, he suggests protective styles such as braids – ”everything from box braids to bigger braids” – or doing a twist-out, in which you twist together small sections of damp hair all over your head.
“Wear it as a hairstyle until it’s dry, and then take it out. The twist-out will help stretch the curl and give a little more definition.”
“If you’re going to be outside for a long period of time, the best thing for your hair is to cover it up, and that is something I would suggest for any hair type,” says Janet Jackson, celebrity hair stylist, TV beauty expert and owner of JouJou Hair Studio in Toronto.
“Or you can put it in a ponytail, a messy bun or pigtails rather than leaving it all out.”
The good news is that this solution is a great excuse to experiment with hats, wraps and head scarves.
“This summer, hair accessories are huge,” says Duplantis.
“Right now, ’70s and ’80s trends are coming back, like the handkerchief that’s folded in a triangle and tied around your head – that’s huge for summer. It’s great because it doesn’t matter what the heck your hair is doing underneath – it tames it down and it’s super cute.”
Do monthly treatments
Your hair will be much happier if you give it regular deep-conditioning treatments throughout the summer, says Jackson.
“A lot of times people think it’s just in the winter, when hair is dry and brittle, that you should be treating your hair, but it’s something that you should be doing all year round,” she says.
“In the summertime, it’s more about strengthening your hair, especially if it’s colour-treated. You never want to wait until your hair is breaking and damaged before you start treating it. You want to make sure you’re doing this to prevent damage from happening.”
If you don’t have time to sit in a hair mask, just work it into your day.
“If you’re going to, say, go swimming or go out in the outdoors, you can put a coating of your favourite conditioner on your hair beforehand – you can do this when it’s wet or dry – and pull it up in a ponytail,” says Jackson.
Not only does it protect your hair from the sun and chlorine, it does double duty by enriching it and adding moisture too.
If your hair is extremely dry or frizzy, Jackson suggests doing a co-wash – an effective way to clean hair without stripping any of its oils – from time to time instead of your regular shampoo.
“Co-washing is just washing your hair with conditioner,” she explains. “If you have finer, straighter hair, be careful of using too heavy a product.”
Protect your colour
None of us is about to start complaining about sunshine and swimming pools, but these summer delights don’t do our hair colour any favours – both contribute to fading and altering.
“To protect colour, you should always be using shampoo and conditioner for colour-treated hair, but especially in the summertime,” says Jackson.
“Reduce [the frequency of] your washes, too, if that’s possible for you – that will help maintain colour.”
Duplantis also suggests incorporating a clarifying shampoo into your routine if you’re a swimmer.
“The biggest thing chlorine does to your hair is it changes your colour – you can get that blue-slash-green,” she says.
“A clarifying shampoo helps remove those minerals that get deposited and over time start to change your colour.”