Hair is made up of a tough protein-keratin-and has a cortex that's as strong as steel. However, the outside cuticle layer can be easily damaged. To keep your hair healthy, you need to treat it with the same care that you do your skin.
Wash hair with care. Especially pay attention to the products you use to clean your hair. Avoid anything containing sodium laureth sulfate (SLES) or sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS). These foaming agents are highly irritating and are known to cause damage to the hair follicle-not to mention the skin, eyes, and possibly the liver. Shampoos that are sulfate-free offer gentler cleansing than those that contain these harsh detergents.
Condition it right. While shampoos open the cuticle to clean, conditioners reseal the surface cuticle for protection, shine, and manageability. Use a conditioner that's suited to your hair type each time you shampoo. It will smooth out the cuticle and make your hair look and feel soft and shiny. Add a deep-conditioning treatment at least once a week to help reduce breakage and maintain the vibrancy of your color.
Be smart about styling products. You know that skin needs moisture, but so does hair that is dry, frizzy, or lacks luster. Wash and style your hair with products that infuse it with emollients, including shea butter, hyaluronic acid, wheat germ, and panthenol (vitamin B5). Also, check the ingredients list for proteins, which help hair stay hydrated and manageable.
Avoid alcohol-based styling products that strip your hair of its natural moisture and lead to dry, brittle locks. Pass on styling aids with alcohol denat (denatured), ethanol, propanol, and isopropyl alcohol. Fatty alcohols, however, are moisturizing, and can be identified as stearyl, cetyl, and myristyl alcohols.
Fight frizz. Vitamin E, which has been shown to improve scalp circulation-resulting in the stimulation of hair growth-also helps soothe parched hair. Combat frizz and rogue strands with products that contain vitamin E-rich macadamia nut and sunflower oils, both of which moisturize hair and seal out humidity.
Just like your skin, your hair deserves to be pampered with pure, natural ingredients. Choose your products wisely (we recommend products on p. 34), and bad hair days will be a thing of the past.
The foods you eat and the supplements you take can have a big impact on the condition of your hair. For example, inadequate intake of essential fatty acids and vitamin E can lead to dry, brittle hair, says Lisa Petty, author of Living Beauty. Some of Petty's top foods for beautiful hair are protein-rich beans and legumes, fresh fruits and vegetables, healthy fats, and sulfur-containing foods such as cabbage, cauliflower, and onions. Vitamin-wise, Petty suggests adding the following nutrients to your supplement regimen for stronger, healthier hair:
- Vitamin-B complex: 100 mg daily.
- Vitamin C: 3,000 mg, in 2-3 divided doses daily.
- Vitamin E: 400-800 IU daily.
- Zinc: 50-100 mg daily; do not exceed 100 mg daily from all sources.
- Silicon: 3 mg choline-stabilized, concentrated orthosilicic acid, once or twice per day (try Natural Factors BioSil).
In addition to Petty's recommendations, consider trying herbs, used to nourish and help grow thicker, fuller hair. Two of the top hair herbs are horsetail, which is naturally rich in silicon (try FutureBiotics Hair, Skin & Nails), and the Chinese herb Ho Shou Wu (found in products such as BioMed Health Bao Shi Restorative Hair Nutrients).
Weleda Rosemary Hair Oil can be used as a restorative grooming aid or an intensive conditioning treatment. Organic extracts of rosemary, clover blossoms, and burdock root infuse hair with luster, seal split ends, and make hair more manageable.
Get shiny, healthy hair with Peter Lamas Bamboo Nectar Shine Enhancing Shampoo and Conditioner. Bamboo silica and panthenol (vitamin B5) strengthen and protect hair and boost its elasticity, while bamboo nectar and palm fruit extracts add moisture and shine.
Revive dry, damaged, or color-treated hair with John Masters Organics Lavender & Avocado Intensive Conditioner. Avocado oil moisturizes and conditions; soy protein strengthens and adds shine; white tea detoxifies; arnica hydrates scalp and stimulates hair growth; and lavender oil slows hair loss and provides a fresh scent.
Nourish and strengthen hair with Aubrey Organics GPB Balancing Shampoo and Conditioner for all hair types. Milk and other proteins strengthen and mend hair, aloe and fatty alcohols replenish moisture, and peppermint and rosemary leaf oils provide an invigorating scent.
Restore moisture and manageability to dry hair with Jason Moisturizing 84% Aloe Vera Shampoo and Conditioner. Aloe vera, Spirulina maxima, and jojoba seed oil restore hair's natural moisture balance, protecting it from static and breakage. Vitamin E adds shine.