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Do You Need a Hair Make-Under?

By Olivia Neko

As we move through the world on our assorted missions, our physical appearance speaks volumes about who we are. And in some cases the volume is loud. If you suspect you might benefit from turning down the intensity, consider the advice from Michael Shaun Corby, artistic director at Alterna, a New York City hair salon.

You're in need of a hair make-under if...

Your hair feels crunchy or oily. If there's residue when you rake your fingers through your hair, you're in need of a make-under. We understand — it's easy to get carried away, thinking that if a little spray, cream or pomade works, more will work better. But less is more in this case, and just a dash of almost all hair products works wonders. So apply only a pea-size dab of cream or pomade. And for finishing sprays, use the same technique you might for applying fragrance and "walk through the spray," says Corby, to allow for a light, even diffusion, not an intense dousing.

Your hair is huge. If your hair is bigger than your head (unless of course you're auditioning for a production of Hairspray), you need a make-under. To tame big hair, use a wax-based product; this will add some weight to the hair and prevent it from expanding, as big hair tends to do in humidity. Just spread a tiny amount of waxy pomade across your palms and fingers, and pull the product from the roots of your hair to the ends.

You're abusing your flatiron. "If you're looking like an overprocessed Paula Abdul video from the '80s, you're probably abusing your flatiron and in dire need of a make-under," says Corby. To repair hair, try shampooing with a mixture of two parts conditioner to one part shampoo and then letting your hair dry naturally. Next, use your ceramic iron on high heat. Low heat, says Corby, can actually cause more damage than high heat because it requires you to spend more time applying heat to your hair. Iron up then down for a natural finish. Corby also recommends Alterna Caviar Rapid Repair Spray to add shine and repair hair.

Your hair doesn't move in the wind. Not unlike the plastic coverings your grandma may have used to protect the furniture, uber-strong-hold hair products may protect your style, but they give you a hard appearance. Even if your hair looks gorgeous, if it's basically untouchable, you're in need of a make-under. "Instead of applying products to dry hair, use the core of your holding products when hair is damp," says Corby. And use them conservatively. "That way you'll keep your style, but hair will remain pliant and flexible."