Help Your Hair Stay Healthy

Who doesn’t want to have luxuriant locks on their head? Here’s what you can do to keep your hair up to form.

1. Choose the right shampoo and conditioner. Shampoo washes away dirt, dust, and other particles that don’t belong on your hair. Because hair, like skin, tends to become less oily with age, choose a shampoo formulated for dry or normal-to-dry hair. Shampoo gently rather than vigorously, and concentrate the lather on your scalp, carrying it down to the drier ends.

Frequent shampooing will not cause any problems, but be sure to use a conditioner. Although many of the commercial claims for conditioners may be exaggerated, a conditioning rinse can coat the hair with a lubricant that replaces the sebum (the covering that protects the hair’s outer layer, called the cuticle) stripped off by shampoo. By doing so, it enhances shine and makes hair more manageable. You don’t need expensive products with exotic ingredients unless you like the way they smell or feel.

2. Treat wet hair with care. Use a towel to blot your hair dry rather than rubbing or pulling, and untangle it with a wide-tooth comb. Don’t use a brush on wet hair, and avoid hot blow-dryers. High heat on wet hair causes the water under the cuticles to form bubbles like those in boiling water; these bubbles stress and break hair. Set your dryer on the low or medium setting, and keep it moving so that air circulates through the hair rather than concentrating on one spot.

3. Buy good hair tools. Look for combs and brushes with smooth, rounded teeth or bristles. If they feel scratchy when you run your hand over them, they can tear your hair. Brush your hair only enough to style and groom it. The old 100-strokes-a-night rule you may have heard about is left over from the days when people shampooed their hair with soap and had to brush out the resulting film.

4. Don’t overprocess your hair. Too-frequent use of perm, coloring, or straightening agents — or scheduling these processes too close together — can literally dissolve hair strands.

5. Avoid excessive sun exposure. Sunlight can break down the hair’s protein structure, leaving it vulnerable to breakage. Lighter hair (either naturally light or chemically bleached) is most vulnerable because it has less protective pigment. Hair sunscreens have not been proven to prevent damage, but a hat or scarf does a good job of shielding your hair from the sun.

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