To read part one of How to Grow Truly Healthy Hair, click here.
Best Foods for Healthy Hair
If you’re dedicated to achieving healthy strands, there are certain foods that are a must to include in your diet:
Dark green vegetables: A great source of vitamins A and C, these help the body to produce sebum, which is the oil secreted by the hair follicles and your natural hair conditioner.
Lentils and beans: Legumes are a must for silkier locks. Besides all-important protein, which promotes hair growth, foods such as lentils and beans are brimming with biotin, zinc and iron. When deficient in these, hair becomes brittle.
Whole grains: Important hair nutrients including B vitamins, zinc and iron are found in whole grains. Try soaking instead of boiling to maximise the amount of goodness you get from each mouthful.
Carrots: Known to be perfect eye-food, carrots also promote a healthy scalp thanks to their Vitamin A content.
Bananas: Hair thinning is often attributed to lack of Vitamin B6, a nutrient found in the humble banana. This vitamin is essential as it enables the body to absorb nutrients from the other foods we eat, and also helps the production of red blood cells: a must to keep hair follicles healthy, which creates shine.
Nuts: Pecans, walnuts and cashews make great snacks if you want to achieve healthy hair. Their zinc content can slow thinning and hair loss. Walnuts are also a great source of selenium, important to ensure a healthy scalp, free of dandruff.
Avocado: Brimming with good fats, avocados also contain biotin which is essential for healthy hair growth. Besides eating this beauty superfood, apply it directly to the hair for a deep conditioning hair masque.
Tips from the Ancients
What you put in your body and on your hair may contribute to a head of healthy locks, but so does how often—and when—you decide to book in for that trim, says Rebecca Dettman, an Adelaide-based intuitive and former beauty editor. She says there are many who only cut, shave or wax according to the moon’s cycles, swearing by its ability to keep hair healthy and promote or slow growth.
“When the moon is waxing—growing bigger—hair is said to grow more profusely; when waning—growing smaller—hair growth slows,” Dettman says.
“To encourage longer, locks, trim the ends under a full or waxing moon in moon in Cancer, Scorpio, Capricorn, Pisces, and Taurus. For thicker hair, visit your hairdresser under a full moon in Leo. Sick of your hair growing too fast? Get it chopped under a waning moon in the ‘dry’ signs of Aries, Gemini, Libra, Sagittarius, Aquarius.”
She says throughout history, hair—and particularly healthy hair—has always represented strength, power, rank prestige and even magic.
“The biblical Sampson lost his strength when cutting off his hair, which is perhaps why witches traditionally used peoples’ hair cuttings in their brews,” she says. “These days girls often crave new haircuts and colours when changing jobs or boyfriends—an ancient symbolic nod to the fact that hair holds a lot of emotional memory and ‘baggage’, and that chopping it off can be a freeing new beginning.”
Why Chemicals are a Hair Killer
Parabens, sulphates, phalates and petrochemicals are just some of the nasties that make up the ingredients of many modern-day hair products, each contributing to ill hair health that can only be truly reversed at the hands of a hairdresser with a sharp pair of scissors. Knowing what chemicals to avoid is the first step in fostering vibrant locks (and ultimately good health). Check your favourite product for one or a combination of the following ingredients to avoid:
- ISOPROPYL ALCOHOL: Found in hair colour rinses, this is a solvent and denaturant, meaning it changes other ingredients’ natural qualities. This poisonous, petroleum-derived chemical is also used in antifreeze. Applied to the hair, it will cause breakages and strands will become extremely dry. If that’s not enough to deter even the most committed of hair colour fan, consider that it’s also said to cause headaches, dizziness, nausea, vomiting and mental depression.
- PETROLATUM: If your grandmother told stories of how Vaseline did wonders for her hair, chances are it didn’t (sorry grandma). This petroleum-based goop is used by industries to grease machinery, and has no place being near your hair or skin. It not only clogs the hair cuticles, but also infuses it with toxins that are not only bad for your hair, but also your scalp and entire body, as what goes on, goes within.
- POLYETHYLENE GLYCOL(PEG): Found in hair products and topical medications—and even lava lamps and oven cleaners—polyethylene glycol compromises the immune system and can be carcinogenic and may result in brain, liver and kidney abnormalities. In short, it’s toxic, won’t foster healthy hair and should have no place in the bathroom cabinet.
- SODIUM LAURYL SUFATE (SLS) & SODIUM LAURETH SULFATE (SLES):Of all the bad chemicals in hair products, these two have to be the most publicised, and for good reason. Found in countless hair and beauty products, particularly shampoos, conditioners and toothpastes to make them foam up and give the impression they’re doing a good cleaning job. SLS and SLES are inexpensive, making them very attractive to beauty companies who want the biggest bang for their hair buck. Also used as detergents, these two nasties make up car wash soaps, garage floor cleaners and engine degreasers. When tested on animals, they caused eye damage, depression, laboured breathing, diarrhea, severe skin irritation, corrosion and even death.
- CHLORINE:No need to check the label for this one. A major additive of water supplies around the world, chlorine will not only dry your hair out, causing breakage, it’s also proven to cause many ill health effects. Fit a quality filtration system to your showerhead to rid this chemical from your daily routine. Chlorine can cause asthma, hay fever, anemia, bronchitis, circulatory collapse, confusion, dizziness, eye irritations, nausea, high blood pressure, circulatory collapse, cancer and more.
- DEA (diethanolamine) MEA (momoethnanolamine) TEA (triethanolamine):Found in shampoos and other personal care products that foam these chemicals are said to increase the cause of liver and kidney cancers. This hormone-disrupting trio also come under the names of Cocamide DEA or MES and Lauramide DEA. Avoid at all costs.
- FD & C COLOUR PIGMENTS:Many colour pigments cause skin sensitivity and irritation. Absorption of certain colors can cause the body’s oxygen to deplete and even death according to A Consumer’s Dictionary of Cosmetic Ingredients. Made from coal tar, animal studies have shown almost all are carcinogenic.
- FRAGRANCE: While fragrance may appear harmless, it is in fact a concoction of thousands of toxic ingredients, most of which are synthetic. Also under the guise of “parfum”, it’s found in most shampoos and hair care products. While the smell may be sweet, the symptoms of fragrance application to the scalp can range from headaches, dizziness, rashes and skin discolouration to violent coughing, vomiting and allergic skin irritations. Studies have also found fragrance can affect the central nervous system, while causing hyperactivity, depression and irritability.
- IMIDAZOLIDINYL UREA and DMDM HYDANTOIN:These two cosmetic preservatives found in most hair care products, release formaldehyde—a toxic chemical that irritates the respiratory system and can cause heart palpitations. Also said to bring about joint pain, allergies, headaches, ear infections, depression, Chronic Fatigue, formaldehyde is also known to contribute to cancer.
Sofia Basile, owner of Unico Hair Salons in Melbourne, says anything manmade that’s unnatural, synthetic and chemically-enhanced is not a good idea if you want to achieve optimally healthy hair.
“Silicone is being used in so many cheap shampoos,” she says. “It’s a cheap and quick result in getting ‘healthy-looking’ hair—this is a cheat approach to shine that gradually builds a plastic coating on the hair.”
She adds: “Silicone will stop conditioner and treatments from making the hair healthy from the inside out. If you think of your bathroom, we use silicone around the sink to make it watertight; this is doing exactly the same thing to your hair shaft! Keep your products natural. Your hair condition will improve and you will see great results.”