Is Your Hair Healthy?
Surprising ways you might be taxing your tresses — and the easy fixes.
By Krista Bennett DeMaio
What’s your damage?
Check the Bulb
Pluck out a strand of hair at the root and examine the base. Strong hair has a thick bulb. “If there’s no bulb, the hair follicle isn’t healthy,” says Michael Shaun Corby, global creative director for Alterna Hair Care. The cause? Damage from styling or, potentially, genetically linked hair loss.
I had a bulb! ;-)
Give It a Tug
Wrap a strand of hair around your index finger and thumb (like a piece of string), then use your other hand to tug on it. If it snaps immediately, your hair is lacking moisture; if it stretches “like bubble gum,” says Corby, it needs protein, which strengthens the hair’s keratin bonds.
My hair snapped immediately. I’m on a moisture mission...
Do the "Sink or Float" Test
Drop a strand of hair into a glass of water. A healthy strand will float. If it sinks, the shaft is porous. This can happen to color-treated hair, but it can also occur with a protein deficiency. To get a fair picture of your hair’s overall health, repeat tests on at least four strands from different parts of your head, suggests Donna Maggi, education manager of Nioxin, a hair- and scalp-care company.
My hair floated. One more thing to fix..
Stop a Bad-Hair Day Before It Starts
If you go outside with wet hair
Outdoor elements (wind, cool temperatures) can be rough even for dry hair, explains Corby. But when hair is wet, it’s actually more fragile and susceptible to breakage.
Healthy-hair fix: Try styling products designed to cut drying time. The Paul Mitchell Express Style line, for example, is formulated with technology to help hair dry faster.
If you don’t use UV protection
You shield your hair from UV rays at the beach, but what about at the office? “Like the sun, the fluorescent lighting in your office fades color and damages hair’s integrity,” says Corby.
Healthy-hair fix: Use styling products with UVB and UVA protection. “It’s important to have protectants in your styling products too,” says Maggi. “Styling products stay in hair, while your shampoo rinses out.” Try Logics Color DNA styling products, with UV filters.
I need to find some products with UVB & UVA protection
If you wear your hair in ponytails — a lot!
“If you wear your hair in a ponytail or a bun in the same spot every day, you’re causing breakage,” says Anderson.
Healthy-hair fix: Let your hair down! But if you must put it up, “look for elastics with a plastic-y feel so they glide through hair,” says Corby. Try Blax Snag-Free Hair Elastics Ponytail Holders — stylists love them.
I don't wear ponytails that often, but I do want to buy some of these!
If you frequently wield a flat iron
“Women who use flat irons hit the same areas with the same intensity day after day,” explains Corby. “You can easily burn your hair.”
Healthy-hair fix: “Do as much as you can with the blow-dryer,” says Corby. It causes less damage than an iron. Also, coat your strands with a silicone-free heat-protective serum. Try Alterna Caviar Anti-Aging Radiant Smoothing Lotion, with hydrating rhodiola extract.
If you don’t address your dandruff
“You never want to leave dandruff to its own devices,” says Anderson. The more you scratch, the worse it gets — you’ll end up damaging your scalp. “And a healthy scalp means healthy hair,” she says.
Healthy-hair fix: Stop the itch with a dandruff-controlling shampoo and the latest innovation: dandruff-fighting conditioner. Head & Shoulders Conditioner Dry Scalp Care boosts the effectiveness of active anti-dandruff ingredients left on the scalp by 50 percent.
My KeraCare Dry & Itchy Scalp Conditioner has done wonders for my hair and scalp!