Preventing and Treating Hair Damage

by Wellness Editor – MH

It’s fairly obvious that Americans care a great deal about their hair. According to one estimate, the US hair care industry rakes in a whopping $19 billion in yearly revenue. The main reason for all of this attention stems from hair’s fragile nature, as a number of factors can work together to sap hair of its color, texture and overall allure. With all of these obstacles, trying to keep a shiny head of hair can feel like a part-time job.   

Fortunately, if you’re armed with the appropriate knowledge, it’s not especially difficult to keep your hair in good condition. Some of the biggest enemies of hair can be avoided with reasonable effort. Likewise, a number of practical remedies can be successfully employed to repair weathered hair strands. If you are tired of spending large sums of money just to keep your hair in good standing, the following tips might be beneficial to both your hair and your budget.

Why Hair Gets Damaged

It may surprise you to learn that hair damage is often a self-inflicted problem. In attempting to make their hair more alluring to themselves and the outside world, people often do unintended damage to this highly valued part of the body. Below are some hair styling techniques that frequently do more harm than good.

Bleaching – Some people are highly dissatisfied with the hair color nature gave them, and resort to hair bleaches to get the color they have always truly wanted (or at least the color they currently want). The problem is that this short-term change can have long-term consequences, leading to weaker hair that is eminently more vulnerable to breakage, split ends and loss of color.

Perms – In addition to wanting a change in color, a number of consumers seek to alter their hair type; that is, people with ample curls want straight hair, while those with straight hair try to get curly locks and bangs. Perms offer the chance for people to radically transform their hair structure and, by extension, their appearance.

Unfortunately, perms come with strings attached. To accomplish its objective, the perming process must destroy and reconstruct the chemical bonds inside hair strands. As one might expect, the resulting damage from this procedure is increased with every additional perm, eventually leaving the hair weak and devoid of color.

Highlights/Coloring – Many consumers turn to highlights and hair coloring products as a more convenient alternative to bleaching. While these color-changing methods shouldn’t prove as damaging to your hair as hair bleaching, they can cause hair to become noticeably dry and drab.

Of course, hair can be adversely affected by more than short-sighted styling decisions. A poor diet and certain environmental factors can also be detrimental to the health of your hair.

Nutrient-Deficient Diet – Like every other part of the body, your hair needs a steady supply of certain nutrients to maintain optimal health. When it comes to nourishing hair, the body relies most heavily on vitamin D, omega 3 fatty acids, vitamin E, vitamin B and protein (the last item shouldn’t be that much of a surprise; hair is, after all, dead protein). A diet that features fish, milk, nuts, poultry and eggs should adequately supply your body with each of these nutrients.

Excessive Sun Exposure – Given its immense energy-generating capabilities, the sun is not to be trifled with; in a single second, the sun produces enough energy to melt a mile thick, two-mile wide ice bridge extending from the sun to the earth’s surface. In light of such power, it’s only logical that overexposure to sunlight takes a heavy toll on the body’s exterior. Years of constant pounding from the sun’s rays can turn your hair into a shell of their former self, rendering it weak, brittle and prone to splitting.

Keeping Hair Healthy

Though frayed, dull and faded hair befalls millions of people, hair damage is usually not irreversible. By following a few useful guidelines, you can restore your hair to its former glory.

Use Hair Conditioners with Stearyl Alcohol – Despite its fairly oft-putting name, stearyl alcohol can be very useful tool for repairing damaged hair. This fatty alcohol offers the dual benefit of stronger and softer hair strands; because of these traits, stearyl alcohol is found in a large number of hair conditioners. Products with stearyl alcohol can be especially useful to those with hair ravaged by repeated perming.

Don’t Overdo the Shampooing – It is commonly believed that hair needs to be shampooed daily in order to stay clean. In fact, this habit can actually be counterproductive, since using shampoo every single day often worsens the appearance and texture of hair. Daily shampooing is usually only necessary for those with especially oily scalps. Using shampoo three to four times per week should be enough to keep your hair in good shape.

Dry Your Hair with Caution – Blow dryers are an excellent tool for rapidly drying off wet hair. As with shampoo, however, this common household item can wreck havoc on hair if not used properly. Hair can become dull, frizzy and susceptible to breaking if too much heat is used to dry it. Likewise, the same problems can occur if a blow dryer is used too frequently.

To avoid heat-related hair damage, try letting your hair air-dry until it is roughly 70 to 80 percent dry. You can then finish the job by using a blow dryer, albeit with some restrictions. Keep the blow dryer on its lowest setting, and position it about six inches from your hair while moving it around constantly.

Shield Your Hair from the Sun – The most obvious way to block harmful ultraviolet is by wearing a hat. The drawback to this approach is that it doesn’t fit with everyone’s sense of style. Recognizing this problem, shampoo manufactures began offering shampoos and conditioners featuring sun-blocking SPF chemicals. While such products can certainly be useful, the amount of protection they offer is limited. To further strengthen your hair’s defenses, you might consider also using a hairspray with SPF properties.

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