Let's have a proper "haircare" girl chat, shall we?
If you guys read my recent Alterna review, then you might remember me talk about my hair struggles from a few years back. Many of you wanted to know how I keep mine strong, healthy and glossy. I will basically go step by step, talking about every little thing I do (by the way thank you for your compliments; they really mean a lot). You might have heard some of these tips before, but some might be brand new, so I hope you find this article helpful.
My Story (Extended)
For the longest time I took my hair for granted. I had a lot of it and assumed I could do whatever I wanted to it.
A few years back, however, is when things got serious. I never really talk about health on this blog, but I think it's okay to open up now. Unfortunately, I was diagnosed with a rare autoimmune disease, which affected one of my eyes. All I remember was holding my mother's hand and hearing things like "you could go blind" and "chemotherapy". Sadly, western medicine knows very little about my disease and since it is mostly common in Japan and Korea, my doctor at the time prescribed me a lot of different steroids hoping something would work. As a result, I was overdosed and by the time I stopped taking steroids - I was dealing with mood swings, extra weight and pretty much a sad hair situation. This was also when I had to quit my job, my parents divorced and my ex-boyfriend decided to move on with his life, telling me "well, at least if you go blind you will get a new dog". If that wasn't bad enough, that same doctor told me to look for someone new, because she didn't know what to do with me anymore.
Thankfully, there is always good in bad and eventually I found my doctors, lost weight, blocked the bastard, got a new job, created this blog and found my inner peace, health and happiness in life. Hair though, it needed more loving.
#1: your hair gets hangry too
First thing I did after meeting my nutritionist, was changing the way I look at food. You know how people talk about eating healthy all the time? That's way harder than it seems, because you have to be very serious about it.
A few things I added to my diet: whole grain bread, organic eggs and butter, beans, avocado, berries, dark chocolate, rich dark coffee, broccoli, spinach, plums, grass fed meat, lentils, quinoa, Greek yoghurt, brown rice and most importantly lots and lots of natural mineral water.
You can also take Omega-3 dietary supplement, but be prepared to have a fishy burp a few hours later. I know, very classy.
Things I stopped consuming: cereal, low-fat dairy products, sweets, biscuits, soft drinks, heavy pastry and pretty much any kind of processed or junk food known to the mankind.
I still eat a small amount of chips or say fries now and again, but very rarely. Same story with donuts; love them but I only eat one-two every couple of months. Make sure not to have long intervals between your meals and snack often. Having a balanced diet will also help with healthy sleep (and you need 8 hours minimum). P.S. if you smoke - consider quitting.
#2: ingredients matter
Just like your food, stuff your favourite haircare product is made of - plays a very important role. A few things you should be paying attention to are: isopropyl alcohol, mineral oil, polyethylene glycol, propylene glycol, sulfates, chlorine, parabens, strong perfume and formaldehydes. Make sure that none of your haircare products contain these nasty, hair-killing ingredients.
#3: it's all about the root
When your roots (better said hair follicles) are unhappy, your entire mane suffers. One of the key reasons why our hair gets angry: polluted air, AC, bad water, UV rays and (the biggest one yet) product build-up. I remember people telling me to put lots of hair oil literally everywhere; while I would bath in it, I would not notice any great results. As a matter of fact, I would lose even more hair.
It turns out that sometimes, certain poorly processed oils (such as your generic, over-the-counter coconut oil per say) can clog your follicles and cause what they call a "hair coma". Your hair is still there, but it is literally drowning in oil, which you may or may not rinse out that well; as a result more dirt (we are talking about a microscopic level dirt here) sticks to your roots, making it hard for your hair to breathe. Eventually follicles give up and you lose even more strands.
I personally no longer use anything but gentle shampoo when it comes to my roots. Very rarely - a hairspray (that is only when I have an event), but other than that - nada. No more oils, topical solutions, dry shampoo, overnight scalp masks, hair spray and what not. I then installed a water filter in my shower; deep-cleaned AC; cover my head when I am outdoors and use a UV hair spray on mid-end section of my hair. Also, make sure that when you wash your hair, that the water temperature is not extremely hot; go for what I call a bearable warmth. Always use heat-protector when styling and massage your scalp every time you wash hair, as it will further stimulate blood circulation.
#4: know your hair type
One of the mistakes I used to make, was getting haircuts that would not work well for my wavy and fine hair. Something like a geometric bob with bangs per say. I would religiously flat iron the crap out of my hair in order for my haircut to look as sharp and smooth as possible.
These days, I always think about my hair type first. I no longer go for styles that are high-maintenance. First thing you should be discussing with your hairdresser is - your hair type and how you want to style it. There are a lot of things to consider, including your hair thickness, face shape and overall styling skills. Personally, I am clueless when it comes to hair styling. Which is exactly why I tend to ask for that "model off duty" haircut; it looks good when I go natural and is extremely easy to work with when I want to make an effort. Another tip: even if you are trying to grow out your hair, make sure to trim hair ends every 3 months. Yes, it might slow down the process, but once you really get to a desired length - your mane will look uber healthy and sleek.
#5: look for a hair stylist that gets you
If (s)he is no Bonnie to your Clyde, then look for someone new. Moody hair stylists are the worst; I don't know about you, but I believe that hair collects a lot of energy. Whenever you see someone who is not in the right mood, feels tired or is not that interested in giving you a proper haircut/blowdry/colour - it is better to say "no", than being botched (happened to me before). Especially if you are going through that phase when you feel very vulnerable about your hair, you really need someone who gets you. Look, when I was still in the process of getting my hair back on track, I have worked with only one hair stylist. Since I don't colour my hair, he would give me haircuts that would suit my "situation" at the time and he was very understanding and sweet about it. As a matter of fact, he was the first one to tell me about progress, so it was our celebration.
I've also gone through a lot of hair stylists who tried to hair-shame me; even one woman in particular, who cut my hair in rage and it literally stopped growing for two years. Kid you not, I had same hair length +/- 10 cm for a very long time.
#6: focus on the positive
If that includes cutting toxic people out of your life, who might additionally hair-shame you, do it.
Surround yourself with good people, focus on the positive and most importantly - reduce the stress. Especially hair stress. Why? Because hair is only a small part of your life. Very important one, but you can't let hair loss or any other related issues affect your happiness. It will get back to normal, as soon as you do. The minute I stopped obsessing with my hair, be it its dryness, dullness or overall shedding - it slowly recovered back to its healthy state. Miracle or not, once you learn how to control your emotions and live a life that brings you joy, your hair will follow.
Things that helped me: working out, spending time outdoors, meditating, getting my beauty sleep, lots of water and (again) eating healthy food.
#7: let you hair "be"
When I was younger, I thought that showing in public with a messy head would be a disaster. I lived with this mentality for many years, until it suddenly hit me: "I am not perfect, I don't wake up with salon-worthy blow dry every morning". Truth is, most people won't even look at it. No one cares whether you have flyaways or frizz. So, why should I torture my hair for the sake of looking cool at a supermarket?
These days I air-dry my hair a lot. I wash it, run a nourishing serum through mid-end section and call it a day. If I know there is nothing extremely important going on in my life that day/week, I just let my hair be and do its own thing. Not only is it liberating, but I also see just how much healthier it becomes.
#8: if you can avoid hair dye then do
I know some of you might roll your eyes at this, but believe it or not - hair dye does damage your hair quite a bit. Thankfully there are a lot of nourishing, natural and effective options available, but! If you don't have gray hair and your natural colour is beautiful, just let it be. In my mind I am a redhead, no jokes. But if I decide to become Ariel now, by bleaching and dying my hair over and over again, I am sure that by the time I have actual gray friends - there might be not much left to colour. I am particularly talking to young girls and teenagers here - you can experiment all you want once you actually get to the "gray" area.
#9: choose your tools wisely
Be it a hairbrush or hair dryer, band or clip - make sure that you get tools that are well-made and won't break/pull your hair. I adore Tangle Teezer. It is one of the best inventions ever: it is gentle, yet so good at carefully brushing through your knots. I also invested in a good hair dryer, one that has a few more temperature modes, so that I can easily control how much heat is applied. I use my beloved curling wand once in a blue moon now (forget about flat iron) and I even invested in soft hair clips and bands. Avoid any heavy metallic clips and hair accessories as they - again - irritate your hair follicles and scalp.
#10: braid it or leave it
As much as I love a bun or face-lifting ponytail - both pull your hair way too much. Braid it instead. Any old-school, single braid will do. When I think about it, even my grand-grandmothers used to braid their hair and it looked very healthy even when they turned 80. Make sure your hair is completely dry and if there is not much going on that day - just rock that girl-next-door look. No need to style it, no need to use any extreme hair tools, no headache. If you have short hair, try a low ponytail instead. Or, an even better option, just let your hair down.
Hair is one of woman's biggest assets, but it is not everything. Learn to love your own hair type, whether it is fine or thick, curly or straight, short or long. As you can tell, there are lot of things that affect your hair: your eating habits, lifestyle and most importantly attitude. When I stopped freaking out about every little strand, I finally found a peace of mind. Eating healthy was the biggest challenge though, because I had to forget about my old habits and start from the scratch. It takes a lot of discipline and creativity at times, but if you ask me "how do you make your hair look so glossy?" - I will say "I consume lots of fatty acids!". I have gone through a lot of scalp remedies (some of which were ridiculously expensive); I used to take biotin and then would find more baby hair on my body than head; I used biotin shampoos and they did nothing. Brands even sell gimmicky gummy bears these days, but none of them work. There are no magical lotions and potions - just positive attitude, healthy lifestyle, fresh air and wise selection of "clean" products is what will get you back on track.