Star Exiner-Walters is like most of us. She works full time, trains almost daily and doesn't have time to worry about her hair.
"Between the chlorine, sun and coloring, my hair is like straw," says Exiner-Walters, a triathlete. "But what are you going to do?"
There's a reason why some women have hair that shines in the light while others have strands that are dull and lifeless. Genes, nutrition and hormones matter, but so does maintenance. What makes a strand of hair appear healthy is an intact cuticle, its outermost layer. And that's something products can improve.
So even if you have damaged locks, don't worry. We've talked to experts and learned their tricks for keeping your hair healthy, shiny and vibrant.
Get the Right Cut
"The most important thing when you exercise a lot and need to look great afterward is to start with a haircut that fits your lifestyle," says Agim, stylist and owner of Agim Salon in Palm Desert, California. "This seems like common sense, but I see a lot of people who keep hairstyles that don't work with what they do every day."
Take the time to discuss your hair type and lifestyle with your stylist. Then listen, even if it means cutting off more than you'd planned.
The best style for an active woman? One that doesn't take forever to "do." Not just because it saves time, but because it also prevents over-drying and damaging styling with blow-dryers and curling irons. "The best length of hair for the athletic woman is a range from the end of the neckline to shoulder-length," says Paule Attar, president and creative director of Paule Attar Salon and Spa in Bellevue, Washington. "It's great for throwing into ponytails and chignons."
If you don't feel like styling, get a short cut that you can just fluff with your fingers or blow-dry quickly.
Shampoo and Condition
How often can you wash your hair without damaging it? There's no right answer, though most of our experts agree once a day is enough. "The sweat you generate in one day won't hurt your scalp as long as you wash within a 24-hour period," says Jet Rhys, co-owner and stylist at Jet Rhys Salon in San Diego, California. "And if your hair is fine or damaged, cleansing too frequently can be a problem. Your natural oils offer important protection. If you strip them out by shampooing, you create excessive dryness, which eventually causes breakage."
If you take a morning shower and work out later in the day, just rinse your hair well after you exercise. If you feel you must wash a second time, use baby shampoo or your conditioner. Gently massage your scalp with the lather and avoid fragile hair ends.
Some of our favorite shampoos include Epoch Ava puhi moni ($14, nuskin.com) and Charles Worthington Results Colour Bright Shampoo ($6, drugstores). If you've been using the same product for years, try switching to another brand, Agim says. Hair can become "bored" with a shampoo or conditioner and stop responding to its ingredients.
If your scalp is really oily, sweating can make it worse. Experts recommend using a shampoo with zinc to reduce the oils. Try the new Head & Shoulders Restoring Shine ($5, drugstores). If you have dandruff and use a special shampoo, limit use to once every other day because its chemicals are harsher.
Conditioners can significantly improve hair cuticles, a layer of cells that overlap like shingles, when they are broken and uneven. Loaded with moisturizing agents (fatty alcohols and panthenol) and cuticle-coating ingredients (silicones and proteins), conditioners make strands smooth and tangle-free. Try Philip B Deep-Conditioning Creme Rinse ($26, philipb.com), with African shea butter, wheat germ and soy protein. When you put on conditioner, don't apply near your scalp--it will just make it oilier. Apply it to the middle of your hair or to just the ends.
Use deep conditioners for extremely battered hair. Some we like are the ISH Ionic Rescue One-Minute Treatment ($27.50, ishrescue.com) and the Fr?d?ric Fekkai Hair Mask with Shea Butter ($22.50, fredericfekkai.com).