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Image: Shutterstock/coka

Hair is one of those pesky features that when it works, it really works, and when it doesn’t, it really doesn’t. There’s no such thing as “just okay” hair. It looks stunning, or it looks flat. It looks healthy, or it’s in a state of fading ruin. Maybe that’s a tad fatalistic, but it’s how hair can feel sometimes. Luckily, it’s fairly easy to keep hair healthy or to return fading hair to its previous health. Below are several ways to get the healthiest hair of your life.

Reduce washing: One of the most common ways we damage hair is to wash it too often. You’d think having clean hair would be good, but washing it daily strips it of natural oils and makes it brittle. Try to wash every other day, less if you’re able. Use a dry shampoo in between washes if you need to.

Have the right brush: Make sure you have a good brush that doesn’t pull hair, which damages hair through physical manipulation. A good investment is a boar’s hair brush, which evenly distributes your hair’s natural oils throughout the hair length for naturally healthier locks.

Avoid heat styling tools: Heat styling tools are the worst culprits when it comes to dry, damaged and brittle hair. Try to wear hair naturally during the day, and style it for special occasions.

Use shampoo and conditioner to moisturize: Find a good shampoo and conditioner duo that will nourish hair on both steps. Focus on high-quality products like Redken, and look for formulas that focus on moisture.

Pat dry after showers: Don’t wring hair, as that can overextend it, leading to damage. Just pat hair dry gently.

Avoid frequent colorings: One of the most damaging things you can do to hair is to permanently color it. Those chemicals are not easy on hair. Boost your hair’s health by avoiding coloring for at least six weeks, eight if you can.

Extend hair color naturally: You can also try using a plant-based, all-natural temporary dye in between permanent dye jobs to extend the color. Many of these will nourish hair while they deposit color. Just never use plant products that contain metallic salts (sometimes called compound henna) after chemical color jobs, unless you want a melted hair disaster. The natural temporary dye has to be all-natural.

Avoid sulfates: Find a natural, quality shampoo with no sulfates. These are detergents that cause shampoo to bubble up, and rather than healthfully cleaning hair, they strip it of natural moisture the hair needs. Think of sulfates like trying to wash delicate china with a power washer turned on high.

Remember the moisturizing masks: Moisturizing hair is one of the best things you can do for it. Either invest in a commercial moisturizing mask, or you can make your own from beat eggs, mashed avocado or coconut oil. Apply to hair after washing and conditioning like normal, leave on for a half hour and then rinse.

Eat well: Make sure you’re getting what your body needs for healthy, nourished hair. This includes plenty of protein, iron, vitamin C, vitamin A, zinc, selenium, biotin and omega-3 fatty acid.

Remember the regular trim: A few split ends will probably happen no matter how careful you are, so stop them from getting worse by regularly trimming hair at least an inch and a half off every several months.

Add a split-end remedy: Got some split ends, but don’t want to trim your hair just yet? Products like TRESemme Split Remedy Split End Sealing Serum will bind the split ends back together. Just remember that it’s a temporary solution until you can get those ends trimmed.

Choose a low-maintenance hairstyle: One of the roadblocks to healthy hair is having a hairstyle that doesn’t fit your natural hair. Then you’re using buckets of hair spray and other styling products to get your curly hair to be in a straight bob, for instance. Cut the drama, and style your hair in a way that feels natural.

Invest in a good blow dryer: For when you absolutely must use a blow dryer, get a good one with multiple heat settings, a cooling AC motor and ionic/nonionic settings for styling hair more carefully.

Heat protection: Another option is to spray your hair with a heat protector before you heat style, like Oscar Blandi Pronto Dry Heat Protect Spray.

Michelle Lovrine Honeyager is a freelance writer living in Southeastern Wisconsin. You can find out more about her at https://www.clippings.me/michellelovrine.