Your hair is a natural beauty accessory and a great way to reflect your personal style and change up your look from time to time. But it also reflects the health of your body! Whether your hair is long or short, kinky or stick straight, color-treated or au naturale, there are some tips you can follow to keep your hair looking and feeling healthy. In some cases, following these top 10 tips for healthy hair will result in hair that is thicker, shinier, more manageable and more vibrant.
10 tips for healthy hair
#1. Don’t wash too often
This is one of those tips you probably hear all the time and possibly don’t pay any attention to, but you should really, really try to work this into your lifestyle. Washing your hair everyday in most cases is bad news for your hair and won’t get you the shiny, healthy hair you want. No one is saying you have to give up your daily shower – try wearing a shower cap and only washing every other day or even every three days (I know!).
Washing your hair too often with shampoo (which usually contains strong detergents) strips all the natural oils from your hair and scalp and robs them of much-needed moisture. If you feel like your hair gets too greasy if you don’t wash every single day, it could be that overwashing is causing your body’s natural oil production to become imbalanced. Try skipping a day between washes and soaking up any unwanted oil with a dry shampoo until your body adjusts.
If you simply can’t handle not lathering something in your hair every day, consider “co-washing” – washing your hair with conditioner only – as opposed to your regular shampoo routine. All but the richest conditioners will give your hair that freshly showered feeling you’re going for, while leaving your hair healthy and happily moisturized. There are actually conditioners specifically designed for this, like the Wen line by Chaz Dean. My aunt splurged and bought this “cleansing conditioner” a while ago, and I tried some and liked it a lot (but then again, I’m the kind of person who only washes my hair every three days, so I have no problem using regular shampoo).
#2. Go easy on the chemicals
Another common sense tip that you’ve heard time and again, but that’s because it’s true! Your hair is made up of protein strands that can be easily manipulated by chemicals. That’s why chemical treatments like coloring, bleaching, relaxing and perms work so well – but over time, those chemical treatments add up to real damage!
Obviously, the best way to avoid putting harsh chemicals on your hair is to embrace your hair’s natural color and texture. Perms haven’t really been a thing since the 90s anyway, and natural hair is becoming hugely popular with black women. But sometimes you just really want your hair to do something it naturally doesn’t want to do. In that case, try to find the least harsh method that is still effective. For example, always use hair color that contains no ammonia, or if your kinks and curls aren’t too strong, see if a professional keratin treatment will give you the sleekness you’re after before going back to your chemical relaxer.
#3. Be careful with heat styling
Are you seeing a pattern here? Your first line of defense for healthy hair is avoiding all the things that damage it, and most of us are guilty of some overzealous flat ironing at some point in our lives. You can protect your hair from excessive damage from heat styling by using heat-protecting products beforehand, and using the right tools and techniques.
For blow drying, use a high quality ionic model, which will leave your hair smoother, shinier and will often dry your hair faster (less time under the dryer = healthier hair!).
This hair dryer is one of the most affordable ionic models out there, and has been featured by Allure magazine:
$30? Can’t beat it.
On the other end of the spectrum, there’s this model, which claims to be even healthier for hair than air-drying. It’s a little on the pricey side, but apparently it’s worth it.
For straight ironing, keep the temperature around 350 degrees F or lower, and work in small sections, no larger than one or two inches. If you use bigger sections, you’ll have to hold the heat on longer to get to the inside hairs, scorching the outside ones in the process.
#4. Use the right haircare products
That’s easier said than done, right? The “right” haircare products definitely depends on your hair type and the particular issues you’re having. For limp hair, a volumizing root spray or texturing product could be the answer. If frizzy hair is your ailment, you could try keratin infused products and anti-frizz serums. It may take a little trial and error, but play around with a few new products and you’re bound to find one that helps your hair look and feel its best.
Having soft, manageable shiny hair is a priority for me, and personally I’m in love with Redken’s All Soft line. It’s a salon brand, but trust me – it’s worth the price. You can get it for a steal on Amazon, or you can buy it at SuperCuts. Normal price for a 1L bottle is $36, and sometimes SuperCuts has it BOGO half off. Amazon has a set of 1L of shampoo AND conditioner for just under $50. I know that sounds like a lot of money, but it’s such a high quality product that you only need a little (I have really long hair and 1L of conditioner lasts me a year and a half, the shampoo lasts even longer).
I’ve also tried their Redken’s Bodyfull volumizing line, which is nice during the summer when the humidity makes things go flat faster. Right now I alternate between this in the summer and All Soft the rest of the year. I use the smaller versions because it’s not my primary product.
#5. Know your water type
This is the tip that changed my life (seriously), and it’s something that most people don’t consider. Your hair will act differently in hard water and soft water, and not understanding how your water affects your hair could cause you to misdiagnose your hair problem (it happened to me!).
I can tell you from experience that very hard water will turn your hair into straw – dry, tangly, with a sort of grimy feeling that doesn’t go away. I assumed that my hair was too dried out, so I cut down on shampoo and went overboard on conditioners, oils, you name it, with no success. Turns out, the hard water was leaving an icky mineral residue on my hair and, to add insult to injury, none of my conditioning treatments were actually getting through to my hair (this is the reason why I went through my Redken All Soft conditioner so much faster than my shampoo)!
The solution? Vinegar.
A diluted apple cider vinegar rinse has changed my life. Magically, it also apparently works for people whose hair isn’t responding well to extremely soft water.
Check a local water supply map to see what the hardness of your water is; it could be the real cause of your hair’s poor health. Knowing how to deal with your water is my number 1 tip for healthy hair.
This is what I do and what works for my (long, fine, wavy, previously color treated) hair, your mileage may vary:
- Fill a 1L bottle with warm water and add a couple tablespoons of vinegar.
- Wet hair, shampoo as normal (occasionally I will have put hair oil in the day before), rinse with regular water until the shampoo is gone and then rinse with half the vinegar solution (this removes the buildup so the conditioner can do its job).
- Apply conditioner as usual, let sit for a few minutes, rinse with regular water until 95% of the conditioner is gone, then rinse with the remainder of the vinegar solution. I usually focus on the top of my head, the crown and the nape of my neck here because that’s where I notice most of the build up that makes my hair turn into a big fat dreadlock by itself in 3 days.
#6. Swap out your pillowcase
Most of us go to bed with cotton sheets and pillowcases, but you know what? Cotton loves to suck the moisture out of your hair while you sleep, and every time you shift positions during the night, it causes a lot of friction with your hair. And friction = breakage. You can significantly reduce your hair breakage by replacing your cotton pillowcase with a satin or silk one.
I’ll be perfectly honest, I keep telling myself I’m going to do this and I still haven’t done it. Which is silly, because they’re not exactly expensive and Amazon will ship them right to your doorstep.
#7. Amp up your MUFA and PUFA consumption
MUFAs (mono-unsaturated fatty acids) are great for your overall health (heart, brain, etc.) and they also do wonders for your hair and skin. These are the healthy fats found in avocados, for example. PUFAs are their poly-unsaturated cousins, and include the Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids. Most people eating a Western diet already get too much Omega-6, but are lacking in Omega-3. You can add Omega-3 to your diet in the form of supplements (fish oil, for example), eating fatty fish like salmon, tuna and trout, or nuts like walnuts.
#8. Add some copper to your diet
Copper is a trace mineral in our diets, and we don’t need very much of it for it to do what it needs to do in our bodies, but adding a little extra from natural food sources can improve the natural pigmentation in your hair to prevent – and in some cases, reverse – gray hairs. Some of the best food sources include shellfish, kale, mushrooms, sesame seeds, avocado, cashews, and chick peas.
#9. Get a “dusting”
Split ends aren’t healthy, and unfortunately they only get worse if you don’t cut them off. When the ends get split, it weakens the hair shaft and causes it to break off unevenly further up the strand, causing even more split ends. Yikes!
So when they say you have to trim your hair to get it to grow, that’s why. You don’t have to take a lot off – a regular “dusting” will take just the damaged ends off, and leave the rest of your hair healthy and happy.
#10. Give your hair a treat
You can treat your hair from the outside or from the inside – for best results, I’d recommend both!
From the inside, high quality hair skin and nails vitamins are proven to work. You may have seen them in action and not even realized it. Have you noticed how pregnant women have such healthy looking hair and strong nails? Maybe you’ve experienced this yourself – it’s from the biotin in their prenatal vitamins. You can get the same benefits without the other stuff you don’t need (if you’re not growing another human inside you, that is) with a hair skin and nails vitamin.
On the outside, there’s nothing like a deep conditioning treatment to give your hair a boost and make it look and feel more healthy almost instantly. You can buy a deep conditioner or hair mask, or do your own DIY hair mask or hot oil treatment at home. Your hair will thank you!
When I was having my hair crisis (before I discovered the magic of vinegar and was dousing my head in my fairly expensive salon brand conditioner, in vain), I bought this Loreal deep conditioner in desperation:
It’s decent, it doesn’t leave a greasy feeling, rinses out easily and has a really nice smell that lasts for a long time. But once I discovered that my real problem was the hard water, I found that it’s not as good as my regular Redken All Soft conditioner. I bought it at the supermarket BOGO half off, so I’m mainly using it 1) because I have two of them now, and 2) so that my Redken conditioner will last as long as the shampoo after wasting so much of it. Next time I’ll try the deep conditioner from the same All Soft line or the Loreal Elvive Full Restore hair mask. I’ll let you know how that goes!
Do you have any other tips for healthy hair? Share your best tips with us in the comments!
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