Everyone wants to have a thick, healthy head of hair. But sometimes thyroid problems, iron deficiency, hormone fluctuations, genetics, poor nutrition, or improper care get in the way. While you can’t control your genes, you can take certain steps to maximize your hair’s appearance. Here are some of them:
The food factor
Not surprisingly, your menu can have as much of an impact on your mane as can your shampoo or styling routine. You have to eat enough protein, calcium, and healthy fats like omega-3s, as well as an adequate amount of calories, in order to get the most out of
your ’do. B vitamins are also key. “A lot of B vitamins help with cell replication. That’s why you’ll find that many vitamin supplements for healthy hair are loaded with them,” says David Grotto, a registered dietitian and national spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association.
The care quotient
Dr. Paradi Mirmirani, a staff dermatologist at Kaiser Permanente Medical Group in Vallejo, California, and a faculty member of the American Academy of Dermatology, tells her patients that gentle hair care is the key to terrific tresses.
“Hair is a fiber. You have to treat it like your nicest wool sweater,” she says. “Shampooing is for the scalp. If you have an oily scalp, you can wash every day, but the more you shampoo the hair fiber, the more you dry it out.” Brushing should also be done in moderation, especially when your hair is wet, to prevent breakage.
Beware of dryers or other tools that get too hot, like some ceramic flat irons, which can get up to 400 degrees. “That would bubble anyone’s hair,” says Mirmirani. “Don’t use anything that goes above 150 degrees.”
Pump up the volume
As the owner of two New York Aveda Concept Salons, the Marlene Weber Day Spa in Poughkeepsie and Marlene Weber Salonspa in Millbrook, Marlene Weber says two simple things everyone can do at home to ensure healthy hair are to avoid over-processing with too much color and product and to choose gentle ingredients.
“Some products contain polymers, which are plastics and can make your hair stiff and cause breakage,” she says. Others contain alcohol, which is drying. Instead, look for various plant materials, such as acacia gum, kaolin clay, aloe, and wheat amino acids, which add bulk and mass, says Weber. Choose a light conditioner and apply it only at the top of the head and the ends.
When it comes to styling, the right techniques can add lots of lift. Once you’ve put some spray or mousse on, start blow-drying while pulling your hair up and away with your brush. “And be sure to hit the root with the dryer when you’re looking for volume.”
Or, try a well-known model trick. “After blow-drying, while your hair is still warm, put in some Velcro rollers. They lock in the formation of the hair,” says Weber. Take them out when your hair is cool, and it will keep its shape for a special occasion or anytime you want to look your best.
Evelyn Gilbert Manziello has written for The Village Voice, Marie Claire, and Vegetarian Times, among other publications.