As a former personal trainer, Sarah is passionate about all things health, beauty, and self care.
Hair care was never really something that I was invested in growing up. However, now that I am in my mid twenties and have experimented with several hair colors and treatments, I am noticing some damage that may or may not be reversible. While my hair is nowhere near “bad”, it seems hard to style which is mainly due to dryness and split ends. Yes, I do get regular haircuts and I do what I can to keep it healthy, but the basic shampooing and conditioning hasn’t really done much for me. Just to clarify, my natural hair color is a light blonde (almost bleach blonde), which has been changed to brown, pink, green (by accident, I might add), and red, several times. Needless to say, my hair has gone through a lot, which is evident based on the split ends I’m seeing now. After doing some research, here are some things that I’ve been doing to repair my damaged hair over the past few months that (truthfully) have been working!
There are various ways to drive the moisture into your hair to keep it hydrated. A quality conditioner is the fundamental block to supply the much needed moisture and makes a world of difference in the quality of your hair. One thing I realized is that most of the conditioners that I’ve been using have a lot of ingredients that I (and most people) do not recognize.
This means that there are probably a lot of potentially harmful chemicals that may not actually be that great for your hair. One of the main culprits are sulfates. Naturally they act as a detergent, which is necessary to remove dirt and grime, but most of the time they are harsh on the hair and research has shown that they strip away much needed moisture leaving your hair dry and wanting.
After doing some online investigation on the contents that actually are good for your hair, I found that some of the beneficial compounds to look for in a conditioner are shea butter, hazelnut, and argan oil. All three of these not only hydrate, but also provide other nutrients that promote hair growth and benefit the health of your hair and scalp.
It came as a surprise to me that a lot of people are making their own conditioners to avoid the possibly damaging ingredients found in commercial formulations. So a piece of advice based on research and scientific evidence for those of you venturing into making your own conditioner or leave in hair masks, is to try and include ingredients such as avocado and coconut oil, as well as peppermint, which promotes hair growth. This article from the National Center of Biotechnology explains in great detail how Peppermint is great for hair growth, but essentially it increases the degree of dermal thickness, follicle number, and follicle depth which are all necessary to promote new hair growth.
Avoid using shampoo on a daily basis
Don’t get me wrong, you should definitely still wash your hair. Healthy hair produces a certain amount of sebum, or oil, as a way to hydrate your scalp and act as a protective barrier for your hair. If you engage in a habit of washing it every day with shampoo, you’re essentially stripping your hair of these natural oils, ultimately making it dryer over time. Not only that, but the physiological compensatory mechanisms will send the sebum producing glands into overdrive and can actually make your hair appear greasier secondary to excessive oil buildup.
When I had a few days off (since I don’t want to show up to work with greasy hair), I went four days without washing it with shampoo. Yes, my hair did get greasy, but when I did wash it again it seemed a lot less brittle and dry than it did when I was washing it with shampoo every day. Once I went back to work, I started washing it every other day (I washed it, but only with water), and eventually moved on to washing it every three days. At the beginning I did have to use dry shampoo on the second to third day, but at this point my hair is used to it and doesn't actually get very greasy anymore, even if I don’t use shampoo for 2 - 3 days. The main difference that I’ve noticed is that my hair feels thicker (even though I know it’s still fine), and healthier. I think that allowing the natural oils from my scalp to do the work has been great for my hair, which is why I suggest you try it too!
Cut the split ends
An important aspect of healthy hair that is often overlooked is cutting damaged ends. You should really get your hair cut when the ends become weathered and split.
Why is this important you would wonder? Well, the ends will definitely fall off on their own with time, but what you want to avoid is for damage to travel up the hair shaft to cause even more damage. When that happens a significant length of the shaft gets damaged as the splitting process continues unabated towards the root of the hair. It will stop at one point and the damaged hair will fall off making your hair look shorter. But doesn’t the hair grow at the roots? Well, yes it does, but the speed at which it grows is slower than that of desiccation and hence your hair becoming shorter if you don’t take proper care of the split ends.
So how often should you be trimming your hair? I spoke to both my hairdresser and dermatologist and they both told me that I really should be getting a trim every 3 months. Why? Because your hair grows one inch every three months. If you get a quarter inch cut every three months, it will prevent your hair from splitting at the end, and hence entering into a dangerous cycle of self-proliferating hair injury. To that end I’ve started getting trims every 3 - 4 months for the past year and though my hair isn’t as long as I’d like it to be, I can definitely say that it has been steadily growing just a little bit more than it was when I was getting one cut a year.
Try a Microneedling treatment
Finally, I never actually considered any supplemental treatments for hair growth, given that I’m not actually losing my hair. However, my friend told me about how she has been getting at home microneedling treatments to promote hair growth, so I thought I’d give it a try.
The way that it works is through the use of a microneedling tool (which can be a dermaroller at home or at a clinic for actual microneedling), which utilizes tiny sharp needles to penetrate your skin causing the dermal-epidermal layer to repair itself as quickly as possible. This healing process prompts your body to produce epidermal growth factors, which have been shown to induce and expedite new hair growth. Additionally, it doubles the blood circulation in the treated area. The greater blood flow to your scalp provides your hair with fresh, nutrient rich blood that supports healthy hair growth. To be honest, I’m not sure how well it works because I’ve only tried it once, but based on my friend’s experience, it seems to have promoted the growth of new hair follicles quite a bit. If you want some more information on this topic you can check out this article, that goes over all the details.
Overall, the tools and methods mentioned above have definitely enhanced my hair care routine. While my hair is certainly still a work in progress, I do think that either one or a combination of all of the above tools has improved the quality of my hair, and maybe even the length of it. I recommend doing a lot of research based on not only general hair care, but specific reasons why your hair has lost its life.