Healthy Hair: Why What You Put In Is Just As Important As What Comes Out!

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A lot of my friends ask me how I get my hair the way it is. My hair is the kind of hair that shampoo commercials talk about: it’s strong, healthy, soft, and shiny.  My friends and I are the kind of people who love our long locks, and I see too many of them frustrated when their hair is growing out and it looks like a mess, even the new growth.

I talk about hair a lot on this blog, but a lot of people have no idea just how important your hair really is for your general health! Your hair, skin, and nails are all indicators for health, and when they look bad then something is up with your general well-being. Today I’m  going to share my sure-fire ways of getting healthy and long hair. With these methods I grew hair all the way down to my waist in a little less than a year.

Long Hair

For the record, this is how long my hair had gotten before my last trim!

1. Up your garlic and onion intake. Garlic and onions both contain high levels of allicin, a sulfur compound which was found to effectively treat hair loss. Eating more garlic or onions can boost your hair production and strengthen weak or brittle hair. Using onion juice or infusing garlic cloves with oil and massaging it into the scalp can rejuvenate and promote growth, though honestly my favorite way is just to eat it. They also have garlic pills you can take now that deliver the benefits without giving you stinky breath!

2. Drink more water. Sugars and caffeine in soda, coffee, and most commercial fruit juices manifest in poor hair and nail health. Drinking water flushes toxins (like caffeine and drugs, which we’ll go over in a bit) out of vital organs, carries nutrients to your cells and provides a moist environment for ear, nose and throat tissues. It also can benefit your hair, nails, and skin. Water in general is better for you, and keeps you hydrated: the female human body needs 2.2 liters (that’s 9 cups) of water to function properly per day. So drink up!

3. Eat healthier. The nutrients you eat today help fortify the hair follicle — from which each strand is born — and the scalp that surrounds it. Walnuts, salmon, oysters, sweet potatoes, eggs, spinach, lentils, yogurt, blueberries, and poultry are all great foods for your hair. Proteins, omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants, zinc, and vital minerals can be found in all of these foods and really help nourish your hair. Healthier follicles? Healthier hair. Healthier scalp? Healthier hair!

4. Cut down on your drinking or cigarette use. Toxins like these are like murder for your skin and hair health and can cause serious health issues like cancer and other diseases. It’s okay to enjoy a little wine or a beer every so often, but just know that putting these things in your body in binge amounts on a regular basis can wreak havoc with your health.

5. Wash your hair with a pH balanced shampoo that doesn’t open up the hair shaft. Your hair and scalp are naturally at a pH of about 4 or 5. Alkaline substances open up the scales that make up the hair shaft. It’s why hair stylists use it before they dye your hair: it allows the dye to penetrate the shaft. However, leaving them open like that causes hair to be frizzy and dull. It also promotes breakage and split ends. Your best option for hair health is to ditch alkaline shampoos (that’s shampoo with a pH of higher than 7) and find one that is either more neutral or closer to a pH of 5. The best option is to make your own: Empowered Sustenance makes a great shampoo from honey and Thank Your Body has a great aloe and coconut shampoo that is fairly cheap. If you REALLY wanna get all-natural and crunchy I fully endorse African black soap or a pine tar shampoo. Both are great for oily/dandruff types.

6. Get more sleep. Sleep deprivation can actually make you break out more and make your hair a frizzy, unsightly mess. Getting 7 to 8 hours of sleep daily is optimal, so strive for more sleep at night to help your health (and by extension your hair).

7. Don’t use a brush; comb your wet hair. Wet hair tangles very easily, and brushes can catch on tangles like nothing else! Brushes, unlike combs, can actually stretch hair strands and cause breakage over time. When hair is wet, use a wide-tooth comb and gently (starting from the bottom of the shaft and working your way up) comb through your hair until you can easily comb the full shaft in one swipe. When you encounter tangles, gently work through them with the wide teeth of the comb. Be patient with it, and it’ll eventually come out. Once you’re done use a few drops of a hair oil and comb to distribute. You can use a brush once your hair dries.

8. If you use a straightener or hair dryer, use it on the lowest setting. Heat can boil the water and oil in the hair shaft, literally cooking and frying your hair. The result is intensive hair damage and higher incidence of frizzy hair and split ends. Use the manufacturer’s instructions to find what temperature setting they suggest for your specific hair type, and use the lowest setting you can within that range. Spray or comb in a heat protectant before you use any of these things to minimize heat damage.

9. Don’t dye your hair with chemical dyes. Chemical dyes and bleaching cause serious damage to your hair: it can permanently damage the hair shaft, leech natural oils from the scalp and hair, and cause breakage and split ends when you “fry” it. If you must dye, find natural dyes that can benefit your hair. Henna is a great natural dye for those wanting red tones: it is a powder derived from a plant and often mixed with powdered herbs, roots, and berries. It coats the hair shaft in a resin that (when exposed to heat) turns red. The resin actually helps prevent breakage and seals the shaft closed. For those wanting black tones, indigo powder is often mixed with henna to dye hair black. You can also darken your hair naturally over time using extremely strong tea or strongly brewed herbs. Pour it over your hair and allow it to dry before washing it out. Over the course of time it’ll darken your hair while infusing it with the benefits of the herbs you used. Sage and rosemary are perfect for this method, as is coffee. To lighten hair, use lemon or citrus juice and expose hair to sunlight. This is a proven method of naturally bleaching hair a few shades lighter over time.

10. Take care of your scalp. The scalp is where it all starts and if your scalp isn’t healthy then your hair certainly isn’t either! Don’t wash your hair every day, as it strips the scalp of its natural oils and causes dandruff and itching. Massage your scalp gently every day and use a brush on dry hair to stimulate the scalp and distribute oils through your hair. It has the added benefit of removing dead hair and catching fallout that could get stuck and cause matting. Moisturize your scalp with a drop or two of hair oil on the tips of your fingers and massage into the skin. Good oils for hair and scalp care are coconut, amla, and neem. Your scalp is a part of your skin, and its health is important to improving your hair’s health.

The key is patience and care for both the hair itself and your body. What you put into your body comes out in your hair, and it’s important to take care of your body if you want your hair to look good. Naturally I don’t follow all of these at once, but even a few of them can make drastic changes for the better. My mother follows each and every one of these as did my grandmother, and both had beautiful, thick, shining and healthy hair. And now, you can too.

Got hair care tips of your own to share? Just feel like talking shop about long hair? Let me know in the comments!

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