Q: I just can’t seem to do anything to improve the texture of my dry, frizzy hair. I don’t want to use salon chemicals. Any ideas?
—Stella W., Miami, FL
A: Dry hair is more prone to breaking and splitting than oily hair, so you need to treat it more gently. First, a few basic tips: Never brush your hair when it’s wet. Use a wide-toothed comb or gently towel dry and comb with your fingers after washing.
Never use a blow dryer on dry hair. Blow drying can be good for oily hair, but a disaster for dry hair. If your hair is long, brush it once a day to stimulate the oil-producing glands in the scalp. Brushing will help distribute the natural oil along the hair shaft. It’s a good idea to loosely braid your hair overnight to prevent damage from rolling around on the pillow. When it comes to hair ties and headbands, don’t use anything with sharp metal edges or hard plastic components that can cause the hair to break. In the morning, fluff your hair with your fingers and consider patting a very small amount of jojoba, almond, or wheat germ oil into the tips of the hair.
Minimize chemical use on your hair and scalp, including colorants. Choose a natural, organic shampoo, ideally one that contains some oil such as olive or one of the oils listed above. Make sure the shampoo doesn’t smell rancid. Try to limit washing your hair with shampoo to twice weekly if it’s dry, but you can apply a good conditioner almost daily. After applying conditioner, wrap your head in a thin towel that has been dipped in hot water and wrung out. The heat will help open the shaft of the hair and drive the conditioner into the follicle. If you have access, use a steam room or sauna with the towel on your head for a few moments to help the conditioner work optimally. Once a month, before the bi-weekly washing, try rubbing your scalp with a high-quality oil or a mashed avocado. Finger comb the oil or avocado to the tips of your hair, then apply the hot, wet towel and relax for at least 20 minutes. Experiment with different oils to figure out which most helps your hair. Make sure the oil passes the sniff test (should smell sweet and tasty—not sour or sharp) before putting it on your head.
Another important component of battling dryness is drinking water. Plenty of pure water—at least eight glasses a day—is critical for good health, and this is especially true for folks who tend to have dry hair and skin. It’s also important to consume the fat-soluble vitamins daily. Mostly, these should be taken in supplement form, unless you eat oily fish daily. All four major fat-soluble vitamins are useful for hair health: vitamin A, 25,000 IUs daily; vitamin D, up to 10,000 IUs daily depending on your serum levels (ideally 60—90 ng/mL); vitamin E, 400 IUs or more daily; and vitamin K, about 100 IUs daily. Don’t be afraid of good fats in your diet. Ideally, you should ingest some high-quality omega-3 oils daily—my favorite is wild Alaskan salmon. Small fatty fish, such as herring and sardines, are also an excellent choice for a meal or snack a few times a week.