How To Make Your Hair Look As Good at Home As Your Stylist Makes It Look At the Salon (REALLY!)

It pretty much boils down to using the right products for you hair, using good tools, and putting a little muscle into it.
Publish date:
July 24, 2014
hair salon, blowout, blowdry, hair products, hair styling, paul mitchell

When I was younger, I hated getting my hair blown out at the salon. I spent a good portion of my teen years with a chunky "pixie" (realistically, more like Nick Carter's bowl cut) that stylists tended to blow up into a bulbous, newscaster-y helmet that I would immediately go home and try to flatten down.

It got to the point where I'd be like "You know what? I'm actually just gonna go work out after this, so you don't need to dry my hair," just to avoid the hassle, which...come on. I never stepped into a gym until I was like 25, and even then it was pretty much just for the dark theater room with cardio machines where I watched "Maid in Manhattan" and occasionally pretended to break into a light jog.

But now I'm on the other side of things, and I do my best to never give anyone that experience. It's pretty common for people to say things to their stylist like "If I win the lotto, you're coming to live with me and blow my hair out every morning!" or "How come it never looks the same when I do it at home?" and the answer is fairly simple -- easier said than done, but simple. It pretty much boils down to using the right products for you hair, using good tools, and putting a little muscle into it.

I was recently in an all-day class where one of the topics they covered was retail, and something they said really stuck with me: "Let the client know that if you didn't have these products to use, you wouldn't be able to do their hair as well." That is SO TRUE. Products play a huge role in coercing your hair into doing what you want it to do and making your life easier. A lot of times, the clients I talk to who say they can't get their hair to do what they want it to do aren't using products at all or they’re not using them in the best way.

If you don't like the feel of products in your hair, start with something light like a moisture mist. These are water-based sprays that contain light conditioners and glycerin to smooth hair and give it shine without making it sticky or heavy. I love Arrojo Hydro Mist and use it on myself and almost all of my clients. If my client is someone with very fine hair or someone who is pretty product-phobic, I use it by itself, or if it's for someone with drier or thicker hair, I use it as a nice light moisturizing base for other products.

I used to be afraid of anything that had hold to it like mousse, gel and hairspray, thinking that they'd make my hair crunchy and untouchable. Some people are fine with a little crunch because they don't touch their hair much anyway -- sup, curly girls -- but for people like me, there are a lot of options now. There are light-hold cream gels, like Fast Form from Paul Mitchell, and gel-serum combos like Arrojo Curl Definer, that can help hold the shape you put into your hair in a way that's flexible and soft. I find a good rule of thumb is how slippery or creamy a product feels -- if it's fairly smooth-feeling when you rub it between your fingers it'll feel light in your hair, and the more tackiness or stickiness it has between your fingers, the more you'll feel it in your hair.

But anything is going to feel heavy in your hair if you go to town putting too much product in. Feel out the amount depending on your hair's density and length but err on the side of less product to start out with, and rub in between your hands first to warm it up and help it spread. Then start raking your hands from the ends up your hair up, hitting the scalp last and putting very little product there.

Unless it's a root volumizer or dry shampoo, you generally don't want more than just residual product near your scalp, because you'll feel and look oilier there more quickly and need to wash your hair sooner than if it's nice and clean. Plus the ends of your hair are drier, and dry hair tends to be more unruly and need more attention.

Another reason we’re able to give you such nice results at the salon is because we’re using really top-notch tools -- good quality blowdryers, irons, and an arsenal of brushes to pick from, because brushes aren’t one-size-fits-all (see Danielle’s advice to find the best one for you.) Everyone in my salon uses ionic dryers, which emit negative ions that cause the positive ions in the water on your hair to evaporate faster -- hence shortened blowdry times, which is awesome on its own (our arms get tired and you have to get back to work), but it also means less time blasting your hair with damaging heat.

Because our salon charges for all services individually, sometimes clients, particularly those who are in to get their regrowth touched up every 3 weeks and just want to get on with their day, opt to blowdry their hair themselves after getting color rather than paying for a blowout. We set up a free station for them with a blowdryer, whatever brushes they like, and products. This seems to be where a lot of people realize how important the products and tools we use are to the final results -- it’s one thing to be used to saying “Ugh, why can’t I get my hair to look like that?” and another to be like “Wait, how did I just get it to look like that?!”

And it’s an investment. Good quality ionic hairdryers and ceramic curling/flat irons tend to sell from $150 to $250, but I can’t stress how big a difference those things make. If I have a big thing coming up over the weekend, I pack up my work tools and bring them home to use on myself, because even as a hairdresser I can’t give myself the same results using the random curling iron I still have from my beauty school kit or Old Sparky, the blowdryer I deemed “not good enough for my clients” years ago.

There’s also the physical element, which you unfortunately can’t just decide you’re ready to splurge on -- unless you do win the lotto, in which case, call me. As hairdressers who are standing above you and with a fancy chair, we can swivel and move up or down to help us, we’ve definitely got an advantage.

And I just got this point hammered home to me because I blew out my hair for this article, which I never do, and it sucked -- blowing myself in the face while I sectioned something out, uncomfortable arm bending, and the heat in my unventilated bathroom, my god, the heat. I literally took breaks, which you can do, too. If you’re crunched for time because do your hair in the morning before work or before the kids are up, use those breaks to do other things, like putting on your makeup or eating some breakfast.

Just make sure you hit the VIP areas first, like your bangs (full-on or sideswept) if you have them, and your hairline if that tends to get frizzy or curly and you’re not into it. It’s better to pace yourself and give each section your best than to rush through and leave damp sections or only really do one side well.

Of course, I can't see you (I FEEL YOU THOUGH), so for some more personalized advice, I'd definitely recommend seeing your hairstylist or one that a friend likes for a blowout and letting them know that you want to learn how to do it for yourself at home and asking them to go in depth with you about what they’re doing or using, how they’re doing or using it and what kind of result that’s giving them.

Let them know what you usually do with your hair, how that usually comes out and how you'd like it to look instead, and -- this is very important -- how much time and effort you're willing to spend doing it. It's important to be realistic about that, and if the answer is like, 10 minutes, that's OK. Better to have advice for quick fixes that you'll actually use than a full blown blowout routine that you never will.

But really, I’d also urge you to start experimenting with finding products that work well in your hair and investing in better tools if you can -- I’m sure to some it seems like extra stuff you don’t need, but in the long run it’ll make your routine more low-maintenance, your hair more awesome and your life easier. We’ll miss you at the salon.