3 Quick Tips to Know for Better-Looking Hair

Celebrity stylist Vaughn Acord walks us through the basics of hair maintenance.

Henry Phillips

When it comes to hair, routines can be the hardest thing to get right. “Every guy is different,” said Vaughn Acord, the celebrated men’s stylist who has cut hair for names like Springsteen, Pacino and Clinton. But, beyond that, heads are always in flux: hair grows out, oils build up, dirt accumulates. “If you have longer hair, you probably don’t need to wash it all time,” Acord added. “Same for guys with thicker hair. If you’re dealing with finer hair, you might lean toward washing your hair more often to get a fuller look.” Regardless, here’s his recommendation to everyone: “Know what you got and get it to look the best that it can look.” Here’s how.

Pay Closer Attention to Your Shampoo

“Many of the shampoos that are made en masse have a really high pH, which means that they’re really cleansing,” Acord said. “You could even wash the dishes with them. It’s like when you cook bacon and use Palmolive to cut through all the grease.” He encourages his clients to invest in shampoos with a “better pH balance,” even if that means spending considerably more on them. The scalp is at its best with a pH level around four or five.

“Skin is a huge organ and it absorbs a lot of things,” Acord said. “For people that are gluten intolerant, for example, ingredients in shampoo do matter. If they’re using a product with a lot of wheat protein they’re going to end up with similar effects of not feeling so great.” He recommends that instead of spending your time reading the fine print on the back of shampoo bottles, you speak with a trusted barber or stylist. “We all get groomed somewhere,” he said. “That chair is the safe zone. Whether you’re dealing with psoriasis, dandruff, thinning hair — your stylist is the professional who can help prescribe the right shampoo.”

Know When (and How) to Wash

“The quick answer is that you wash hair when it’s dirty,” Acord said. “But that definition can vary from one person to the next.” The point to remember is that shampoo is used to get something out of hair, whether that be dirt, sweat or oil. Stay inside most of the day? There’s probably no need to shower using shampoo. If you hit the gym and sweat a lot, you might think otherwise. The steps: wet your hair, apply a thumbnail amount of shampoo and massage it paying close attention to the scalp. “What you want more than anything is blood flow,” Acord said. “Massage, even pull the hair a little bit. You want to wake it up.” As for conditioner, it largely depends on the length and density of the hair. “Some guys can avoid it if they don’t have thick, dense hair that needs the extra moisture,” Acord said. “I can get by with just a hydrating shampoo.”

Finish With Product, Every Time

“It’s important to address the styling of the hair after shampooing. Sometimes I see guys that are out, and it’s just this fluff thing,” Acord said. “There’s no meat in it. No grit, no toughness.” He recommends always using some kind of product after shampoo. That can mean stylers — such as pomade, gel or even certain types of oil — as well as leave-in conditioners like grooming cream. “Of all the cool things that are happening in hair today, the one thing that’s not cool is a guy that gets out of the shower and puts nothing in it,” Acord said. “Part of that’s just ignorance. They haven’t gone to the right person to turn them on to that. It takes an experience for people to be convinced that there’s a difference. But there is, and you can feel it.”

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