Way back when I started this blog in 2009, I wrote about how difficult it was for me as a 16-year-old to deal with chemotherapy-induced hair loss. I loved my long, brown hair and took really good care of it, so it was tough to watch it get thin and fuzzy. Toward the end of my treatment, I even suffered from bald spots!
Thankfully, my hair grew back after I went into remission, but it has remained of a finer texture than it was before. The experience taught me to be even more vigilant in how I care for it.
No matter what our age or our health condition, we women (and men too!) take pride in our hair. Often, we feel it is our best feature. Sometimes, though, as a result of using the wrong products, or being out in the sun too much, or simply because of the way age robs the hair of moisture, our hair can get dull and tired. We shampoo and condition, but it still looks dry and old and like it’s lost its vigor.
Don’t worry—you can restore a shiny bounce to your hair with the tips below!
1. Use a Gentle Shampoo
This is one of the most important changes you can make, especially as you get older, or if you dye your hair. Age and hair dyes rob the hair and scalp of natural moisture, making hair dry, frizzy, and dull. If you’re seeing these types of results on your hair, it’s time to change your shampoo.
Most shampoos on the market today are made with sulfates, which are harsh cleansing ingredients that foam up. These detergents strip hair of moisture, which is why you need a conditioner to help counteract the drying effect. Still, over time, your scalp (like your skin) starts to produce less moisture. The conditioner isn’t enough, and your hair starts to wither.
You can still get your hair clean by using one of the newer shampoos on the market that don’t damage your hair so much. Look for sulfate-free options—many from organic brands—that use fruit extracts and gentler cleansers to get hair clean. Then rinse thoroughly. Take at least a minute to be sure hair is free of any residue.
2. Be Gentle When It’s Wet
Hair is most fragile when it’s wet, which means if you towel dry with vigorous strokes, or start in right away with a brush, you’re going to cause breakage and splitting. Pat and squeeze dry, and use a wide-toothed comb to detangle the strands before you get too crazy with drying or styling.
3. Deep Condition
As you age, or use more chemicals and dyes on your hair, you’re going to have to step up your conditioning treatments to compensate. At least once a week (twice is better for chemical-treated and aging hair), deep condition with natural oils like olive, sunflower, or coconut. Apply from about the mid-strand out to the edges. Avoid the scalp if you have fine or limp hair, but if your scalp is itchy, feel free to massage the oil in. Wrap hair in a soft towel, and leave in for about 30 minutes before rinsing. Then give your hair a break from styling for at least 12 hours. (Best to do this treatment at night before bed.)
Some other good options for deep conditioning include argan oil and moringa oil. You can also add some natural extracts to the oils to gain benefits. Hibiscus extract, for example, is rich in vitamins and amino acids that help strengthen hair. Indian gooseberry helps cleanse the scalp—great for hair that lacks volume.
4. Protect from Styling Heat
Though blow-drying may be an indispensable part of your styling routine, it can do a lot of damage to hair. All that high heat and blowing can accelerate damage and splitting. Try to air-dry when you can, or avoid the hair dryer at least a couple times a week.
When you do need to use the dryer, use a pre-drying treatment product first to help protect it and reduce the risk of damage. There are a lot of heat-protection sprays out there that contain vitamins and strengthening botanicals that actually nourish hair while protecting it from the dryer. Choose one that has natural ingredients in it and then use it every time before you blow-dry. It will also help if you can use lower temperatures on your dryer.
Finally, watch the direction in which you’re drying the hair. If you blow from the ends up to the roots, you’ll be more likely to create frizz. Instead, blow dry from the roots down. Section your hair to get a shinier result.
5. Take Care of Your Scalp
Most of us are so focused on our hair that we forget where it comes from—the scalp! In fact, the condition of the scalp in many cases predicts the condition of the hair. But just like your skin gets dryer as you age, your scalp does too. It actually requires the same type of anti-aging treatment that your skin does.
That means that starting even in your thirties, you want to pay more attention to your scalp. The good news is that hair-care companies are starting to wake up to this idea. There are a lot of anti-aging scalp treatments out there now, and some really do help. Look for those that contain natural oils and conditioners and massage them into the scalp a couple times a week to help produce softer, fuller hair.
6. Protect Protect!
There are many things in our world that can gradually chip away at the health of your hair. Chemicals in your shower water, for example, can dry and damage the strands. I talked about this in a previous post “Stop Bathing in Chemicals”—you can limit the damage by getting a shower filter.
Next are those damaging UV rays. They can damage your hair and scalp just as much as they do your skin. That means if you’re going to spend the day outside, you’re best bet is to wear a hat or use an umbrella. You can also use an SPF mist, which will provide added protection.
Finally, be careful about how often you chemically treat your hair. I’ve got more information for you in a previous post about the toxic chemicals in salon products and how you can reduce your exposure. We all like luxurious color, but do everything you can to make it last so you don’t have to re-color so often. Then talk to your stylist about less damaging options.
7. Loosen Up
Tight knots, braids, ponytails, and other styles pull on the roots and accelerate breakage and damage. Sleeping on a regular cotton pillowcase also pulls at your hair through the night.
Replace your pillowcase for a silk fabric type that will not pull on your hair, keep your hair loose most of the time, and avoid hardening hair sprays that make your hair stiff. Use more nourishing, volumizing sprays instead, and then add a little texture with a light texturizing product for a more natural, healthy bounce.
How do you care for your hair to keep it looking shiny?