May 27, 2011

Natural Solutions for Common Hair Problems

Dry hair. Oily hair. Dandruff. Thinning hair. For every hair problem there are several chemical solutions available at the salon or drugstore aisle. Instead of sorting through all those products, many of which we know contain some pretty unsavory ingredients, you can look to your pantry for some all natural, do-it-yourself solutions.

First, start with a healthy hair diet. Basically, what's good for your body and overall health is good for your hair. Stick with a balanced diet of unprocessed foods – veggies, fruits, whole grains, lean protein, and good fats found in foods like walnuts, olive and canola oil, fatty cold-water fish. Then, try these home remedies for your specific hair dilemma.

Dry Hair
Dry hair can result from a variety of reasons – harsh shampoo, over-shampooing, styling products, high heat from styling tools, sun, etc. Before trying to treat dry, damaged hair, consider why it's dry and damaged. To protect your hair from any further damage avoid over-shampooing (those with coarse hair can get away with shampooing once or twice a week), use a mild, sulfate-free shampoo, condition after every shampooing, wear hats to protect your hair from wind and sun, get regular trims, wear a swim cap (or rub olive oil into hair) before swimming in chlorinated or salt water, and always brush hair gently. Heat from blow dryers and curling/straightening irons is probably the leading cause of dry hair, so use only the minimum amount of heat needed to style your hair and allow your hair to air dry as often as possible.

Most homemade dry hair remedies can be found right in your kitchen. Mayonnaise and eggs are probably the two most popular home treatments for dry hair. With mayonnaise, simply slather a tablespoon or two of full fat mayonnaise onto your hair and gently massage it into your scalp. Leave it on for 30 minutes and then shampoo and condition as usual. To add some shine with eggs, beat an egg with a bit of tepid water and massage the mixture into your hair and scalp. Then rinse thoroughly with lukewarm water (any hotter and you risk cooking the egg on your head).

Just as you can use vinegar to clean your house and give your laundry a boost, you can use vinegar to clean and condition your hair into a healthy shine. Simply rinse with apple cider vinegar after your usual hair washing and conditioning routine. You can use beer the same way. Both will leave your hair shiny and, whether you use vinegar or beer, the smell will subside completely once your hair is dry.

For a yummy smelling hair mask mash up overripe banana and avocado and work it into your hair. Leave it on for at least half an hour and rinse with warm water.

For very coarse dry hair you can even try rubbing oil (olive, grapeseed, or coconut) into your scalp, working it though the ends of your hair, and letting it sit for at least half an hour before shampooing.

Limp or Oily Hair
If you have oily hair, make sure you are rinsing your shampoo out thoroughly. Any shampoo left on hair can attract more oil and dirt. If you do use conditioner, apply only a small amount to the ends, never near the scalp. Also, avoid brushing or touching your hair too much.

Baking soda is great at cutting grease. Add 1 to 3 tablespoons to your regular shampoo and massage it into your hair to really get the oil and dirt out. Then wash and condition as usual.

A vinegar rinse can help remove built up hair products and excess oil from your hair. Just add some vinegar to your final shampoo rinse. If that is not enough, mix two parts water with one part vinegar (white distilled or apple cider) in a spray bottle, apply thoroughly to hair after shampooing, and leave on for 5 to 10 minutes before rinsing. A mixture of equal parts water and lemon juice can be used the same way.

Dandruff
Vinegar can also help treat dandruff. In this case, you massage the vinegar into your scalp before shampooing. Do this every time you shampoo until the dandruff is gone. Going forward you can make your own dandruff-preventing conditioner by mixing two parts water with one part vinegar.

You can also try adding either crushed aspirin or baking soda to your shampoo, massaging the mixture into your scalp, and leaving it on for a few minutes before rinsing and washing with regular shampoo.

Thinning Hair/Hair Loss
While harsh hair products and treatments can damage hair, they do not cause hair loss. Hair loss is caused by internal factors such as nutrition, stress, hormones, and illness. If the following dietary recommendations don't work, your hair loss may be an indication of an underlying medical condition so consult a doctor.

First, consider if you're getting enough iron in your diet. Many women are anemic and don't even know it. Some iron-rich foods are egg yolks, dark leafy greens, beans and lentils, and red meat. Consuming these foods with foods rich in vitamin C aids in absorption. Also important to healthy hair growth is vitamin B12. It's found in eggs, meat, and poultry, but if your hair is already thinning due to a B12 deficiency, you need a supplement to restore levels and curb hair loss.

Another B vitamin, biotin, is absolutely essential for hair growth. It is found in foods like liver and egg yolks, but it's hard to get enough to help hair (as well as skin and nails) without a supplement. The recommended daily intake (RDI) of biotin is 300 mcg, but hair loss doctors recommend 2 mg to 3 mg of biotin a day for those suffering from hair loss. Hair loss experts usually also recommend a nutrient called methylsulfonylmethane (MSM). It's another building block of healthy hair and skin. The recommended dose of MSM is 700 mg a day.

If you want to go beyond nutritional supplementation and try an herbal remedy for hair loss, there is some evidence that saw palmetto is effective in treating hair loss. This herb is strong enough to effect androgen pathways, so discuss with your doctor first. A safer option may be green tea. The jury is still out on its effectiveness, but green tea does have many health benefits, including being a good source of antioxidants, so it can't hurt to try.

May you have many good hair days ahead of you!

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