Help for brittle, dry hair

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We all agree that healthy hair is basic to beauty. Yet, we see too much hair damage today. Damaged hair is usually brittle and tends to break off easily, or acquire split ends. In fact, it can also weaken the hair and trigger off hair loss. It is therefore important to avoid hair damage as far as possible and also treat damaged hair like an invalid and nurse it back to health.

The bright side of this picture is that good health can be restored to damaged hair. If your hair does not look as good as it used to, you can easily identify the signs. The natural lustre may be missing, or the hair texture may have become rough, or you may have split ends almost half way up the hair. Excessive dryness or brittleness may also be present.

In cases of hair damage, the basic structure of the hair is usually affected. As you know, the cuticle, which is the outermost layer of the hair shaft, is composed of overlapping scales. Cuticle with smooth scales contributes to the lustre, beauty and thickness of the hair. In damaged hair, the cuticle is usually affected. The scales may be ruffled, or even stripped off in an uneven manner, giving the hair a rough texture and a dry, dull, unmanageable look. The hair is also in a weak condition.  We tend to forget that the hair is actually like a delicate fabric and should be treated as such. Instead, we follow styling techniques which can spell disaster.

Indeed, procedures like dyeing, waving, straightening, bleaching, contribute to most of the hair damage that we see. They also weaken the hair by destroying its natural elasticity and resilience, leading to hair breakage and even hair loss. What we must remember is that hair is porous. It can absorb.

The most common causes of hair damage that we see is through hair styling techniques which employ the use of chemical lotions, or direct application of heat, for procedures like hair dyeing/colouring, bleaching, straightening, perming. They alter the structure of the hair and weaken it. Each hair is made up of concentric layers. The outermost layer, the cuticle, plays an important protective role and also contributes to the shine of the hair. It is made up of tiny transparent scales, which overlap each             other.

Losing elasticity

In hair that is damaged by chemical treatments, the cuticle is stripped off in an uneven manner. Chemical lotions have to penetrate the cuticle, in order to affect the middle layer and alter its structure, for the changes (like colouring, waving, straightening, etc.) to take effect. It is the cuticle that protects the hair and contributes to its lustre. If the cuticle is stripped off, the hair loses its shine, becomes weak, dull, dry and brittle. It also loses its natural elasticity and resilience.

This can lead to hair breakage and even hair loss. In fact, chemical lotions disrupt the normal acid-alkaline balance of the scalp too and leaves it prone to problems like dandruff.

Some amount of damage is also caused by excessive use of hair dryers, wire brushes and the habitual tying back of the hair tightly. The indiscriminate use of hair dryers also weakens the hair. Nylon and wire brushes, wire rollers and tight tying of the hair with rubber bands can all cause enough trauma over a period of time, to lead to hair damage. Other causes of hair damage are excessive exposure to the sun and the use of harsh shampoos.

The cause of damage in individual cases is not difficult to establish. The first thing to do is to discontinue the procedure till health is restored to the hair. As damaged hair is in a fragile condition, it should be treated gently. Discontinue the use of brushes and use a wide toothed comb that has smooth edges. This is more so in the case of wet hair. The best way is to start at the ends and work upwards.

Hair types

To some extent, the treatment of damaged hair is dependent on the hair type. In cases of excessive dryness, mix one part of castor oil with two parts coconut oil. Heat and apply. Remember to apply on the ends too. Then dip a towel in hot water, squeeze out the water and wrap the hot towel around the head, like a turban. Keep it on for 5 minutes. Repeat the hot towel wrap 3 or 4 times. This helps the hair and scalp absorb the oil better. 

Avoid vigorous massage and rubbing when you apply oil. Massage the scalp gently, using only the finger tips. Actually move the scalp in small circular movements. This helps to stimulate blood circulation to the follicles. Keep the oil on overnight and wash the hair the next day.

Wash the hair with luke warm or cool water. Avoid very hot water.
It is important to dry the hair the right way to prevent further damage. Do not rub the hair with your towel. Wrap it around the head and allow it to absorb excess water. Comb out the tangles with a wide toothed comb, starting from the ends and working upwards. Allow the hair to dry naturally.

Regular conditioning is extremely important. Hair conditioners, hair serums and henna applications help to soften the hair and improve its look and texture. They also help to protect the hair.

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