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Tuesday, 13 December 2011

How to Reconstruct and Grow Damaged Hair

Back in Primary School, I had soft, lovely hair filled with curls. Looking back through my school photos, I become quite upset at the 12-year-old me that decided using a hair straightenner was a brilliant idea. For the last 7 years, I have been straightening my hair almost daily. Over the last 2 years, I have added a hair dryer to the mix - without a diffuser - leaving me with short, dry, unhealthy hair. I had no idea how to look after my hair, and only focused on making it as straight as it could possibly be.

For the last two months, I have let my hair be. The straightener has only come out a few times to straighten my bangs. Instead of attacking it, I have been nourishing and caring for it. Already, I can see an amazing improvement in both quality and length.

Here are my steps to reconstructing and growing damaged hair.

Learn about the basics of hair
1. Borrow a couple of books about hair from your local library

As easy as it is to simply read a couple tips from the Internet, I found that I understood so much more by reading a couple books. It's also helpful to find one that is specialised to your type of hair - e.g. curly, African, dry, short, etc. I read:
Curly like me : how to grow your hair healthy, long, and strong by Teri LaFlesh.
Curly girl : more than just hair-- it's an attitude : a celebration of curls : how to cut them, care for them, love them & set them free by Lorraine Massey. 

2. Realise that there really is NO difference between salon and supermarket brands

Supermarket brands work just as well
For years I was convinced that expensive salon brands were much better for my hair than anything I could find in a supermarket. I was aghast to discover that there is very little difference between them. Reading Don't go shopping for hair care products without me by Paula Begoun taught me how to read the labels on hair products, and what I should look for and avoid. Needless to say, I went from spending $35-$50 to spending $6-$10. This means more money for hair treatments and styling products!

If your hair is dry, buy products that state they are for "dry hair" or for "coloured hair" - they are more moisturising, and are much better for dry hair than "normal hair" products.
Similarly, if your hair is oily, buy products that are for "oily hair" - they will have products in them that soak up the oil in your hair and likely make it last longer without becoming oily.
Products for "normal hair" should only be bought if your hair is truly normal - it is almost always better to buy products that are made for either dry or oily hair.

3. Wash your hair properly

Use your fingertips
There is a process that you should follow when you get into the shower to wash your hair. I will do a more extensive post on this, but for now it's fairly straightforward.
As soon as you get in the shower, make your hair absolutely soaked with water. Lift up sections of your hair to ensure your whole head is wet. Take your shampoo and massage it into the roots of your hair - not the ends. Be sure not to use your fingernails as this can hurt the scalp and hair roots. When in a lather, rinse it out with water. Take a towel and soak up excess water from your hair. Make sure it is more damp than wet so your conditioner can stick and absorb into the hair shaft. Put the conditioner in your hair, focusing on the ends. If you need help getting it through your hair, you can use a very wide-tooth comb and move it through the hair very slowly and carefully, as hair is more vulnerable when wet. Leave it for as long as you can. This is when I do anything else necessry in the shower. After some times has passed, wash out the conditioner. Once again, if you have trouble with washing out all of the shampoo and conditioner in your hair like I used to, you can use your comb to help rinse it all out. When you're done in the shower, your towel should only be pressed onto your hair - it should never be rubbed as this can damage and break your hair.

4. Don't use tight hair clips or elastics

You should be able to see down the middle
Tight hair clips and elastics can break the hair shaft as well as pull out your hair from its roots. This means you'll damage or lose hair that isn't ready to fall out naturally - leading to thinning hair. The same thing can also happen if you pull your hair back or braid it too tightly. Buy hair clips that don't close onto their opposite sided teeth - you should be able to see down the middle. Avoid using hair elastics that aren't covered in material.
Since I've given up the straightener, my hair is curly. Even though I'm leaving it natural, I would choose having straight hair over curly hair any day. Currently, I have been putting it up into a loose clip on top of my head, and adding a few bobby pins to hold it together. This way, it isn't really being pulled or stretched.

Treat while showering
5. Use hair treatments

If your hair is dry, hair treatments are a God send. The feeling of your hair after washing the treatment out is considerably different from the way it feels after a simple shampoo and conditioner. Also, they really leave your hair more soft and shiny. I prefer using treatments in the shower after I have washed out my conditioner. The steam from the hot water also helps the treatment get into your hair shaft. Consider doing a treatment at least once a week, but twice a week will leave your hair totally soft.

6. Use your hair dryer properly

Dry top, then bottom
If we're honest, using a hair dryer really does help with styling. It can both make your hair straighter to prepare it for your hair straightener and give your hair more volume to prepare it for big and bouncy styles. There are four main things to know when using your hair dryer, especially on damaged hair:
-  Use a diffuser so a strong heat isn't focused on a small section of your hair
- Continuously move the hair dryer and your hair around while you dry it
- Dry the top of your hair first. Then clip up the top sections, and dry underneath. This way, the ends of your hair (and therefore usually the parts that recieves the most damage) have less time under the heat.
- It is best to dry your hair to 80%, and then let the rest dry naturally. Some people think that it will help their hair to let it dry naturally for a bit first, and then to use their hair dryer to finish it off, but this is the worst thing you can do. Wet hair that is electronically dried has a threshold afterwhich the heat from the hair dryer becomes damaging. The first 80% of the drying process can usually take the heat well and recieve very little damage, while the last 20% of the drying process is when any heat is very damaging.

7. Hair oil is your best friend

Smells amazing!
Had you asked me 6 months back if I would ever put oil into my hair, I would have laughed. It sounds unhealthy, but that is mostly due to our association between oil and bad food. Specialised hair oils are a massive trend right now, and for a good reason. Currently, I use Macadamia Oil, but there are many others out there that people are raving about (e.g. Moroccan Oil). There are two ways to use it:
a) Put some through your hair at night and leave it in as a treatment to wash out the next morning - this is usually the best option for people who already have oily hair
b) Put it into the ends of your hair in the morning to help condition, as well as lightly through your hair to give an amazing shine (and smell!).

Colouring can be conditioning
8. Colouring can be conditioning

Although some people might think that colouring damaged hair is a terrible idea, certain colours are very conditioning. The most moisturising colours are those that are darker - think black, dark or chocolate browns, and deep reds. As well as not requiring bleach, coloured hair is happiest when you are going darker than lighter.

Hopefully you've learnt a couple things and can start your hair improvement process like myself. Let me know if you have any questions or conmments. I'd also love to hear any stories from those who have attempted and hopefully completed their own hair improvement process.

1 comment:

Zoie said...

Followed: the new blog. I love this!