There is a dizzying array of hair-care products in drugstores, beauty warehouses and salons, with all making significant claims about the wondrous results you can expect. And it’s difficult to parse the hype from the fact.

“There is not one answer for everyone,” admits Jerry Dial of Cheveux Saint Louis. “Talking and consulting with your hair-care professional is the best place to start to know what type of products, what line, etc., will help meet your needs and make your style what you want. Then, you can decide whether to buy that product in the salon or on your own, but each person has different needs.”

Those needs depend on an individual’s type of hair and whether it has been chemically treated. However, one ingredient to avoid is sulfate, which can fade color-treated hair, Dial says. “Look for products with an SPF to help protect your hair from sun damage. Also, in summer, look for products that are anti-humidity. There are even gluten-free products available for people who have severe allergies,” he notes.

Perhaps the best tactic is simply to get back to basics, says Catherine Peschell of CP3D salon. “Most women want to spray and gel and sculpt their hair, but a great cut that works with your type of hair can be the answer. A very good shampoo and conditioner are about all you need if you work with your hair instead of fighting it,” she says.

Peschell notes that her philosophy is somewhat unusual in the salon industry. “I’m sure I’ve lost money by talking clients out of unnecessary products,” she says. “But I think the beauty industry has done a lot of harm to women by making them feel ‘less than.’ We’re told we need to use this and that to be more beautiful, when really we need to embrace our inherent beauty.”

Peschell adds that humidity, gravity and movements all work to make hair revert to its natural state, regardless of the products applied. Instead of fighting it, she advises clients to “treat your hair like fine silk stockings,” washing it with gentle, sulfate-free shampoos and working them carefully through the hair to avoid the tangles that can be created by vigorous scrubbing. “Your hair is usually not that dirty,” she says. “You don’t need to rub and scrub at your scalp.”

While the natural approach may be appealing in theory, many women will not consider facing the world without a colored, curled and sprayed coiffure, so the hair product industry is in no danger. Dial recommends salon products that can be discussed one-on-one with a stylist to address individual hair needs, noting that many of these products are available over-the-counter.

Regardless of the products you use, Peschell offers a tidbit of universal hair-care advice: “Stop combing your hair when it’s wet. It stretches the hair and makes it lose elasticity.” Instead, she suggests brushing hair before washing it gently, applying conditioner, and then blotting it dry instead of rubbing with a towel. “Let your hair dry naturally and then style it. It will have shine and hold the style better—you may be surprised at how great it looks.”

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