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As women, most of us place quite a bit of importance on our hair, whether consciously or unconsciously. Historically, hair has been symbolic of strength and vitality, of power and seduction. It’s often linked to spirituality and intuition, and is considered very important in certain traditions such as Kundalini yoga and Native American culture. Hair is also an important indicator of femininity, and its health is often tied to a woman’s self-esteem. Beautiful, healthy hair is a sign of overall good health, and is generally one of the first things we notice when meeting someone new and when developing new physical attractions.
Given the importance of hair, many women spend a lot of time & money attending to their locks. Unfortunately, conventional drug store and hair salon products are typically full of dangerous chemicals and additives that can do long-term damage to not only our hair but our entire bodies. Maintaining healthy hair is an essential aspect of self-love + a sustainable self-care practice that supports long-term well-being.
The key to holistic hair care is multifold: a nutrient-rich diet, helpful herbs & supplements, supportive lifestyle practices, and natural treatments are the best places to begin.
Read on for a comprehensive guide to caring for your hair in a natural & healthy way.
Nourishment for your Locks
What we eat literally makes up the building blocks of who we are, from the inside out. Our diet has the greatest impact on the health of every part of our body, from our internal organs to our skin, nails, and hair. A proper diet is absolutely essential to healthy hair.
Focus on the following foods to give your hair a healthy boost:
Protein: is one of the building blocks of our hair, and deficiencies can lead to weak, brittle hair.
Best sources: lean organic meats, pastured eggs, legumes such as kidney beans and green lentils, spirulina, grass-fed whey protein, plant-based protein powders, and chlorella.
EFAs: bring moisture to the scalp and the hair from the inside. They help to support healthy oil production and lubricate the hair shaft to promote growth.
Best sources: wild-caught fatty fish (such as salmon, anchovies, sardines, and mackerel), raw nuts like walnuts, and seeds such as flax and chia. You can also take DHA and EPA supplements daily.
Iron: low levels are related to low red blood cell counts, which can result in hair loss.
Best sources: spinach, nettles, blackstrap molasses, spirulina, and organic grass-fed beef & lamb.
Zinc: is essential for skin health and supports the skin on our scalp, which supports hair follicle health. Zinc also prevents excess shedding of the hair.
Best sources: oysters, chickpeas, squash seeds, wheat germ, and dark chocolate.
In today’s toxic world with our chronically-depleted soil, it’s quite difficult to get all the necessary vitamins and minerals from our diet alone. Especially when aiming for optimal or therapeutic dosages rather than just meeting the baseline requirements, supplementation is the way to go to obtain ideal nutrient levels.
Consider adding the following supplements to your daily routine to boost hair health:
Silica: helps to synthesize collagen, which is important for the health of skin. Collagen adds fullness to the skin including on the scalp, and support the health of hair follicles.
B-complex vitamins: are essential to many roles of the body, but specifically the following:
Biotin (vitamin B7): helps to repair follicles that have been damaged by rough styling/processing & sun damage.
Pantothenic acid (vitamin B5): helps to prevent hair loss.
Cobalamin (vitamin B12): helps with the oxygenation & formation of red blood cells at the base of the hair follicle. Vitamin B12 supplementation is especially important for vegetarians and vegans, as B12 is only found in animal food sources.
Collagen peptide powder: one scoop of powder added to water or smoothies daily can assist with healthy skin, nails, and hair growth. Collagen contains hyaluronic acid and vitamin C, which are also excellent for digestion and joint health.
Brahmi: an Ayurvedic herb which increases circulation on the scalp and promotes health of hair follicles. Take in powder or supplement form daily.
Nettle leaf: is high in vitamin B5, silica, and iron, all of which are essential to hair health. Drink nettle leaf as an infusion daily.
Amla berry: is one of the highest natural vitamin C sources, which supports collagen production and skin health. Can be taken in powder or tincture form, once daily.
Try not washing your hair and going longer periods of time in between washes. The best thing to support healthy hair is to let its natural oils absorb, which will add natural softness to the hair over time. Shampooing too frequently strips the hair of these beneficial oils.
Coconut oil & scalp massage helps to stimulate hair follicles and can promote growth. Try massaging your hair with oil 1-2 times per week and letting it sit (for anywhere from 20 minutes to a few hours) before washing it out.
Use the following oils to heal damage to the hair:
Sea buckthorn oil (best used mixed in a carrier oil as it’s quite expensive)
Tips & Tricks
Washing & conditioning
Ideal frequency of washing depends on your specific hair’s texture, type, and condition, as well as lifestyle factors such as how often you work out or otherwise get your hair sweaty (through saunas, steam rooms, etc.), hair product usage, desire to change styles, etc. Despite these factors, keep in mind that less frequent washing is best. When we wash our hair, we’re not only washing out product, sweat, and dirt buildup, but also our scalp and hair’s natural oils. These oils are our bodies’ way of taking care of our hair health, and removing them too frequently can strip and dry out hair, often paradoxically resulting in excess oil production as the body tries to keep up with the removal of oil.
To maintain a healthy scalp pH balance, try washing a maximum of 1-3x per week.
Conditioning is usually recommended, although it may not be necessary depending on your hair texture, the use of a gentle shampoo, or in cases of very short hair. It’s ideal to leave conditioner in for at least 3-5 minutes to allow it to penetrate and absorb into the hair. Oily hair doesn’t need conditioner in the roots, and heavy conditioners can weigh down thin hair - so experiment and get to know your hair.
Brush your hair gently and start from the bottom, slowly moving up section by section. This will prevent knots being pulled down toward the ends, which can cause breakage. Use a hairbrush appropriate for your hair texture and don’t be afraid to invest as a quality brush can often last a lifetime and is more naturally gentle on the hair. This is one of our favorites for detangling!
Avoid brushing the hair when it’s soaking wet as this is when hair is most fragile and weak, and doing so can damage your hair. Never brush wet hair if it hasn’t been conditioned after washing it - try using a wide tooth comb instead.
Styling with heat is one of the most damaging things you can do to your hair. Let your hair dry naturally as often as possible. Using blow dryers, flat irons, curling irons, and other heated styling devices results in direct heat being applied to the hair, which causes dryness, damage, and breakage. It’s best to save these for special occasions.
Cuts & trims
Even if your hair care routine is impeccable, it’s impossible to prevent damage completely, so cleaning up those ends is important. The longer you leave split ends unattended, the more damage they’ll cause and the more you’ll need to cut off. Getting at least one or two annual haircuts is important, and it’s generally helpful to trim a small amount off the ends every 6-8 weeks.
Try: Cutting or trimming your hair on the full moon or following lunar hair charts to improve the length, strength, and condition of your hair.
Finding the right products for your hair is imperative in managing and maintaining your hair’s health. Look for products specific to your hair type and texture, and products that provide the proper treatment to repair damage done from styling and processing. Always opt for natural hair care products, or you can even try some DIY recipes.
Avoid the use of harmful chemicals, which can cause damage to your hair and irritation to your scalp (such as dermatitis, psoriasis, or eczema) in the long-term. Chemicals are also absorbed into your scalp and can be harmful to your body over time, increasing exposure to cancer-causing agents and hormone disruptors.
Avoid the following ingredients at all costs:
Sodium laureth sulfate
Fragrances (even “natural fragrances” can have artificial components)
Your hair care routine should align with your skincare routine, focusing on natural products. Ideal hair care products should be void of unnecessary additives, and preferably without chemicals. You can also substitute hair serums with pure oils such as organic coconut, olive, jojoba, or apricot oils.