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Here's the Number One Rule for Hot-Weather Hair

Top tricks to spare your locks and swivel some heads.

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fashion beauty summer
Jesse Reiser
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I drive a 2002 Mercedes hard-top convertible named “Miss Beep Beep.” She’s sunshine yellow — about the same color as my near-waist-length hair. With locks as vintage as my roadster — and as prone to break down — it’s no wonder I’ve spent more in five years on hair maintenance and hats than the $11,000 I’ve spent on the car.

But here’s the thing: The megabucks and follicular risks are worth it. That zippy two-seater makes me happier than any other thing I’ve ever bought. After working for a paycheck since my teens, I got myself the gift of Miss Beep Beep for my 60th birthday. Then, I promptly popped on a straw hat and sunglasses, put her top down and cruised my favorite drive in Florida: along the Gulf of Mexico, from Lido Key in Sarasota north to Anna Maria Island.

It was exhilarating — the salt-sprayed breeze and sparkling water, the scent of hot dogs grilling as I passed Manatee Beach Park, the deep breath of freedom.

In the six years since that first joyride, I’ve driven both Florida coasts, collected at least 20 straw hats and spared my hair from frying. If the rest of me still bounced like my hair, I could pass for 45. Here’s what I learned about summer lovin’ your locks.

Number one rule for hot-weather hair: Make it easy.

“Embrace your natural hair,” says Denver stylist Vince Varia. “Embrace your curl and use products that enhance it. Don’t over-wash your hair. Let it dry naturally until it’s damp, then finish it with the blow dryer. And get a wide-toothed comb for detangling … it can be your hair’s best friend.”

Varia has tamed the manes of celebrities, models and real people for 40 years — and he urges us to tame less in the summer. “Most women wash their hair too often,” he says. “That strips the color. Plus, as we age, our bodies produce less natural emollient, and our hair doesn’t get dirty as fast.” Many of his clients and friends — including me — wash their hair once every five days, using dry shampoo on day five.

Use hair products with SPF.

Some dry shampoos have SPF to protect your scalp, such as Supergoop Poof Powder and ULTA Beauty Mineral Hair & Scalp Powder. I use Kérastase Chronologiste products formulated for mature hair. If I’m driving in my convertible, I spray on Kérastase Huile Sirene Hair Oil Mist, braid my hair into a low side braid and wear a hat. My hair is naturally half-curly and half straight, and this mist-plus-braid combo gives me beach waves.

Fill in fine hair with root powder.

I’m lucky because my hair is thick, even though it’s more porous than it was 30 years ago. It’s naturally white on top and salt-and-pepper everywhere else, but I’ll die a sunny blonde — so that means I get highlights every few months, and a base color every other month. I make my base color last by brushing a powder — Joan Rivers Great Hair Day — on my scalp when my white shines through. I use a dark blond shade, the natural color of my roots circa 1974. If you have thinning hair, or you see too much scalp when you pull your hair into a ponytail, try using a powder like Great Hair Day, TRUHAIR or Color Wow Hair to cover gray roots and make your hair look fuller.

Remember: Wind can be more damaging than sun. 

If you drive a ragtop, sail a boat or hop on a Harley, pay close attention to the ends of your hair. “Wind whipping the ends of your hair is disastrous,” Varia warns. “I had a client the other day with torn-up hair. She had been on the back of a motorcycle, cruising through the mountains. Humans are not meant to be going that fast in the elements! I had to trim 2 inches off her hair because her ends were shredded from whipping back and forth, like a flag blowing at 100 mph.”

Do what Grace Kelly would do … wear a scarf, a hat or both.

“You don’t have to do a total To Catch a Thief look, but there’s a reason Grace Kelly wore a scarf when she was driving in that convertible with Cary Grant, and not just because it looked fabulous,” Varia says. “Head scarves are back in, and there are tutorials on YouTube to show you how to tie them.” Palm Beach landscape architect Elizabeth “Libby” Marshall perfected a Grace-like look when she drove a convertible: Hermés scarf tied around her head with a Darcy Creech-designed hat on top. Marshall discovered Creech’s Nantucket hat shop in 1990 and owns six of her Wauwinet hats. With its tall crown, downturned brim and 3-inch ribbon band, the Wauwinet is “the perfect hat,” Marshall says. It’s available at PeterBeaton.com, named for Creech’s son, who now runs the business.

Another hat shape that’s bound for a rebound? The straw boater, which shows up in the new Downton Abbey movie.

My favorite hat at the moment is a bucket hat by GIGI PIP, a social-media-savvy company for, as the company motto goes, “the woman who wears many hats.” This crochet bucket has an adjustable hat band to keep it secure while I’m driving. Other brands in the $50 range with adjustable bands: Brixton and Wallaroo Hat Company. Wallaroo’s hats block harmful UV rays. Even high-end hat designers like Eric Javits offer hats with UV protection.

Of course, fashion and function meet when I wear my yellow floral bucket hat by Lack of Color, an Australian brand popular among influencers my daughter's age. That bucket matches Miss Beep Beep — and never fails to turn heads.

For less expensive options, Target offers many summer hats for less than $10.

As my friend Kathleen O’Shaughnessy-Hearn, a retired magazine exec who owns 50 hats, says: “My dear, a hat, like a bright yellow convertible, is a statement! You have to be able to carry it off!”

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