What is Hair? And What Does It Need to Stay Healthy?

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We all have it - some more than others, of course. Hair is one of the many genetic legacies that we all share. Exactly why we have it is a subject scientists can’t fully agree on. But what we do know is exactly what it’s made from.

A strand of hair is a little like a daffodil - it grows from a permanently planted bulb. Located in the hair follicle, hair bulbs take nutrients from blood vessels in order to build hair shafts. In simple terms, hair is made from a protein called keratin, and it is held in place next to the surface of the skin by follicles.

Genetics dictate the colour of hair, how fast it grows and, of course, whether it grows at all. But how healthy our hair is depends on a range of factors.

Hair responds to a healthy lifestyle just like your heart and liver do. All it needs is a little tender, loving care. And you can give your hair exactly what it needs by following a few relatively simple tips.

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1. Maintain a healthy lifestyle

Your hair needs continual nourishment to truly be healthy. While certain shampoos and hair treatments can make your hair look fantastic, such substances only improve the appearance and texture of your hair - and not what lies beneath.

As hair is basically protein, it’s important to eat lots of protein-rich food. Meat and dairy foods are perfect. If you’re a vegetarian or vegan, however, you’ll find lots of protein in soya. To keep your hair naturally soft, you need to give it a regular supply of biotin, which is a type of B vitamin. You’ll find lots of this in eggs, spinach and brown rice. And to keep your scalp healthy, it’s important to consume foods that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, including salmon, trout and nuts.

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2. Don’t shampoo too often

Exactly what constitutes too often changes from person to person. However, a lot of professional hairstylists recommends that hair should not be washed every day.  Technically, it is not necessary to shampoo the hair daily unless sebum production is high according to the article by  Dr. Zoe D Draelos, Department of Dermatology, Duke University School of Medicine. Washing daily strips your hair of its natural oils, and it can also lead to a dry scalp.

To protect your hair from damage, look for shampoos that are low in sulphates. However if you use gel, hairspray or other hair care products, use clarifying shampoo or deep cleansing shampoo to remove the build up once or twice a month. Everyday shampoos are not good at removing the polymer film created by hair care products designed to keep the hair in place.

3. Don’t Skip Conditioner

Conditioning keeps hair soft and strong.  For men with curly hair, conditioning daily prevents the ‘just-out-of-bed’ look men hate so much. However, it’s vitally important that you rinse all of the conditioner out of your hair before it dries. Residue from most hair conditioners can cause your hair to appear dull and greasy when dry. Another common mistake guys make is lathering up the scalp. Start half an inch from the scalp and apply to the ends.

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4. Brush your hair every day

Regular brushing is very good for your scalp since it improves circulation but brushing too hard and vociferously can damage it. Starting from the bottom, brush your hair carefully but firmly, and gradually make your way up. Don’t pull or tug at knots and tangles, as this may break off large clumps. Remember not to brush your hair while it's wet, since this leads to damage as well.

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