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Tips for healthy hair from the American Academy of Dermatology

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Healthy hair

At the 69th Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Dermatology, Zoe D. Draelos, MD, FAAD, consulting professor at Duke University School of Medicine shares tips to keep hair healthy and lustrous.

Chemical damage from hair dyes, perms and products that straighten the hair are major contributors to hair damage that occurs over time. However, Dr. Draelos says what many people don't know is once hair is damaged you can't repair it.

Once hair is damaged, the protective lipid layer is gone, causing frizz, "bad hair days", dryness and a dull appearance. For women with damaged hair, Dr. Draelos says moisturizing conditioners are necessary.

“One of the most common misconceptions about hair is that it is alive, when in fact hair is nonliving and does not heal itself once it is injured,” said Dr. Draelos. “For this reason, once the hair is damaged it cannot heal itself except through new hair growth at the scalp. Women need to understand that the very things that they do to hair to make it appear beautiful, such as using hair dyes, perms and products that straighten the hair, will eventually end up damaging the hair’s structure and ultimately affect its appearance.”

Products to minimize the effects of hair damage include conditioning shampoos in combination with hair conditioner during the rinse. Draelos also says hair products with dimethicone can restore shine, reduce static electricity and make hair more manageable. Serums applied to the hands and run through the hair – but not the scalp – are also recommended.

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If you wish to dye your hair, use colors as close to your natural shade as possible and go darker rather than lighter. Natural hair color is always best though says Dr. Draelos.

Frizzy ends, hair breakage and the smell of burned hair signals damage from too much heat. Dr. Draelos explains the condition is known as "bubble hair". “Think of hair like a piece of steak – it starts out nice and soft and flexible. But when you cook it, the steak changes texture and becomes hard. Similarly, hair transforms when exposed to heat over time, resulting in brittle hair that breaks easily. Protecting hair from too much heat is essential to maintaining healthy hair.”

The only way to repair heat damaged hair is to get it cut and let it regrow, but moisturizers can help some. To prevent more damage,, let hair air dry. whenever possible. Use low heat settings at first when using a blow dryer then gradually increase the heat. Buy hair dryers with variable temperature settings.

To avoid damage from a straightening iron, use a moist towel between the iron and the hair. Draelos warns salon straightening with keratin is even more damaging because of strong chemicals. Women considering should not do s if the hair is tightly kinked. Avoid frequent treatments and use plenty of conditioner.

When it comes to styling, Draelos says, “It is best to choose a hairstyle closest to your hair’s natural structure and color as possible, which will minimize hair damage. Be sure to consult your dermatologist for any questions about styling products, concerns about the appearance of your hair, or unexplained hair loss.”

Tips for maintaining healthy hair include wearing a hat to avoid sun damage, choosing shampoo and conditioner for your hair type and applying conditioner on the hair ends rather than the scalp. Make sure to wash the scalp and wash more often if hair is oily. To keep hair looking healthy, avoid processing, straightening and dyeing and be generous with the conditioner to minimize the effects of damaged and brittle hair.

American Academy of Dermatology