Did your early years of hairstyling and product-hunting include rummaging through bathroom cabinets to see what your parents, siblings, and friends used?
When you finally found a “strong” hair gel that didn’t smell too girly, you applied that baby liberally throughout your hair and left the house feeling like a winner.
Sure, the “wet look” that gel provided was super popular back in the day, but the downsides are annoying enough to keep anyone away from the stuff in adulthood:
And hairstyles that flake by early afternoon. #gross
It’s ok, we feel your pain because we’ve been there too.
You may have upgraded to higher-priced gels and supposedly “better” hair care products since then, but those same problems haven’t gone away.
You’re still settling for crunchy hair so you don’t sacrifice hold. There’s nothing “touchable” about your hair’s texture.
And flakes still show up on your scalp before your 9-5 is over.
So what gives?
Blindly swapping out that trusty gel from your teenaged years for another random hair care product isn’t going to fix this mess.
You need to tackle your hair situation from a different angle.
It’s not just about finding the right products. It’s about creating a new game plan for your specific hair type.
Luckily, we’ll show you exactly how to do this today.
You’ll finally understand what it takes to achieve crunch-free, touchable hair that looks good for days.
So let’s start with the basics:
What makes hair crunchy anyway?
We hate to break it to you, but your crunchy hair is not entirely to blame on your pink/blue/green gel of choice.
Your problem starts in the shower. What kind of shampoo are you using? Are you also using conditioner?
Does it have parabens?
What about sulfates?
Are you completely unsure of what those even are?
If you don’t pay attention to your shampoo and conditioner (yes, you have to use conditioner!), it’s no wonder you’re suffering from #crunchyhair.
The right ingredients make all the difference in creating a fresh, clean base to work with. Using the wrong shampoo/conditioner combo could be sabotaging your look before you even add a single hair styling product later.
See, your hair produces natural oils. During the day, dirt, dust, and the residue from your other products gets trapped in these oils, leading to grimy hair.
Shampoo is supposed to clarify your hair of this excess oil, which means it also cleans your strands of dirt particles too.
But consider this:
- If your shampoo isn’t doing its job, you’ll step out of the shower with hair that’s not as clean as you think it is (read: microscopic dirt particles left behind… yuck).
- When dirt’s stuck to your locks and you dump a mountain of conditioner on top, what do you think happens? Yep. You guessed it. A sludgy mess of suds and mud particles in your hair.
Speaking of which, let’s talk about conditioner for a second.
Some guys think they can skip it — or use one of those two-in-one combo things and call it a day.
Conditioner restores some of that critical moisture back to your hair after shampooing strips your strands of built-up oil.
But when you use conditioner when your hair’s not clean — and there’s a bunch of dirty bits still floating around in your hair — your conditioner doesn’t have a chance to adhere to your hair properly and penetrate your strands.
So now you have dirty hair that’s partially conditioned and partially slimy. And where do you go from there?
You apply a glob of your latest hair styling product to make matters worse for yourself.
Instead of freely gliding through your hair, it latches onto patches of your dirty locks and cakes on top of your already bad situation.
Now you’re forced to use more product –– which means you’ll go through your pricey bottle that much faster –– only to leave the house with a look you’re not crazy about and crunchy hair your significant other can’t stand.
Newsflash: You can avoid all this mess if you simply create a cleaner base for your hair products to stick to.
Consider this step one to crunch-free hair: Find quality hair-care products that actually do more good than harm for your strands.
This includes everything from shampoo to conditioner to styling products. We’ll talk more about this in our next section.
Additionally, using the wrong products for your specific hair type can be just as bad as using a half-clean base.
Fortunately, step two of today’s article will show you which products to pay attention to and which ones to ditch.
TL;DR: The two most common causes of crunchy hair are starting with less than squeaky clean tresses and using products that don’t vibe with your hair type.
So let’s learn how to fix this vicious cycle for good.
Step 1: Start with a Clean, Fresh Base
Shampoo and conditioner should be fairly straightforward. Apply, rinse, repeat, right?
Well, not exactly.
See, these days, many of the most popular shampoos and conditioners are loaded with cheap, chemical ingredients.
While this may seem great for your wallet –– after all, you can buy a ginormous bottle to last through the apocalypse for less than $5 bucks –– you’re really doing a disservice to the health of your hair and your overall appearance.
Depending on your type of hair, using the wrong shampoo and conditioner can leave you with:
- An itchy, dry scalp
- Hair that’s way too greasy
- Frizzy, out-of-control strands
- Undefined, messy curls
- Dry, brittle hair
- Hair that’s dirty
If you’re experiencing any of those symptoms, consider it a red flag that it’s time to ditch your go-to shampoo and conditioner and give your scalp a major update.
So let’s tackle shampoo first.
One problem lurking in many hair products, including shampoo, is sulfates.
These bad boys are literally extra strength detergents.
Go on, check the ingredient labels on car wash soap, laundry detergent, or stain remover and you’ll find sulfates.
Their job is to clean away grime and dirt with high-foaming cleansing agents.
This sounds good in theory, but maybe not so much for your hair.
For most of us, these powerful ingredients are just way too strong.
Sure, they whisk away dirt, but sulfates also remove too many essential oils and nutrients our hair naturally produces (and needs!).
You don’t want all the natural oils removed from your hair in your quest to banish greasiness. Oils moisturize your hair and provide protection from breakage.
When you don’t have enough moisture, you’ll have dry, brittle, unmanageable hair, a painfully itchy scalp, and you may even notice extra hair loss (yikes!).
The solution: Use a sulfate-free shampoo instead.
Options like this one utilize natural plant extracts as their cleaning agent. So you’ll get rid of the grime without stripping too much moisture from your locks.
Plus, that particular shampoo is fortified with over 10 amino acids.
Not to sound like your old science teacher, but amino acids help your body produce keratin, the protein your hair is mostly made of.
Keratin keeps your scalp healthy and happy (read: itch-free) and it also stimulates hair growth naturally. #DoubleWhammy
So using a shampoo with amino acids will give you noticeably stronger, thicker hair instead of the parched, tangled mess you’ve been dealing with lately. #Win
Another important ingredient to keep an eye out for when it comes to hair products: parabens.
This chemical ingredient has been used since the Mad Men days to prevent bacteria from forming in personal hygiene products such as deodorant, body lotion, and makeup.
The problem is, early research has shown that parabens “mimic estrogen in the body.”
This “estrogen disruption”, as it’s known, “has been linked to breast cancer and reproductive issues.”
While men can still get breast cancer, they usually develop man boobs when there’s too much estrogen circulating inside their body. And nobody wants that.
So while you may think you’re just cleaning your hair, these chemicals are making their way through your system and causing harm.
It’s best to limit your exposure to parabens and sulfates as much as possible since we’re still waiting on additional studies and clinical research about their effects.
That’s why choosing a sulfate and paraben free conditioner is also a must. What should you look for in a quality conditioner?
Opt for a natural conditioner that contains plant extracts and healthy amino acids.
- Natural oils
- Aloe vera
These powerful ingredients will balance your hair’s oil to restore the strength and shine it needs to look its best.
Ditch your old conditioner if it doesn’t contain a healthy combination of those bad boys before suffering through another bad hair day.
By making this one simple change to your haircare routine (ie, choosing natural ingredients over harsh chemicals), you’ll see an improvement in both your hair’s texture and your scalp’s health.
Once you’ve tossed the junk shampoo and conditioner you’ve been using for most of your life, you’re ready to move on to step two.
Step 2: Choose the Right Products
While you were smart enough to realize that your pink/blue/green gel wasn’t giving you warm and fuzzy vibes about your hair, what did you switch to?
Because the same rules about quality ingredients apply to your hair care products just as much as your shampoo and conditioner.
Natural products will deliver on their promise for soft, supple hair while chemically-laden ones will continue to leave you dry, flakey, and crunchy.
So once you clear out the chemical clutter from under your sink, scour the ingredient list on every styling product you meet.
But which type of product should you even be looking for? It’s essential that you find the right product for your unique hair type.
Don’t know what your hair type is?
Check out this article we recently published about how to find out.
For a quick recap, first you need to determine if your hair is fine or thick.
You’ll see more of your scalp through your strands when you have fine hair. It also takes little to no time to dry and tends to get more oily as time passes between shampooing.
You won’t see much of your scalp when you have thick hair because the strands are so closely packed together. Plus, thick hair can take forever to dry and ends up more on the dry side the next day after a wash. Once you learn whether your hair is fine or thick, you’ll then need to figure out if your hair is:
We also discussed this topic in greater detail in that same article we published so check it out if you need help identifying your specific hair type.
The idea here is to work with your hair, not against it.
The only way you’re going to achieve the best possible look is by finding a product that works with your hair’s needs.
Don’t fight nature, people! For example, straight-haired locks are going to require far less product than their wavy and curly counterparts, but that doesn’t necessarily mean adding more product is the right solution.
Since we know curly hair tends to soak up product like a sponge, just find products that already take that fact into consideration and provide extra moisture.
See how easy that was?
To help you out, here a few general rules to follow when it comes to finding the best products for your hair type and hairstyle:
For Keeping Straight Hair Smooth, Defined, and Polished
We busted your 80s hair gel for a trillion reasons already, but in reality, most gels are just way too heavy for straight hair.
When you have pin-straight locks, you need a lightweight, creamy pomade.
This formula will keep your hair in place without weighing it down or making it look greasy.
Look for one with a medium-hold for polished and fresh hair that can withstand the challenges of your long, grueling day.
For Casual Yet Controlled Wavy Hair
To perfect the casual I woke up like this look without coming across as lazy, it’s all about finding just the right product to highlight your waves.
As you can imagine, this is no easy feat.
That lightweight pomade that works so well on straight hair isn’t going to be strong enough for your waves. You need a bit more grip.
Typically made with natural waxes such as beeswax and lanolin, you’ll be able to sculpt and define your strands with complete control.
It’ll tame your mane for that corporate job of yours and give you the edge you need to stand out and turn heads.
If your hair is a wild, out-of-control mess when left untouched, hair wax will become your new best friend.
For optimal results, find a hair wax with a semi-matte finish and a medium hold. It should also combine the pliability of a pomade with the staying power of gel.
Consider it your well-deserved upgrade from that old school gel you used as a teenager.
For Giving Curly Hair Definition, Movement, and Moisture
While hair wax knocks it out of the park for wavy hair, curly hair #don’tcare. See, for curls to have that perfect envy-worthy bounce, they demand three things:
- Lightweight products
- Extra conditioning
Without these three, you can kiss those well-defined curls goodbye and get used to living with a frizzy, tangled mess that makes people wonder what you have living in there.
To deal with all your curls crave, find them a creamy hair product that’s made to multitask.
Think about it: this product needs to condition and moisturize your usually dry spirals, but it also needs to keep those curls on lock so they’re not springing out of control. It’s safe to say you need a product with medium hold (those curls can get cray, after all).
Take special note of products that also offer shine; these are designed to highlight your curls in all their multidimensional glory to make them look super healthy and touchable.
For Creating Big, Bold Hairstyles
When you’re flaunting a hairstyle that’s more substantial, nothing compares to wax products with super high hold.
Unlike the gel of your past, wax gives you the same amount of hold without coming across as crunchy or “wet” looking.
Wax is also much easier to handle than that liquidy goo you’re used to, which makes styling less messy and more of a breeze.
Let your hairstyle take center stage and keep the shine to a minimum. A lightweight, pliable wax with a matte finish will guarantee that all eyes will be focused on your overall style.
Before You Move On
This should be a no-brainer, but it’s worth repeating to really sink it into your skull: Read the instructions on every new hair care product to a T.
That means before you purchase it (to know what you’re signing up for) and before you use it (to make sure you’re using it right).
For example, if the directions only call for a nickel-sized amount and you decide to use a quarter-sized glob on your short, straight hair, you’re going to have a bad time.
Not only will you ruin all of your hard work, you’ll also unnecessarily waste a ton of (probably expensive) product.
Read the instructions and adapt them to fit the specific demands of your hair type.
Don’t gloss over the details here.
Certain brands use heat-activated ingredients which means rubbing the product between your hands is not optional; it’s a must for the product to be manipulated the way it should.
Luckily, this step will take you less than 30 seconds to master.
When you spend the extra time reading how to use your products correctly, you won’t end up disappointed with the results or wasting your hard-earned money.
Knock out these steps and you’ll be on your way to crunch-free, touchable hair in a flash.
So now let’s learn how to make your hair look good the next day (and maybe even the day after that!).
Step 3: Master Next Day Hair
Want to know a little secret? I
t’s okay to skip a day of washing your hair.
In fact, it’s oftentimes encouraged by those in the hair world.
Doing this gives your hair a break so it has a chance to breathe and reset.
As a result of your hands off approach, you hair will produce natural oils that condition and moisturize your scalp and your tresses all on their own.
Penciling in a daily wash (or sometimes double washings if you work out hard) will do just the opposite and dry your hair out.
The key is knowing when to skip and when to condition. Don’t worry; here are a few general guidelines to follow:
Wash your hair if:
- Your workouts are cardio-heavy (read: major sweat inducing)
- Your hair got sweaty because it was hot outside
The excess oil you build up from these activities won’t do anything for the health of your hair and may actually cause you to break out around your hairline (eek!).
It’s a good idea to keep your hair clean of sweat, dirt, and too much built-up product.
You can skip a wash if:
- Your workout didn’t cause you to sweat profusely
- It’s cold outside
- Your hair looks just as good in the morning as it did when you went to sleep the previous night
Skipping every other day of washing shouldn’t cause too much oil to accumulate, but you’ll need to experiment to learn what works with your specific hair, hormones, and time of year.
You may find that you can skip a wash, but you still need a product to soak up excess oil during those in-between days.
So how do you condition without adding greasiness to your unwashed hair? A high-hold product like this one does just that by combining a styling wax with dry shampoo.
The dry shampoo will go to town absorbing all the extra oil in your hair while it conditions and styles.
It gives you the best of both worlds and makes next day hair that much more healthy-looking and touchable.
Time to Take Action
Now that you know how to prevent that gross, crunchy, untouchable hair of your past, it’s time to put today’s advice into an actionable plan of attack.
Start with a clean base and use a natural shampoo and conditioner combo that’s made from plant extracts instead of harsh chemicals.
From there, figure out your specific hair type, find the right products to match what your momma gave ya, and read the directions as if you were being quizzed on them.
When you finally nail this routine, you’ll have noticeably softer, healthier, and more touchable hair. #TotalWin