The New Year started on a subdued note with the pandemic showing all the signs of making its presence known now more than ever before. As all of us deal with life as it unfolds, staying indoors and practising self-isolation, it could be a good idea to use this time (if you are not recuperating) to reinvent your self-care regimes. Why not start with hair?
Hair is often looked at as a sign of vanity or a canvas for self-expression. While it is all that, it is first and foremost an indicator of our inner health. What if you could imbibe simple habits that would dramatically change the texture and health of your hair. Curious? Well, get a cup of your favourite beverage and keep reading to find out the top seven tips by leading hair experts that can transform your mane.
1. Let your hair loose
Wearing your hair loose more often is a great habit if you are looking at the long-term health and maintenance of your hair. “Tying your hair up too tight can put undue stress on the hair and scalp, leading to breakage,” says Sonali Bhimani, creative director, JCB Bandra.
Not just that! Since we sleep for eight hours or so each night, what we do with our hair at that time also matters according to Michelle Ranavat, founder and CEO of Ranavat Botanics. Ranavat has built a large social media following as she shares Asian haircare rituals with a global audience. Her preliminary advice to get started is also to keep your hair relaxed and free especially while sleeping. “Be sure to sleep without an elastic tying your hair or with a low braid to keep your hair from pulling and tugging throughout the night,” she says.
2. Invest in hair masks and conditioner
If you want to improve the texture and tenacity of your strands, masking is the key. For dry and voluminous hair, hydrating masks work best. They can be swapped with regular conditioners to keep the frizz away. However, if your concern is fine hair, you needn’t mask more than once a month to maintain lustre and softness.
Apply mask or conditioner on towel-dried hair, a haircare practice and instruction we tend to overlook when washing hair at home. We often apply the mask on dripping wet hair which dilutes the efficacy of the formulation and keeps you away from hair that can be stronger, silkier, and shinier.
3. Work with your natural hair texture
Overusing heat tools to change the texture of your hair can be damaging in the long run. Bhimani advises consulting a stylist who will understand your natural texture and give you a haircut that best compliments it. That’s the first step to being happy with your hair! If you choose a style that’s against your hair’s natural movement, you will either require a lot of time to style it or will end up feeling dissatisfied with how your hair is looking, wanting them to be straighter, curlier, or thicker. For instance, if you have fine hair, avoid longer hairstyles, and if you have a thick wavy mop of hair, stay clear of bobs. “Get regular trims to prevent split ends and help your hair grow healthier and stronger,” adds Bhimani.
4. Keep your scalp clean
How often you wash your hair should depend on how much oil your scalp produces. “If you have an oily scalp, it is perfectly safe and appropriate to wash your hair daily. If you have dry hair or a sensitive scalp then space out hair washing to once or twice a week. But it is very important to keep the scalp clean and avoid build-up,” advises Dr Veenu Jindal, dermatologist, Rasaderm and Max Hospital, New Delhi.
5. Switch to silk pillowcases
If you switch to silk, you will be joining a long list of celebrities such as Kim Kardashian, Victoria Beckham, Katy Perry, Cindy Crawford, and Ellen Degeneres who endorse sleeping on silk cases to the extent of travelling with their silk cases. While sleeping on a silk pillowcase will not prevent hair loss, it will reduce breakage and cut down on the frizz. Mulberry silk, and let’s not confuse it with satin here, helps retain moisture and natural oils and reduces friction which in turn gives you soft, smooth hair on waking up. “It is also great for those with acne, so it’s a win-win for hair and skin,” adds Bhimani.
6. Look into Vitamin D supplements
Look into your meal plans and grocery lists if you want your hair to be healthy from within. More often than not, unhealthy hair or hair loss is an external symptom of internal nutritional deficiencies. If needed, take supplements. Dr Jindal cautions that vitamin D deficiency is also responsible for thinning hair and not just weak bones.
“Vitamin D is metabolized in the skin by cells known as keratinocytes. These cells process keratin, a protein in hair, nails, and skin. When the body doesn’t have enough vitamin D, keratinocytes in hair follicles have trouble regulating hair growth and shedding. Supplementing vitamin D along with other key nutrients—typically iron, vitamin C, zinc and biotin—helps in restoring hair loss and thickens existing hair,” she recommends.
7. Keep calm and journal your stress away
Hair growth involves three stages, explains Dr Jindal. “In the growth phase (anagen), strands of hair push through the skin. In the degeneration phase (catagen), hair ceases to grow, and the follicle at the base of the strand shrinks. In the resting phase (telogen), hair falls out and the cycle begins again,” she says. High levels of cortisol (the stress hormone) in the hair follicles are known to impact the hair growth cycle as it pushes large numbers of hair follicles into telogen.
Managing stress is key if you want your hair long and lustrous. In these times, when we are facing isolation and insecurities, writing our worries out on paper is an expert-approved way of releasing stress as it helps you process emotions better.
8. Be consistent
Like most things in life, consistency is key when it comes to hair care. It doesn’t matter if you follow one good practice occasionally. “Being consistent with hair oiling has been one of the single most important factors in improving my hair health. I stay consistent with my weekly ritual and it really does pay off over time. Use a hair oil that you love the smell of and that makes you feel good. Enjoying your ritual will make it easier to stay consistent,” advises Ranavat.