Hair health and common issues with styling products

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Hair health and common issues with styling products Powered By Docstoc
					We wash, style and blow-dry in order to tame our often un-ruly tendrils. Yet some of
the everyday hair care practices we use are actually doing more damage than good.
This article takes a look at the issues we face in our efforts to achieve well groomed,
shiny and healthy hair.

The average human head has about 100 000 hair follicles and from each one emerges
a shaft of hair. Nourished by blood vessels the follicles produce new keratin cells
promoting the constant growth of new hair. The inner layer or medulla,

which is protected by the outer keratin cells, contains pigment cells (for colour), fat
granules and oxygen. Separate glands run alongside the follicle producing sebum, a
natural hair and scalp conditioner. Straight, shiny hair is the result of sebum produced
by the glands easily travelling the length of the hair shaft. By contrast, curly hair will
often look and feel dry because the sebum has a more difficult time getting from the
base of the hair shaft to the tip.

The overall health of the hair depends on numerous factors however nutritional status
is key. There are no topically applied hair products that can compensate for poor
nutrition. Hair cannot repair itself because it is already dead tissue. However, you can
grow healthier hair from the "inside-out". Healthy hair depends on a constant supply
of blood, oxygen and nutrients to grow and maintain the look and feel. Any deficiency
in key hair nutrients will show up in our skin, hair and nails first, before affecting our
internal organs. Therefore, brittle, dry, dull hair that easily breaks may actually be a
signifier to check your general nutritional status.

Hair is predominately made up from protein so a deficiency can result in changes to
the colour and texture resulting in brittle, weak and thinning hair. Eating protein 3-5
week will help maintain your levels. If you have had a protein deficiency you will
notice hair returning to healthy condition within 12 weeks of correcting the deficiency,
as the new hairs grow through.

In addition diets high in sugar and animal fats may contribute to poor hair health. An
imbalance between good and bad fat consumption can either lead to an overly dry and
flaky scalp and dry hair or excessive oil production. Correcting the imbalance will
help to normalise the health of the scalp and the relative dryness or oiliness of the hair.
High sugar consumption creates a higher demand for B group vitamins, which can
also affect hair health. Reducing highly processed and sugar rich foods will not only
help hair health, it will also improve general health.

While internal factors affect hair health, external factors also have the potential to
damage hair. If you have ever washed your hair with soap you would know that it
tends to get tangled and knotty afterwards. The outer "scales" on the hair shaft stand
up when in the presence of an alkali, such as soap and get caught up creating a tangled,
messy "do". The scales will lie down flat in the presence of an acid such as lemon
juice or vinegar, which is why vinegar hair rinses were traditionally used after
washing. While shampoos don't create this effect they come with their own set of
issues as they are stronger cleansers than soap and strip more of the natural oils from
the scalp and hair, leaving it dry and in desperate need of moisture. This is where
conditioners come in, their key functions to make the hair scales lie back down and
coat the hair so that it feels smooth again.

In addition the type of surfactant used to clean hair in shampoos can be problematic
with those such as sodium or ammonium lauryl sulphate contributing to irritated and
dry scalp and hair issues. Softer surfactants such as decyl glucoside, coco glucoside or
coco betaine are better choices for both hair and scalp health.

In general try to avoid conditioners and stying products with added silica as these will
just build up on the hair shaft and create "artificially" shiny and silky hair. They will
also increase the need to wash hair which in turn dries out hair again, creating a cycle
of poor hair management and ultimately, poor hair health.

How often we wash hair is an individual choice however, most people tend to wash
their hair too frequently, each time stripping back the protective oils from the scalp
and hair. If your scalp is dry or itchy, try waiting one extra day before washing
allowing the sebum to protect the scalp for a longer period. Twice weekly for normal
to dry hair is a good benchmark. Obviously oily hair needs to be washed more
frequently and often daily. Washing hair often entails blow-drying or straightening
which if done excessively, damage the hair shaft. The less you dry & straighten, the
better your hair condition will tend to be.

Hair styling agents can also impact on the health of the hair and more importantly
your general health. In conventional styling products synthetic plastics such as PVP
(polyvinyl pyrrolidone polymer), acrylic copolymers, VA (vinyl acetate)polymer and
acrylamide polymer are used as holding agents, all of which are synthetic petroleum
based plastics. While these may not be specifically damaging to your hair, they are not
environmentally friendly and in addition are easily absorbed through the scalp thereby
contributing to the total toxic load your body has to deal with. Look instead for
natural products such as beeswax or coconut oil based products for strong hold pastes
or gels and sugar biopolymer based products from corn or vegetables instead of hair
spray or mousse. The natural wax products will also help to keep the hair shaft
moisturised. Generally styling products based on such ingredients are healthier for
you and for the environment.

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