1. Know your water. If your hair looks dull or is hard to style, the problem could be your tap water. According to Minneapolis-based Gordon Nelson, international creative director for Regis Salons, well water contains natural minerals (called "hard water") that can leave hair lusterless and hard to manage and can impart a brassy, orange hue. Soft water, on the other hand, has fewer damaging minerals. (Ask your local water department if your water is soft or hard, or try using Robert Craig's No More Bad Hair Days Kit, $20; robertcraig.com; with strips to test your water.) To rid hair of mineral buildup, suds up every week with a clarifying shampoo. We like Frederic Fekkai Apple Cider Clarifying Shampoo and Clean Conditioner ($18.50 each; saks.com).
2. Mist your ends with water before home coloring. The ends of your hair are more porous and, as a result, absorb more pigment. "Wet hair doesn't absorb color as readily as dry hair," explains Renee Patronik, a consulting colorist for L'Oreal in New York.
3. Trim your troubles. As the ends of your hair get older and damaged by rough handling, they become prone to splitting, Nelson says. Get regular trims, at least 1/2 inch every four to eight weeks. "Hair grows (on average) half an inch per month, so trim to maintain healthy ends," says stylist Stephen Knoll of the Stephen Knoll Salon in New York.
4. Use color-protective products. Chemical treatments like color can damage hair because the chemicals have to penetrate the outer layer of the hair (or cuticle) to allow the hue to be absorbed, explains stylist Rodolfo Valentin of Rodolfo Valentin Atelier for Hair in New York. Color-protective products are specially designed to minimize dryness, keep color true and prevent damage. "They typically have more nourishing ingredients, strip less color and are less abusive," Knoll explains. We love L'Oreal VIVE Color Care Shampoo and Conditioner ($3.69 each; at drugstores) and Matrix Biolage Color Care Shampoo ($10) and Conditioner ($11; matrix.com for salon locations).
5. Give wet hair extra TLC. It stretches and snaps more easily than dry hair does, so be extra-gentle with it. "Use a wide-tooth plastic comb while hair is wet; then, once it's towel-dried, switch to a good brush," says Jon Patrick, color director of the Mete Turkmen Hair Salon Plus in New York. And avoid wooden combs; wood can have microscopic divots that snag hairs. Instead try the Jilbere de Paris plastic shower comb ($1.49; sally beauty.com for store locations).
6. Deep condition once every two weeks. "These treatments penetrate the hair shaft and strengthen strands," says Patrick, who adds that using heat (from a blow-dryer) can intensify deep conditioning, as the heat causes the cuticle to open and the ingredients to penetrate.
For nourishing results, try Kerastase Masquintense ($36; 877-748-8357 for salons), available for fine or thick hair; Neutrogena Triple Moisture Sheer Hydration Leave-In Foam ($7; at drugstores); or Ellin Lavar Textures ReconstructMasque ($25; ellinlavar.com).
7. Try an ionic dryer. Ions are atoms with a positive or negative charge. These particular hair-dryers bathe your hair in negative ions, which help break up water molecules faster and cancel out hair-damaging positive ions, Valentin explains. Plus, your hair-drying time is cut in half. We love the Bio Ionic Super-Hydrator Pro Dryer ($165; bioionic.com for salon locations).
8. Just use your dryer's nozzle, urges stylist Frank Galasso of Frank.Studio in Santa Monica, Calif. It's the best way to help prevent frizz because it concentrates the airflow on sections. "Without a nozzle the dryer's grill gets very hot; if your hair gets too close to it, it will cause damage and/or breakage," explains stylist Mark Garrison of the Mark Garrison Salon in New York.