In the Mirror

Terrific Treatments for Toughening Your Tresses

By Charlotte on February 2, 2014 1:33 AM

Going gray is the least of my worries. At 56 (practically 57, yikes!), my once-blonde hair has gotten darker with no trace of silver just yet. It came back brown after a life-saving double mastectomy and 6 rounds of chemotherapy in 2009 ... but that's another story.

Although color's not my mane concern (there's always Clairol!), I have PLENTY of other hair issues. To start, my tresses are so dry I can no longer shampoo every day as was my habit for decades. Plus, they're brittle, prone to break and thinner than ever. You know things are bad when your hair stylist corners you saying "You've GOT to do something!"

After blaming my age, constant highlighting and the little, white pill I take daily to fend off breast cancer, I quit making excuses and started giving my tresses some much-needed TLC. That's where these terrific, at-home treatments come in handy. They're made to nourish and repair damage so you can have longer, stronger locks.

AAVEENO Nourish+ Strengthen Shampoo 75.jpgveAVEENO Nourish+ Strengthen Conditioner 75.jpgeno Nourish+ Strengthen Shampoo and Conditioner

Two more winners from the folks that make one of my favorite makeup removers, Aveeno's Nourish+ Strengthen shampoo and conditioner help bring damaged hair back to life. The pair targets weak areas with a blend of wheat protein and wheat germ that builds strength and reduces breakage. It's said to repair 90% of damage in just 3 weeks. Wowza!

Shampooing and conditioning with this twosome leaves my hair soft and healthy looking. As a bonus, these affordable drugstore buys are gentle enough for color-treated hair (yes!) and can be used every day if that's how you roll. ($6.99-$7.99 each for 10.5-ounce bottles at AVEENO.com and national food, drug and discount stores)

Aveeno Nourish+ Strengthen shampoo and conditioner use a blend of wheat protein and wheat germ to build strength and reduce breakage.

Focus Rejuvenating Shampoo and Conditioner Set

Perfect for girls and guys with thinner hair, Focus Rejuvenating shampoo and conditioner promote growth of strong, healthy locks. They combine natural ingredients like jojoba oil extract, silk protein and that incredibly hydrating argan oil everyone seems to be talking about to condition your scalp and stimulate dormant hair follicles. Too bad they weren't around 5 years ago when I was totally bald and trying to get my hair to grow, baby, GROW.

This dynamic duo has a healing herbal fragrance that tells you good things are happening. But after using them, I almost panicked 'cause I accidentally forgot to follow up with my normal volumizers before blow drying (it must have been a late night!). Although I wouldn't recommend going that far, there was no need for a do-over because this body-building pair gives hair a really nice boost. Free of gluten, parabens and sulfates, they can be used every day on all hair types, including chemically treated and colored hair. ($25 for a set of 2, 15-ounce bottles at Focus.com)

John Frieda Full Repair Collection

Everyday heat damage from blow drying, flat ironing and curling can leave locks dry, making them more likely to break. That's when John Frieda's new Full Repair collection can come to the rescue. These light formulas use antioxidant-rich inca inchi oil, which contains 47 times more omega-3 than argan oil, to restore split ends, prevent flyaways and protect strands from future problems.

Since they work without weighing hair down, these nourishing treatments are great for fine, thin tresses like mine. Heavy-duty moisturizing can make my mane fall flat but that's not a problem with these affordable Full Repair champs:

Strengthen + Restore Shampoo and Conditioner: This potent team can be used daily to repair frayed ends and help prevent breakage. They strengthen damaged locks restoring smoothness without sacrificing volume. ($6.99 each for 8.45-ounce tubes)

Repairing Oil Elixir: This nourishing leave-in oil smoothes and strengthens strands while adding shine. Spreading a dab through the ends of my hair before blow drying gives me a super healthy look. For thicker tresses, you can rub it in from the roots to the ends. You can also use it on dry hair to get rid of irritating static and boost shine. ($9.99 for 3 ounces)

Safe for color-treated tresses, Full Repair products are available at food, drug and discount stores nationwide

Philip Kingsley Damage Treatments

Designed to nourish both your hair and scalp, these Philip Kingsley products excel at reviving fragile, ratty-looking tresses:

Elasticizer: Touted as the world's first pre-shampoo conditioning treatment, this intensive therapy delivers a rush of moisture that dramatically improves your hair's health and texture after just one use. It works wonders for all hair types (even those on the finer side line mine) because it doesn't thicken hair or weight it down.

You put Elasticizer on wet hair before washing, focusing on the middle and ends of your tresses. Then shampoo and rinse twice before conditioning as usual. If dealing with severe damage, you can cover your hair with a plastic cap and wait 20 minutes before washing for extra impact. Afterwards, your locks are stronger, silkier with notice-me bounce and shine. The benefits get even better with continued use and include UV protection which helps your color last longer. Nice! ($25 for 2.5 ounces; $45 for 5 ounces)

Daily Damage Defence: This light, leave-in spray detangles, repairs damage, provides heat protection, adds super shine and volume, improves manageability and guards against UV damage. Don't you just love multitasking?

It contains a slew of mega-conditioning ingredients such as Almond Seedcake Extract which strengthens and smoothes while boosting body. Like the Elasticizer, this daily formula's geared for all hair types but when you have thinner tresses it's best to avoid your roots and spray it on sparingly. That means one little bottle can last a surprisingly long time. ($11 for 2.03 ounces; $35 for 8.45 ounces)

For maximum benefits, you can add both Philip Kingsley Elasticizer and Daily Damage Defence to your routine. However, I haven't tried using both in one sitting. You can find them at PhilipKingsley.com.

Redkin Extreme Collection

Whether your hair needs a little soothing or a major makeover, Redkin's Extreme Collection has an answer. Recommended for distressed, damaged or chemically weakened strands, this new line has been revamped with Redken's Fortifying Complex and Interlock Protein Network. Together, they provide advanced strengthening and repair to rejuvenate tired tresses.

This fortifying family includes these favorites:

Shampoo and Conditioner: This protein-packed pair enhances your hair's strength while cleansing, adding shine and detangling. (Shampoo: $15 for 10.1 ounces; Conditioner: $16 for 8.5 ounces)

Anti-Snap: A light, leave-in treatment that's a must-have for shampoo days. It helps reduce fear-of-frying from heat styling, friction from brushing, breakage and split ends. ($17.50 for 8.5 ounces)

CAT Treatment: This protein reconstructing treatment can replace the Extreme Conditioner after shampooing. Leaving it in 3 - 5 minutes and rinsing builds strength immediately. A true friend for finer tresses like mine, it's lightweight and ups the conditioning benefits without adding weight. ($17 for 5 ounces)

Strength Builder: A deep-conditioning mask that targets weak areas and strengthens them from the inside out while enhancing shine. I enjoy using the Strength Builder instead of Extreme Conditioner on days when I have more time. You put it on damp hair after shampooing. (Since my hair's so fine, I avoid my roots.) Leave it on 5 - 15 minutes then rinse really good. Later, my hair feels soft, much less frazzled and totally touchable. ($17 for 8.5 ounces)

Strength Builder Plus: Thicker, intensive therapy that's a 911 for highly distressed tresses. Although used just like the Strength Builder, this rinse-out mask works even harder at locating weak spots and making repairs, conditioning and adding strength to the core of overworked hair. I like having this mask on-hand but it's so rich I save it for times when my hair really needs coddling. ($17 for 8.5 ounces)

The Extreme Collection is available at Redkin salons. To locate one, visit Redkin.com.

Sensai Intensive Hair Mask

Made for severely damaged hair, Sensai's Intensive Hair Mask helps reinforce strands so they're less likely to break and split. This deep-level treatment pampers locks with a blend of 10 oriental herbal extracts.

You can use this rich, creamy hair healer once or twice a week after shampooing. Whatever your choice, prepare to unwind. Although it doesn't eat up much time, I like using this nourishing formula on Saturdays because it has an intoxicating fragrance that relaxes my mind while refreshing my tresses. Letting it work 2 to 5 minutes then rinsing really well smoothes split ends and gives me date-night perfect shine. ($57 for 7 ounces at Bergdorfgoodman.com and Neimanmarcus.com)

Tammy Fender Hair Care System

Want a spa-like experience every time you shampoo? Tammy Fender's Omega Rich Hair Cleansing Crème and Moisturizer blend active botanicals and luxurious essential oils that deeply penetrate the hair shaft. Free of sulfates, silicones and parabens, this all-natural twosome helps turnaround weak, dry, brittle tresses by building strength, beauty and vitality.

Omega Rich Hair Cleansing Crème: Enriched with vitamins, minerals and amino acids, this pure botanical shampoo nurtures and conditions tresses. I adore massaging this ubber-thick, lather-free formula into my hair because it stimulates my scalp while cleansing. ($45 for 8 ounces)

Omega Rich Hair Moisturizer: Gentle enough to use every day, this deeply hydrating treatment replenishes and restores health to dry, damaged locks in addition to addressing dry scalp issues like dandruff.

I like applying it from the middle to the ends of my tresses, avoiding the roots, since my hair is thin. You can leave it in up to 5 minutes; then rinse out completely or, for added moisture, rinse lightly allowing some product to remain in your hair. Either way, you'll notice improved softness, movement and shine without a trace of oily residue. ($55 for 8 ounces)

The Tammy Fender Hair Care System is available TammyFender.com.

We'd like to shout out a big "Thank You" to the brands in this post

for providing free samples for review and testing.

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