Get full access to Outside Learn, our online education hub featuring in-depth nutrition, fitness and adventure courses, and more than 2,000 instructional videos when you sign up for Outside+..
Simple solutions for six common problems
Lifeless locks? Greasy mane? There’s an easy fix. Turn your dull, dry dreads into gleaming tresses, with solutions for every hair problem. Fight frizz, halt breakage, and bring back shine.
1. Dry, brittle hair
The cause. Excessive blow drying, chemical coloring agents, and the wrong kind of conditioner are the most common culprits. Hormonal imbalances may be to blame, especially if you’re menopausal or perimenopausal. Less common: thyroid disease or Grave’s disease, an autoimmune disorder, can cause dryness and breakage of hair. And lack of hydration impacts hair, leaving it parched and brittle.
The fix. Once you’ve ruled out possible medical causes, focus on moisturizing, with super-emollient shampoos and conditioners; look for those with biotin, a B vitamin that increases the elasticity of the hair’s cortex to keep brittle hair from breaking (you can take biotin supplements, too). Use a deep conditioner or hair repair formula weekly.
And avoid excessively steamy showers and heat drying; both can strip oils from the scalp and dehydrate hair.
Product picks. Acure Organics Root + Hair Deep Repair; Giovanni Hair Care 2Chic Avocado & Olive Oil Ultra-Moist Shampoo; Nature’s Gate Biotin Strengthening Conditioner; Solgar Super High Potency Biotin 10,000 MCG.
Acure Organics Root + Hair Deep Repair is a hair mask that locks in moisture and restores shine and strength with nourishing argan oil. Great for hair that’s been color-treated and/or damaged by heat.
2. Dull hair
The cause. Most often, it’s a buildup of hair product; spray, mousse, and even conditioner that coat the hair shaft over time, dulling luster and weighing hair down. Chlorine from swimming pools (and even tap water) can dull hair. Dry hair also looks less lustrous than well-conditioned locks.
The fix. Use a clarifying shampoo once a week to remove hair product buildup; a clarifying scalp treatment also helps break down oils coating the hair shaft and leaves locks perky and shiny. For a simple, natural fix, rinse hair weekly in apple cider vinegar. Keep locks well-conditioned to promote shine, and look for a conditioner that specifically focuses on luster. Plant oil serums can also bring glow back to dull hair.
Product picks. Aubrey Organics Swimmer’s Shampoo; Bragg Organic Apple Cider Vinegar; Jane Carter Solution Nourish & Shine.
Jane Carter Solution Nourish & Shine restores luster to dull locks with just a dab—and doubles as a moisturizing skin cream.
The cause. In winter, cold, dry air and indoor heating lead to a lack of humidity in the air, leaving hair dull and frizzy, and causing flyaway locks. If you have curly hair, your problems will be compounded in the summer, when excessive humidity in the air can make curls unmanageable. Lack of dietary fat can also lead to year-round frizzies.
The fix. Tame frizzy, flyaway hair by spritzing your hairbrush with hairspray; combat damage and dryness with leave-in conditioners (keep a small bottle in your purse for daytime touchups). Skip brushing and use a wide-toothed comb to style hair instead. And increase levels of healthy fats with hemp oil or flax seed oil; try a tablespoon a day in smoothies or salads.
Product picks. Alaffia Beautiful Curls Shea Butter Curl Activating Cream; Giovanni Hair Care Frizz Be Gone; MillCreek Botanicals Biotene H-24 Styling Gel; Nutiva Organic Hemp Oil.
Giovanni hair care Frizz Be Gone is a soothing serum made with organic botanicals that instantly tames strays and flyaways. This glossy hair elixir also helps to protect against heat damage from styling tools.
4. Thinning hair
The cause. Genetics and hormones are the most likely culprits; tight hairstyles, like slicked-back ponytails and buns, can lead to “traction alopecia,” a condition that weakens hair follicles and stops hair growth. Hair loss and thinning can occur with low levels of iron or vitamin D, or a lack of dietary protein. Same with some kinds of medication, especially antidepressants. And inflammation can damage hair follicles, leading to early hair loss.
The fix. Address any medical causes, get your iron and vitamin D levels checked, and amp up dietary protein; aim for 40–50 grams a day, or about 25–30 percent of your daily calories. Add a scoop of plant-based protein powder to smoothies to fill in the gaps. Hair growth vitamins can help. And loosen up: if your pony or bun is tugging on your skin, it’s too tight for your hair. Wear hair down, or gather it loosely in a coated band.
Product picks. Flora Floradix Iron + Herbs; Hobe Labs Energizer Hair Thickening Serum; Jane Carter Solution Scalp Nourishing Serum; JĀSÖN Thin To Thick Body Building Hair Spray; Manitoba Harvest Hemp Protein Powder; and TwinLab Vitamin D3 Dots.
Flora Floradix Iron + Herbs liquid provides easily absorbable iron from botanical sources, plus hair-nourishing B-vitamins—and it tastes great.
5. Oily hair
The cause. Sebaceous glands in the scalp are responsible for producing oils that moisturize the scalp and hair shaft; hormonal imbalances and certain diseases of the pituitary or adrenal glands can shift them into overdrive, leaving hair oily and flat; ovarian disorders can have the same effect. Over-brushing hair can make it look oilier, since you’re distributing oil from the scalp through hair strands; the same goes for over-conditioning hair.
The fix. Once you’ve ruled out any possible medical causes, a dry shampoo can help; or try a simple DIY fix: mix 4 parts cornstarch with 1 part baking soda, and apply with a makeup brush to hair roots. Look for shampoos formulated with tea tree oil and citrus to remove excess oil and calm sebaceous glands. Instead of conditioner, use a light cream rinse, and skip the scalp; apply it from the tops of your ears down.
Product picks. Desert Essence Lemon Tea Tree Shampoo; Earth Science Volumizing Citrus Shampoo; Giovanni Hair Care Golden Wheat Deep Cleanse Shampoo.
Desert Essence Organics Lemon Tea Tree Shampoo is made with both lemon tea tree oil and lemon peel extract to remove excess oil and styling product buildup from hair and scalp.
The cause. Dandruff is simply dry skin cells that shed from the scalp; seborrheic dermatitis and eczema can also be at the root of the problem. Malassezia, a typically harmless fungus, can irritate the scalp and cause faster turnover of skin cells, creating dandruff. Sensitivity to hair products and not shampooing often enough are other common causes.
The fix. Rule out dermatitis or eczema, and give chemical hair products the boot; restock your cabinets with natural shampoos, conditioners, and styling products to avoid irritating scalp. Products that contain salicylic acid, tea tree oil, baking soda, or vinegar can help tame dandruff. Coconut oil is rich in lauric acid, an antifungal that can combat malassezia. Look for it in hair products, or use it straight up; once a week, gently massage coconut oil into scalp, leave it in for 30 minutes, then shampoo and rinse as usual.
Product picks. Collective Wellbeing Salicylic Acid Scalp Shampoo; Garden of Life Organic Extra Virgin Coconut Oil; Home Health Everclean Antidandruff Shampoo; JĀSÖN Dandruff Relief Treatment Shampoo.
Home Health Everclean Antidandruff Shampoo fights flakes and itchy scalp with aloe vera, tea tree oil, salicylic acid, and herbal extracts—plus it’s chemical- and paraben-free.