The FT Times beauty blogger and Hot Tools Hair Styler

Hair health. Who rules your roots?

Are you having more bad hurr days than good? Then perhaps it’s time to go back to our roots and see just why so many of us keep tripping up on the same hair hazards.

Split ends, breakage, heat damage and hair loss are just some of the all too common hair complaints, hence a surge in new generation hair care products focused on treating our weak, brittle, thinning and broken locks and giving us a heads up on our hair health. 

Encouraging us to shift our focus to start looking at our hair health in the same way we do our skin care needs, by understanding our own individual hair types and giving it lots of the right TLC, we could be on a better path to the future of fabulous follicles!

Hair’s how to

It’s essential to understand the key stages at which hair grows and sheds to try and recognize and establish some of the problems you may be experiencing. Hair experts at Philip Kingsley explain:

“Hair growth consists of three cycles – anagen, catagen and telogen. In the anagen phase – the growth phase – hair grows around half an inch a month and last on average around 3-5 years. At the end of this phase, a full-length hair enters the catagen phase – a short period around 10 days. Lastly, there’s the resting phase – the telegen phase – when hair is released and falls out.”

Many factors including diet, trauma, illness and age can interrupt this growth cycle weakening its efficiency, so be aware of identifying these triggers before we move on to examining a part of our hair that more often than not, we forget about…

Scalp SOS

The condition of our scalp often goes amiss when discussing bad hair days but it could be a contributing factor when assessing your overall hair health.

A dry, itchy and flaky scalp won’t provide a healthy environment for roots to grow and it’ll prevent the regular production of sebum, which is a bit like a natural conditioner for your hair. However, the reasons as to why your scalp may be stressed can vary.

A dry and flaky scalp can suggest that there’s product build-up, so ensure that you are massaging your scalp, not just your hair when you shampoo. Double cleanse if needs be – so after shampooing, rinse and then shampoo once more. And don’t be scared to exfoliate your scalp too to slough dead skin that maybe sat, building up on the surface.

Dandruff is different and usually presents itself as a combination of flakiness as well as greasy roots, so treat as soon as possible with an anti-dandruff shampoo and avoid over stimulating and washing which can result in the over production of sebum, causing excess greasiness.

Diet is also a key factor to consider.  Essential omega-3 fatty acids, protein, vitamin B12 and iron found in fish sources have been shown to prevent a dry scalp and dull hair colour and dark green vegetables contain high amounts of vitamins A and C which also help with the natural, healthy production of scalp sebum.

Hair type

Just as we tailor our skincare products to our individual skin type needs, it’s just as vital that we correctly identify our hair type in order to treat it accordingly and use products as directed and over a period of time to give hair time to stabilize and de-stress.

For example, if you have naturally fine hair, the use of ever-popular hair oils is probably best used very sparingly and applied just on the very tips.  When used on the length of very fine hair, the result will just weigh it down and hair will end up looking lank and lifeless.

In the same way, loading up your dry, heat damaged hair with over-promising moisturising shampoos could just cause you to over wash and excessively stimulate your scalp, creating greasy roots whilst still not targeting the dryness in the actual hair length. In this case, a deep, weekly treatment masque, applied to just the dry, damaged ends and length would be a better solution – as well as a break from the heated appliances.

Also, understanding and being aware of how your hair reacts to diet, stress, products and hormones, is key to treating it properly and investing in the right methods and measures to get it back to its optimum health.

Super fine hair

Flyaway and fine, professional hair expert Scott Cornwall says:

“Try regular use of a volume boosting shampoo and conditioner and when styling, apply a little bit of volumizing mousse before blow drying to really help bulk up and plump up fine hair. However, if hair is very thin, you may have to avoid products which contain silicones – such as serums and some hair styling products – as this can actually weaken the hair and be careful not to over condition too.”

Also, it’s not uncommon for women with fine hair to forgo regular visits to the hairdresser, as growth may be slower than other hair types, plus the actual lack of volume of hair can be misleading too, Scott continues to explain the importance of regular trims and finds a lot of professional advice misleading, he says:

“Despite many comments to the contrary, excessive layering doesn’t help to ‘bulk out’ very fine hair, giving it the impression of more texture and movement. Instead, it can look even wispier, so stick to minimal layers wherever possible, having perhaps one or two put in just to give your hairstyle some shape and natural movement.”

Heat Damaged Hair

Scott explains,

“Heat damaged hair is possibly one of the worst types of damage found. In many of the cases, the hair has silicone and product polymers burnt onto the hair shaft.  This creates a ‘plastized’ effect where the hair may seem healthy, but it begins to snap – as the middle of the hair is completely boiled, hardened or destroyed.”

So, while heated styling appliances all rightly have a place on the dresser, knowing when to give your hair a break is just as important too, Scott advises:

“During periods of severe heat damage, all use of heated appliances should be stopped. The first thing those concerned with heat damage should do, is highly clarify the hair.  This means any barriers will be removed to enable conditioning treatments to enter directly inside the hair. After clarifying, heat damaged hair may feel worse, but this is good as the true hair texture is now being felt.  Once you are in the post-clarifying stage, the use of protein treatments will help fill the hair and give it some supporting strength.”

Coloured Hair

From dip-dye, ombre, balayage and ‘bronde’, hair colour has never been so popular. These particular techniques though tend to be applied to the lengths – the weaker and more vulnerable part of the hair, so be prepared to loose length if ends become too brittle and stick to twice weekly masks to protect ends from further damage.

Celeb hairdresser, Lee Stafford says :

“When you’re colouring your hair there are lots of ways to ensure the longevity of the colour and to make sure you have the glossiest healthiest hair imaginable. Depending on what kind of colour you put in your hair, the chemicals will tend to strip out all of the natural goodness from the hair shaft and often you get left with dry, brittle hair. Dark hair can go dull and lifeless and on blondes, it can go brassy. Using targeted products for coloured hair is a MUST, also a hair oil can be a really good way to add extra hydration and ensure your colour is protected and glossy.”

Thinning hair

Up to six million women in Britain are affected by thinning hair, but many still find it really hard to talk about it. Typically seen as a male issue, for women, common culprits can include hormones, nutrition, stress levels, medication, diet and genetics.

Experts at Nioxin explain:

“The environment and genetic factors can affect the thickness of your hair – stress being one of the main factors. If you have noticed your hair has started to fall out or is getting thinner, focus on using products that will fertilize your follicles and help hair grow to its maximum potential. Giving yourself a really good scalp massage while in the shower will help to improve circulation, which is really important for hair growth as it stimulates the metabolic activity of hair bulb cells encouraging hair growth.”

Advice is to seek help sooner rather than later as follicles that are still producing hair can often be coaxed back into health and speaking to your GP or seeking advice from a tricologist can help find a treatment that works for you.

Things I love…

These are my top five hair products that I have used and can vouch for; from shampoo that helps nourish and bulk up fine, thinning hair, to supplements that work from within, hair stylers that are more gentler to use and the softest pillow to lay your head on. Feel free to drop me a comment below if you want to know more.

Thanks for reading

FT x

Nioxin System 6 Shampoo
Viviscal Professional
Sugarbearhair Hair Vitamins
Hot Tools Volumizer
Holistic Silk Pillowcase

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