Healthy Hair Tips
The biggest trend in hair these days is no trend at all.
Gone are the days of the monolithic hairstyle—Dorothy Hamill’s sassy bob, Farah
Fawcett’s flirty flip, and The Rachel. Today, a stylish woman could make any of
these looks work.
First, though, your hair must be healthy. (Men, this
goes for you, too.) To keep your hair in top form, it’s helpful to know a
little about its composition and growth.
Hair Composition and Growth
Hair follicles are tiny pockets of epidermal cells in
the dermis of the scalp and elsewhere on the body. The epidermis is the top
layer of skin, and the dermis lies beneath it. Only the palms of the hands and
soles of the feet are hairless. Hair is formed by a cluster of cells at the
base of each hair follicle. This cell matrix is nourished by a blood supply
from capillaries in the papilla, a structure nestled in its
center. As cells in the matrix divide, they push upward out of the follicle.
The portion of hair within the follicle is called
the root, and the visible portion outside the follicle is the shaft. A
cylindrical (round) shaft produces straight hair, and a flat shaft produces
wavy or curly hair. Pigments in the hair shaft make our hair chestnut brown, strawberry
blonde, fiery red. As we age, we lose the ability to produce this pigmentation,
and some or all of the hair turns white. Gray hair isn’t really gray; it’s an
optical illusion produced by the intermingling of pigmented and unpigmented
hairs. The fewer pigmented hairs there are, the more silvery gray the hair
looks. The more pigmented hairs there are, the more the hair takes on a
Hair grows about five inches per year. Even unkempt
styles should be trimmed every six or eight weeks to keep the hair healthy.
Bleaching to lighten hair and dyeing to darken or change
its color are different processes. Bleaching removes pigment, whereas dyeing
adds it. Sebaceous (oil) glands in each hair follicle naturally lubricate the
hair shaft, but heat and chemical processes like bleaching can dry it out. If
you color your hair, take care not to over-process it. This can dry out the
hair shaft and make it vulnerable to breakage.
Let your hair air dry, or use a warm—not hot—blow dryer.
Don’t hold the dryer in one spot for more than a few seconds. Likewise, if you
use a curling iron or flatiron, avoid the hottest settings and don’t leave the
plates or barrel in prolonged contact with the hair. Hot rollers must be left
in several minutes in order to set. If you use hair accessories, choose ones
that won’t damage your hair. Uncovered rubber bands will cause serious breakage
in a hurry. Some barrette clasps or hinges and the teeth on headbands can do
Use a shampoo that leaves your hair feeling clean and
silky, but not heavy, greasy, or filmy. Stay away from cigarette smoke and
other strong odors to keep it smelling fresh. Scaling of the scalp can be
treated with an over-the-counter or prescription dandruff shampoo. If you have
dry or flyaway hair, use a small amount of conditioner to tame it. It’s not
necessary to pay big bucks for salon hair care products—store brands do just