Hair is one of the defining features of people, but even more so for girls. It becomes part of our identity, something that we carry with us wherever we go. And because most of us are not supermodels and movie stars who have people manage our hair for us, here are some tips for maintaining the healthy and beauty of your hair.
Reduce the Cleansing — The best thing you can do for your hair is not wash it. I know, that sounds really disgusting, but every time you jump in the shower and run that soapy lather through your scalp, you’re stripping your hair of its oils. That’s fine every once in a while, but the more often you do it, the worse it is for your skin. Your body is able to tell that your scalp lacks moisture, so the more you wash your hair, the more it has to compensate for the constant dryness. The best remedy for this is to wash your hair as little as possible. Ideally, you want to be able to get down to 2-3 times a week, but even washing it every other day helps. Sure, for the first few weeks your hair is going to be gross. During those times, stick it up in a bun or ponytail or braid. After a while, your body with adjust and stop producing so much oil so frequently, and your hair will be less oily and in much better shape.
Find a Good Brush — The type of brush you use is also important. The best kind you can get is a wooden one. Unlike plastic, wood brushes or combs are gentle on your hair and are better able to distribute oils from the scalp, remove sebum (or hair/skin oil) buildup, and get rid of impurities. Wood also doesn’t conduct electricity, so it isn’t quite as prone to creating static that makes your hair stick to your face (and if you’re anything like me and can’t stand clingy hair, that’s always a huge plus). If you want to go the extra mile, there are even many types of wooden brushes that are hypo-allergenic.
Limit Heat Exposure — This is a hair pro-tip that’s been around for a while. Everyone knows that blasting your hair 400+ degrees of heat is bad, just like taking your hand and sticking it on a running burner is bad for the skin. Limiting the amount of blow-drying, straightening, curling, etc. goes a long way to sustaining your hair and keeping it healthy. The easiest way to do this is by letting it air dry and using a low heat setting on your styling device. If you can, try wearing it natural one day. Often times our hair doesn’t look nearly as bad natural as we think it does.
Trim Your Split Ends — A lot of people are under the impression that if you’re growing your hair out, the best thing to do to get it to grow longer faster is to not cut it. Ever. And that just isn’t a good idea. Just like if you keep your nails long and must clip and prune and maintain the shape and health of each nail, growing your hair out requires fine-tuning to keep it healthy. Plus it ends up looking better.
Wash with Baking Soda — This has to be the best advice I ever took on hair health. While shampoo likes to essentially set a bush fire on your scalp and eliminate all of its natural moisture, baking soda doesn’t. It gets rid of the excess while still keeping your scalp relatively moisturized. You’d think that this would leave your hair feeling greasy and oily, but it doesn’t. It actually comes out feeling softer, looking shiner, and staying clean longer. Just dump a few tablespoons in a cup or empty shampoo bottle (if you like irony) and fill it with plenty of water. Shake it up, pour it on your head, and distribute it through your hair.
Sure, there are some down sides: It doesn’t smell as pretty, doesn’t bubble up and get soapy, and if you get it in your mouth it tastes a bit funky. But the benefits are worth the costs. And speaking of costs, baking soda is dirt cheap—Walmart sells it for less than a dollar—which goes a long way when you’re a college student who rations out her food and purchases copious amounts of ramen (like me).
There you have it. My best tips for hair health. This, of course, isn’t a comprensive list. There are plenty of other resources with suggestions and ideas. Explore your options, try new things, see what works best for you. Your hair will be happier and healthier.