Healthy hair is something to be proud of. Like healthy skin, healthy hair reflects what is going on inside of our bodies and how we are living our lives. An unhealthy diet and bad hair habits will show up in your hair. From split ends, to dryness, oiliness, or dullness, the signs will be plain to see. Whether you consider your hair to be your crowning glory or a monstrous mess you have to battle with every day, there are some universal rules to get hair back on the road to health, and to keep it there.
Tips for healthy hair
To have healthy hair, the technique you use and the products you choose have a big part to play.
Don’t wash hair too frequently, as this can strip the scalp of its natural oils and send the oil glands into overdrive. It might seem counterintuitive to not wash your hair more if it’s oily, but if the natural oils are stripped away, the oil glands simply produce more.
Use conditioner on the ends of your hair. A good conditioner can add moisture and improve hair strength and shine. Avoid the roots as it can make them appear limp and greasy.
Choose products for your hair type and condition. You wouldn’t choose a heavy moisturiser for oily skin, so take the same approach to your hair.
Protect your hair when swimming or out in the sun. If you must go in the pool, put a leave in conditioner in your hair before you swim then use a deep conditioner afterwards. Always protect the hair and scalp with a hat when you are out in the sun.
Common hair problems
Everyone’s hair is different and everyone has their Achilles heel when it comes to their hair. Whether your hair is dry, greasy or going grey, here are some of the most common hair woes:
Grey hair is either sophisticated, or for many people, a sign of advancing age. Grey hair is pretty much unavoidable as we age, and researchers believe that they have found the reason hair goes grey. Hair gets its colour from a pigment called melanin, which is made by cells called melanocytes which are in the hair follicles. Research has discovered that the cells are damaged as we age and they are eventually unable to make the pigment that gives our hair its colour. When hair has no pigment, it appears white, grey, or even silver. The age your hair goes grey is largely down to your genetics, so look at your mother and father.
Hair has a growth cycle of about 3 to 4 years, then it slows for around 3 months. At the end of the 3 months, the hair falls out and is replaced by new hair. Losing around 100 hairs per day is normal, but if you are regularly finding a lot of hair in your hair brush or shower plughole, it’s time to get checked out. Men can lose hair due to male pattern baldness which is genetic hair loss, but there are several reasons why hair can fall out. Medications, thyroid problems, stress, hormone imbalances, and autoimmune conditions can cause hair loss. Certain styling techniques such as wearing ponytails that are too tight, and subjecting the hair to harsh chemicals can stress the hair and lead to hair loss too. There are treatments available such as the topical treatment Minoxidil and steroid injections.
Over styling and the excessive use of heat can damage the hair cuticle which protects the hair. Hair can appear dry, rough, and brittle. To avoid split ends, brush hair gently with a hair brush made from natural bristles if possible. Avoid rubbing your hair dry with a towel, pat it dry instead. Use a deep conditioning treatment to smooth the cuticle and add moisture back into the hair. Allow hair to dry naturally where possible, and if you must use heat, use heat protection products.
Healthy hair needs moisture. Washing hair too often, using harsh products, excessive heat styling, exposure to the sun, chlorine, and a poor diet can all cause the hair to appear dry. Don’t wash your hair every day, every other day is enough. Use gentle products which are designed for your hair type. Limit heat styling and avoid harsh chemical treatments, and protect hair when you are out in the sun or in the pool.
If the oil glands in the scalp produce too much oil and this can make the scalp and hair greasy, dull and limp. Wash hair with a gentle shampoo but not too frequently as this stimulates the oil glands.
Split ends are unsightly and give the hair an unhealthy appearance. You can use smoothing treatments on the hair, but the only real cure is to get them cut off, or do your best to prevent them in the first place.
How to prevent split ends
Brush the hair gently, use a natural bristle brush where possible. Try not to brush the hair when it’s wet as it’s more prone to breakage. If the hair is tangled, use a wide-tooth comb and comb from the ends upwards.
Only use a hair dryer when the hair is 80% dry. Using too much heat on the hair can sap it of its moisture and cause ends to split.
Towel dry the hair gently, don’t rub the hair as this can cause it to frizz up and tangle.
Protect your hair from the sun with a leave-in conditioner and a hat.
Deep condition the hair with an intensive treatment once or twice per week. If hair has plenty of moisture, it’s much less likely to split. Deep conditioning long hair is a must as it is more prone to splitting.
How can you treat split ends?
Use shampoos for split ends
You can buy shampoos with nutrients such as keratin to seal split ends. Use these shampoos on the ends of the hair only.
Use a treatment to coating split ends
Treatments for split ends often contain silicon or keratin which coat the hair and seal split ends. This is only a temporary fix though. Only use the treatment every few times you shampoo, or the hair will look weighed down.
Get a good trim
This is the only real way to treat split ends. If you get about 1cm of hair trimmed off every 4-6 weeks, this should deal with the majority of split ends, and hair will grow in a lot healthier.
Invest in a good hair brush
Brushes with plastic or metal bristles can damage hair. Invest in a brush with natural bristles which are a lot gentler on the hair.
DIY remedies to sort out your split ends
If you have split ends, a good hair day might seem like an impossible dream, and lack of good nutrition and a lack of moisture can make the problem worse. But all is not lost, there are some great home remedies you can try that can help to get rid of your split ends for good.
Eggs are rich in protein and healthy fatty acids that help treat split ends. The hair is made up of protein, and adding protein to the hair helps strengthen it and promote healthy growth. Using an egg mask once per week can help mend split ends. Whisk an egg yolk and mix it with 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil and a tablespoon of honey. Apply it to damp hair, leave it on for 30 minutes, then rinse hair thoroughly. Shampoo your hair as normal. You can also make a mask from an egg and a teaspoon of almond oil. Repeat the same method of application.
Hot Oil Deep Conditioner
Using a deep conditioning hot oil treatment restores moisture and helps to reduce and manage split ends. Use this treatment regularly, at least once per week, for best results. Heat some olive oil, coconut oil, almond oil, or castor oil in the microwave for 20-30 seconds. Massage the oil into your hair and scalp. Leave the oil to penetrate the hair shaft for about 45 minutes then shampoo your hair as normal. Add a few drops of rosemary, sandalwood, or any other oil you like to add a nice fragrance to the mask.
The protein, fatty acids, folic acid, and the many other nutrients that are in avocado means that it is an excellent hair conditioner, and it nourishes hair and promotes healthy hair growth. Mash up an avocado and mix in 2 tablespoons of olive oil and coconut oil. Mix well until you get a creamy mixture. Apply the mixture to the hair, but avoid the roots as it can leave them greasy. Leave it on the hair for 30 minutes, then rinse off, shampoo and style as normal. Use this mask every week or at least 3 times per month for best results.
Mayonnaise is an excellent moisturiser for the hair, due to the eggs in it. It provides nourishment, stops split ends in their tracks and makes the hair look and feel shiny. Wet your hair in the shower then towel dry it. Massage half a cup of mayonnaise into your hair and scalp. Leave it on for about 15-20 minutes then rinse well. Shampoo your hair as normal. Use the mayonnaise once or twice per week to improve the condition of your hair. A point to note is that mayonnaise doesn’t make your hair smell too nice, so this is something to consider when thinking about trying this treatment.
Beer is a good source of protein and sugar and helps nourish the hair follicles for healthy growth. Beer can also help condition the hair and add shine. Shampoo your hair as normal, then decant some flat beer into a spray bottle. Spray it over the lengths and ends of your hair. Leave it on the hair, no need to rinse it out, then dry and style as normal. You need not worry about smelling like a brewery, the smell of the beer usually disappears after your hair is dry. Repeat this once per week.
Bananas are a nutritional powerhouse. They contain potassium, zinc, and vitamins A, C and E so they help nourish hair and restore elasticity. Bananas can make the hair feel soft and nourished, and therefore more manageable. Blend a ripe banana and 2 tablespoons of natural yoghurt with some rose water and lemon juice. Apply the mixture to your hair, leave it on for an hour then rinse off. Repeat this once or twice per week.
Papaya contains protein that helps nourish the hair and reduces split ends. It also adds volume to the hair, removes product build-up, and restores shine and strength to dry and damaged hair. Blend half a papaya (peeled) with half a cup of natural yoghurt until you get a smooth mixture. Apply it evenly to the hair and leave it on for around 30 minutes. Rinse the hair thoroughly then shampoo and style as normal. Repeat this once per week or at least 3 times per month until you notice an improvement in the condition of your hair.
Honey is a natural moisturiser, so it’s great for dry and damaged hair. Use this honey mixture for a few months and you will be able to see and feel the difference. Mix 2 tablespoons of honey in 4 cups of water. Shampoo your hair as normal then rinse your hair with the honey and water mixture. Leave it to sit on your hair for a few minutes then rinse thoroughly with warm water. Repeat the rinse once per week.
Milk and Cream
Using a combination of milk and cream moisturises and nourishes the hair, leaving it soft, shiny, and manageable. The proteins in the milk help encourage healthy hair growth and repair. Mix a tablespoon of cream and half a cup of milk together. Rinse the hair with it and leave it to sit on your hair for around 20 minutes. Rinse well and shampoo and style as normal. Repeat this once per week for a few months.
Aloe vera is a great moisturiser. It can nourish and restore health to dry and damaged hair. It can also prevent hair loss and promotes healthy growth. Massage aloe vera gel (either from the leaves of a plant if you have one or use store bought gel) into your hair. Leave it on for about 30 minutes then shampoo your hair as normal. You can also mix the gel with a tablespoon of lemon juice, 2 teaspoons of castor oil, olive oil or jojoba oil. Repeat this 2-3 times per week for a few months. You can also buy an aloe vera shampoo to reap the same benefits.
Everyone loves having healthy hair. It makes us look groomed and it makes us feel glamorous. Healthy hair has an unmistakable shine, it doesn’t break or snap easily and it’s always manageable. Healthy hair is possible to achieve. We need to combine gentle styling techniques with products specific to our hair type and a good diet. Good health on the inside shows on the outside. If, however, we subject our hair to harsh products, excessive heat styling and we take in a poor diet, this will manifest in dry, damaged, unruly hair.
Some hair woes are within our control and we can do something about them. We can treat dry damaged hair with moisturising and nourishing products and we can adjust our haircare regime to combat greasy hair. But issues such as hair loss and going grey, we can’t always control. Hair loss might be due to the side effects of a medication or it might be a sign of an underlying condition. Going grey is a fact of life for most people, but there are some very good colour solutions out there (go natural, of course!).
Split ends are one of those common hair problems that we can do something about. There are plenty of products on the market which promise to seal or treat split ends. These are only temporary fixes however. With split ends, prevention is better than cure. Don’t subject your hair to harsh chemical treatments or excessive heat styling, protect hair if you’re out in the hot sun, use deep conditioning treatments weekly and get a regular trim. Getting a trim every 4-6 weeks is the only real way to cure split ends. If they aren’t dealt with, the hair can split further up the shaft and you will most likely need even more cut off when you visit the salon. Not good news if you want to grow your hair. And finally, supplement your hair care regime with items from nature to maximise hair health and say goodbye to split ends forever.