Ah -- summer. The worst time of year for your hair. Fine locks go limp. Thick waves swell into a frizz. Color-treated tendrils oxidize, turning brassy from harsh sun. And don't even think about plunging unprotected into a chlorinated pool or salt water, unless you crave "Barbie" hair.
Fortunately, the number of bad hair days can be minimized with proper protection savvy and imaginative hair styles.
Protection is essential because the strong summer sun damages the hair just as it does the skin. While skin can protect itself by producing melanin (tanning), your hair is made up of dead cells, that once exposed, have no defense against ultraviolet rays.
You could of course resort to wearing a hat or scarf during all daylight hours, but there are other options. Jeanne D. Croke, of Public Image Hair Studio in Towson, recommends protecting hair from the damaging effects of the sun, "with products containing sunscreens --from conditioners to sculpting lotions.
It's important to keep in mind that it's not always what you use, but how you use it. At the Vidal Sassoon Academy in Los Angeles, for instance, stylists use conditioner like a gel. They rub a small amount between their hands and apply it to dry hair --especially at the ends for added shine. It apparently works just as well as an texturizing product --as long as only the bare minimum is used.
Ms. Croke suggests treating yourself occasionally to a super conditioning treatment by leaving in your regular conditioner for much longer than usual. Let it penetrate for several hours, hair combed off your forehead-- while you play at the beach, go sailing, or indulge in any other activity where a hairdo is not a must.
For a homemade deep-conditioning treatment, try combining 1/2 cup of coconut oil and two vitamin E capsules. Apply to wet hair, leave on for a few minutes, then rinse.
For those days when it's too hot for a blowdryer and the humidity makes for futile styling attempts, gels are another hairsaver.
Redbook Magazine beauty editor Barbara Brown, recommends combing gel through wet hair, then loosely braiding, twisting or tucking the hair and securing ends with a pretty hair ornament.
"At the end of the day, when the hair is dry, let it loose and fluff with fingers --don't brush," she says. "Straight hair maintains a soft wave and curly hair is more controlled."
A new gel worth a try and just out on the shelves, is L'Oreal's Invisi-Gel product. Its anti-sticky formula is supposed to give you the control of a conventional gel, without sticky-looking hair, not to mention eliminating gooey fingers as well.
While all these products can help, eventually a residue does build up on the hair, resulting in dull, unhealthy-looking locks. There are several new products and lengthy salon treatments designed specifically to break down the build-up and restore healthy hair. But perhaps some of the most popular solutions come straight from your kitchen.
New York City hair stylist, Frederick Fekkai -- the one who made headlines recently when he gave Hillary Clinton her new short hair-- recommends, "always use a light conditioner, and rinse with apple cider vinegar or lemon juice and cold water to eliminate build-up and keep hair shiny."
Ms. Croke also prefers the old-fashioned brew and tells clients with natural blonde or light brown hair to leave a lemon juice filled-spray bottle in the shower for spritzing hair after shampoo. This is not recommended for color-treated hair because the acid from the lemon can strip out color.
Annette Haines of Eclips Salon in McLean, Va., who styled the hair for our cover photographs, suggests extreme caution with the use of lemon juice. She believes excess use can dry and damage the hair.
Swimmers beware. Never allow chlorine or salt water to sit in your hair. Not only will it destroy shine by stripping hair's outer cuticle layer, but if the copper sulfate in chlorine oxidizes, it can turn blonde hair green. If you can't shampoo your hair right after a swim, at least rinse with fresh water, if only from a spritzer bottle.
There are also several products designed especially for swimmers' hair. Denise Christensen Design Salon carries a swimmer's hair kit that includes a special shampoo and a pre-pool conditioner to leave on while swimming.
Ms. Haines urges her aquatically-inclined clients to wash after swimming with a clarifying shampoo, such as Paul Mitchell's Shampoo 3, which will cleanse hair of harsh chemicals.
And next time you start to roll around in the sand at the beach, think twice. Ms. Haines says getting sand in your hair can "tear it up like sandpaper."
For those who decide to reap the benefits of staying out of the sun, but still want that healthy sunlightened effect, Mr. Fekkai suggests highlighting just the ends of the hair, not roots, or just adding color to the hairline for a natural look.
Those with chemically-treated hair, particularly redheads, have experienced how sunlight can oxidize hair color and eventually turn hair brassy. Ms. Haines swears by the latest semi-permanent color shampoos that are personally prescribed and mixed for you in a salon to use between color or perm appointments to prevent fading.
When it comes to styling hair this summer, try twisting, tucking, braiding, and knotting. Instead of the perennial comb and pristine bow, the hippest hair is Heidi-braided with ribbons, fabric scraps, raffia, and feathers. Ms. Haines suggests adding a spin with decorative chopsticks or colored straw woven through buns and twists.
Or dress up a simple style by using jewelry as a hair ornament. A bold clip-on chunky earring makes a great hair accent to jazz up a short hairstyle.
ON THE COVER
Hair by Annette Haines of Eclips Salon, McLean, Va.
Makeup by Dianna Burgess of 3 West Casting.
Modeled by Allison Dacey of New Faces Models.
Clothing courtesy of Trillim.
Hair ornaments from Nordstrom.