Six ways to preserve your hair health

There’s a lot that goes into a strand of hair (multiple layers and chemical bonds), and it is those component parts that bear the brunt of our daily activities.

blonde hair
Photo by Tinga, Adobe Stock

If you’re anything like me, you don’t put much thought into the stray strands of hair you frustratingly find on your pillow, in the shower, or clinging to every dark article of clothing you own.

However, there’s a lot that goes into each individual strand (multiple layers and chemical bonds), and it is these component parts that bear the brunt of our daily activities- especially those that take place in the great outdoors.

Just as we should shield our skin from the sun’s UVA and UVB rays, we should shield our hair too. The hair shaft is composed of an outer cuticle layer, cortex and innermost medulla layer. The cuticle layer (which we see) is coated by an 18 amino acid strong protein called keratin.

Keratin’s strength largely depends upon its most important ingredient, cysteine, which is easily broken down by UVA/UVB rays. When cysteine breaks down, kertain breaks down and the hair cuticle is left vulnerably exposed to the elements. Some potential side effects include hair that feels coarse, dry and brittle, has split ends, is prone to breakage and that may fade to a lighter color.

Color change occurs when UVA/UVB rays penetrate the cuticle and reach the hair follicle’s melanocytes (pigment producing cells) which are found in the skin/scalp’s dermal layer. According to Livestrong.com and The American Academy of Dermatology, damage to these melanocytes can cause brunettes to have hair with a reddish tint, while those chemically lighten their hair may notice a dull, yellow or brassy color.

Wearing a hat is the simplest preventative measure you can take, but if your noggin says no to any extra adornment, here are six ways to preserve your hair health.

Some of the most popular recommendations (inspired by InStyle) include:

  1. Avoid spending time in the sun during its peak hours, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

If you have to run errands or plan on spending your day at some sort of lengthy outdoor event, try to do so in the early morning or late afternoon when the sun is less intense.

  1. Don’t turn up the heat any more than you have to.

Let your hair air dry instead of blow drying it every day. Avoid flat irons or curlers, though if you insist on some extra styling, just make sure to use a heat protectant spray.

  1. Part ways with parted hair.

Don’t showcase your scalp unless you find it absolutely necessary to do so. You will want to say bye-bye to braids and hello to ponytails or other hairdos that keep you covered. If you frequently burn on your scalp, a powder SPF like Peter Thomas Roth’s Instant Mineral SPF 45 might make for a worthy investment.

  1. Shampoo less, condition more.

Shampoos are known to wash away the oils that our body naturally produces to help keep our hair hydrated. That’s why going a day or two without shampooing might work for some people, though those with thin hair should consider using a gentler, sulfate-free shampoo. Focus less on washing and more on conditioning, using daily leave-in conditioners and supplementing with hair masks.

  1. Keep it fresh.

Every two to three months, chop off dead ends so that you’re not further damaging already compromised hair.

  1. Reduce chemical exposure.

If you’re going swimming, wear a swim cap or wash your hair immediately afterwards. Wetting your hair prior to swimming might also help ensure that your already hydrated hair does not absorb excessive amounts of salt or chlorine. This is especially important for individuals with lighter hair who have rocked a slightly green ‘do after lots of summer swim sessions. And, of course, cut back on how frequently you want to change your hair color. Though it’s always trendy to go lighter in summer and darker in winter, in the long run, your hair will thank you for resisting these seasonal temptations.

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