"For years, women have abused their hair by choosing products based on their desired final look— not their natural hair type," says Jeni Thomas, Ph.D. and senior scientist for Pantene. This means your strands get only a fraction of the attention (and ingredients) they need. From fine and straight to coarse and curly, each texture is so structurally varied that it requires its own products and stylers. Guided by Thomas — and based on her vast research — Pantene recently overhauled its entire line to address specific follicular concerns. Here, we grill a score of top stylists on how to best work with the hair you have.
THE WASH: "Product buildup means greasier scalps and eventually limper hair," notes Thomas. Wash away residue daily with a deep-cleansing shampoo and repair split ends with a light conditioner.
THE STYLERS: Choose mousses and gels with vitamins that will strengthen weaker fibers. Avoid rich, silicone-heavy serums and maintain staying power with a flexible-hold hairspray.
THE TOOLS: For instant volume, dial back abrasive back-combing and do the bulk of your styling with hot tools. "You can fake natural waves by using two differently sized curling irons," notes NYC-based hair guru Ric Pipino, who styles Naomi Watts and Diane Kruger. Finger-tousling is best for delicate strands, but a metal barrel brush heats up quickly when blowdrying to give hair more body.
THE CUT: "Go for '70s glamour with a chic Anne Hathaway shoulder-length style," recommends Pantene stylist Danilo, who counts the Alice in Wonderland star and Gwen Stefani as regular clients. Most important for shorter coifs: regular trims to prevent limp layers.
MEDIUM TO THICK
THE WASH: "Humidity isn't the only culprit behind frizzy hair. Entering and exiting humid environments also causes hard-to-handle volume and wispies," says Danilo. Jump-start your fight on frizz with moisturizing shampoos and conditioners — this type of hair absorbs nutrients most efficiently when wet.
THE STYLERS: On the flip side, medium and thick hair is also most fragile when waterlogged. Protect weak cuticles — which make up the scale-like outermost layer of the hair shaft — from heat-styling with heavy smoothing creams containing ingredients like amino acids that help weigh down flyaways.
THE TOOLS: "Paddle brushes do wonders for unruly hair," notes Pipino. Look for an ionic flatiron with ceramic plates to bond broken cuticles back near the hair shaft.
THE CUT: Opt for long layers to get even fullness, but avoid thinning shears. "Most stylists use these improperly and splice split ends, causing more frizz," warns Pipino.
THE WASH: "Chemically treated hair doesn't grab onto conditioners like regular hair because it loses more than 70 percent of its outer-ingredient-absorbing layer during processing," says Thomas. Cleanse and condition with vitamin- and mineral-fortified products that will repair this barrier and prevent color fading.
THE STYLERS: "A recent study just found that the eye is drawn to the shiniest spot on a person's hair. This is bad news for women with dull, dyed hair," says Danilo. Use heat-protective styling products daily — environmental stresses, like the sun, also fry fibers. Light serums offer a quick fix for strands lacking shine.
THE TOOLS: "Tourmaline blowdryers are much kinder to your hair because they drastically reduce drying time," notes Danilo. Protect roots by holding the dryer six inches from the scalp.
THE CUT: "Thanks to Lady Gaga, geometric cuts are making a big comeback," says Pipino. "These chic bobs work well on stressed-out hair that's in need of a trim."
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THE WASH: Curly hair tends to be drier than straight hair because oil doesn't slip down the strands as easily. This translates to fewer weekly washings (think once every three or four days) and more protein-packed products. Weekly conditioning masks will also help soothe flaky scalps.
THE STYLERS: "The curlier the hair is, the more it meshes together to catch ingredients," says Thomas, "so application is key." Light gels and serums work well combed through damp coils, while curl-defining sprays spritzed on the underside of hair offer a crunch-free finish.
THE TOOLS: "A detangling comb is your best friend," says Danilo. "I prefer to style hair with a lot of volume, and then tone down the look with a cuticle-smoothing tourmaline hot tool. I also apply finishing creams with my fingers to avoid brush-induced breakage."
THE CUT: "Don't choose a haircut that only works with straight hair," says Pipino. Ask your stylist to cut your strands in their natural coiled state or look for a salon that specializes in textured hair.
COARSE & CURLY
THE WASH: Hydration is key for these thirsty locks. Skip regular conditioners in favor of leave-ins, and use a hydrating mask with ingredients like shea or cocoa butter at least once a week.
THE STYLERS: "I tell clients with straightened hair to sleep on a silk pillowcase to reduce breakage," says Ursula Stephen, who gets Paula Patton red-carpet-ready. Women with salon-created styles can use repairing wrap lotions, while those with natural hair should treat themselves to monthly at-home scalp conditioners and opt for snag-free seamless combs.
THE TOOLS: "You don't need intense heat every day, so choose an iron with a gauge on it," says Stephen. Thinner, rounded flatirons are best to smooth hair at the root.
THE CUT: "Regardless of your length, volume, or texture, try a feature-enhancing architectural cut for summer," says Stephen, who also creates Rihanna's iconic styles.