Healthy Hair Secrets
Beautiful hair is possible. You may not believe that when your head itches too often, you regularly find flakes on your shoulders, or your hair is dull and thinning, but it’s true. The secret is to start with your scalp—if it’s healthy your hair will be, too.
Since the scalp is often overlooked, most of us don’t know how to care for it. To help, we created this guide for every type (dry, thinning, flaky, and oily). Once you determine your problem, follow our tips and try our effective home remedies—and enjoy healthier, silkier hair.
Problem: Dry scalp. Dry, moisture-sapped skin surrounding hair follicles.
Symptoms: Tight-feeling or itchy scalp when the humidity drops; small flakes of dry skin that land on the shoulders.
Massage Rx: Mix 10 drops of a moisturizing pure essential oil such as lavender or sandalwood with 1 ounce of sweet almond or jojoba oil. For sensitive scalps, use straight jojoba oil, says Marc Zollicoffer, Aveda global spa educator. Massage for 5 minutes before showering.
“To nourish a dry scalp, take an omega-3 fatty acid supplement like fish oil,” says Holly Lucille, N.D., R.N., a naturopathic physician at Healing From Within Health Care in Los Angeles, Calif.
DIY exfoliating recipe: Try one of these recipes from Mario Russo, owner of Salon Mario Russo in Boston, Mass., and Stowe, Vt.:
FOR NORMAL TO COARSE HAIR:
1. After shampooing, massage 1 tablespoon of olive oil into the scalp, and onto your hair from roots to ends.
2. Wrap head with plastic wrap or a damp towel heated in the microwave to trap the oil and let it soak in. Wait at least 5 to 15 minutes, depending on the length of your hair.
3. Rinse out thoroughly and follow with conditioner.
4. Repeat once a week if hair is coarse; once a month is sufficient if hair is normal.
FOR FINE HAIR:
1. Heat ½ cup of apple cider vinegar.
2. Let it cool a bit, but while it’s still warm, gently massage it into your scalp. The acid in apple cider vinegar helps restore the scalp’s pH balance.
3. Cover your head with a towel or shower cap.
4. After 30 to 40 minutes, rinse with plain water.
Problem: Thinning Hair. Hair loses strength and thickness; can be caused by crash diets, pulling hair back too tightly, or endocrine disorders. If the following tips don’t help make your hair stronger and thicker, see your dermatologist.
Symptoms: Hair becomes finer, shorter, and takes up less space, exposing more of the scalp.
Massage Rx: To strengthen brittle hair, massage a small amount of coconut oil (it strengthens the roots of the hair and conditions the shaft, promoting healthy growth) into your scalp for 5 minutes, working through from roots to ends. Wrap your head with plastic wrap or a damp towel heated in the microwave. After 5 or 15 minutes, depending on the length of your hair, rinse out thoroughly. Repeat twice a week.
Feed your scalp: What you eat affects the health of your hair and scalp—nutrients from food provide the energy that fuels hair growth.
►PROTEIN STRENGTHENS HAIR: Iron-rich protein builds strong keratin, the outer layer of hair and scalp. “Without it, hair grows more slowly and becomes weak and brittle,” says Tanya Zuckerbrot, R.D. Eat lean meat, fish, low-fat cheese, egg whites, spinach, and soy.
►VITAMIN C BUILDS COLLAGEN: Collagen supports hair follicles and keeps blood vessels in the scalp healthy. Vitamin C also helps you absorb iron from plant proteins. Try soy yogurt with an orange; 1/2 cup of strawberries; or 1 cup of steamed spinach with chopped tomatoes.
►SILICA PROMOTES GROWTH: Silica, a nutrient found in oats, rice, cucumbers, asparagus, cabbage, and sunflower seeds, supports growth of hair and nails. You can also take it as a homeopathic remedy, says naturopathic physician Lucille.
►BIOTIN IMPROVES TEXTURE: This essential B vitamin, found in salmon, carrots, egg yolks, and sardines, helps form keratin, the protein that strengthens hair, improves texture, and stimulates growth.
►REGULAR MEALS FORTIFY FOLLICLES: Food energizes the body and boosts hair follicle activity, says trichologist Philip Kingsley, who advises snacking on grains, fruits, and veggies between meals.
“Make sure you’re getting enough iron. And try 3 mg of biotin a day forsix months (a lack of biotin can contribute to hair loss),” says Heather Woolery-Lloyd,M.D., dermatologist and director of Ethnic Skin Care at Cosmetic Medicine and Research Institute, University of Miami.
DIY hair mask recipe: Once a month, try this treatment from trichologist Veralucia Thompson, founder of the National Center of Trichology in Jacksonville, Fla.
1. Make a tea with hibiscus leaves. When tea is tepid, strain and mix in enough seaweed powder to form a paste. Seaweed is rich in calcium and magnesium, minerals essential to healthy hair.
2. Blend a few drops each of rose, bergamot, geranium, orange, and sandalwood oil, then add 1 ounce of jojoba oil.
3. Scrub your scalp with the oil for 5 minutes to improve blood supply to the area.
4. Cover hair with a warm towel and plastic wrap for 20 to 30 minutes.
5. Rinse well, then shampoo and condition. Allow hair to dry naturally—heat from the dryer can irritate your scalp. thinning hair.
Problem: Dandruff. An overgrowth of bacteria that causes dead skin cells to accumulate; can flair up on both oily and dry scalps.
Symptoms: Flakes on your shoulders.
Massage Rx: Blend 10 drops of tea tree, eucalyptus, peppermint, or bergamot oil with 1 ounce of jojoba or sweet almond oil. Massage for 5 to 10 minutes before showering. For a leave-in anti-flaking treatment, mix a small amount of witch hazel with a little mouthwash and rub into your scalp after shampooing, conditioning, and towel drying. Then dry and style as usual.
"To combat dandruff, be sure to get 8 mg of zinc (found in clams, crabmeat, lean meats, lobster, peanut butter, pumpkin seeds, and salmon) per day from your diet," says Tanya Zuckerbrot, R.D., author of The F Factor Diet (Perigee Trade, 2007).
DIY exfoliating recipe: Try these postshampoo treatments from salon owner Mario Russo once a week.
FOR OILY SCALP:
1. Dip a clean natural-bristle brush into a bowl filled with 1 cup of cornstarch, a natural oil absorber. Brush through dry hair from roots to ends.
2. Part hair into sections. With clean fingertips rub cornstarch into your scalp, then use a brush to work it through your hair for 10 minutes, until you’ve covered your entire head.
3. Remove coating of cornstarch with a clean brush or comb and rinse.
FOR DRY SCALP:
1. Add 4 to 5 tablespoons of dried thyme to 2 cups of water and boil for 10 minutes.
2. Allow it to cool, then strain the thyme leaves.
3. Massage the liquid into your scalp for 10 minutes, wait 30 minutes, rinse, and apply conditioner.
Problem: Oily scalp. Oil glands work overtime due to shifts in hormonal levels.
Symptoms: Hair is greasy close to the roots and drier at the ends.
Massage Rx: Blend 10 drops of cleansing lavender or tea tree pure essential oil with 1 ounce of jojoba or sweet almond oil and massage your scalp for 5 minutes before you shampoo.“Take 160 mg of saw palmetto extract twice a day; it has been shown toinhibit an enzyme that stimulates sebum secretion,” says Philip Kingsley, international trichologist, author of The Hair Bible: A Complete Guide to Health and Care (Aurum Press, 2003).
DIY exfoliating recipe:
Twice a week after you shampoo, try this oil-balancing treatment from hair stylist Russo.
1. Take 1 egg and beat till foamy, then add 6 tablespoons of natural yogurt.
2. Apply the mixture to the scalp by partitioning hair and placing it at the roots. After 15 minutes, rinse it out and condition.