6 of the Best Hair Products to Fix Chemically Damaged Curls

Going blonde this year was a bad idea. But there’s hope! I found six products that hydrate, repair, and restructure heat and chemically damaged hair.
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Going blonde this year was a bad idea. But there’s hope! I found six products that hydrate, repair, and restructure heat and chemically damaged hair.
Visions of healthy hair dance in my head.

Visions of healthy hair dance in my head.

I started off the New Year by stripping my hair of most of its melanin and, subsequently, all of its curl. I don’t hate my new look, but I do miss my curls and I’ve solemnly vowed to work on reversing the damage I’ve done to them throughout the years. This means no more straightening (I donated my Chi to the Salvation Army) and way more tender loving care.

One of the obvious perks of working at xoJane is getting to test out the latest, greatest, most buzzed-about and sworn by beauty products on the market. So when my triple processed hair started breaking off in my hands, maybe I got a little wine drunk and spent a few hours researching the best ingredients to give me back my old-school corkscrews. 

I learned a few things about proteins, hair follicles, and fatty acids, and tested a slew of products, giving each brand a few days of attention. I'd like to note — for those of you testing these products at home — that most of the damage you see on my own scalp has been caused by a lot (and I mean a lot) of heat damage. So keep that in my mind when scoffing at my almost-curly "success" photo. 

Without further adieu, I’ve got to thank these five superstar products for reviving my very damaged, very needy hair:

Best Deep Conditioning Mask

Living Proof Restore Hair Mask, $42

Living Proof Restore Hair Mask, $42

This mask stopped my post-bleach tears and was the first product I tried that coaxed my hair back up into a semblance of curl. It was recommended to me by Courtney Brunson and now I use it once a week. I apply it liberally in the shower and let my hair soak up the Jenn Aniston approved “PolyfluoroEster” — the Living Proof secret-weapon molecule. While I'm skeptical of beauty brand science, I did notice a difference in the porosity of my hair after a few treatments.

Final Verdict:  Makes ultra-damaged hair much more human and much less Barbie.

Best Daily Treatment

Bumble and bumble. Quenching Complex, $35

Bumble and bumble. Quenching Complex, $35

This daily leave-in hydrator doubles as a styling product. A dime-size amount worked through damp hair helped my curls hold their shape and keeps my hair from looking so very thirsty. The results aren’t quite corkscrews, but are much better than the lanky, frizzy, almost-dreads I had before.

One of the biggest changes in my post-bleached hair was its new inability to maintain volume when weighed down with leave in conditioners. This Bumble and bumble. cream is light enough to apply throughout the day and the bottle is small enough to toss into my purse. 

 Final Verdict: Life-saving curl booster.

Best DIY Treatment

Honey and olive oil (and sometimes apple cider vinegar)

Honey and olive oil (and sometimes apple cider vinegar)

Half a cup of olive oil and a quarter cup of honey massaged through damp hair and left on overnight is my secret weapon. It hydrates just as well as a deep conditioning mask while adding the shine of expensive oils. I read about apple cider vinegar on Pinterest and was skeptical at first, but added a half-cup to my olive oil and honey concoction. I used a gentle shampoo (see below) to rinse the sticky stuff out of my hair in the morning and was incredibly impressed with the softness and shine of my hair.

Final Verdict: Hands down, the best DIY treatment out there.

Best Shampoo

Alterna Caviar Repair RX Instant Recovery, $32

Alterna Caviar Repair RX Instant Recovery, $32

When you’ve bleached your hair, shampoo can be a scary thing. Damaged hair loses its elasticity and the brittle texture (a result of the increased porosity of the hair follicles) is very susceptible to further breakage. This shampoo is made without parabens, sulfates, or phthalates, and is protein-rich, which means it helps restructure weak strands. 

I’ve tried four other brands that were gentle and hydrating, but this was the only one gentle enough to use once a week and as a diluted rinse when washing out deep conditioning treatments (like my DIY favorite — olive oil and honey).

Final Verdict: Gentle enough to use on damaged hair with strengthening power to boot.

Best Instant Shine Oil

Josie Maran 100 Percent Pure Argan Oil, $48

Josie Maran 100 Percent Pure Argan Oil, $48

Dry, porous hair soaks up oil and still sometimes refuses to shine. My hair is currently a brassy in-between shade (I’m on my way to platinum blonde, so bear with me), but a quarter-size drop of the Josie Maran Argan Oil gave it a shine I haven’t had since I was, you know, not blonde. 

I’ve gotten a lot of well-meaning comments about how dry my hair looks for the past few weeks. The first time I used this oil, my mother — who, by the way, is vehemently opposed to the blonde — said that my hair “was finally starting to look healthy again.”

Final Verdict: Great for fooling people into thinking I have healthy hair. 

Best Affordable Cure-All 

 L'Oréal Advanced Haircare Color Vibrancy Instant Shock Treatment, $7

 L'Oréal Advanced Haircare Color Vibrancy Instant Shock Treatment, $7

I spent New Year's in Iowa with my fiancé's family. Iowa was very dry, very cold, and very far away, and I didn't have room in my suitcase to pack my arsenal of hydrating hair-care products. When I started to frizz, I stopped by Walgreens and picked this deep moisturizing and repair cream because it smelled better than everything else in the hair-care aisle. 

It was a great stand in for my Living Proof hair mask and is applied exactly the same way — I used a liberal amount to coat my whole head and focused on my splitting ends. After rinsing it out, my hair was soft and malleable, not-so-reluctantly taking on a curl after some gentle scrunching.  

Final Verdict: Works just as well as the high-end brands.

Please ignore the mess that is my closet and focus on the soft curl I've managed to coax back after two weeks of gentle conditioning. 

Please ignore the mess that is my closet and focus on the soft curl I've managed to coax back after two weeks of gentle conditioning. 

My hair is not yet back to it’s old, shiny, healthy self. That’s going to take time and, as I’ve said, some major TLC. Until then, though, these products keep me from looking completely fried. What tricks do you use to soothe and strengthen damaged hair? Leave a comment and let me know!