How to tame frizzy hair in humidity: beware sun and sulfates

Haircare experts share tips on keeping unruly locks under control

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Summer is coming. And with it comes hair-raising humidity, which causes some of us without a naturally straight mane to suffer tresses that resemble an ungroomed poodle.

As celebrity Italian hairstylist Rossano Ferretti puts it: “The heat, humidity and sea can wreak havoc on our hair during the summertime holidays. Realistically speaking, no one wants to lose the frizz battle when it’s time to unwind and look fabulous doing so.”

But why does hair frizz? Ferretti says: “When it’s humid, there are a lot of water molecules in the air. The excess moisture looks for areas where it can ‘fit’. Hair that’s dry entices moisture to enter through its shaft, where it binds to the proteins. This process causes the hair to lift and look out of place, instead of maintaining the smooth sleekness that took you all morning to attain. The result? Frizz!”

Ferretti and other haircare experts say it takes a bit of dedication to fight frizz.

Here are some top tips and tricks to overcome this hairy situation.

Avoid hot water

Given that hydration is key to combating frizz, Myriam Keramane, founder of Parisian haircare brand Myriam K Paris, advises against washing hair with hot water. “Hot water dries and strips the hair of the nutrients necessary for a healthy scalp and follicles. A dry scalp, in turn, will lead to frizziness and even dandruff, so use lukewarm water instead.”

Keramane also recommends moisturising the hair as soon as you get out of the shower. “Use a leave-in conditioner while your hair is still wet, as this will moisturise the follicles most effectively. You can use a bit of hairspray to fix the hair while it’s wet to ensure it stays tame through the heat and humidity.”

Use sulfate-free products

Ferretti is not a fan of over-styling and unnecessarily complex techniques, and says sulfates are the nemesis of all things natural. “The saving grace for frizzy hair starts with a sulfate-free, anti-frizz shampoo and nourishing conditioner. Sulfates have a habit of stripping your hair of its natural moisturising and nourishing oils with each wash, leaving your locks more vulnerable to humidity.

“A sulfate-free, de-frizz shampoo and conditioner is the best solution to keeping hair soft and hydrated. This will create healthy locks that will react better to other luxury anti-frizz hair products. In the summers, use a little more conditioner than you usually do, bringing it up from the tips to manage frizz.”

Work with your natural curls

Customise the Curly Girl Method for optimal results. Photo: FreeImage

Sacha Mitic, founder of minimalist haircare brand Sachajuan, is another proponent of being as natural as possible, something he says is especially crucial for curly-haired girls who often fall prey to the temptation of heat-heavy, dryness-inducing straightening gadgets and treatments.

“Don’t try to fight your curls and natural texture as this can lead to long-term damage. Instead, enhance them through products such as hair oil, shine serum and styling cream, and make sure to let your hair air-dry without any added heat. This helps ensure your curls come out looking shiny and healthy,” explains Mitic.

The Curly Girl Method, which involves cutting out any products that contain harsh sulfates, drying alcohol, mineral oils and waxes, is another option.

On the other hand, treatments that change the texture or the nature of the hair use chemicals that harm the scalp and hair, and make it more prone to dryness, breakage, frizz and split ends, says French entrepreneur Rym Yessad, who founded Curlshops.com in Dubai to provide clean and natural products for women with curly hair. “The issue with these treatments is they begin a vicious cycle, as the hair is never really repaired after that,” she says.

Minimise sun exposure

Mitic compares exposing the hair to direct sunlight as being “as damaging as applying bleach”. Harsh sun rays both ruin unprotected hair and cause it to frizz uncontrollably.

Just as you would slather on SPF to save your skin from sunburns in the summer, “covering your locks with a protective spray that creates a barrier between the moisture in your strands and harsh elements such as the sun and air pollution” is crucial, too, says Ferretti.

He also recommends covering the hair with a hat to avoid prolonged exposure, while Kermane says salt water and chlorinated water can also dry out the hair.

At-home styling tips

“Use the summer holidays to air-dry your hair, ditching hot styling tools as often as possible,” says Ferretti. "This will keep your hair more hydrated and less prone to frizz and breakage.

“Invest in a professional detangling brush, one that will glide through the tangles with ease, without snagging at them, and use a hair mask at least once a week.”

If you would still rather style your tresses, Mitic advises using a thermal protective spray to create a barrier against the heat of a blow-dryer or straightening iron. “Finish the look by using large Velcro rollers in your freshly dried hair and leave them in for 15 to 20 minutes to create long-lasting volume. Use a light and flexible hairspray to maintain the volume throughout the day,” he says.

In-salon styling tips

Ferretti recommends getting a trim at the start of the summer (or soon before your holiday), to get rid of split ends. “This automatically gives you a smoother look overall.”

If you’re comfortable investing in a professional chemical procedure, Kermane recommends an in-salon keratin treatment. “Not only will this reduce frizz, but you also won’t have to blow-dry or use hot tools to style your hair," she says. "You can wash your hair after visiting the pool or beach and simply air-dry.

“Keratin treatments usually last for about three months and summer is the perfect time to do one."

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