Those who have watched Fleabag know this one thing to be true: “Hair is everything. We wish it wasn’t so we could actually think about something else occasionally, but it is. It’s the difference between a good day and a bad day. “
Be that as it may, taking care of one’s hair makes it more likely that one actually experiences the elusive good hair day more often than not. But with varying textures, densities, and hair conditions, it can be hard to know where to start. Especially in this era of at-home everything, whether it’s covering one’s roots or DIY facials. (Just, please, we beg of you don’t cut your bangs yourself.)
Whether you are looking to get glossy, strong strands, or maybe you just want to extend the time between hair appointments, there are many tricks of the trade you can employ to get your best head of hair yet. From ingredients to look for, how often you should wash your hair, and even treatments to stimulate hair growth, read on for 11 tips for healthy hair, plus some products that will help you get there.
How Often You Wash Your Hair Depends on Hair Type
There’s a lot of conjecture on the internet about how often one should wash their hair. Some swear by every other day, others no more than once a week. But the truth is there’s no real hard and fast rule that guarantees hair health. It depends on your hair type. Dhiran Mistry of David Mallett Salon in NYC explains, “Daily washing can drastically dry out the hair but there are less stringent shampoos that can moisturize more than others, which is a good middle ground for shampooing daily without drying it out too much. ” He adds that some people with really thin hair still like the feeling of clean, dry hair as it can make the hair seem fuller with more texture. Those with thick hair don’t need to wash as often because the hair absorbs more of the natural oils the scalp generates.
How Often Should You Cut Your Hair
Mistry is pretty blunt about this: a split end is a split end. “I often see people that haven’t had cuts in a while with longer hair and thin ends. This is because they are only focused on length and not consistency. What happens is that the roots feel thicker and the ends feel more sparse.” As a general rule, those who do more to their hair—e.g., coloring, heat styling, and treatments like keratin, should cut their hair every eight weeks.
Minimize Heat Styling If Possible
In an ideal world, says Mistry, “Styling hair should be left for special occasions. Finer hair can be air dried, thicker hair can be [heat] dried but then left for a week before washing again. Frizzier hair that needs some sort of resetting can be done so using a water spritz.” In other words, keep heat styling to a minimum to protect your hair and hair cuticle. Another tip: “Understanding your hair, and how to get the most from its natural texture, will allow you to rely more on products and less on heat styling. Products will help protect your hair as well as enhance a shape or texture.” If you absolutely must style? Blow dryers apply much less direct heat to your hair than straighteners, says Mistry.
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Cold Water Makes Your Hair Look Shinier
One easy way to give your hair a little gleam is to lower the temperature of your shower. “Cold rinses when you wash your hair will close the cuticle. A closed cuticle reflects the light, leaving the hair looking shiny,” says Mistry. If you want added shine, use protecting oil, cream, or serum to give your strands some gleam.
If Color Your Hair, Space Out the Appointments
Lionel Atlzas, colorist at David Mallett, suggests spacing out color treatments to minimize stress on your strands—especially between when you are doing your roots or getting highlights. “The best way for your hair to heal is to space out your color appointments while nourishing and hydrating your hair at home with masks that you could do once a week for about 5-10 minutes.”
Another tip: Always use color-safe shampoo when washing your hair, ideally one that is free of sulfate, which can strip out color.
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Hair Loss Can Be Treated Internally and Topically
Board certified dermatologist Dr. Steven Shapiro says there are more than a few options if your hair is thinning. “For a prescription-strength route, Minoxidil is the only FDA-approved prescription treatment for female hair loss. It stimulates healthy blood flow in your scalp, allowing vital oxygen and nutrients to flow to your hair follicles. This essentially ‘wakes up’ underactive hair follicles, and increases their ability to grow hair.” But if you don’t want to take a prescription, Dr. Shapiro advises using products with ingredients such as saw palmetto berry, green tea extract, and caffeine, which protect against DHT, a hormone that shrinks and damages your hair follicles, stunting hair growth.
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Health Hair Growth Requires a Good Diet
Dr. Shapiro says, “what you eat, and what you don’t eat can have a very real impact on your hair. ” Specifically, eating sugar can cause your body to produce increased levels of DHT, a hormone that triggers hair loss. So limiting your sugar intake is key. Do, however, eat whole foods that are rich in nutrients like protein, Vitamin C, and omega 3 fatty acids. Iron, B12, folate, biotin, and zinc are also of benefit to the hair. Low Iron, B12, and Folate levels can cause anemia which reduces blood flow to the hair.
Some other tips: Zinc reduces inflammation which is the first step in hair falling out. And taking a probiotic can help your gut—or gastrointestinal system—absorb critical nutrients your hair needs to thrive.
Microneedling Could Stimulate Hair Growth
Another way to boost the health of your hair is to microneedle your scalp. “Microneedling is thought to stimulate hair growth independently (by itself) through regeneration of hair follicles,” explains Dr. Shapiro. Microneedling also leaves a small temporary canal (or hole) in the skin, which allows for better topical product absorption.
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If You Have an Oily Scalp, Be Sure to Use Products that Don’t Stimulate Your Oil Production
Caroline Greyl, President of Leonor Greyl, explains that a common mistake people with oily scalps make is reaching for baby shampoo because they have to wash their hair more frequently and want to be gentle on it. “Baby shampoos, which contain few washing agent, will not be able to treat oily hair.” Instead, she suggests picking a shampoo made with gentle and less aggressive cleansing agents to not activate the sebaceous glands. “The shampoo should allow you to wash your hair as often as you like without causing a seborrhea reaction. “
Some other key pointers: make sure you thoroughly rinse your shampoo, and use a leave-in tonic. “A leave-in treatment after each shampoo, is recommended such as Tonique Végétal which offers a prolonged action on the scalp by slowing the appearance of sebum and excessive perspiration. It helps keep hair clean for longer and extends the hold of the hairstyle, bringing a real improvement to the problems of oily scalps.”
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Leonor Greyl Paris Tonique Végétal Leave-in Treatment Spray
Healthy Hair Requires a Healthy Scalp
Dandruff is a common culprit in upsetting scalp health. In order to effectively treat the condition, Robbie Salter, the co-founder of Jupiter, suggests reaching for products that have zinc pyrithione. But, it must be noted that when it comes to treating dandruff, every scalp is different. “Flaking comes in a variety of forms, and in turn, requires different approaches. For example, flakes that look like powdered sugar would indicate a dry scalp, calling for a medicated shampoo 2-3x per week and conditioning every time you wash; whereas thicker, larger and yellowish flakes could indicate a case of seborrheic dermatitis, calling for the use of a medicated shampoo and conditioner more frequently, as well as a follow-on application of actives,” says Salter.
Don’t Fight with Your Hair Texture
Akuba Torvikey, Director of Product Development at PATTERN, explains, “Our hair is as unique as our fingerprints and each one of us has a unique combination of textures, types and attributes that make up our ‘hair pattern.’ Embrace what’s yours.”
Some other helpful advice: No matter your texture —curly, coily or tight textured—hair works in the same way. A closed cuticle (the outermost layer of your hair) provides the sheen, softness, and manageability we all strive for. A good conditioner helps to close the cuticle.
The golden rule: the best thing you can do for your hair is low manipulation. “Leave your hair alone!,” says Torvikey. Find protective styles that are low-tension and avoid excessive heat or harsh chemicals for your best curls, coils, and tight textures.
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