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Striving for a Headful of Healthy Hair

Although you see a lot of media and marketing hype about wellness these days, you never really hear anything about what a detrimental lifestyle can do to hair. Hair damage may not seem like such a big deal because hair doesn't become overweight or suffer from a fatal disease. Yet, when hair is damaged, every day can be a bad hair day — something that most people find depressing.

Avoid habits that cause damage

Some lifestyle habits can prove to be deadly to hair:

  • Frolicking under UV rays: No matter whether you're at the beach, by the pool, or at your local tanning salon, UV rays fade color and cause dryness and brittleness to the point that the only practical solution is to cut off the damage with your scissors. Sun streaks in the hair, by the way, are a sure sign of sun damage.
    To solve this dilemma, suggest to all your sun gods and goddesses that they wear hats, use hair products containing antioxidant or sunscreen ingredients, and do deep conditioners — those that are recommended remain on the hair five minutes or longer — as frequently as once a week.
  • Compromising the health of hair by taking too many shortcuts: Overly committed people who don't have time to do things right often become their hair's worst enemy. They often take shortcuts, such as blasting the hair with hot air to make it dry more quickly, roughly combing through the hair while it's still tangled, and not conditioning properly for the sake of saving a little time.
    To speed up the styling process without doing more damage, encourage busy folks to wrap their head in a towel while applying their makeup, shaving, brushing their teeth, and so on to remove at least 50 percent of the water before even going near their hair with a blow-dryer.
    Never wrap a towel around the head too tight, as this stretches the hair and causes damage.
  • Cruising the coast in a convertible sans scarf: Not only does this activity expose the hair to too much warm air and sun, the wind literally beats it up, creating roughness and split ends — the forked tips that develop on the ends of the hair.
    You can prevent this type of damage simply by wearing a hat or a full scarf, and, if the hair's long enough, by securing it in a bun to protect the fragile ends from whipping about. If a helmet's involved, always put a scarf on the hair first to prevent the lining from tearing the hair.
  • Being a chemical junkie: The too-frequent use of hair color, hair bleach, relaxers, and permanent wave solutions is extremely detrimental to the hair. In short, chemical junkies literally burn — sometimes even melt — their hair. The first signs of chemical abuse are extremely dry, dull hair. If chemical abuse continues, this leads to a noticeably rough hair texture, quick-fading color, the inability to hold a style, and breakage.
    Much of this damage can be avoided by refraining from dramatically changing hair colors every month — going from red to blonde, for instance, requires extra stripping of the hair — and never overlapping hair chemicals when doing touch-ups (treating the new growth at the roots). Letting the hair grow out at least 1/2-inch before retouching the hair color makes it easier to avoid overlapping applications. This same advice applies to chemical relaxers.
    As for permanent waves, overlapping perms is tough on hair. People should space permanent wave applications three months apart for very short hair; every six months for hair that's still above the shoulders; and as infrequently as once a year for hair that drapes barely past the shoulders. Fortunately, with today's smoother styles and better product formulas, most people don't need a permanent wave for their hair to look absolutely fabulous.
  • Restless sleeping: A little bit of tossing and turning is okay, but when restless sleeping becomes a way of life, the hair can become worn to the point that it looks like a frayed rope.
    The solution is simple: While you're waiting for your nerves to settle down, rest your head on a satin pillowcase, allowing the hair to glide easily across the fabric.

Screen for hair health

Creating a custom haircare plan means nipping problems in the bud — the onset of split ends, for instance, or the first signs of dryness — while working to correct past transgressions that are showing up in the hair. These sins are particularly apparent on longer hair because it hangs around for years rather than months.

A haircare plan should include the following

  • A five-minute hair assessment to check for dryness, brittleness, breakage, and fading hair color.
  • A talk about tools: Tell the person which ones to use to get the job done without harming the hair and when those tools need to be thrown away.
  • Shampoo and conditioner recommendations: What products do individuals need to use in order to promote optimum health of their hair.
  • Lifestyle recommendations: Discuss hair sunscreens and give advice about protecting the hair against wind, heat, sun, chlorine, salt water, and other harsh elements.
  • A treatment schedule: The person may need treatments weekly, bi-monthly, or monthly, depending on the extent of damage and the length of the hair.

Re-evaluate the hair and the people's lifestyles every time you cut their hair: You may find they have been doing more swimming and hiking during the spring and summer. They may have taken up skydiving, or bicycling, or developed a restless sleep pattern due to stress. These things need to be addressed as they pop up, because they can affect the health of the hair.

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