The Healthy Hair Handbook – How to get (and keep) healthy hair

It’s true that the hair on our heads isn’t technically alive but that doesn’t mean that it can’t be ‘healthy’. In order to understand what we can do to achieve fabulous looking hair it’s worth understanding how hair grows.

Understanding how your hair grows

Beneath the scalp is the bulb of the hair at the base of the follicle. It produces cells which divide and grow. When they die, they leave behind a tough protein called keratin which is pushed up through the follicle and becomes a strand of hair.

A strand of hair is made up of three layers of keratin. The inner layer is called the medulla. The middle layer is the cortex containing melanin which determines the colour of hair (the more melanin the darker your hair). When melanin no longer forms in the cortex, grey hairs appear. The outer layer, the cuticle, is made up of scales of keratin which overlap. In healthy hair they lie flat protecting the colour and the condition of the hair.

As hair leaves the follicle it passes over the sebaceous glands which secrete sebum. This oil is the hair’s natural conditioner which softens each strand of hair.

The shape of your hair follicle determines how your hair grows and creates a unique look and texture. A round-shaped follicle grows hair that is straight, an elliptical follicle grows wavy hair and ribbon-like hair follicles create curly hair.

So although hair is designed to look after itself to some extent, it is very much affected by our lifestyle, by weather, heat, chemicals, pollutants and styling techniques … Luckily there’s a lot we can do to preserve our crowning glory.

Food for Follicles – choosing the right foods can help maintain healthy hair

We can affect the quality of hair growth before it even appears on the scalp by eating a balanced diet. Choose:

  • Iron: For healthy blood supply to hair follicles e.g. lean red meats, spinach, lentils, leafy vegetables.
  • Protein: for making hair strong e.g. meat, fish, eggs, dairy, legumes, nuts.
  • Vitamin C: a powerful antioxidant good for collagen production which and strengthening hair e.g. broccolli, peppers, citrus fruits, and berries.
  • Vitamin A: a carotenoid that helps hairs natural production of oil e.g. sweet potatoes, carrots, and spinach.
  • Omega-3 Fatty Acids: healthy fats for healthy scalp and shiny hair e.g. salmon, fatty fish, nuts, seeds, and avocados.
  • Biotin: A B-vitamin which supports keratin production e.g. liver, whole-grains, egg yolk, yeast.
  • Vitamin E: Protects against sun damage e.g. nuts, seeds, leafy vegetables
  • Zinc and selenium: For scalp protection e.g. fortified cereals, whole-grains, oysters, beef, eggs
Haircuts for Cuticle Care – regular cuts can help manage split ends

Having a regular trim keeps the ends of your hair beautiful and soft and can actually encourage it to grow. This is because the ends of hair become damaged when the cuticles are rough and raised. The hair tends to split and causes breakage further up the shaft. A haircut removes the split ends preventing further damage from spreading and from hair snapping off.

Wash and Care

Shampoo your hair on a regular basis. This will remove a build-up of oils, product and pollutants that will make hair look dull. Washing too frequently and vigorously can be detrimental too as it can overstimulate the production of oil.

Tip: If you like to wash your hair daily try Collinge & CO Gentle Shampoo.

The three main things to think about when choosing shampoos are cuticle care, moisture levels in the hair and maintaining a healthy scalp.

Hair Cuticles – why it’s important to choose sulphate free shampoo

When cuticles become raised and rough the hair loses its shine and vitality and becomes damaged. Many shampoos use sulphates which open the cuticle, remove oils from the core of the hair and cause dryness, dullness and colour fade. It’s really important to choose sulphate-free formulations which are kind to hair and protect colour. They won’t strip the hair of its natural oils and will help to regulate and retain moisture. This will also protect the structure of your hair keeping it supple whether you have smooth, wavy or curly hair.

Recommended Options: Collinge & CO Gentle Shampoo | Moisturising Shampoo | Purple Shampoo (for brightening blonde/white/grey hair)

Healthy Scalp

The hairs natural conditioner is sebum which naturally softens the hair and maintains a healthy scalp. If this production is over stimulated it can cause greasy hair and scalp. You can also sometimes experience a build-up of products, pollutants or grime or chemicals such as chlorine from swimming.

In this case you will need a really good deep cleanse. I would recommend a sulphate shampoo.

Try: Collinge & CO Deep Cleansing Shampoo for clarifying and detoxifying. There are also added ingredients to soothe and promote a healthy scalp.

 

Conditioners

Although the sebaceous glands produce oil to condition the hair, we are continually stripping it away by styling our hair – blow drying, straightening, tonging and colouring. Sun, sea, heat, cold, chlorine and other pollutants also take their toll. To be healthy, supple and shiny, hair needs the moisture to be replenished and therefore one of the main reasons for using a conditioner is to hydrate the hair. Conditioners are also important for protecting colour and strengthening hair as well as regulating the scalps oil production.

Choose: Collinge & CO Lightweight Conditioner for fine and flyaway hair or choose Collinge & CO Moisturising Conditioner for normal to coarse hair.

Gently does it

It’s also important to treat your hair with respect. Conditioners are great for detangling hair and making it more manageable. After applying conditioner, you can massage firmly with your fingertips but then you should comb the conditioner carefully through to get rid of any knots or tangles. Start de-tangling your hair from the bottom and work your way to the top to reduce pulling on the growing strands of hair.

Hair Masks

The ultimate product to treat your hair is a hair mask, usually recommended to be used once a week as part of your hair care regime. The benefits are intense conditioning and detangling, nourishing, strengthening and colour protection. They help to replenish and retain moisture, prevent breakage and split ends and protect colour keeping its tone, depth and vibrancy. You should leave a mask on for between 3 – 7 minutes depending on how much T.L.C your hair needs.

My Hero Product – Collinge & CO Hair Treat: the ultimate detangler, deep conditioner and colour protector

Styling Products

Caring for your hair shouldn’t stop after washing and conditioning. Choose styling and blow drying products carefully too. If your hair is either dry or dry at the ends it will benefit from a leave in conditioner.

Tip: Put a few drops of Argan Oil into the palms of your hand and distribute throughout the hair or ends of your hair before blow drying. It smooths the hair and greatly reduces drying time.

For finer hair: Use Hair Moisturiser after towel drying for a really light and natural finish. Perfect for curly hair too.

If you regularly use straighteners, curling tongs or blow dry your hair it’s a good idea to apply a product which is heat protecting before styling.

Blow Dry Lotion

Recommended: Blow dry Lotion, Hair Moisturiser