My boyfriend says I’m not as “clean” as his previous girlfriends. While it’s true I think it’s easier to find clothes when they’re in piles, I have — in grand preparation for turning 30 — cultivated an interest in looking polished and professional. I steam my clothes (not in the shower) and budget for facials and retinol. I’m obsessed with our air purifier and “cool mist” humidifier. On most mornings, I leave the house with clear pores, clean clothes, healthy lungs. My hair, though, has been the final frontier in my quest to look like a female CEO who has the Galaxy dress in every color. I have thin hair, the kind that curls slightly at the ends, like a Chinese fortune fish. A professional blowout, though effective at denying my hair’s true nature, always makes me look too coiffed, like the wife of a junior senator, until about noon when the curls start to droop.
I’d still be in hair purgatory if I weren’t a creep. Getting ready for a night out a month ago, I was digging through my friend Karley’s medicine cabinet, and came across her thermal straightener — the love child of a hair dryer, curling iron, and round brush. As someone without the dexterity for even tweezers, I appreciated a brush you didn’t have to hold in one hand while blow-drying with the other. In retrospect, it’s not so surprising that she would have this in her arsenal — as Vogue’s sex columnist, Karley is perhaps the only woman who doesn’t sweat looking date-ready. I bought one.
Besides throwing out silk shirts with pit stains, using my Amika brush has had the most beneficial results in my quest to look thoroughly presentable with minimal effort. You can use the thermal brush right out of the shower, on towel-dried hair, but if you’re late for work, you can also just preen the cowlicks out of unwashed bedhead. There’s no threat of burning your forehead since the nylon bristles are a thick barrier between you and the ceramic. The best part is that I have never spent more than eight-and-a-half minutes “styling” my hair with this tool. I finger-comb a dime-size amount of Ouai’s finishing crème on my split ends, and then just comb my hair with the Amika as I would any hairbrush. This doesn’t so much achieve a hairstyle as eliminate unruly stray elements (and unlike a standard straightener, the thermal brush doesn’t zap my volume). As sorority pledges know, taming one’s hair straight is a beeline to looking inoffensive — but it also signals intentionality. I don’t look askew. I look clean.
More Strat-approved hair accessories
Model Alexa Chung is picky about which hairbrush she uses. Her choice? The Harry Josh Detangling Brush: “My hair and I mostly have a good relationship, but sometimes we fall out. And when we do, it’s usually because I find it hard to get my brush through it in one fell swoop — it’s very fine, so it gets very tangled, and nothing gets through it. But somehow this green beauty is really good. I never thought about hairbrushes as good or bad until I bought this one, and it’s a whole new world. The other day, I was on a trip and had left it at home, so I used a lesser one. But I got a new Harry Josh brush, and life is all good again.”
If you’re looking for another highly regarded brush, Strategist senior editor Simone Kitchens stands by the Tangle Teezer: “Palm-size and kidney-shaped, it’s like a cross between a dog brush and those circular old-man scalp-massage brushes (I like to keep one in the shower for that reason). Post–shampoo and conditioner, the forgiving plastic bristles detangle my insanely knot-prone curls with ease — no yanks, no tears; 30 minutes later, another pass through air-dried ends gives me that triangular halo-fuzz that I’m forever reaching for. Midday, I’ll pull one out of my drawer or grab the one I keep stashed in my bag and fluff things up a bit. And you don’t have to have puffy-fine curls to appreciate this thing. I gifted one to my stick-straight-haired 5-year-old niece who is in one of the more tangly phases of her life, and she loves it, too.”
Writer Fiona Byrne swears by her Parlux blow dryer: “And even though it delivers a more powerful punch than the dryers at most salons, it’s terrific for home use because it’s shorter, and much easier to maneuver. I find “professional” hair dryers so long that I tend to hit myself in the head with them when trying to reach certain spots. It’s called a “super compact,” which may conjure a visual of those pathetic, pointless hair dryers you’ll find in hotel bathrooms, but I wouldn’t say it’s that small. At just over a pound, though, I travel everywhere with mine. The nine-foot-long cable means that I’m not leashed to the outlet, either.”
This super-affordable hair straightener is a hit on Amazon. One reviewer said: “Being a mom of two, pregnant with a third, and in the middle of moving, it’s hard to have time to get my hair done, but with this, I do my hair in 30 minutes, rather than over an hour. I haven’t bought a new straightener in probably four years, and I bought this with very little expectations. I got it a day before I had to go to a church activity, so I decided to get pretty and straightened my hair … OMG! First of all, not only did it take half the time to do my hair, but it left my hair as amazing as I always wanted it! Super silky smooth. I then used it to make some curls on my 8-year-old. In less than 15 minutes, I was done with her hair and she was in love with the curls.”
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