Techniques are given on care and treatment of hair. A breakdown of the layers of hair are noted, including the cuticle and its functions. One of the keys to keeping hair healthy and radiant is cleanliness and making sure it is brushed. Advice on ways to avoid disastrous hair days are given as well as how to choose the right hairbrush.
Here are some surefire ways to keep your hair healthy and looking good.
Riddle: What is technically dead but grows about three-fourths of an inch a month?
Hint: Americans spend many hours and millions of dollars combing, cutting, and conditioning this substance.
Answer: Hair, of course.
Looking good is important. To avoid bad hair days and keep your locks looking spectacular, you need a better understanding of your hair.
The Secret Is in the Cuticle
Although the shafts of hair you see are dead protein, there is plenty of life at and below the surface of our scalps. Each strand of hair you see grows out of a follicle, which is a tube-shaped pit in the top layer of the skin. Blood vessels nourish the roots of your hair. Both blood vessels and nerves are found at the base of the follicle, in an area called the papilla. Growing and dividing cells surrounding the papilla in the bulb create new hair. Just above the bulb are sebaceous and sweat glands. The sebaceous gland produces a waxy coating for the hair shaft and prevents it from drying out. The sweat gland also keeps the shaft moist by producing a watery secretion.
The outermost layer of a hair shaft is called the cuticle. It is made up of thin overlapping cells that look like shingles. The secret to good-looking hair is found in the cuticle.
On a healthy hair shaft, these shingles lie flat and snug, keeping moisture in and dirt out. When the cuticle is damaged, those shingled cells rise up. Moisture escapes, leaving the shaft exposed to dirt and other elements. Your hair may become frizzy and dry, making you look like Seinfeld’s Kramer on a bad day.
What can harm a cuticle? Bonnie F. Straka, a dermatologist, says, “Overbrushing, styling with heat, bleaching, permanent waving, too much sunlight, and chlorinated [water] or saltwater all can damage the cuticle.”
What can keep your hair healthy and looking good? Read on.
Keeping It Clean
No doubt about it–clean hair looks better than dirty hair. It’s important to shampoo your hair on a regular basis. Pick a shampoo that matches your hair type–dry, oily, normal, colored, permed, or damaged. A shampoo that is right for you should leave your hair shiny, smooth, and silky. If the end result of your shampooing is heavy, slimy, or fly-away hair, find a new brand.
Conditioning your hair when you shampoo is another smart idea. Follow the directions, leaving the conditioner on your hair for the full amount of time listed.
Rinse well. If you don’t, you will wind up with coated or greasy hair. (Not very attractive.) When you run your fingers along your hair strands and they squeak, you have rinsed enough.
Too much conditioner makes your hair look limp and heavy–a little like a cocker spaniel who has been left out in the rain. Use the right amount, and your hair will comb easily and respond well to blow-drying.
Brushing for Success
The next step is brushing out and styling your hair. First, take a look at the condition of your brush. Over time, a brush will collect dirt and dust from your hair and scalp. It is not a pretty sight.
The solution? Keep your brush clean by washing it at least once a month. Dissolve a small amount of shampoo in a bowl of water. Let the brush soak. Rinse the brush completely, then let it air dry. Your hair will thank you.
To untangle wet hair, use a wide-toothed comb or a brush with widely spaced bristles. Avoid putting too much tension on your hair as you pull your comb or brush through the tangles. Be careful not to overbrush your hair. Too much brushing may remove the outer layer of your hair shafts, causing them to break easily.
Do you still use the same brush you had when you were a child? Put that heirloom in a box. You should replace your brush at least every five years. Over time, bristles can break off and split. Defective bristles can damage your hair.
Avoiding Hair Disasters
You probably do not want to wind up with green or orange hair after a coloring session. Lori Brown, owner of two salons in Vermont, says, “I have seen many a hair-dyeing disaster walk through my door. Teens should work with a professional if they decide to color their hair.”
Brown also advises that you should never apply two chemical processes to your hair on the same day. For example, if you relax or straighten your hair, wait at least a day before coloring it.
Chlorinated pool water can damage and dry your hair, especially if it is colored or permed. As you may discover by the end of a summer, chlorinated water can turn brown hair copper and blond hair green. You can use anti-chlorine shampoos, but many researchers think they don’t work too well. Chlorine harms hair shafts as you are swimming. Once you leave the pool, there is little you can do to repair the problem.
The best way to combat the chlorine is to apply a leave-in conditioner, then put on a bathing cap before jumping into the water. If a bathing cap doesn’t make the fashion statement you are looking wet your hair thoroughly before you swim.
Wet hair absorbs chlorine more slowly. In either case, after you swim, rinse with a clarifying shampoo. Look for these words on the label: “Lifts mineral deposits.”
Saltwater is no better than chlorine. It robs your hair of moisture and causes split ends. Again, a the bathing cap is your best bet. Apply a conditioner before swimming, then shampoo thoroughly at home. If you spend lots of time in the ocean, consider using a deep conditioner or hot oil treatment once or twice a week.
Watch out for the sun–it can also do a number on your hair. If your uncovered head spends many hours trader the sun, you may wind up with dry, brittle, and faded hair. What will help? Wearing a hat made of a close-woven fabric, like canvas.
A word of caution for winter sports enthusiasts: If your hair is frozen when you come in from snowboarding or skiing, don’t try to brush it out right away. Frozen hair can break. To avoid this happening, towel dry it or gently blow it dry.
Once you know the right shampoo and conditioner to use and know how to protect yourself against disasters, go ahead and have yourself a good hair day!
Pick Your Bristles Carefully
1. Choose the right brush for your hair type:
* If you have fine hair, use a soft, flexible brush.
* For thicker hair, try firmer bristles. A combination of natural bristles and nylon bristles may work well.
* For really curly or unruly hair, use a brush with nylon bristles if you want to smooth or straighten your hair. To keep the wave, use a brush with widely spaced bristles.
2 Don’t use a metal-tipped or sharp-bristled brush. You may scratch your scalp or cut your hair. Find a brush with bristles that have rounded or balled tips.
3 Remember: The longer your hair, the bigger the brush.