Hair & Beauty
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6 Simple Ways to Keep Your Hair Healthy

Prevent breakage and hair loss with these easy tips. 

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By Olivia DeLong

Hair loss and breakage can be caused by a number of things—hereditary disorders, autoimmune diseases like alopecia, hormones and menopause. But barring one of these health-related causes, your diet, the way you style your hair and stress can take a toll on your locks’ look and luster. 

Internist Mirela Draganescu, MD, of Lourdes Health System in Haddon Township, New Jersey, discusses how to take care of your hair to prevent breakage and keep it thick and healthy.

Choose the right products

2 / 7 Choose the right products

Whether it’s shampoo, conditioner or styling foams, use products with the fewest additives and chemicals to prevent hair damage. “Shop for high-quality products with the shortest list of ingredients,” says Draganescu. She says that while they’ll cost more, they’re worth it.

Wash wisely

3 / 7 Wash wisely

Keeping your scalp happy keeps your hair strong, but washing too frequently can have the opposite effect. Hot water can dry out your skin, hair and scalp by stripping away natural moisture, which can lead to hair loss or damage. Warm water is gentler, says Draganescu.

And try not to wash your hair every day. A good rule of thumb? If your scalp is oily, it’s time to wash. When you do suds up, always massage your scalp with your shampoo (a squirt the size of a quarter should be enough), then let the shampoo run through your hair. Use conditioner on your ends each time you wash.

And, when wet, your hair is more elastic, delicate and prone to breakage. Instead of ferociously rubbing a towel all over your head after you shower, lightly blot excess water from your hair with the towel.

Be gentle

4 / 7 Be gentle

The way in which you handle your hair when it’s dry can impact your hair’s health as well. “Don’t be overly aggressive when brushing or combing your hair, especially when it’s wet,” says Draganescu. Any intense pulling can cause your hair to fall out.

To avoid split ends and hair loss, limit how much you use your flat iron, curling iron, blow dryer and other heat-styling products. When you do use these appliances, choose the lowest temperature setting to minimize damage. If you’re using a hair dryer, hold it at least six inches away from your scalp. For further protection, use a heat protectant product before styling. These products contain polymers and silicones, which protect your hair cuticles from the hot temperatures.

Perms and hair dyes, gels and relaxers can also encourage breaking, so try to limit how often you get those treatments. If you color your hair, stick to within three shades of your natural color.

Reduce stress

5 / 7 Reduce stress

High stress levels can contribute to a variety of health issues—and it can cause hair loss, too. Whether the stress is related to a major upset in your life or a weeklong problem at work, it can cause your hair to fall out.

Here are some things that can help reduce your stress levels:

Exercise: Even a 20-minute walk or workout can help calm your mind. Try heading outdoors for a quick walk, or head to your favorite workout class to blow off steam.

Be social: Don’t hold it in. Talking to a trusted family member or friend about what’s stressing you can help put your mind at ease. You may even gain a new perspective on the problem.

Meditate: Meditation or prayer can help you relax, focus and calm your mind. Here are some ways to start meditating now. If you still having trouble de-stressing, see your healthcare provider to talk through treatment options.

Try biotin

6 / 7 Try biotin

“If you have weak hair or hair loss, and your blood work is fine and you don’t have any thyroid issues or health conditions like lupus or anemia, I recommend biotin,” says Draganescu. Biotin is a vitamin found in a wide range of foods; it’s typically used to treat a biotin deficiency associated with pregnancy or breastfeeding, among other health issues. A biotin deficiency is rare otherwise—most people who eat a well-balanced diet get plenty of biotin. Some preliminary research suggests that biotin may help reduce hair thinning.  But if you take it, Draganescu says, don’t expect quick results: you’ll need to take it for at least three months to see if there’s any improvement. Why so long? “Hair grows very slowly,” she says.

Watch what you eat

7 / 7 Watch what you eat

A diet rich in fruits and vegetables, protein and iron can improve the health of your hair.

“I prefer to use food as medicine. I think we should optimize our diet first before going to supplements,” says Draganescu.

“The vitamin biotin is naturally found in foods like cauliflower, whole wheat, soy beans, bananas, black-eyed peas, sardines, nut butters and beans,” she says. But if you really want to maximize your food’s beauty benefits, peanuts, liver, Swiss chard and eggs are loaded with biotin, zinc and vitamins A and C, all of which can help keep your hair healthy.

While protein is an obvious necessity in any healthy eating plan, you may experience hair loss if you don’t eat enough of it. While daily recommended amounts vary from person to person, aim for 10 to 35 percent of your calories from protein. Healthy protein sources  include eggs, fish, nuts, seeds, beans and lean meats like turkey and chicken.

Iron deficiency can also lead to hair loss. To keep your mane healthy, bolster your diet with iron-rich foods like fortified cereals, soybeans, white beans, lentils and oysters. It’s recommended that men 19 to 50 years old get 8 milligrams of iron per day, while women need 18mg and pregnant women 27mg. For both men and women over 51, 8mg is considered sufficient.

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