It’s often the case that we prioritise our skincare; understandably so, as it’s the first thing we see when we look in the mirror. Acne, redness, dryness, oils are just some of the problems that may arise when it comes to our skin and it is something we are hyper aware of, eager to manage. In the midst of focusing on nurturing our skin with cleansers and moisturisers and acids, we forget that our hair also goes through the motions of differing conditions.Or, when we do notice that it may be looking dry, greasy or split, our automatic response is to simply wash it, or get it trimmed. I don’t know about you, but I find it hard to believe that we wouldn’t be so quick to assume our skin just needed a quick wash when a pimple started to appear. So why do we neglect the needs of our hair?
Our hair and our skin are very similar. Just as the skin has a fatty, lipid barrier which works to regulate oils, the scalp has sebaceous glands which essentially has the same job for the head. When the sebaceous glands secrete too much oil, also known as sebum, they start to build up, manifesting by appearing and feeling greasy. When the sebaceous glands are slow in producing sebum, the scalp becomes dry encouraging dandruff.
Both skin and hair are very individual, factoring in the genetics, environment, and diet of individuals. Some people have naturally straight hair, whilst others have naturally tight, curly hair. Therefore, strategies to manage hair will differ from person to person. In all cases, looking after your hair and scalp is essential to maintaining personal hygiene, as well as boosting self confidence.
The first step in achieving healthy hair is understanding how it can be damaged in the first place. Different ways that our hair and scalp become damaged include weather conditions, hot tools (hairdryers, straighteners etc), pollution, chemical services such as bleaching, and excessive friction caused by brushing. They’re subtle, often inevitable ways in which our hair becomes damaged. How does the damage manifest? Well, pay attention to how your hair reacts after being brushed. Is it broken? Do the ends appear split, whilst the body of your hair appears frizzy? If this is the case, you’re probably suffering from brittle, weak hair. Another sign of damaged hair is hair loss. Although the average person loses around 90 strands of hair a day, the factors mentioned above can increase loss leaving the hair looking thin and dull.
The good news is that damage is reversible, or it is manageable. Having a varied diet will do wonders for hair health, especially including fatty acids from oily fish, nuts, oils etc and protein as this will strengthen the production of keratin, the fibrous protein that maintains hair structure. Not surprisingly, hydration is key! Drink plenty of water to ensure that the scalp is not dehydrated, combating dryness. A balanced diet, alongside stress management, will preserve essential nutrients in the scalp.
Hot hair tools are one of the main causes of damaged hair, as well as friction caused by excessive brushing. Did you know that brushing wet hair makes it more susceptible to damage? Understanding this is fundamental; prior to exposing hair to heat via straighteners and hair drying, always use a heat protectant! Alternatively, let the hair dry naturally or apply a nourishing hair oil afterwards to lock in moisture, making the hair appear healthy and shiny.
Obviously, washing the hair using appropriate products will cleanse the scalp of excess dirt and oils. However, it is contestable how often one should shampoo and condition the hair because it does vary so much depending on one's hair type. For example, we don’t encourage those with naturally curly hair to wash it everyday as this can strip hair of the natural oils necessary to maintain curls. As a whole, overwashing will leave it dry and brittle.
There are a great deal of products on the market that will allow you to take care of your hair. However, like mentioned above, hair care and skin care are similar in that your hair will favour natural ingredients as opposed to synthetic chemicals which may further irritate hair follicles. Using hair oil twice daily is known for having great benefits for the hair; it strengthens, protects, hydrates and stimulates the growth of hair whilst also preventing frizz. This is the case only when oil is applied to the ends of the hair, avoiding the roots as that is where sebum is produced and will result in heavy, greasy hair.
All in all, looking after hair is just as important as looking after skin. Not only is it necessary for a good standard of hygiene, but it also boosts self confidence!