Why Stylists Say ‘Hair Shocking’ Is the Secret to Reviving Dull, Lifeless Strands

Photo: Getty Images/Olga Sagal
Any time your hair starts feeling blah, chances are, it’s trying to tell you something. “Just as our bodies tell us when they need rest or hydration, our hair speaks to us too—but it does it through appearance and action,” says Devin Graciano, hairstylist and head of product development at hair-care brand Goldie Locks. The message it’s trying to send when it looks lackluster? It’s time to reboot your routine.

"A few factors that can cause your hair to feel dull/lifeless are improper hair care techniques, such as high heat on a hot tool, a diet that's lacking in key nutrients, too much sunlight or heat styling, over-processing your hair with harsh chemicals, environmental conditions, such as dry or cold air, and using too much product or the wrong products,” says Jennifer Korab, a hairstylist based in New Jersey.

All of this, in turn, can cause your scalp and strands to stop responding to your go-to products, which is why stylists recommend “shocking” your hair to get things back on track.

According to celebrity hairstylist Gina Rivera, “hair shocking” involves changing up your routine to give your scalp and strands a jolt to stimulate growth and get your hair health trending in the right direction. Then, when you go back to using your regular products, your hair will be better prepped to reap all of their benefits. Just keep in mind that this process works best on hair that isn't past the point of severe damage—so if you're dealing with issues beyond general dullness and dryness, you'll probably need a more intensive routine overhaul instead of a one-time shock.

With that, keep scrolling to find out how stylists recommend kick-starting your journey back to healthy hair.

1. Take time for a deep clean

“Periodically switching to a clarifying shampoo can give the hair a boost by removing any medications and build up that may be clogging follicles and prohibiting hair growth and health,” says Rivera. Any residue on your scalp and strands can prevent your hair-care products from working to their full potential, and this goes double if you've been using heavy, silicone-based formulas (they pile up and block moisture from entering your strands, leaving your hair dull, frizzy, and brittle). By giving your whole head a deep clean with a clarifying shampoo, you’ll essentially be able to “shock” your scalp and strands back to equilibrium by detoxing it from that buildup.

2. Exfoliate your scalp

“​​Shocking your hair back to health through scalp exfoliation will help to reset your scalp and help alleviate conditions like dandruff,” says Graciano. Exfoliation removes dead skin cells, oil, and dandruff, and is “the key to healthier, shinier hair from roots to ends,” adds Korab. Your hair can become weak and thin if your follicles are clogged, and exfoliation will help get rid of any potential clogging elements to create an optimal environment for fresh growth.

3. Rinse with cold water

“A cold water rinse is a great way to assist your hair’s cuticle to close, leaving you with more reflective shine,” says Graciano, explaining that this can be helpful for combatting the effects of heat damage on our strands. “When we apply heat to our hair, it may [cause] the cuticle to open, which is the perfect escape route for any hydration and moisture to leave your strands rather than keeping it in.” What’s more, rinsing with cold water will help seal in any hydrating products you apply in the shower, allowing them to keep your hair moisturized for longer periods of time.

4. Try a deep conditioner

"Another great way to shock your hair back to life is to apply a hair mask," says Graciano. "Allowing [a mask] to fully absorb into each strand before starting your routine is a great way to directly penetrate your hair strands so they absorb all of the hydration and nutrients it's searching for." She's a fan of the Goldie Locks Ultra Hydrating Hair Mask ($52), which should be applied to dry hair before you shampoo and condition in the shower.

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