Simple Steps for Beautiful Hair
There are a few things you can do on a regular basis that will improve the overall health and appearance of your hair, as well as a few things you can avoid. In general, here’s a few standards:
Brush your hair: Yep, the good old fashioned hundred strokes. This stimulates blood supply to the scalp, removes dead skin cells from the scalp before they can get infected, and distributes sebum over the hair shaft for moisturizing and protection. Bend over from the waist and hang limply while doing some of the brushing. Use a natural bristle brush or other gentle brush. Be careful and don’t hurry. Better to go slow and only get 30 strokes in, than go fast and risk breaking or pulling out your hair. Get into the habit of brushing your hair thoroughly before washing it.
Massage your scalp: Before you stop to groom and brush your hair during the day, make a point of doing a quick scalp massage first. Slip your fingers into your hair, and using just the pads of your fingers, massage in small circular motions over your scalp. Using your finger pads will keep you from breaking your hair, scratching your scalp and messing up your style too much. Then restyle, re-spray (if you use it) and go...
Break Day: Get into the habit of giving your hair a break once a week. It is not necessary to wash your hair every day (unless you are a teenager, have a dirty job or work up a real sweat every day). If you are over the age of 20, and do not have any rashes or infections (like dandruff), give your hair a break for a whole day. Pick a day where you normally do not go out, or just do housework and run errands. Do not wash with shampoo and do not heat style. If you just feel too grubby and must do something, after brushing your hair thoroughly to distribute the sebum, simply wet your hair, apply a little daily conditioner to the ends, rinse well, and then pull back into a “wet look” ponytail or bun. Give your hair a break from shampooing once a week, and whenever possible, from blow-drying and heat styling.
Conditioning Treatments: Unless you have very fine, limp hair, get into the habit of applying a deep conditioning treatment to your hair once a week. Deep conditioners are not the same as daily conditioners, and homemade preparations work really well. Coconut oil is especially good for hair conditioning. Brush your hair, wash it lightly, and then towel dry. Apply your deep conditioner and then wrap your head in a heated towel to open the hair cuticle and allow the conditioner to soak in. Leave for 10 minutes to half and hour. Then rinse thoroughly in warm water to remove the conditioner residue that remains, then cool water to close the hair cuticle. Rinsing your hair in cool water can be a little uncomfortable, but it can do amazing things for the appearance of your hair. It closes the hair cuticle close to the shaft, which increases shine and manageability, and helps to keep hair strong. A mixture of cool water and lemon juice is even better for shine and strength (a half of a teaspoon of lemon juice in two quarts of cool water is sufficient).
Daily Conditioner: Get into the habit of applying a daily conditioner to hair ends every time you shampoo. This will reduce slit ends, discoloration when coloring, damage when heat styling and reduce the need for frequent trims. Use a product designed for thermal styling if you frequently blow-dry, use a curling iron or hot rollers.
Haircuts: Get into the habit of getting your hair trimmed when it needs to be. Again, this reduces split ends and keeps excess weight off your hair (which can cause breakage). About once every 8 weeks is right for shoulder length or longer hair, once every 6 weeks for shorter styles.
Up-Dos: Yep, that’s right – if you have long hair and want to keep it that way - put your hair up when possible. I’m not suggesting you look like an librarian every day, but one of the reasons that women grew such long beautiful hair back in the “old days” is because they wore it up all the time. The weight of your hair can stimulate the start of the telogen phase. When hair is weighed down and very long, it stops growing and falls out, or simply breaks off. Putting your hair up frequently will keep that weight off the root of the hair. You can pin it up gently with bobby pins or a banana clip when running errands, doing housework, cooking dinner, doing yard work, messing around on your computer, watching TV, etc. Now, this depends on your hair style and hair length. If you have a short hairstyle, this step is not only unnecessary – it’s impossible. However, if you have shoulder length or longer hair, and want it to be as thick and healthy looking as possible, make it a point to put it up and keep the weight off your scalp. The other upside is that it will help keep the hair out of dinner.
How to Wash Your Hair
Believe it or not, there is a right way to wash your hair. Treat it like the finest silk! If you’ve ever made the mistake of running a pair of expensive silk hose through your washing machine, you’ll know what I mean.
Here a few tips for avoid causing any excess damage to your hair while washing it:
1. Let your hair hang naturally when you wash it; either standing in the shower or with your head leaning over the bath, or in a shampoo sink. NEVER – NEVER – NEVER – pile it up on your head to wash.
2. Wet your hair with warm water (not hot) to prepare it for shampooing. Keep the pressure on the showerhead gentle enough to avoid excess water pressure on your hair.
3. Pour shampoo into the palm of your hand.
4. Work the shampoo into a lather in your hand, and apply to your scalp. Work the shampoo into your scalp all over your head by massaging with your fingertips (not your fingernails). Move fingers from one area of your head to the other by lifting the fingers and then placing them elsewhere on your head. Do NOT drag them through your hair. Remember, hair is the most vulnerable to damage and breakage when it is wet. If your hair is particularly dirty or oily, you can work the shampoo through to the ends. If your hair is very dry or processed, you may just want to wash your scalp, and let the shampoo pick up any dirt or oil on the ends as it’s rinsed out.
5. Rinse hair thoroughly with lukewarm water. Ensure that you allow it to hang naturally. You may spread it out gently with your fingertips if it’s long and needs extra help getting out the shampoo.
6. If you chose to use a rinse-out conditioner, this is the time. Unlike shampooing, apply conditioners to the ends of your hair, and if your hair is generally dry, apply the remainder on your hands gently to the roots. Repeat the rinse.
7. Towel dry gently. The new hair towel wraps are excellent, keep hair in place and aren’t heavy like a towel wrap so there’s less risk of breakage to your hair.
8. Once hair is towel-dried you can apply a leave-in conditioner.
9. ALWAYS comb wet hair with a wide-tooth comb– NEVER brush wet hair.
10. NEVER, NEVER, NEVER sleep on wet hair – it is vulnerable when wet, and can break easily as you turn on your pillow. Even if it doesn’t break, it roughs up the cuticle and makes it look dull.
11. Air dry hair whenever possible.
With just a little care and attention, you can have the lush and lovely locks you deserve. Treat your hair like the finest silk and it will reward you with shine, body and brilliance.
About the Author: Fawn Bales has studied and practiced alternative and herbal medicine for over 20 years, and is the co-author of two natural beauty books. She is the managing editor of Botanical Beauty Lab, a women's resource for natural health and beauty information at http://www.botanicalbeautylab.com