Slideshow: Hair Care - 20 Best Kept Hair Secrets
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Boost Thin Hair with Silicone
Thin, lifeless hair is one of the most common hair complaints, yet few women know the best remedy. Heavy conditioners just leave hair limp. A better bet is to use products with silicone, such as dimethicone or cyclomethicone. These coat the strands with a thin film, creating fuller hair that doesn't look greasy. The silicone stays put even after you rinse.
Eat Fish and Nuts for Healthy Hair
The same nutritious foods that are good for your body promote stronger, healthier hair. The protein and omega-3 fatty acids in salmon and nuts produce a healthier scalp. Nutrients found in leafy vegetables, beans, and carrots are also good for your hair. Beware of fad diets aimed at quick weight loss. Deficiency of some nutrients, such as zinc, biotin, or protein, can lead to brittle hair or hair loss.
Protect Shine with Lukewarm Water
Hot water can strip the scalp of sebum, which is the protective oil that acts as a natural conditioner and gives hair its shine. This doesn't mean you have to suffer through cold showers to avoid dull hair. Instead, use lukewarm water to wash your hair. Pamper the scalp by massaging it while you shampoo.
Mend Split Ends with Protein
Frequent hair styling, coloring, bleaching, or perming can damage hair's protective outer layer, known as the cuticle. The result is what we call "split ends." Thankfully, there are hair products to help mend the damage. Look for conditioners that contain protein. They actually penetrate the hair shaft and repair split ends. The fix only lasts until the next shampoo, so you'll need to use it regularly.
Get that 'Redhead Bounce'
The fullness of your hair is in your genes – and your styling technique. Natural redheads have thicker hair, while blondes have the thinnest but greatest number of hairs. Luckily, you can enhance your hair's volume whatever its color. Use a leave-in conditioner or mousse and dry the root area first. If your hair is very fine, use a low-heat setting when drying, curling, or straightening.
Don't Treat Dandruff with Oils
Dandruff isn't caused by a dry scalp, but by an inflammatory process that affects the scalp. Rubbing oil into the scalp can make the inflammation worse, resulting in more unsightly white flakes. That's why medicated shampoos – either over-the-counter or from a dermatologist – can best treat dandruff. Just be sure to rinse thoroughly after using medicated shampoo.
Skip High-Powered Blow Dryers
You might expect a blow dryer with higher wattage to slice a few precious minutes off your styling routine. But in a comparison of blow dryers, Consumer Reports found they all dried hair in about the same amount of time. Some are much noisier than others, though. The consumer research group found the more expensive dryers were the quietest, and the noisiest were as loud as a lawn mower.
Brush Less to Limit Hair Loss
Don't believe that myth about 100 brush strokes a day. Too much brushing will snap off hairs. Some hair loss is normal – most people lose an average of 50 to 100 hairs every day. These are hairs that have stopped growing and have reached the resting stage. To minimize additional hair loss, use a brush with ball-tipped bristles and avoid brushing while the hair is wet.
Avoid Styles that Damage Hair
Tight ponytails and braids can break off hair and damage the hair follicle. Continuous pulling can even lead to hair loss. Extensions add weight to the hair and also put pressure on the follicle. Dermatologists recommend wearing extensions for no more than three months. Also, be aware that wet hair is more fragile, so you shouldn't put your hair in braids or a ponytail while it's wet.
Don't Let Brands Clean Your Wallet
What are you really getting for extra money spent on specialty products? They may contain natural botanicals, but that may not mean better style. Consumer Reports tested products on 1,700 ponytail samples and found that the more expensive shampoos didn't perform better than cheaper ones. What is important: Choose shampoos and conditioners designed for your hair type, such as those for oily, fine, or color-treated hair.
Use Gentle Color to Cover Grays
Hair doesn't only go gray as we get older – it also becomes weaker and grows more slowly. That means damaged hair won't be snipped off as quickly by haircuts. Chemicals used on "mature" hair should be weaker to avoid damage, says dermatologist Zoe Draelos, MD editor of the Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology.
Neutralize Frizz in Winter, Too
Humidity gets the rap for causing frizzy bad hair days. But there's more static electricity in low humidity. This means frizz also flies in winter months and in the desert climates of the Southwest. Use conditioner to neutralize the static electricity. Shampoos that are pH-balanced also can calm the frizz of chemically treated hair.
Keep Brushes Away from Your Curls
Curly hair is more likely to break and become dry and brittle. Gently using a pick keeps curls looking better than combing or brushing. Conditioners with polymers such as polyvinylpyrrolidone can smooth hair and make it more manageable. Don't overdo the use of flat-irons and relaxers, which can damage hair.
Avoid Extreme Color Changes
Perhaps you're a brunette who always wanted to be a blonde, or a blonde who wants to go darker. Be aware that you're risking damage to your hair with more extreme color changes. Some dermatologists recommend staying within three shades of your natural color.
Get the Facts About Hair Dye
Frequent dying can damage the hair, but it does not appear to harm your health. Most studies indicate no link between cancer and hair dyes, and in other studies the evidence is weak, the American Cancer Society says. The greatest concerns were raised about semi-permanent and oxidative permanent dyes that are dark brown or black. Consider using natural dyes such as henna.
Give the Blow Dryer a Rest
Frequent blow-drying is hard on your hair and can actually lead to hair loss. When you do blow dry, turn down the heat. Finer hair is especially sensitive to damage from heat, but even thick manes need some tender care. Protect your hair before styling by using a conditioner.
Protect Hair from the Sun
The sun is no kinder to your hair than it is to your skin. Sun exposure can dry out hair, especially if it's color-treated. Use a light hair spray with SPF protection – or wear a hat when the sun is strongest. Frequent summer trims can keep your ends looking healthy.
Shower Before You Swim
Avoid chlorine damage by rinsing your hair before entering the pool. If your hair is already saturated with water, it won't absorb as much from the chemical-laden pool. Use a pH-balancing hair product to further protect your hair.
Take a Time Out from Styling
For better hair days, the best thing you can do is – nothing. All the tugging, combing, brushing, drying, and chemically treating of hair damages the shafts. Even vigorous towel-drying can damage hair. If you have damaged hair, take a break from styling. As the damaged hair grows out, the new growth will be healthy.
Be Aware of Changes in Your Hair
Sudden changes in your hair, such as brittle hair or hair loss, could be a sign of a health problem. For example, hair loss can be caused by thyroid disease, iron deficiency, or an autoimmune disease. Some medications can cause hair loss, too. If you have a concern about changes in the condition of your hair, see a dermatologist.
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