We often talk about how personal beauty and haircare routines are: depending on your hair texture, length, styling frequency, and even genetics, there are different products and routines that you’ll want to adopt to get your best hair possible. But despite the need for customization, there are many practices and lifestyle changes you can adopt to help maintain your overall hair health, no matter what your hair is like.
The definition of “healthy” hair can vary from person to person, but in general, it means that your hair is shiny, holds moisture, doesn’t tangle easily, and grows and sheds old strands at a consistent rate. These are not just physical signs, but cues that your body itself is healthy — you’re able to see that you’re producing a normal amount of sebum that’s working its way down the hair shaft, and hydrating regularly to give your hair the moisture it needs. Disregarding your hair health can mean a world of difference in your overall appearance, and can also negatively affect your self-confidence. That’s why it’s so important to take the right steps to nurture your hair and maintain its health — so read on to check out our top tips for a sustainable healthy hair routine.
Before getting to the solutions, let’s discuss some common hair woes that can be a sign that your hair is not as healthy as it should be.
If you’ve ever dealt with oily hair, you’ve experienced what happens when sebaceous glands are over-producing — but dull hair is a result of not enough of this essential oil. While shine-enhancing products can help, you really need sebum to do its job: sebum is what gives your hair nutrients and a signature healthy shine, and dull hair is usually your body’s way of telling you that it’s lacking in that department.
One of the most obvious signs that your hair isn’t healthy is if you notice sudden hair loss or thinning. The American Academy of Dermatologists labels ‘normal’ hair loss as falling between 50 and 100 strands a day — if you’re noticing a higher rate of hair loss or if your hair is coming out in clumps, consider consulting your doctor or dermatologist for some targeted solutions.
Healthy hair is able to absorb and retain moisture and natural oils, and dry hair is a sign that something might be wrong. Another cause of dryness could be if you have low-porosity hair, so check out that blog post to do a strand test and see if your hair applies.
If you run your fingers through your hair and notice some strands snapping off, or have a large amount of flyaways, you’re probably dealing with breakage. The first step to remedy this would be to try an anti-breakage shampoo and conditioner — but if you’re dealing with breakage as a result of chemical damage from hair treatments, like perms or relaxer, be sure to read our blog post “How to Repair Damaged Hair” for more targeted suggested treatment.
Frizziness is often a sign of a lack of moisture in your hair, due to things like humidity (probably the most common cause), dryness, blow dryers, damage or breakage.
Now that we’ve discussed common hair issues, here are some of the most frequent causes:
If you’re dealing with any of the hair issues listed above, or further problems like dandruff or scalp sensitivity, there’s a good chance that you’re not using the right hair products. The first thing you should do is check to see if your shampoo contains sulfates. Sulfates are foaming surfactants that are added to many shampoos because of their cleansing power — the downside to this is that they often over-cleanse your hair, stripping it of the essential oils it needs to be healthy.
We know that humid weather conditions can cause unwanted frizz, but extreme temperatures can also have a negative effect on your hair health. Sun exposure and fluctuations between hot and cold temperatures can all cause stress, damage and breakage on your hair and scalp.
If you’ve ever lived in a busy city, you’re very familiar with seeing the physical effects of pollution (like smog, car exhaust or construction dust) on your hair and skin. These pollutants can build up on your scalp, clogging hair follicles and impeding their ability to grow or release sebum.
Follow these simple lifestyle swaps, product suggestions and daily routines to ensure that you can get the shiny, healthy hair you’ve been dreaming of.
Aside from how fun it is to treat yourself, regular salon visits are an important part of any healthy hair routine and hair growth. Even if you’re trying to grow your hair out, regular trims are still essential — getting your hair trimmed helps to remove split ends before they can work their way up the shaft and damage your hair further.
Over-brushing your hair adds unwanted friction, which can lead to damage and breakage — so you need to be smart when handling your hair. By detangling your hair before you shower, or even gently combing through your wet hair, you’re helping to avoid any knots while making it easier to distribute shampoo and conditioner. And when your hair is dry, consider investing in a boar bristle brush, which is great for helping to evenly distribute oil throughout your strands.
What you eat can have a huge effect on your overall health and wellbeing, and that extends to the health of your hair. Since your hair follicles are mostly made of protein, getting an adequate amount of protein in your diet is essential for healthy hair growth. Meat products are a traditional protein source, but you can also help your hair by eating things like tofu, fish, beans and eggs. Another lesser-known vitamin that helps to maintain your hair health is zinc. Zinc is important for your hair and scalp: it aids in hair tissue growth and repair, as well as making sure that the oil glands are functioning properly. Round out your diet with foods high in zinc, like pumpkin seeds, lentils, oysters and red meat.
Choose a sulfate-free shampoo to ensure your hair will be clean and healthy without losing your essential oils. Just like with shampoo, you should also choose a sulfate-free conditioner to ensure that while your hair will be clean, moisturized and nourished, and all of your essential oils are free to do their job to keep your hair healthy. Once you know the products are sulfate-free, you’re able to customize further for your preferred hair essentials, like choosing products focused on curly hair, fine hair, or any other specific need.
One of the biggest culprits when it comes to hair damage is frequent heat styling, but having healthy hair doesn’t have to mean skipping out on your weekly blowout or preferred hairstyle. Just make sure to use a heat protectant spray any time you’re going to heat style your hair, and try to let your hair air dry slightly before drying to cut down on the total required styling time. When you’ve finished drying, blast your strands with the cool setting for a bit, which will help the cuticle lie flat and lock in shine. And of course, if you can add in some air-dry days into your styling routine, even better!
Most people know that drinking enough water is essential to keep your entire body healthy, from fueling your insides to keeping your skin looking hydrated and plump. But water also plays an important role in your overall hair health: first, keeping yourself hydrated is the first step in ensuring that dry, frizzy strands are a thing of the past. Remember how we mentioned that drinking water is the key to plump, hydrated and healthy-looking skin? The same goes for the skin on your scalp! By drinking water, you’re also helping to bring hydration into your roots, where it’s absorbed into the hair shaft, helping to fuel the growing process. So it’s essential to stay hydrated during the day, but a big issue for many people is that it’s not always easy (or enjoyable) to keep guzzling down water as you go about your routine. Luckily there are some simple suggestions of ways to make staying properly hydrated a more realistic goal: check out this post on ways to help you drink more water.
Your beauty routine doesn’t stop once you hit the hay! A great way to improve the overall health of your hair is to swap out your traditional cotton pillowcase with one made of satin or silk. Cotton pillowcases can cause friction when you toss and turn, which is rough on the hair and can lead to breakage and frizz when you wake up. Satin and silk pillowcases let your hair glide over the surface, which means way less damage and frizz (and overall healthier hair). I’m a big fan of Brooklinen’s silk pillowcases, but anything that provides a smoother surface for your hair will do.
We’ve already discussed what sulfates are and the negative effect they can have on your hair, but luckily there are some great options for sulfate-free shampoo and sulfate-free conditioner that you can choose from, depending on your personal hair type. Once you know a hair product is sulfate-free, then you’re able to get more specific to cater to your hair health: hydrating products for dry hair, intense nourishment for damaged strands, or custom care for dandruff or hair loss.
At least once a week, swap in a repairing hair mask instead of your usual conditioner after shampooing. This will let you add even more nourishment and targeted attention to your strands, helping to keep them moisturized and healthy.
Healthy, beautiful hair can be attainable just by making a few adjustments to your hair care routine and lifestyle — and the best part is, most of these changes will also have a positive effect on your overall health and well-being as well! Eat well, stay hydrated, get enough sleep, get regular trims and use the right hair products, and you’re well on your way to healthy hair. But if you have any additional tips on how you’ve achieved healthy hair, be sure to let us know in the comments below.
By Lauren Hannel, staff contributor
Photos by @goldandglowco