Skipping Regular Haircuts
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Maintain your 'do to make your life easier. "Haircuts have a shelf life of four to eight weeks before they start to lose shape and become harder to style," says Lisa Abbey, creative director of Salon Blue, in Mineola, New York.
Working with Too Much Hair at Once
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Spend an afternoon at a salon and you'll notice that the pros always use hair clips to divide and conquer a big styling job. The reason? It lets you concentrate the heat of your dryer or flatiron on one small section at a time. At home, split your hair into three horizontal layers. Pin the top and middle sections back with clips and work your way from the bottom up. Complete each section before moving on to the next, but if you're in a hurry, spend more time styling the front and cheat a little in the back.
Forgetting Your Roots
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If you pay more attention to your roots when you apply product and dry your hair, you'll have more control over volume. Want more body? Then pull your hair up and out when drying, says Abbey. Want less? Pull your hair straight down to smooth and flatten the root. Treating your roots also saves your ends—the oldest and driest part of your hair—from excess heat damage.
Looking for a new hair dryer? We rounded up the Best Hair Dryers For Every Budget.
Frying Your Strands
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Use the low or medium heat settings on your styling tools. "Only extremely coarse or curly hair can handle the highest temperatures," says Marc Mena, senior stylist at Warren-Tricomi Salon, in New York City. Other ways to protect your hair: Mist with a thermal styling spray, use a nozzle or diffuser attachment to disperse air flow, and don't concentrate the heat in one spot for too long.
Using the Wrong Size Brush
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Many women use a round brush that's too small, says Umberto Savone, a celebrity stylist based in Beverly Hills, California. A small brush with a 1-inch-diameter barrel works best for chin-length hair, shorter layers, or if you want to add extra bounce to very fine hair. Medium to large brushes—2- to 3-inch barrels—are better for longer hair and help you create loose, natural waves or straight, smooth styles.
Applying Product to Dry Hair
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"Your hair is the most responsive to styling when it's freshly washed or rinsed," says New York City stylist Damian Monzillo. It's also easier to distribute product evenly throughout wet hair. (The exceptions to this rule are heat-protecting sprays, which you should apply to dry hair before you use hot tools, and finishing products like hair spray and pomades.)
Overdosing on Gel or Mousse
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Practice portion control so your hair doesn't end up looking flat, greasy, or shellacked. "If you have shoulder-length hair you only need a nickel-size amount of styling cream or gel, a dime-size amount of serum, or a shot glass of mousse," says Becker Chicaiza, a salon owner in Greenwich, Connecticut.
Using the Wrong Products
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Make sure to match your styling product to your hair texture. Root-boosting spray plumps up fine, thin hair without dragging it down; if you have medium-thick hair, you need a heavier spray gel or mousse to firm and lift the roots. When it comes to smoothing, a light serum is plenty for taming fine, frizzy hair. Thicker, coarser hair needs extra hydration and shine, so use a combination of serum and cream, says Abbey. Got curls? Curl-enhancing sprays work well for delicate tendrils while richer creams help control denser, kinkier spirals.
Not Allowing Hair to Set
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Want your style to last? Then take the time to let your hair cool after applying heat from a dryer or iron. "You ruin your work when you brush through a warm curl or release the round-brush when your hair is still hot," says Kevin Mancuso, Nexxus creative director. Bonus tip: Velcro rollers add extra body and smoothness to your style but you need to leave them in for at least 10 minutes.
Horsing Around with Your Ponytail
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Bad ponytail habits -- such as using rubber bands or elastics with metal clasps, pulling back wet hair and tying your tail too tight -- lead to broken strands. Keep your hair healthy by drying it first and prepping it with a little styling cream, says Chicaiza. And stick to snag-free elastics.
Originally published in Ladies' Home Journal, September 2009.