Dermatologist tips for healthy, strong hair

Are you finding that your hair is feeling brittle? Are your ends starting to split? Maybe you're noticing that you're finding extra hair in the shower drain or hairbrush. Whatever it may be, damaged, thinning hair is often a tell-tale sign that your locks need some serious TLC if you're trying to get on the path to luscious tresses but don't know where to being… don't worry. We have rounded up some of the best dermatologist-approved tips for healthier, stronger hair!

Eight tips to healthier hair, according to dermatologists

Thinning, damaged hair does not happen overnight, and in many cases, it can be entirely preventable. Remember, prevention is much more effective than correction when it comes to healthy hair. So, it's important to develop great habits as soon as possible to avoid any future haircare woes.

Cut down on the shampooing.

It's best not to wash your hair every day as shampoo can strip the hair and scalp of natural oils and cause it to become dry, brittle, and dull. If you've got an oily scalp or have worked up a sweat, try rinsing your hair without using shampoo! If you need a bit of refreshing between washing days, add a little bit of conditioner to the ends of dry hair to add some moisture and luster.

When it is a hair wash day, focus on shampooing primarily the scalp rather than the entire length of the hair. When you wash your roots, the shaft and ends of the hair will also get cleaned as the soap rinses out, so there's no need to concentrate on anything but the scalp. In fact, the mid-length and ends of the hair are composed of older cells and will become dehydrated if washed with shampoo. This contributes to dullness and flyaways. Always use conditioner on the bottom 2/3 of the strands on shampoo days.

Be gentle with wet hair.

Have you ever noticed that wet hair looks longer? That's because hair strands absorb water. This absorption results in the fibers and bonds that make up the hair's cortex (outer coating) breaking, which unfolds and elongates the hair. These broken bonds weaken the hair strands and make them more susceptible to damage. But don't fret; these bonds restore as the hair dries! Here are some easy ways to care for wet hair:

  • Use nutrient-rich and protective products on damp hair, such as leave-in conditioners, lightweight gels, mousse, and protective sprays.
  • Never brush hair when it is wet; instead, use a wide-tooth comb to detangle gently. Be sure to coat your strands with a leave-in treatment or detangling spray for added protection.
  • Never aggressively rub hair dry. This leads to frizz, tangles, and damaged hair. Instead, use a microfiber towel or old t-shirt and gentle scrunch and dab out the excess moisture.

Eat a balanced diet

While there is no magic food or ingredient that alone can lead to Rapunzel-esq hair, a daily balanced diet is the most important thing for overall hair health. Lustrous hair results from a protein-rich diet filled with lean meats, beans, lentils, and fish. Foods high in antioxidants like berries, artichokes, dark chocolate, and kale are crucial to hair health. Since trace minerals like iron, zinc, magnesium, biotin, and other B vitamins also affect hair, it may be a good idea to invest in a high-quality multivitamin to help fill any potential nutritional gaps.

Eating a well-balanced diet also contributes to hair growth, reduces hair fall, and improves the overall appearance of hair.

Stay mindful when styling your hair.

Experimenting with different hairstyles can be a fun and exciting way to mix up your look! And while we all love a slick ponytail and tight braid styles, could these chic looks be harming your hair? The short answer is yes. Here are some ways your hairstyle might be causing damage:

  • Wearing the same ponytail every day. When you wear your ponytail at the same spot every day, you're adding stress to the same area over and over, which can eventually cause the hair strands to break off at the base of the pony. While the best option is to let your hair take a breather every other day, sometimes a daily ponytail or bun is needed! If that's the case, ditch your rubber hair elastics for a thicker, fabric-coated hair tie that's more gentle on the hair.
  • Regularly doing tight braids, buns, and ponies. Braids and other hairstyles that are too tight can cause tensile stress, which occurs when constant tugging on the hair follicle. This causes hair to break away from its roots, ending in splitting, follicle damage, hair weakness, and even hair loss. Over time, tensile stress can lead to more severe conditions like traction alopecia, resulting in permanent hair loss.
  • Wet updos. As previously mentioned, wet/damp hair is more delicate than dry hair, making it more prone to breakage. Because of this, you should never tie your hair up when it is wet! Twisting, pulling, stretching, and tugging on wet strands is just asking for it to snap off and lead to frizzy, unruly locks.

Ditch the heat styling tools

Frequent heat styling (including perming, straightening, curling, and crimping) can change the hair's inner molecular structure. The thermal heat from the tool opens up the hair's outer cuticle layer and penetrates the strand, breaking the hair's bonds - this is how split ends occur. It can also dry out the hair, making it dull and unmanageable. If you must use heat products, try to limit it to once per week and use it on the lowest heat setting possible. And, of course, ALWAYS use a heat-protecting hair product before applying heat to your strands!

Sleep on silk

Sleeping on silk pillowcases has fantastic benefits to both the skin and hair. For one thing, silk pillowcases are wondrous at preventing frizzy hair. Thanks to its smooth texture, hair can glide over it without any friction, meaning you'll be less likely to wake up with a head of frizz-filled, tangled bedhead. This is especially true for those with textured and curly hair. Traditional cotton pillowcases are also significantly more porous than silk, so they tend to absorb moisture from the hair, which contributes to strand brittleness and a dry, flaky scalp.

Use a hair mask weekly.

You can think of hair masks as high-powered deep conditioners, though they are often more intense and potent. Hair masks formulated with natural ingredients effectively repair damaged hair, nourish the scalp, and strengthen the hair. Regular use of hair masks can also increase the rate of the nutrient-absorption by stimulating blood flow to the scalp.

There are hair masks tailored to treat various hair types and concerns, so be sure to find the best for you! Deep conditioning masks are often made with moisturizing butter and oils that can significantly impact dry, damaged hair, adding shine and strength to your tresses. In comparison, restorative masks contain healing ingredients like honey, healthy fats, and protein to repair hair and make it more healthy and radiant.

Incorporate scalp massages

Giving yourself a quick daily massage reduces stress and tension and encourages blood flow that brings nutrients and oxygen to hair cells. Regular scalp massages can also exfoliate and open up clogged pores to help clear scalp conditions like eczema and dandruff. According to some research, it can also increase hair thickness by stretching the cells of the hair follicles and dilating blood vessels beneath the skin, stimulating the follicles to produce thicker hair.

If you have serious concerns about the health of your hair, be sure to contact a board-certified dermatologist or a trusted stylist to discuss treatment options for your specific condition.

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