Once you find the perfect stylist, you’ll walk out of the salon feeling like a millions dollars after every visit. You’ll probably incorporate a few exaggerated head turns and hair swishes into your day, like a newly-engaged woman with emphatic-left-hand-gesture disease. But when you get home, then begins the battle to keep your great blowout fresh for a long as humanly possible, for fear of that first wash. For a long time, that first wash was always a reminder of how poorly I did my own hair. I could never recreate the same salon feeling at home and was always disappointed. But, I’ll let you in on a little secret: gorgeous hair is less about great technique and more about great tools. Today, I’ll share my favorite tools for getting great hair at home.
There are many cases in which a single anything will do. A single glass of wine, a single cookie… Wait, these are terrible examples.
When it comes to hair, a single brush just will not do. Each brush has a specific function and, in my opinion, they are all integral to achieving the look you want. If you aren’t interested in recreating a blow-out at home, round brushes may not be necessary for you. But, if you want versatility in home styling, you will need a good paddle brush (preferably wet/dry to comb through freshly washed hair), a heat-resistant round brush for styling, and a boar bristle or boar/synthetic brush for smoothing. If you have particularly textured or thick hair, a specific detangling brush is also helpful (I really like the Tangle Teezer, and even use it in the shower to comb through conditioned hair before rinsing).
I use a paddle brush to comb through damp hair out of the shower, right after I spritz with a leave-in. Occasionally, I’ll bring it out to run it through dry hair when it feels particularly tangled. For the past seven years, I’ve used the same Conair brand paddle – an impulse purchase at ULTA – and it is one of my most used brushes to date. After so many years of regular use, I think it’s almost ready for retirement and have my eye on the Aveda paddle brush. Caroline Hirons tells me there’s a difference. For $20, I suppose it’s not too much risk to find out.
I use two different styles of round brush: a large ceramic brush for straightening and volume and a medium-sized, boar bristle brush for curl and shine. The ceramic brush is a whopping 4.5″ model from Olivia Garden, which I also picked up at ULTA. With hair as long and wavy as mine, I need a large-barrel thermal brush to make quick work of drying and straightening my hair, lest it dry in a wavy, frizzy halo. The large barrel also gives a nice bend at the end of the hair when I’m looking for a really relaxed blow-out. When I want Kate Middleton hair, however, I reach for the Ibiza EX Medium brush. The boar bristles have amazing grip, which is especially handy if you’re a little uncoordinated and have difficulty maintaining control of your hair on the brush. The grip also allows you to pull the hair shaft really taught, increasing shine. I will frequently straighten my hair with the large, ceramic brush and then go back with the Ibiza brush for a few passes, finally wrapping the length of hair around the brush and allowing to cool in place.
Truth be told, I found the Ibiza brush a nightmare to use until repeated heat exposure sealed the bristles. The grip was so strong, I was worried one arm might get bigger than the other. Commitment pays off, as with all things; it will become your favorite brush if you give it time.
I only wash my hair every second or third day. For styling and smoothing in between washes, I use a Mason Pearson Popular brush. Mason Pearson is the Cadillac of hair brushes, but it’s a wonderful investment if you’re willing to make it. It’s luxurious and it works. This particular synthetic and boar bristle mix provides excellent scalp stimulation, while distributing oils from the root to the shaft of the hair. You’ll feel like Marcia Brady, in a good way, every time you use it.
(left to right: Sedu 25mm clipless curling wand, alligator hair clips, Sedu Revolution Pro 4000i Hair Dryer)
In recent months I’ve really reduced my styling arsenal to just two tools: a hairdryer and a clipless curling iron. I own a straightening iron but I haven’t used it to straighten my hair in ages. If anything, I’ll only use the iron if my curls feel obnoxiously bouncy, just passing it over 1″ sections a few times to relax the curl. Of course it’s really a matter of preference, as my aesthetic leans towards bouncy and voluminous over stick straight. But I’ve found that a quality hair dryer and a clipless curling iron can create as many looks and I’d ever have occasions to wear.
The hair dryer is the keystone of any styling routine; nothing else matters when your hair dryer is inefficient. When looking for a quality hair dryer, consider the weight and wattage of the dryer, the type of heating element (ceramic vs metallic) and temperature. Professional hair dryers will provide the best of all worlds, since there is always the expectation for a quality blowout and the dryer must be light enough to accommodate multiple clients a day. I own the Sedu Revolution Pro 4000i Hair Dryer, as recommended by my trusty colorist. It’s an ionic, high wattage dryer that dries my hair quickly with minimal frizz. Though it’s not the most lightweight dryer, that quick dry time is key. The Sedu also has a cold cold shot, which is crucial when you’re trying to lock in curls during a blowout.
When blow-drying my hair, I’ll section my entire head into five or six sections with alligator hair clips. I find that they hold my hair easily and they work double time in clipping completed sections to the side. Once my hair is smooth, I’ll use the Sedu 25mm clipless curling wand to add curl. I never had much luck with a traditional curling iron, but the curling wand is my best friend. I can create a variety of different styles by adjusting a few variables, like the wrap of the hair and the length of exposure to heat. I also own the 38mm version, which is gigantic but adds a nice bend to the hair, though I find that if my hair is at that awkward, “in-between” length, I don’t love the look of the larger curl. The 25mm wand proves to be most versatile and it comes highly recommended.
If you struggle with doing your hair at home, splash out on a few quality tools and see how that might improve your game. If all else fails, book yourself a seat at your local Drybar and see how the pros do it. 🙂