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5 Secrets to Sexy Hair

by Martha Adams

Make Your Hair Shine Like Crazy

"Hair that gleams can send a clear sign that you're young and in your prime, whatever your actual age," says Helen Fisher, Ph.D., biological anthropologist at Rutgers University in Newark, New Jersey. Because youth is associated with fertility, humans are wired to interpret it as a sign of attractiveness. (Shiny hair = young = irresistible!) Follow these rules to restore luminosity and offset the dulling effects of heat styling and too-frequent color touch-ups.

Amp up color. Youthful hair is packed with pigment-making cells functioning at full tilt, which makes for rich, saturated, light-reflecting color. Could your strands use a little professional help? In the salon, ask for a warm shade (think butter blonde, caramel brown, copper) that's similar to your natural color so it won't require more upkeep than you have time for. After all, "Being relaxed about your looks is what feeling sexy is all about," says Lorri Goddard-Clark, a colorist at Privé Salon in Los Angeles, who gave Reese Witherspoon her golden shade. Or brighten up with highlights: Adding a few random, subtly lighter strands around your face gives the illusion of extra shine. To help color sink in more evenly (which turns up the shine factor), use a deep-conditioning mask before and after you color; repeat treatments once a week to keep your hair looking luminous.

Smooth strands. To help the cuticle reflect maximum light, apply a pH-balanced, hydrating hair primer such as Leonor Greyl Lait Luminescence Bi-Phase, $43, to damp, already-conditioned hair. Just as makeup primers smooth the surface of the skin so foundation goes on evenly, hair primers make cuticles sleek so light bounces off. Why the extra step? Using conditioner—the very product meant to make hair smooth and shiny—sometimes steals hair's gleam. That's because rinsing it out can cause hair's outer layer to lift up, which makes hair appear dull, says Bronwen Melvin, a stylist and educator at Bumble and Bumble in New York City. Blame basic chemistry: When hair is at a balanced pH of 7, the cuticle lies flat and reflects light. But post-conditioner, it's exposed to that final rinse of water, which is on the acidic side, so the cuticle lifts up, making hair appear dull.

UV filters in Rene Furterer Okara Radiance Enhancing Spray, $26, slow fading.

Enhance sheen. Curly hair, in particular, can benefit from a shine serum, lotion or spray because all the twists make it tough for the scalp's natural oils to circulate down the length of hair, explains Scott Cunha, a stylist at Andy LeCompte Salon in West Hollywood, California. Apply a shine booster to your palms, then run them down dry strands, section by section. "You want to mimic the motion of a flatiron to get even distribution," says Ted Gibson, owner of the Ted Gibson Salons in NYC and Fort Lauderdale.

Let Your Hair Brush Your Skin

There's a good reason why Victorian women wore their hair perfectly coiffed: Flowing locks were seen as overly sexual, even scandalous, says Galia Ofek, Ph.D., author of Representations of Hair in Victorian Literature and Culture. Today, loose, tousled hair that caresses skin still hints at the possibility of physical contact. Try these touch-me-please style tweaks.

Add subtle layers. They create definition and help hair hit different points on your body. Imagine sideswept bangs right above lush lashes or, if your hair is short, a few pieces grazing your neck.

Try an undone updo. It's a myth that you have to wear your hair down to convey maximum femininity. Go ahead—tie it up in a pony or pull it back into a chignon. Just don't do it too perfectly. "Leave the elastic slightly slack so a few pieces naturally escape on their own," Melvin says.

Give Your Hair Lots of Movement

Happily untamed strands swing and swish in all directions. It's that "where will it go next?" effect that makes us want to reach out, almost instinctively, and touch it. To impart extra motion…

Add volume at the roots. Doing this is the quickest way to create the illusion of motion all over without complicated styling. The reason: When roots stand up away from your scalp, they create a slight curve that allows the rest of hair to move freely rather than lie flat against your head. Spray a volumizing mist directly at roots when hair is wet (try Sally Hershberger Plump Up, $13), then turn your head upside down to blow-dry, aiming the nozzle at your scalp until roots are completely dry, says Hallie Bowman, hairstylist and Pantene consultant in Seattle. "The heat helps seal the style and prevents hair from falling flat," she adds.

Make some waves. Loose waves give the appearance of movement even when you're standing still. To get them, apply a smoothing spray, mousse or cream to damp hair to prevent frizz. Next, separate hair into four or five sections on each side, paying special attention in the front—three of your sections should include the bangs, pieces at the crown and ones by the ears, says Arsen Gurgov, stylist at the Louis Licari Salon in NYC. Position a 1-inch round boar-bristle brush at the roots of each section (boar bristles make hair shinier) and wrap the free strands around it—go looser on some and tighter on others for more natural results. Blow-dry hair completely and finish by setting the curved shape with a blast of cool air. Finger-comb sections to blend together.

Get volume without frying hair with Paul Mitchell Express Ion Dry Turbolight Dryer, $190; natural oils in L'Oréal Paris EverSleek Frizz Taming Crème Serum, $9, smooth strands without weighing them down.

Coax Your Hair Into Softness

It's not rocket science—human beings prefer the feel of certain textures and avoid others. (A just-shaved leg is nicer than three days' worth of stubble; a kitten is more tempting to touch than an armadillo.) The same holds true for hair. To make yours as soft as it can be…

Sleep on it. Shortchange yourself of zzz's and, over time, your strands can become brittle and thin. Get to bed by 10 and you'll reap the benefit of growth hormones at their peak—these powerhouse neurochemicals build new cells and repair damaged ones, including those in hair follicles, says Herbert Benson, M.D., director emeritus of the Benson-Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. Deprive yourself of sleep and the body churns out cortisol, a stress hormone that interferes with cell functioning, wreaking havoc on hair.

Stay hydrated. "Deep conditioners contain proteins and lipids that restore flexibility and make strands smooth and soft," says Philip Kingsley, a trichologist (hair and scalp expert) in NYC and London. Before you shampoo, apply a hair mask such as Dove Damage Therapy Intensive Repair Deep Repairing Mask, $5, to wet hair. Cover hair with a shower cap for about 20 minutes before rinsing; this traps the heat from your head and helps the conditioners soak in more.

Wella Professionals Enrich Straight Leave-In Cream, $12, prevents strawlike strands.

Nourish your scalp. Healthy fats (omega-3 fatty acids from fish, flaxseed or walnuts) regulate the scalp's oil production to keep it from drying out. Zinc (from chicken, beans or nuts) helps the scalp's oil glands churn out enough oil to keep hair naturally shiny.

Infuse Your Hair With Scent

Your strands are a virtual sponge when it comes to fragrance, which is why choosing hair products with a scent you love is so important. To maximize your hair's natural ability to retain and diffuse fragrance, try these strategies.

Hit the right note. It's fine to simply smell a shampoo and decide if you like it or not, but if you want to attract the guy in your life, you should know that men are most aroused by a blend of lavender and pumpkin pie, says Alan Hirsch, M.D., of the Smell & Taste Treatment and Research Foundation in Chicago. Pumpkin-scented shampoo may be tough to find, so try Kiss My Face Big Body Shampoo, which contains lavender oil, $8. (FYI, Dr. Hirsch found that women were turned on by a combination of cucumber and licorice.)

Spray away. Hot spots on your body—the nape of your neck, behind your knees, the inside of your wrists—are the best places to spritz fragrance. The heat in these areas encourages scents to evaporate faster, making them more noticeable. The same is true for your hair: "Your head generates heat, which magnifies any scent," explains Avery Gilbert, Ph.D., author of What the Nose Knows. To help fragrance last longer on hair, spritz a light mist above your head, then pull hair into an updo. When you're ready to go out at night, let your hair down—and savor the rush of sexy scent that surrounds you. Eau-la-la!

Floral notes such as magnolia in Victoria's Secret Incredible eau de parfum, $45, are linked to romance (and sex!).

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