Healthy hair is thick, bouncy, and shiny. It feels soft and flexible, and is easy to style. Hair changes with age. Sebum (oil) production on the scalp decreases rapidly starting at age 45. When hair becomes less hydrated, it gets frizzy and more susceptible to breakage. Hair repair is possible if you care for your hair, inside and out.
On the Outside
For starters, avoid over-shampooing, over-processing, and over-styling. If your hair feels dry or coarse, a weekly shampoo may be all you need. If you have finer, oilier hair, you will likely need to wash it more often.
If you color your hair, be vigilant about conditioning-weekly deep-conditioning treatments help coat strands and fill in any damaged spots in hairs' cuticles. And daily conditioning helps keep your hair smooth and shiny.
Heat can dry out your hair, weaken cuticles, and make hair prone to breakage, so try ditching the styling tools a few days each week and letting your hair dry naturally. If you absolutely can't live without your hair dryer or curling iron, turn the heat down to the lowest setting and protect your hair with leave-in conditioners designed to minimize heat damage.
Synthetic ingredients in hair care products can also dry out hair, so choose natural products instead. Determine your hair's needs-more moisture, more body, sun protection, etc.-and go from there.
On the Inside
Although hair is dead, the living part of the follicle is very much alive and needs the proper nutrients to stay healthy. If your hair has become finer, thinner, weaker, and even lighter, it could be due to nutrient deficiencies.
Hair is made of keratin, a type of protein. Eating protein will provide your body with the amino acids it needs to produce stronger hair. Omega-3 rich proteins such as salmon and omega-enriched eggs help strengthen hair.
Low levels of iron can lead to anemia, one of the most common causes of thinning hair in otherwise healthy women. Red meat, dark meat poultry, clams, cocoa, molasses, pumpkin and sesame seeds, lentils, and cooked spinach are all good sources of iron.
Biotin can also be helpful for treating thinning hair. You may need as much as 10,000 mcg daily to see results.
Finally, zinc is essential for keratin production, and low levels of zinc can lead to finer, sparser, weaker hair. In addition to a daily multi, pumpkin seeds, peanuts, cashews, dark chocolate, and oysters are all good sources of zinc.
Get glam without toxins and chemicals with Sparklehearts Natural Beauty for GirlsShine Shampoo, designed for young girls and teens. Pansy extract protects from sun damage, violet extract and aloe soften strands, rosemary returns bounce to dull hair, and coconut foams for a shiny clean.
Heal dry and damaged hair and sensitive scalp with TheraNeem NaturalsMoisture Therapé Shampoo & Conditioner. Neem oil and leaf extract protect and moisturize. Calendula and lavender in the shampoo help soothe sensitive scalp and parched hair, while jojoba oil and rice proteins in the conditioner hydrate and reduce split ends.
Help your hair recover from a summer in the sun with John Masters OrganicsHoney & Hibiscus Hair Reconstructor. This intensive treatment combines moisturizing honey, hydrating hibiscus, strengthening soy protein, and smoothing kelp extract to restore damaged hair. It can be used daily or once a week.
Treat stressed hair with AuromérePre-Shampoo Conditioner. Formulated for all hair types according to ancient Ayurvedic texts, it infuses sesame, coconut, ginger lily, khus khus, nutgrass, and wheat germ oils with extracts of neem, brahmi, castor leaf, bhringaraj, and holy basil. It strengthens roots, counteracts drying shampoos, untangles, and restores balance for a healthy scalp and shiny hair. Massage into hair and scalp, then shampoo. Leave on overnight for deep replenishment.
Good Enough to Eat
To enhance shine, add volume, hydrate, and strengthen your strands, look no further than your kitchen cabinets and fridge for nourishing hair treatments.
Apple cider vinegar: Of all vinegars, apple cider vinegar is considered to be the best for hair. Combine 1-3 Tbs. of apple cider vinegar with 1 cup water and then rinse with vinegar mix after shampooing your hair. Rinse one more time with water. Yogurt and/or sour cream can also help combat styling product buildup. Use about ½ cup and leave on for 20 minutes before shampooing hair.
Avocado: This nourishing food, rich in healthy vitamin E and monounsaturated fats, makes an excellent mask for dry, frizzy hair. Mash ½-1 avocado and massage into hair. If your hair is very dry, add 1-2 Tbs. honey or mayonnaise. Leave on for 20-30 minutes, then shampoo as usual.
Coconut oil: All you need is a dime-sized amount to moisturize dry, split ends, create instant shine, and control frizz. Use extra virgin coconut oil.
Olive oil: Rub a few tablespoons of olive oil into your hair and scalp and then cover with a bathing cap or towel. Leave on for about 30 minutes before shampooing hair. This deep conditioner is especially helpful for dandruff and split ends.
Sesame oil: This nutrient-dense oil is known to promote hair growth, increase shine, and strengthen hair. It also boasts the unique ability to slightly darken hair-a plus if you're trying to camouflage premature greying. Massage a few drops into hair and scalp. -NB
Sherrie Strausfogel is the author of Hawaii's Spa Experience: Rejuvenating Secrets of the Islands. Writing about beauty, spas, health, cuisine, and travel, Strausfogel's work has appeared in more than 100 magazines, newspapers, guidebooks, and websites. She is based in Honolulu.