Tips & tricks for luscious locks

By on March 15, 2013

healthyhair[1]By: Dana McGlynn

Most of us would agree that healthy hair has a natural bounce and shine to it, that we would all love to have.   And although genetics does play a role in how our overall hair looks (genetics determines our hair colour, texture, and thickness), there is still a lot we can do as individuals to achieve healthy, shiny hair. Like skin, healthy hair  is essentially a result of a healthy diet, lifestyle and good habits – so it is important to look at all of these factors, to see how we can turn our hair into a fabulous mane.

Hair structure and rate of growth
Hair consists of three parts: the soft inner core which the blood vessels deliver nourishment to. This is called the medulla.  The middle part of the hair is called the cortex.  It is strong and pliable and gives the hair its pigment. Finally the outer layer is called the cuticle.  The cuticle protects all the other layers and when hair is healthy the scales on this layer lay flat, reflecting light and making your hair look smooth and shiny.  It is specifically when this outer layer becomes damaged that hair can look messy, dry and straggly as the scales stick up.

Another important aspect of hair luster and quality is the rate of hair growth, loss and replacement.  Hair grows roughly half an inch to a full inch every month (hair grows a little faster in warmer weather).  It is normal to lose 50-150 strands of hair a day.  The body is usually able to replace this, but if it cannot keep up with this replacement our hair begins to look sparse and thin.  This can be affected by illness, stress, hormonal changes or a poor diet.

apples

Photo by: Dana McGlynn

Diet and health
If you eat a diet that is high in fruits and vegetables and low in starch you should be able to maintain a good full head of hair.   Particularly important for hair growth is foods that are considered flavonoids, a type of antioxidant found in: apples, broccoli, tomatoes, onions and red wine.  Flavonoids are thought to protect the hair follicle itself.

It is also recommended to eat a high amount of Biotin which is good for both your hair and skin.   Some excellent sources of biotin include: brown rice, bulgur, green peas, lentils, soybeans, sun flower seeds and walnuts.   You can also find biotin in some shampoos which will also aide in the growth of the hair.

Damaging factors
How one treats the hair over time is also going to affect your hair growth and quality.  Ironically, much of what we do to our hair to style and manage it is also what can damage it.  Hair gets damaged by hair dryers, curling irons, hot rollers, bleach, perms, dyes, rough handling  when  towel drying, brushing and combing the hair.  Tight ponytails and other tight hairstyles such as cornrows can also strain and break the hair.

Hair is also damaged by the environment with both natural and unnatural substances causing damage to the hair.  Excessive sun exposure damages hair, as does strong winds.  Sea salt from swimming in the ocean as well as chlorine from swimming in pools can chemically damage and break hair.

nat brish

Brush your hair when it is dry, with a natural bristle brush

Treatments and advice
It may seem that the above list is just general lifestyle practices, so how can one protect their hair? The best advice is to treat your hair gently and use natural products whenever possible.  Hair is most delicate and breakable when it is wet.  Avoid tugging and rubbing the hair with a towel to dry it.  Instead use the towel to gently absorb some of the excess water after washing the hair.  Never use a fine tooth comb or brush on the hair when it is wet.  Instead, comb it out with a wide tooth comb.  Let it dry naturally without the use of a hair dryer whenever possible.

When shampooing your hair, remember to choose a shampoo that has a low P.H. as hair like skin is alkaline.  Wash your hair only when necessary and use a gentle shampoo such as an herbal shampoo or a baby shampoo.  Make sure to thoroughly wash and condition your hair after swimming in a pool or the ocean to remove all the chlorine and sea salt from your hair.

Brushing your hair is good for your hair and your scalp.   Make sure to use long even strokes and brush your hair when it is dry, with a natural bristle brush.  Brushing your hair helps to remove dust and dirt from your hair, improves the scalps circulation and evens out the oils in your hair.

Craving more? Check out Dana’s second part to this article, “Deep Conditioning Treatments and Herbal Hair Tonics.”

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