Hair care is a such personal thing. Styles often differ with age, ethnicity and lifestyles.
While hair care is mostly an experiment of one, there are general rules that everyone can use to maintain beautiful, healthy-looking hair, says Apple A. Bodemer, MD, UW Health Dermatologist.
Washing your hair
Hair-washing is a regular part of many of our daily routines. But should we be introducing all of those shampoos and conditioners to our hair on a daily basis?
Bodemer says it depends on the person — but in many cases, washing your hair every day can lead to damaged hair. For instance, she says, “Hair that is not shiny or with split ends could be that way because of over-washing.”
Shampoos can strip hair of the natural oils that are there in the first place to help keep the shaft intact, and hair looking full and healthy. Using a conditioner, of course, can help protect the hair from damage, reducing split ends and static fly-aways. You might try washing every other day or even less frequently if your hair is naturally dry.
African Americans and others with curly hair may fall into the dry hair category requiring less washing, while Caucasian hair is often oilier and needing more frequent washing. But everyone is different, so the best practice is to experiment with washing frequency to see what works best for you.
When you do wash your hair, Bodemer suggests using lukewarm water and rinsing with cold water afterward to seal the hair shaft. “This is particularly helpful if you use a lot of hair care products.”
Avoid curling irons and flattening irons, as well as hair dryers
Using curling and flattening irons and blow dryers will dehydrate and damage hair, says Bodemer. The best way to avoid the damage is to decrease or avoid their use altogether. If you are going to style your hair, you may try doing it only a few days a week and go for a different look on off days with a ponytail, bun or braids.
On the days you do style, try using a lower heat setting on the iron or dryer and don’t leave the iron in one place for more than two seconds. Decreasing heat and frequency will reduce damage, giving you healthier hair.
Swimming and sun
With warm weather comes more time outside on the beach and at the pool. We devote plenty of time to protecting our skin from the summer sun, but what about our hair? Hours in the sun and in the pool can lead to dry fly-away strands.
What’s doing the damage? Pool chlorine strips hair of natural oils and deposits in the hair shaft. The hair’s protective coating can also be destroyed by chemicals, salt water and the sun. Once this layer is gone, the shaft’s inner moisture is exposed and will evaporate. “This causes hair to be drier and more brittle, as well as causing discoloration,” says Bodemer.
The best thing to do after leaving the pool is to wash your hair and then to use deep conditioners. The good news is that the damaged hair will eventually grow out and be replaced with healthy hair, she says.
Alternative treatments (Like egg or vinegar)
If you’re up for making hair treatments in your own kitchen, the good news is that she agrees that homemade hair aids — like egg yolk, mayonnaise and olive oil — will help add shine to your locks.
“Anything that’s going to add fat or oil to the hair shaft to coat it is going to help.” Vinegar, she says, can remove excess buildup from shampoos — but if you do use it, you should follow up with a conditioner to help replenish the hair. When using egg yolk or mayonnaise don’t overdo it by adding too much, which can lead to excess buildup.
There are also hair care oils like Moroccan oil that work well to help soften the hair, she says, but you might also consider adding heavier oils, depending on your hair type. Bodemer says African Americans and people with tight, kinky curls can absorb more oil and moisture, and coconut oil or Vaseline works well for these hair types.
Masks, which are thick conditioners, can be especially helpful for repairing hair that is chemically or heat treated, says Bodemer. Generally they are used once a week. They can, however, leave thick residue that may weigh hair down — especially fine hair.
As we age
Hair care changes as we get older. Our scalp secretes less natural oil, which can affect shine, body and texture. Over washing hair becomes more of an issue, says Bodemer. Alternating to an every-other-day washing may help maintain better body.
On days that you do shampoo, using a leave-in hydrator or conditioner may help. You can also try carrying a travel-sized spritzer and treat those dry areas during the day.