Dear Paula,
I just returned from the hair salon, and my hair looks great! My long hair was blow-dried straight, and is much smoother and softer than I am ever able to get it. Of course, losing the split ends contributed, but after noting the tools my stylist uses, I've determined that I need to buy a better, natural-bristle round brush and a higher-wattage hair dryer. She did one other thing I want to ask you about: a complimentary deep conditioning treatment with L'Oreal Professional Intense Repair Mask. After saturating my hair with the product, she put a shower cap over my head, and I sat under the dryer for ten minutes. She said the results would last for up to two weeks per treatment, and I could do this at home, leaving it on for anywhere from 15 to 45 minutes, with a cap over it. Did this treatment contribute significantly to my great hair, or was it just her better blow-drying technique? Is this conditioner anything special and does leaving any conditioner on longer improve its effects?

Tracy, via email

Dear Tracy,
I am glad you had such a rewarding experience at the salon. Few things lift the mood as much as leaving your stylist's chair with your hair looking gorgeous. The process of getting your hair cut, conditioned, and professionally styled all contributed to your “great hair” experience. Cutting off split ends adds immeasurably to hair's healthy appearance and natural movement. Even if the ends aren't actually splitting, trimming the portion of hair that's been around the longest (and so has experienced the most abuse) is always helpful. A higher wattage blow dryer that distributes more intense controlled heat is a staple of any stylist. 1850 watts is standard (though lots of blow dryers range from 1200 to 1600, which is just not high enough to control thick, curly, stubborn hair). And a brush that grabs the hair without tearing at it is also extremely helpful.

I am not familiar with the L'Oreal conditioner you mention, but am certain that, given the number of their conditioners I've reviewed over the years, there is nothing unique or special about the conditioner your stylist used, and it assuredly cannot repair hair. Saturating dry hair with just about any conditioner and sitting under an indirect heat source will produce much better results than the standard apply-and-rinse method we use in the shower. The longer you leave conditioner on the damaged length of hair the better the results. You can perform the same treatment at home using your favorite conditioner (it does not need to be a special “mask”—those formulas rarely differ from standard conditioners), a shower cap, and your hair dryer (but keep it at least 12 inches away from your hair (an old fashioned bonnet hair dryer works great, too). If you don't want to bother with heat, try shampooing at night, applying conditioner, and waiting until morning to rinse.

One other point, your stylist probably does have a better blow-drying technique than you and he or she also has the advantage of skill and practice, which means knowing how to handle each section of your hair in terms of heat distribution, tension, and the correct angles to hold the brush and dryer. It never hurts to book an appointment with your stylist to give you a blow-drying lesson; after all, they had to learn at some point, too.

Source: Paula Begoun