Words by Celi Crossland
In the theme of this year's Oscar winning short animation 'Hair Love’, I would like to dedicate this week's blog entry to hair and scalp health.
A number of close friends have experienced hair fall for various reasons; some medical, some genetic and some even stress-related.
If, like me, you have bleached your hair, regularly use heat through it, swim in chlorinated swimming water, fry your hair in the sun, or even just expose your hair regularly to highly polluted areas, this can all contribute to long-lasting negative effects on the quality of your strands. We all know that hair related issues can make you feel quite self-conscious and so with the following little tips and tricks, you might regain hair density and shine, and self confidence!
1. Eat well for your hair!
As I’m sure many of you know diet is one of the most important parts of skin and body health, but this is equally important for hair growth and strength. Treating the inside to benefit the outside is key.
A lack of the right nutrients, including vitamins A, C, D and E, zinc, B vitamins like biotin, protein and essential fatty acids may stunt hair growth or re-growth. So try to find foods rich in these potent vitamins. Some of my favourites are nuts and seeds, berries, dark leafy greens, beans and pulses and avocados.
2. Use oil treatments
Oils are wonderful to use on all hair types, especially for dry, brittle hair. They are particularly effective when hair is wet as this will aid in sealing in hydration. Here are some of the main ones I have seen improvement from using:
- Avocado oil
Additionally, avocado oil is known for being Vitamin E-rich. Vitamin E is great at protecting areas of the skin like the scalp from oxidative stress and damage, where pollutants and daily grime accumulate. Some people like using this oil singularly and all over the body for these reasons and that it is a gentle, non-clogging base ingredient.
- Lavender oil
Lavender is championed for its antimicrobial properties, which help prevent the growth of bacteria and fungi. When lavender oil is applied to the hair and/ or scalp, it will help to prevent common scalp issues like an itchy scalp, dandruff and dermatitis. Lavender essential oil is particularly popular in aromatherapy and has been said to help with migraines when applied sparingly to the temples (N.B. Never use undiluted essential oils directly on the skin in case of sensitivity- they're super potent extracts).
- Coconut Oil
Coconut oil works well when warmed up as a hair mask for getting deep into the follicles. It fights against such problems as insect bites, lice, dryness and dandruff. This great oil is naturally abundant in vitamin K, iron and zinc, thus highly nourishing. It is also said to reduce protein loss, whether your hair is damaged or not.
How to use oil treatments in your hair
- Using a leave in treatment 1-2 times a week will work wonders on damaged hair. When looking for the perfect one for you it’s important to find a product to support your own needs and desires. I recently discovered that using Suneeta’s Lavamango Body Butter was perfect to put in my dry ends as an overnight treatment after an evening wash and sometimes instead of a conditioner. I comb this through my hair and leave it in for as long as I can. I particularly love it for the ends of my hair during a night's sleep where a cotton pillowcase can zap moisture, or before a swim for some protection from the chemicals in the water.
- Suneeta's Hair Oil sorts my scalp out when it gets particularly stressed. This divine smelling ten oil elixir contains sesame oil, coconut oil, castor oil, olive oil and soothing essential oils like tea tree and rosemary (a particularly stimulating ingredient). I like to massage this into the scalp, and brush through the lengths. Again, the longer you leave this in, the better.
- If you are feeling creative, you can also make up your own concoction. I find castor oil to be one of the best for strengthening my hair, but as it is quite thick, you could try loosening the texture with a neutral carrier oil such sweet almond oil, grapeseed oil or macadamia oil. Blend these with an essential oil like peppermint for an invigorating effect.
3. Gentle Cleansing with a natural shampoo
When washing out these rich treatments, I’d steer clear of commercial shampoos with silicones or sulphates. The main problem with these ingredients are that they tend to overly strip and coat the hair artificially. They may be one of the contributing factors to an irritated scalp due also in part to the ‘parfum’, which is artificial fragrance. **Businesses do not legally have to disclose the ingredients included under this umbrella term, which is also seriously problematic but look out for our later blog post on this!**.
A shampoo with naturally-derived ingredients is much better for you and the environment and, although it might make your hair feel different at first, it’s important to stick with it. More gentle cleansing agents like castile soap and various betaines like those derived from sugar should sustain the quality and growth of the hair in the long run. Just like Suneeta’s Hydrating Shampoo that contains the proteolytic enzyme-fortified ingredient; aloe vera. This helps regenerate and sooth and smooth hair follicles.
Alternatively, the Frankincense and Hemp Shampoo Bar is also a great option. Hemp is a good source of magnesium, iron and zinc. My dad actually loves this product the most as he finds the frankincense great for his sensitive scalp and the bar is very easy to use.
N.B. When shampooing with either of these products, it’s important to massage the scalp in a gentle circular motion to activate the roots. Try to limit your hair washing per week (if you can) as your natural oils are protective and special - your body wouldn't produce them if not for good reason! And, if you can brave it, try to rinse with cold water to minimise frizz and refrain from brushing your hair when wet to avoid breakage.
4. Sensitive styling
Using a Bamboo Brush is essential for me as it gently massages my scalp and separates tangles with minimal fuss. Bamboo itself is naturally biodegradable and reportedly contains the highest amount of vegetative silica. Silica is known to improve hair texture, prevent split ends, and accelerate hair growth. Bamboo can also help carry oil from your scalp down to the ends of your hair, which prevents build up and moisturises hair.
Secondly, I like to tie up my mid-length hair for practical reasons and when I do, I like to use a fabric scrunchie made of silk or similar so as not to strain my strands too much which some common bobbles can do.
5. Quality Down-Time
Sleep deprivation can exacerbate anxiety, which in turn can contribute to excessive hair shedding. I know how hard it can be to get the recommended 8 hours but being mindful of how much you do get is a good step toward improvement. Evening meditation and grounding activities without screens like board games and journaling have proved tremendously useful to me. I also find it soothing to surround myself with people that make you truly happy and can easily relax with.