I really shouldn't have needed a celebrity hairstylist to teach me this, but oh well!
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The $0 Shower Trick That Guarantees Softer Hair
Credit: clarissanya/Instagram

You know how when you leave a salon your hair is softer, bouncier, shinier than any other time in your life? There's a secret to why this is — and it's so simple, so easy to do at home, that you're going to be overjoyed when you hear it (if not slightly embarrassed you lived this long without figuring it out on your own). And it's not about the way professionals cut your hair and it's not even their blowdry technique. It's so much more simple than that. 

Let me set the scene. It's a sunny fall day in Chelsea and I'm being treated to a haircut by celebrity stylist and beauty expert Clariss Rubenstein, who's touched up the likes of Alison Brie, Sofia Vergara, Kat Dennings, and tons more. She's telling me about Monat haircare and how the brand's Replenish Masque works great as a conditioner, and she's prepping my hair to dry as we chit-chat like old pals (we actually went to school together — small world!). She's giving me absolutely no Hollywood gossip no matter how hard I try, then, all of a sudden, she gets very serious. Almost glaring at me in the mirror she says, "You have to, have to, HAVE TO squeeze the water out of your hair before putting conditioner in. EVERY time."

And then she goes right back to being bubbly and fun, and showing me just how bouncy, shiny, and lively my hair is going to get when she's through. From that day forward I have heard Clariss's slightly threatening voice in my shower demanding that I thoroughly squeeze out my hair post-shampoo. Is it really that important? What difference could it possibly make? I called her up to get more information on this apparently crucial step I'd been missing for my almost four decades on this earth. 

"Try to wipe something up with a soaking wet sponge," she says. "You're not absorbing anything. So if your hair is soaking wet, it's not able to absorb anything because it's completely full of water." Yes, okay, this makes perfect sense. Is this an every-time thing, or — "No exceptions. Or else."

There are two reasons to squeeze your hair dry before conditioning, and the first and most obvious one is that if water prevents your conditioner from soaking into your hair, you're really just wasting your time and money every time you shower. "You've heard oil and water don't mix," Rubenstein explains. "If [your hair's] full of water, you're wasting your product, your money, and your hair isn't getting any benefits." But once you've squeezed? "Your hair absorbs all the nutrients, and [your conditioner] is a million times more effective than if you put it on soaking wet hair and everything's sliding out with the water." 

VIDEO: 5 Wet Hair Mistakes You Probably Didn't Realize You're Making

OK so how does someone who has such strong feelings about hair squeezing actually do it? Clariss explains the steps as follows:

  1. Brush your hair back away from your face and gather it like a ponytail.
  2. Squeeze downward from the base of the ponytail to the ends. 
  3. Repeat until water isn't dripping out anymore, so your hair is "as close to being not wet as possible." 

An important note: Do not wring out your hair like laundry.  

You want to avoid any unnecessary roughness that can lead to mechanical damage, i.e. breakage, which can happen by twisting and scrunching too aggressively, brushing, or even by twirling your hair up in a regular old towel post-wash (more on that in a minute). 

As a new convert to the hair-squeeze method, I can assure you it does make a difference in how my hair absorbs conditioner, and how conditioned it feels after each wash. So simple! So easy! It costs zero dollars, and I am basically Alison Brie now by good-hair association! So I couldn't let Clariss off the phone without giving me the full treatment — by which I mean even more extremely easy-to-do tricks for softer hair.

Here's how she guarantees better hair with "maybe 45 seconds" of additional effort in the shower. 

The $0 Shower Trick That Guarantees Softer Hair
Credit: Courtesy

Shampoo as Infrequently as Possible

Lather, rinse, repeat? Not unless you really have to, when your hair is filthy dirty or your shampoo specifically calls for it. Clariss, a dry-shampoo evangelist, washes her hair about twice a week. "The less sensitizing you can do to the hair the better: the less mechanical damage, the less water." I ask if water temperature makes a difference. "Hot water is a bit more drying but I'm not gonna tell anybody to take a cold shower." Phew.

She likes: "Anything Authentic Beauty Concept. It's a clean brand, and they really do it right."

The $0 Shower Trick That Guarantees Softer Hair
Credit: Courtesy

Swap Your Conditioner for a Mask Once in a While

Clariss says there's a hair mask for everybody and it doesn't have to be thought of as a big time-intensive extra step. Once or twice a week, you can use a hair mask instead of your regular conditioner (as a busy mom of two, she says she does this on her "longer, leg-shaving shower"). And the results are major: "As somebody who's been bleaching the ends of their hair for 15 to 20 years, I can tell you it makes a huge difference." She and I both swear by Davines — the brand doesn't miss when it comes to masks for any hair need.

Comb or Brush While Wet

There is one good use for water during your conditioning step, and it's rinsing while you comb. "I use a wide tooth comb or a gentle brush (Sheila Stotts detangling brush is great; the Crown Affair wide tooth comb is great; Tangle Teezer in the shower — all great options)," she says. "The water's kind of helping the knots slip out at the same time as I'm brushing, so that's less damage as well."

The $0 Shower Trick That Guarantees Softer Hair
Credit: Courtesy

Invest in a Proper Hair Towel

Once again the name of the game is reducing damage and getting water out of the way. She recommends wrapping up with a hair-specific towel (think: microfiber) to avoid damage and allow your hair to gently dry itself while you go about your beauty routine.

She likes: Crown Affair, The Towel, $45.

The $0 Shower Trick That Guarantees Softer Hair
Credit: Courtesy

No Matter Your Hair Type, You Should Be Using Detangler

According to Clariss, detangler is the most slept-on haircare product, and we should all be using one. "You HAVE to use a detangler. Don't skip it. If your hair is fine, or if it's thick and coarse, it doesn't matter," she says. Detangler makes it possible to brush your hair without breaking it — and less damage means more softness and shine. "By nature, the ends of our hair are much dryer; they're older and they aren't close to where the head produces oil. Detangler on the mids and ends evens out the porosity of your hair, so whatever product you're using after goes on evenly and works." From here on out: detangler from the ears down on freshly towel-dried hair.

She likes: Unite 7Seconds Detangler, $11

Better Hair Is 45 Seconds Away

Bottom line? Clariss says it's all about getting your hair to "behave better" without wasting your precious time. (Did I mention she's a mom?) "The amount of time you're going to take — which is like 45 seconds between the squeezing of the hair, the mask, the detangler — your hair will probably perform 50 times better." So that's it. Wash infrequently, squeeze thoroughly, and condition like you mean it. Or, in Clariss's words, "If you're using your products properly, you'll like your hair better."

I'm sorry to be the one to tell you, it really is that simple.