Ways to Help Damaged Hair
What is Hair?
Hair plays an important role on our bodies because hair in different areas do different jobs. It can prevent bacteria from entering our nose and ears, and it can help to keep us warm by trapping in heat, or keeping us cool by letting heat out.
Although hair beyond the surface of the skin is dead, it still needs to be looked after. The root of the hair is called the bulb, which lies just under the skin and is part of the hair follicle. Also within the hair follicle are dermal papilla, which feeds nutrients to the bulb and creates new hair cells, the sebaceous gland, which lubricates and conditions the hair and the arrector pili, which makes hair stand on end when we are cold.
Your hair consists of layers. The cuticle forms the outer layers and they are cells which overlap one another. Then the cortex which contains keratin and then the medulla which is the centre of the hair shaft.
How Do We Damage Our Hair?
There are many ways we can damage our hair. The damage can cause weakness and brittle hair which can break easily. It can look thin, wiry, split at the ends or coarse.
Before new hair has a chance to grow it is important to look at our diets, as hair needs nutrients at the bulb. Having a balanced diet which is rich in vitamins and minerals is good for cells in the scalp and hair to aid healthy growth. If we don't have enough essential fatty acids, such as fish and nut oils and drinking water, the hair and scalp can become dry and dull.
Other ways we can damage our locks include:
- Heat styling
By using direct heat on a regular basis, we can frazzle our tresses. Heating products such as hairdryers, straighteners and curling tongs can really weaken the hair. Doing it whilst the hair is wet can be even more damaging, as the hair stretches. Pulling your hair with curlers and dryers can cause breakage.
Bleaching your hair will strip the pigment and lighten the colour. The more it is bleached, the more of the pigment is stripped. If the colour is of a high strength or it is coloured frequently with little respite, the hair follicle can be damaged. It will also lose moisture and breakage or badly conditioned hair will be the result.
If you hair is already dry and brittle due to being mistreated or hormones (such as after having a baby) bleaching will make it worse.
Colouring will also dry out hair. The harsh chemicals can damage the hair, again weakening and causing dryness and frizz. Other chemicals from permanently straightening, relaxing or perming the hair can also cause further damage.
There are many different hair brushes and combs available. Using the right one for your hair can minimise breakage and split ends. Using a brush which will pull and stretch your hair will cause weakness, and backcombing will knot and break down the layers in the strands.
- Over shampooing
Shampooing too often can strip the scalp of its natural oils and hair can lose moisture. There are many different types of shampoo on the market formulated for different hair types, but shampoo is a detergent and contains chemicals that are harsh for hair.
Taking Care of Our Hair
Getting a Hair Cut
As hair grows, it becomes older and therefore goes through a lot of stress. Over time, the ends will thin out, split or break. This can then make the rest of the hair look dull and tired.
Getting your hair trimmed every 6 to 8 weeks will improve the condition and remove the damaged ends. Hair may be stronger if the weak or fried ends are cut off. It is especially important to have regular trims if you use colours or chemical treatments. It will refresh the style and make it look glossier and healthier.
Because our hair can naturally clean itself, we don't actually need to use shampoo and conditioner. The oils produced from the sebaceous gland may make our roots look greasy after a couple of days without washing it, but over time, these oils will clean and naturally condition our hair. The lack of chemicals and the natural oils help to keep it moisturised and clean.
But, because the majority of us like to wash our hair in a nice smelling shampoo, the need for conditioner is to replace the moisture stripped by the shampoo. We don't need to use a lot of conditioner, but putting a small amount on the ends and then rinsing will smooth the hair cuticle, giving it a healthy appearance.
You can also make your own conditioner using natural products found at home or in the supermarket.
Using health foods which contain the nutrients vital for great hair can help to put back in what is lost, without adding chemicals.
Try leaving organic coconut oil on over night for a deep conditioning treatment. Or mash together an avocado and an egg for a protein rich, nutritious treat. Wrap your hair in a plastic bag for an hour and let it do the work.
There are many combinations of different fruit, oil (such as olive oil) or even try mayonnaise as it contains egg and oil, and saves you time to mix up a potion!
A balance of fruit, vegetables and good oils can help aid a healthy scalp and good hair growth. Including leafy greens, fruits, oily fish such as mackerel and salmon, walnuts and avocado can give us a balance of vitamins such as vitamin A, C and B vitamins, omega 3 and 6, minerals and iron. The antioxidants help to produce healthy sebum and promote good blood circulation in the scalp.
Eat carrots, liver, cheese, eggs, peaches and spinach for vitamin A.
Try kiwi, oranges, strawberries, green peppers and potatoes for vitamin C.
Vitamin E is found in oils such as sunflower oil, leafy greens and nuts.
B vitamins, such as vitamin B5, vitamin B6 and vitamin B12 can help to prevent hair loss. Foods to eat include whole grain cereals, egg yolks and chicken.
Biotin (B7) is a vitamin which produces keratin, which also helps to prevent hair loss. Food with biotin include egg yolks, peanuts, carrots and tomatoes.
Don't Over Style
As heat is bad for hair, using heat products to dry and style should be avoided. To use hairdryers and straighteners without causing too much damage, try a good quality heat protection spray. They coat the hair to act as a screen against the heat.
Turn the temperature down on the hairdryer. It may take longer to dry but it won't fry your hair. Also rinse your hair with cool water after washing it. It will lower the temperature and smooth the cuticle adding shine.
If you want to colour your hair, either give it a break in between colours (at least 6 weeks), or try a natural dye. Try Henna or a natural dye from a health store for darker hair. To lighten rinse with lemon juice (ensure it is well rinsed out).
Tea is also great as a natural way to add tone and shine. Make your cup of tea as normal and let it cool down before rinsing through your hair! Chamomile tea is nice for light hair, rooibos tea for dark red tones, or black tea for dark hair!
Be careful in the sun. Use a heat defense spray and wear a hat!
Try not to twist your hair into a bun too regularly. This can weaken it over time, so give it a break now and again. If you do tie back your hair, use a covered band. An exposed elastic band will drag through the hair when it it taken out.
Use the right hair brush for your hair. A wide toothed comb is ideal for wet hair, as it minimises stretching. A cushioned brush is not so harsh when brushing hair, and doesn't pull on the strands. A bore hair bristle brush will even out the natural oils when brushing which prevents dryness and damage.
Don't over brush the hair. It can still break it, so keep it to a minimum.