Your hair is at its most fragile state post-shower.

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Most of us already know that excessive heat can make our hair more fragile, but few truly understand that it's when our hair is wet that it is most vulnerable, says Ted Gibson, a celebrity hairstylist. "It's porous and can absorb up to 45 percent of its own weight in water," he explains, noting that this absorption actually makes hair more prone to breakage. To learn more about the topic—and how to handle hair, whatever the texture, while it is wet—we asked several experts for their insight.

smiling woman in shower with wet hair
Credit: Getty / Moyo Studio

Proteins and Bonds

Our hair might look like thousands of singular strands arranged all over our heads, but DreamGirls co-founder Tonya Thompson says that it is important to get more granular. "Each individual hair shaft is made up of keratin, a protein, and composed of bonds," she explains. "The hydrogen bonds are weaker when they are wet, as opposed to when they are dry. This means that while your hair is wet, it stretches—and if manipulated too harshly, any weak points on the cuticles can snap." And that goes for any hair type. That said, according to Adriana Papaleo, an advanced stylist at Rob Peetoom Salon Williamsburg, those with ultra-fine, coarse, or chemically-treated or lightened hair need to be the most careful when manipulating wet strands.

Detangling

Most of us reach for the detangling brush post-shower. Conversely, Thompson suggests tackling knots before you bathe—and letting your hair partially dry afterward before running a comb through it. "Your hair can get even more tangled when it is wet, specifically during the shampoo process, causing more breakage and excessive shedding," she explains. When combing, whether before your shower or after your hair has partially dried, Sharie Wilson, the other half of DreamGirls, says that it is important to work your way from the ends up to your roots—never the other way around.

Combs and Brushes

And if combs or brushes don't move easily through your hair after a rinse, then it might be time for some better tools. When it comes to brushing, those with curly hair will have the best results with a comb, whereas those with finer, straighter textures can benefit greatly from using a Wet Brush ($18.29, target.com) or Tangle Teezer ($12, urbanoutfitters.com)—both of which are brushes designed to unfurl stubborn knots sans the damage. Beyond a brush, integrate a detangling product—like DreamGirls TLC Comb-Out Treatment ($29.99, dghair.com) or Briogeo's Be Gentle, Be Kind Aloe + Oat Milk Ultra Soothing Detangling Spray ($24, net-a-porter.com)—into your routine. By doing so, Papaleo says you will create slippage, so that the bristles and teeth don't end up snagging each strand's cuticle, causing everything from frizz to breakage. Using this method, "you will notice less breakage and stress on your hair!" she assures us.

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