- Hair is a healthy balance not only between good hair care but also internal health factors
- Straightening irons can cause temperature-related damage to the hair by causing bubbles within the hair shaft
- The better you are about applying your conditioner, the less the damage
A head of gorgeous hair has the potential to be the most coveted aspect of a woman’s appearance. If that happens to be the case, it’s no wonder it deserves a lot of attention—not just from others, but also from the woman herself. Styling and maintenance of the hair can be just as important as applying makeup and picking out an outfit for the day. However, healthy hair depends on responsible hair care practices, and what’s going on inside of your body matters all the same.
“Hair is a healthy balance not only between good hair care but also internal health factors,” said Dr. Nellina Saveriano, a dermatologist at Doctor V. Medical and Cosmetic Dermatology in Hamilton.
When it comes to smart hair care, there are many ways to protect our hair so that it remains healthy and beautiful. According to the Canadian Dermatology Association (CDA), the most important action to take is gentle handling of the hair and keeping it conditioned. The CDA also listed several habits that can damage the hair, including the use of heat styling tools, overbrushing (can cause split ends), tying hair up too tight, chemical treatments and handling wet hair. Dr. Saveriano elaborated on these.
“Straightening irons can cause temperature-related damage to the hair by causing bubbles within the hair shaft,” she continued. “That causes a weakness in the hair and then it can break.” Tight ponytails and cornrows can also harm the hair by causing scarring along the anterior hairline, according to Dr. Saveriano.
“That hair will not grow back if it scars,” she explained. “Pull it back, but just very loose.”
But for many women, blow-drying, curling or straightening the hair is a natural part of their morning routine, and refraining altogether from using styling tools might not be something they are willing to do.
“The best option is to avoid the extremes of heat, but one option is to use spray-on conditioners prior to using the straightening iron,” Dr. Saveriano said. “It doesn’t prevent the damage altogether, but it might help to protect the shaft of the hair and the cuticle of the hair a little bit better.”
Dr. Saveriano explained that the cuticle of the hair is like the outside coating of the hair follicle. It’s what protects the follicle from damage, and it’s meant to lie relatively flat. If the hair is dry, the cuticle may lift and as a result, fray. This can be caused from the elements (cold temperatures dry the hair) or from things like chlorine in swimming pools and hot tubs.
“If [the cuticle] gets frayed, it’s more likely to no longer offer the protection that it should to the hair follicle.” Should the cuticle become damaged, Dr. Saveriano said the extent of the damage and the ability of the cuticle to repair itself are going to depend on how well the hair is being conditioned on a regular basis.
“The better you are about applying your conditioner, the less the damage, ” Dr. Saveriano continued. “The hair also regenerates itself—it grows—so you will be replacing the more damaged ends. There’s always potential for the hair to correct itself normally, providing that we don’t further damage it.”
The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) stated that conditioner also provides some protection from UV rays, which can dry and weaken the hair, making it rough, brittle and faded.
Protecting the hair from chlorine-related damage is important. The AAD recommended wetting and conditioning hair prior to swimming, wearing a swim cap, using a shampoo and deep conditioner specially made for swimmers afterwards so that moisture is replaced. A swim cap is an excellent way to protect the hair from not only chlorine, but also the water itself, which Dr. Saveriano said is also drying. After swimming, it’s important to rinse all chlorine out of the hair with shampoo and then follow with a conditioner, according to Dr. Saveriano. This is especially true for certain hair types, she added.
“Conditioning is that much more important for somebody with dryer hair, as opposed to say, somebody with oily hair, where the oils will coat the hair and protect it and condition it,” Dr. Saveriano said. “Conditioners contain lubricants.”
The AAD stated that conditioner should be concentrated on the tips of the hair, because it can make fine hair look limp. However, Dr. Saveriano advised conditioning the whole scalp.
“I would condition all of it, not just the ends. If you’re swimming or straightening your hair, you’re damaging all of it; if you’re using a curling iron or a straightening iron, you’re going as close to the roots as you can in order to get that straight look.”
How often the hair should be washed depends on the hair type. Dr. Saveriano said someone with oily hair or dandruff should wash their hair daily, but those who don’t have oily hair can maybe go one or two days before washing again.
When we think of internal factors affecting the health of our hair, Dr. Saveriano advised keeping stress levels low. She also explained that zinc and iron deficiencies can cause hair loss, along with thyroid disease and hormone imbalances. Hair loss is also common post-pregnancy or after stopping the birth control pill. In terms of nutrition, Dr. Saveriano said there are no specific foods or supplements that have been proven to help the hair look gorgeous, but that maintaining a well-balanced diet is advisable not just for healthy hair, but overall health.
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