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The hair is exposed to many irritants daily, making them utterly dry, rough, and damaged. These irritants include environmental heat, smoke and other pollutants, and the sun’s UV rays.
While there is little you can do to avoid these factors altogether, protecting your hair from them coupled with proper hair care can greatly minimize the damage done by them.
Conversely, negligent hair care can destroy the texture, appearance, and overall quality of your hair permanently. Some common hair-related mistakes include not washing your hair properly or regularly, using harsh chemical-laden hair products, excessive use of hairstyling tools, brushing your hair too vigorously, and tying your hair too tight.
The scalp is populated with countless hair follicles, which are small tunnel-shaped sacs that grow hair. The base of the follicle is called the hair bulb, where hair cells proliferate to build the hair shaft or strand. Several blood vessels are attached to the hair bulb and supply nutrients and oxygen to sustain hair growth.
The top of the follicle is attached to a sebaceous gland, which secretes natural oils in the form of waxy sebum, which keeps the hair moisturized. The hair needs to be well moisturized and nourished in order to be soft and bouncy. Thus, the health and functioning of your hair follicles will determine the overall quality of your hair.
This article will share some basic hair care tips, techniques, and remedies to make your hair soft and smooth.
Ways to Make Your Hair Soft and Smooth
Include the following products in your hair care routine to condition, repair, and soften your hair: (1)
Use only mild shampoos to wash your hair. Many shampoos contain harsh chemicals, such as sulfates, parabens, and alcohols like isopropyl alcohol, that can strip away the natural moisture from your hair and scalp to worsen the dryness. They can also weaken your hair over time, and some of them are even potential carcinogens.
Among the gentlest shampoo formulations for soft hair are baby shampoos or herbal shampoos enriched with brahmi, reetha, shikakai, and amla (Indian gooseberry). pH-balanced scalp care shampoos are also good for hair and scalp health. If you have dry hair, also try creamy shampoos that provide deep and intensive hydration because of their high oil content.
Some preferable shampoo ingredients that can make your hair soft are:
- Argan oil
- Camelina oil
- Jojoba oil
- Keratin and keratin damage blockers
- Amino cells
- Apple cider vinegar
- Babassu oil
- Cocoa butter
- Shea butter
Shampoos are usually the cleansing agents, whereas conditioners lock the moisture in your hair and make it soft and silky.
These days, shampoos with conditioners are available as well. Beard conditioners are also available specifically for making beards soft. Note that curly hair requires more hair conditioning than straight hair.
Some ingredients to look for in your conditioner are:
- Shea butter
- Avocado oil
- Moroccan argan oil
- Omega-6 fatty acids
- Indian gooseberry
- Red clove
- Sunflower seed oil
- Acai berry extract
- Orchid extract
- Meadowfoam seed oil
- Mango butter
- Wheat protein
- Vitamin B5
- Seaweed extract
- Fermented rice water
Note: Silicone tends to build up in your hair and may eventually block your hair follicles. So, it is best to avoid hair products that are silicone based.
3. Hair serums
Hair serums are effective cosmeceuticals that have been widely used for managing unruly hair. They instantly make your hair soft, smooth, and shiny.
Environmental humidity can impart excessive moisture to your hair to make them ultra-frizzy, but serums can minimize that as well. Go for heavy-duty serums with high oil content if you have thick hair, but go for lightweight formulations if you have fine hair.
Some hydrating ingredients to look for in your serum that can impart extra softness to your hair include:
- Aloe vera gel
- Cocoa butter
- Shea butter
- Macadamia extract
- Moroccan argan oil
- Licorice root extract
- Silk and corn protein
- Sunflower oil
- Coconut oil
- Musk rose extract
- Hyaluronic acid
- Vitamin B complexes
- Coffee extract
- Grapeseed extract
Note: You can also purchase hair serums, shampoos, and conditioners with sunscreen. Your hair is one of the most exposed parts of the body that soak in a lot of sunlight every day. The UV rays in the sun can go deep into the scalp and hair to destroy the healthy cells and hair follicles.
Unprotected sun exposure dries your hair up and makes it coarser. Therefore, protecting your hair from the sun is a must if you want to retain its soft texture and healthy condition.
4. Beard balm
Beard balms are waxy topical formulations used for softening or styling beard hair that is typically very coarse and stiff. It is mainly used for grooming long or medium-sized beards.
You can mix beard balm with a beard oil or any plant oil for added nourishment.
Some ingredients to look for in your beard balm are:
- Petroleum jelly
- Vitamin E oil like jojoba oil
- Shea butter
- Mango butter
- Bay rum
- Juniper oil
- Rosemary oil
- Aloe vera extract
Other products to make your beard soft include beard wax and beard oil that contain essential oils such as eucalyptus, thyme, sage, and geranium essential oil and plant oils such as olive oil.
You can even make your own beard oil at home by creating a blend of plant oils and essential oils, as discussed below.
Note: Applying these products to a damp or wet beard will prevent the moisture from getting absorbed, so it’s best to wait until your hair is dry.
5. Hair moisturizers
Hair moisturizers are not to be confused with conditioners – both formulations hydrate your hair but in different ways.
Hair moisturizers contain hydrating agents that impart substantial moisture to your hair in a single application. Conditioners may contain these hydrating substances but are mainly used for sealing the moisture in your hair.
So, hair moisturizers may be present in other hair products such as shampoos and conditioners but are also sold separately for intensive hydration. You can apply a hair moisturizer after using an electric hairstyling tool to minimize the heat damage.
Some ingredients to look for in a hair moisturizer are:
- Shea butter
- Vitamin E
- Vitamin B5
- Sweet almond oil
- Mango butter
- Milk cream
- Blueberry extract
- Baobab extract
6. Hair sheets
Hair sheets are formulated with moisturizing agents that hydrate dry, rough hair so that it becomes soft. All you have to do is rub the sheet on your tresses just like a wipe. Hair sheets work for all hair types.
Oils to Make Hair Soft and Smooth
Hydrating hair oils are enriched with fatty acids, including linoleic and oleic acid, along with other nutrients that deeply condition and nourish your hair. (1) The fatty acids act as humectants in that they bind moisture to your hair to keep them moisturized for longer.
The outermost layer of the hair is called the cuticle, which undergoes a lot of wear tear at the hands of external irritants. Hair oils form a protective layer over the hair to ward off these irritants and minimize cuticle damage. (2)
Massaging the hair oil in gentle circular motions stimulates blood circulation in the scalp. The enhanced blood flow brings more nutrients and oxygen to the hair follicles for improved hair growth. Better hair nourishment leads to soft, shiny, thick, and strong hair strands. (3)
Here are some of the top-rated hair oils for soft, smooth tresses:
- Olive oil
- Argan oil
- Coconut oil
- Vitamin E oils
- Pure crude oil
- Castor oil
- Grapeseed oil
- Bhringraj oil
You can also blend different hair oils or mix in a few drops of essential oils for added hair benefits. The following combinations work great together:
- Olive oil and almond oil
- Coconut oil and almond oil
- Argan oil and coconut oil
- Essential oils such as rosemary oil mixed with a hair oil such as coconut oil/grapeseed oil
How to create your oil blend:
- If you are using two hair oils, simply mix them in equal ratios.
- Essential oils are very strong at their original potency and have to be diluted in a carrier oil to avoid any harsh reactions. Simply add 3–4 drops of the essential oil of your choice to any normal hair oil, preferably coconut or grapeseed oil.
How to oil your hair:
- Gently massage the oil into your scalp and apply it all over your hair.
- Let the oil sit on your scalp and hair for at least 30 minutes before rinsing it. It is recommended to oil your hair at night and wash it the next day. But don’t let the oil sit for too long or several days because it can trap a lot of dirt and clog your hair follicles.
- Oil your hair at least twice or thrice a week.
You can also add these oils to your hair mask or conditioner. (4)
Note: Castor oil can make your hair extremely greasy, so it’s best not to use it with other oils or in large amounts. A few drops should be enough to oil your entire hair and scalp. It is also important to note that dry and rough hair requires more oiling than oily hair.
People with naturally greasy hair are advised to use hair oils much like a serum, that is, apply a minuscule amount all over your hair right after washing them. Also, curly hair requires more oiling than wavy hair, which requires more oiling than straight hair.
DIY Hair Masks and Rinses to Make Hair Soft
Commercial hair products often contain added chemicals that can damage your hair in the long run. Moreover, products that are actually effective usually carry a heavy price tag, which can put a strain on your budget.
A cheaper and safer alternative is to make your own hair care products at home with natural ingredients that are found in your kitchen.
Hair mask recipes
Here are a few simple DIY hair masks that can moisturize your rough hair for a silkier feel.
Banana and honey mask:
- Mash 3–4 chunks of banana in a bowl.
- Add in 1 tablespoon of raw organic or medical-grade honey.
- Mix the ingredients well to make a lump-free paste.
Egg (5) or mayonnaise:
- Beat 1 full egg in a bowl or use egg-based mayonnaise instead.
- Mix in 1–2 tablespoons of olive, coconut, or vitamin E oil.
- You can also add half a cup of honey or yogurt into the mix, but this is optional.
- Mix all the ingredients properly.
Aloe vera gel mask:
- Take 4 tablespoons of freshly extracted aloe gel in a clean bowl.
- Add in 2 tablespoons of coconut oil and 3 tablespoons of yogurt.
- Mix all the ingredients to form a smooth paste.
Avocado hair mask:
- Scoop out the avocado pulp in a bowl.
- Mix in some yogurt to make a smooth paste.
Yogurt and oil:
- Take ½ cup of yogurt in a bowl.
- Add in 1–2 tablespoons of any oil of your choice.
- You may add a bit of bentonite clay (6) to the mix as well.
- Mix all the ingredients to make a smooth paste.
- Soak some fenugreek seeds overnight.
- The next day, grind them to a paste.
How to apply a hair mask:
- Wash your hair and scalp with a mild shampoo.
- Slather the hair mask onto your hair and scalp while they are still damp.
- Gently massage the paste into your scalp and spread it all over your hair.
- Let it sit for at least 15–20 minutes before rinsing it off with plain water.
- Condition your hair thereafter for best results.
Hair rinse recipes
These homemade hair rinses help restore the normal pH level of your scalp, condition your hair, and provide a deep cleansing effect.
Vinegar hair rinse:
- Dilute one part vinegar in 3 parts water. You can use any vinegar of your choice, but anecdotal evidence favors apple cider vinegar.
- Rinse your hair with this solution after shampooing.
- Let the solution sit for 10–15 minutes so that it gets absorbed by your hair and scalp.
- Wash your hair with plain water.
Chamomile tea and honey rinse for your beard:
- Soak chamomile tea bags in hot water for 20 minutes.
- Pour 1 teaspoon of honey into it.
- Let the solution cool down and then use it to wash your beard.
Self-Care Measures to Keep Hair Soft and Smooth
The following hair care tips can help keep your hair soft and silky:
- Poor eating habits can leave you deprived of nutrients that are essential for hair health. (7) Thus, it is very important to meet all your nutritional requirements through a diverse, well-balanced diet to make your hair soft and strong. The food you eat provides nourishment to your hair follicles, which then produce healthy hair. Different nutrients offer different hair benefits. For instance, omega-3 fatty acids help moisturize your hair and scalp, whereas proteins are essential for building and strengthening the hair strand. Dark green vegetables are enriched with vitamins A and C, which facilitate sebum production in the scalp to provide natural moisture to your hair. Nuts contain alpha-linoleic acid and zinc, both of which help hydrate your hair. Other important nutrients that contribute to the maintenance of healthy hair shaft and follicles include vitamin B12, pantothenic acid, folic acid, biotin, copper, calcium, and iron.
- Maintain proper fluid intake throughout the day to maintain hydration. A hydrated body means hydrated scalp and hair.
- Trim your split ends and beard periodically.
- Wear a hat, cap, or headscarf when stepping out in the sun. This will protect your hair and scalp from the UV rays of the sun, dust, and other pollutants.
- Resting your head on silk or satin pillowcases allows minimal friction with your hair. These fabrics are much softer than cotton, whose fibers can rub against your hair and make them rough.
- Excessive shampooing can remove the natural lipids from your hair and scalp to render them drier than before. So, if you have already dry hair, ideally you should shampoo twice a week, while others should do it every other day.
- If you have coarse hair, use conditioner after shampooing. A lot of people make the mistake of applying the conditioner to their scalp and hair roots, which ends up clogging their hair follicles. The correct way is to only apply the conditioner to your hair shaft and tips.
- Vigorous hair brushing can cause a lot of breakage, so it is important to be gentle while tending to your hair. If you have naturally curly, wavy, or unruly hair, be extra careful because your hair is prone to knots and tangles. Don’t use fine-toothed combs or brushes that can get stuck in your tangled hair and cause breakage. Use a wide-toothed comb, preferably made with wood, to gently loosen the hair knots and then comb through your hair. You can even use your fingers to detangle your hair before brushing or combing them to avoid undue breakage. The best time to comb or brush your hair is after a hair wash when they are still damp but not soaking wet.
- Don’t wash your hair with hard water that contains a lot of mineral ions such as fluorides and chlorides, which can weaken your hair strands in the long run. (8)
- Don’t use hot water to wash your hair and scalp as it strips away their inherent moisture, making them dry. It’s best to use room-temperature water for hair washing.
- Electric hairstyling tools such as curling irons, hair straighteners, and blow-dryers subject your hair to concentrated heat. This heat application can damage the cuticle and hair follicles and dry out your hair and scalp; repeated use can even burn your hair altogether. Such hair damage is difficult to repair. So, it’s best to avoid the use of these tools as much as possible. If you must, use them at the lowest heat setting and after applying a heat protectant on your damp hair first. While blow-drying your hair, always hold it at a slanted angle rather than perpendicular to save your hair from direct heat exposure.
- Avoid chemically treating your hair with dyes and bleaches as they tend to make your hair rough in the long run. Other treatments such as a salon keratin treatment, perming, straightening, and relaxing should be kept at a minimum.
- Avoid applying hair setting products such as hair gels and mousse, which contain harsh chemicals and alcohol that can dry out your tresses. If you have to, look for water-based formulations rather than alcohol-based ones.
Soft hair doesn’t only look and feel better but is also more elastic, which means they are less prone to breakage. Coarse hair, on the other hand, doesn’t only look bad and unhealthy but is also less elastic and more prone to breakage. All in all, the softness of the hair can be a good measure of how healthy it is.
However, there are many hair types. Some people are born with slightly coarse hair, while others have naturally soft hair that becomes rough over time due to hair damage. Besides, there can also be many different reasons for the hair damage.
It is important to understand your hair type and the root cause of your hair damage before you try to treat it. Hair care measures work differently for different types of hair and hair problems. Hair is classified as straight, wavy, or curly based on its form and classified as dry, soft, or oily based on its texture.
For any hair regimen to work, it must be coupled with a nutritious, well-balanced diet and an overall healthy lifestyle. But if your hair continues to be dry despite proper self-care, you must consult your doctor to rule out any deficiencies or disorders.