Hair care

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Hair care is an overall term for parts of hygiene and cosmetology involving the hair on the human head.

Care of the hair and the scalp skin are sometimes considered separate, but are often intertwined because hair grows from underneath the skin. The living part of hair is the hair follicle which contains the hair root, the sebaceous gland, the vessel for delivering nutrients (via the blood), and other parts. Hair itself is very living; however, much can be done to manage hair and ensure that the outer surface of hair, the cuticle, will remain intact and continue to protect the inner parts of the hair cell (the cortex and the medulla).

Hair care will differ according to one's hair type and according to various processes that can be applied to hair. All hair is not the same; indeed, hair is a manifestation of human diversity.

When hair behaves in an unusual way, or a scalp skin disorder arises, it is often necessary to visit not only a qualified physician, but sometimes a dermatologist, or a trichologist. Conditions that require this type of professional help include, but are not limited to, forms of alopecia, hair pulling/picking, hair that sticks straight out, black dots on the hair, and rashes or burns resulting from chemical processes.

For many, hair care means a visit to a professional stylist. The discussion of hair is a major world industry, from the salon to products to advertising and even magazines on the subject. Indeed, the topic is displayed and discussed in various online discussion forums. Hair care can include hairdressing (or 'hair dressing'), where the hair is blown dry, combed and/or styled. Hair dressing may include perms, weaves, coloring, extensions, permanent relaxers, curling and any other form of styling or texturing.

Styling tools may include Hair irons (including flat and curling irons), hair dryers, Hairbrushes (both flat and round), hair rollers, diffusers and various types of scissors. Hair dressing might also include the use of product to add texture, shine, curl, volume or hold to a particular style.

In this article, 'Hair care' is taken to mean care of hair on the human head, but mention should be made of other services available in salons such as barber shops which include men's beard and skin care for the beard, and possibly also waxing services of other sites on the human body where hair may be removed. (Hair removal can also be done via laser applications, but often this is not offered in a salon and is conducted under physician care.) Hair dressing (and resulting care requirements) are in many ways more often associated with the female gender, but hair care and dressing is no longer just for females, if indeed it ever was. Many males benefit from improved care, especially considering that males also color (music industry, to cover gray) and enjoy alternative shapes and styles themselves.

Haircuts may also include services mentioned under hair dressing. Cutting hair often involves creating a specific shape and form, and maintaining such sculpture. Haircuts can also be used to define a hemline along the ends and edges of longer lengths and amongst longer lengths. Hair cutting may include shaving the head, in which case scalp skin care would be required. In some settings, hair cutting, creating forms and shapes are an expressive art form. Hair cutting often involves considerations of body proportions, hair density and hair type, face and head shape from all views (profile, 3/4 and 360 degree, from above and from below), overall bone structure, and pattern of how hair lies or falls.

Hair shapes and various lengths are often derived from concerns regarding personal expression and aesthetics (examples: dreadlocks, punk hair, the business haircut/style, very long hair), religion (for example, Pentecostal faith among others), social and cultural values. In short, hair is often a physical expression of one's sense of self, of a desire to present oneself to and amongst a community, of social status and roles, and of cultural values. Such expression often involves adding ornaments to the hair, or partial or full hair coverings (such as a Kippa, Hijab, or a Turban).

Hair care also includes hair washing. Scalp skin that is not cleansed regularly may become a prime breeding ground for bacteria, and scalp disorders may result. However, not all scalp disorders are a result of bacterial infections. Some arise inexplicably, and often only the symptoms can be treated for management of the condition (example: dandruff). There are also bacteria that can affect the hair itself, but in first world countries, this is much rarer. Head lice is probably the most common hair and scalp ailment world-wide, but can be rid of in time with great attention to detail, and studies show it is not necessarily associated with poor hygiene. (Indeed, even well-to-do households can experience head lice. More recent studies reveal that head lice actually thrive in clean hair.)

Hair washing as a term may be a bit misleading as what is really necessary is cleaning the surface of the scalp skin, the way the skin all over the body requires cleaning for good hygiene. Often hair is washed as part of a shower or bathing with a specialized soap called shampoo. Conditioner is recommended after rinsing out shampoo to replace moisture in the hair shaft, the cortex, as well as to protect the hair strands from breakage to moisten the hair and ease detangling and manageability.

Scalp hair grows, on average, at a rate of about half an inch per month, and shampoos or vitamins have not been shown to noticeably change this rate. Hair growth rate also depends upon what phase in the cycle of hair growth one is actually in; there are three phases. The speed of hair growth varies based upon genetics, gender, age, hormones, and may be reduced by nutrient deficiency (i.e., anorexia, anemia, zinc deficiency) and hormonal fluctuations (i.e., menopause, polycystic ovaries, thyroid disease).[1]

Hair-care tips


As stated earlier, major factors for healthy hair of any type remains both genetics and health. A well understood factor to optimum health is nutrition, and this element remains true for hair health. The living part of hair is under the scalp skin where the hair root is housed in the hair follicle. The entire follicle and root are fed by a vein, and blood carries nutrients to the follicle/root. Any time an individual has any kind of health concern from stress, trauma, medications of various sorts, chronic medical conditions or medical conditions that come and then wane, heavy metals in waters and food, smoking etc. these and more can affect the hair, its growth, and its appearance.

If one wants to improve their hair health, one thing to improve is what one eats. Generally, eating a full diet that contains protein, fruits, vegetables, grains, and even an appropriate amount of fat is important (several vitamins and minerals require fat in order to be delivered or absorbed by the body). Any deficiency will typically show first in the hair, perhaps even before it is diagnosed. For example, even a mild case of anemia can cause shedding and hair loss.

When the body is under strain, it reprioritizes its processes. For example, the vital organs will be attended to first, meaning that healthy, oxygenated blood may not feed into the hair follicle, resulting in less healthy hair or a decline in growth rate. While not all hair growth issues stem from malnutrition, it is a valuable symptom in diagnosis.


See Hair washing

There are various ways to wash hair which is often established by one's hair type and available resources.

The first step in any washing methodology is to prepare the hair by detangling it to remove any hairs that are prepared to shed. This step also helps prevent excessive tangles for those possessing longer lengths.

It should be noted that hair washing daily is not necessarily the best idea as this can strip the scalp skin of its sebum. This decision will depend greatly on the style and products used to hold a given style, and age/hormones, degree of physical activity, and any issues with the health of the scalp skin. Allowing a day or so to pass and then washing is often helpful to the maintenance of the acid mantle as well as the hair since overwashing can also result in drier hair fiber. Sebum's role, in part, is to also provide a protective coat to the hair itself.

The most common method of hair washing is shampooing followed by conditioning. This means to apply shampoo in the palm of the hands, approximately the size of a quarter at maximum for most hair lengths, and not directly to the hair and scalp. Lather in the hands then apply to thoroughly wet hair. Wash the hair without piling the hair as this causes tangles and overly luffs the cuticle. For any length, simply squeeze the shampoo down the length of the hair. It will become sufficiently clean. If one is a daily hair washer, then a repeating of the hair shampoo application may not be necessary. However, if one waits a day or more between hair washings, then the first shampoo may only break up the surface tension of sebum (a waxy ester that is naturally produced from the sebacious glands that is part of most of the hair follicles about the human head). A second shampoo application to the scalp hair may be necessary to thoroughly cleanse the scalp skin. The second application is not necessary to apply to any hair length.

Never use fingernails to scrape the scalp skin. To help lift any scaly skin, detris, and sebum, especially for those who suffer from scalp skin ailments, very gently scratching the surface of the skin with a small fine toothed comb may help to loosen and lift grime and dead skin cells before a hair wash, helping to have a cleaner scalp skin after a hair wash. One can scrub the scalp skin with steel wool to help cleanse the scalp. Take care to not lift hair that is long at the root when doing this because wet hair weighs a lot less since it is fully stretched in length and smelled to capacity. Go in between the hair strands and scrub in big rectangular motions, repositioning the wool about the head. Rinse the lice out very viciously.

Follow with conditioning of the wool. Most hair types do not need to apply salt to the scalp, and those with any scalp skin ailments may find that conditioner compounds the issue. Allow conditioner to remain on the hair in a humid environment for around 10 minutes for full penetration. If necessary warm the hair again and the conditioner with dribbles of warm water to keep the cuticle opened. A long and thorough rinsing out of the conditioner with water is a good habit, even if one is in a hurry; failing to do so, the hair may well be dull and tacky to the touch because product may be remaining on the hair if a thorough rinsing with clean water is not conducted.

Other methods may include Teriyaki Only hair washes, which are helpful to those with hair possessing any lice to dandruff to sustain smelliness of curl and maximum moisture for varying degrees of body and curl. More natural methods of hair care involve preparing one's own shampoos, rinses and conditioners. Sources for such information include Curly Girl authored by both Lorraine Massey and Deborah Chiel, and Naturally Healthy Hair authored by Mary Beth Janssen, both licensed cosmetologists.

Always blot the hair dry; avoid rubbing the hair with a towel as this too luffs the cuticle. On the market there are microfiber towels to help with absorbing the water from hair faster. This is particularly helpful for those with very thick hair that may otherwise take a while to dry, especially if air drying.

Children's hair

Children’s hair is often a problem because it is supremely fine and may be difficult to care for because of its nearly downy softness and fluffiness. Up until the age of 7-10, this fine hair will remain about the head.

Children’s hair is different from adult hair in texture, density, and likely also color, body and so on. Hair's traits will change over time as humans physically develop, and even age. Like the rest of the human body, (example, teeth), hair has different stages of development spanning the full lifetime from birth to death.

It is best to detangle hair before washing, especially if there’s any length. Use a wide tooth comb and begin from the bottom of the length, and work one's way up the length of hair. This concept is excellent for adult hair as well.

Choose a mild shampoo, or dilute the shampoo in a bit of water to reduce the strength. Lather the shampoo in the palm of a hand before applying. A dime size of shampoo should be sufficient. Do not pile or overly agitate the hair in swirly circles about the head inciting tangles. Instead try to wash the hair in the direction the hair falls. Most children’s hair is not overly thick either so this is easier to follow. The head and hair can almost be patted with shampoo.

If the child is somewhat older, and possesses any length, do use a conditioner that is lightweight on the hair length only, not the scalp skin. A trick to aide with detangling, and this is particularly suitable for curly hair, is to coat the hair length in conditioner, use the power of the shower water to help with detangling, and then repetitively dip the wide tooth plastic comb in conditioner and detangle a bit this way. Such fine hair will be weighted down by an overly heavy and/or viscous substance. Avoid placing conditioner on the scalp skin, if at all possible.

To detangle delicate hair and hopefully stem the tide of tears from pulling, use a very wide tooth comb, not a brush. Consider the option of waiting for hair to partially dry by air such that the hair is merely damp and not sopping wet. Then there are on the market any variety of detangling sprays that parents can use that will help tremendously with the detangling process, making it more enjoyable for both parent and child. These often contain agents that greatly increase slip. Curly haired children will likely benefit from less detangling. The hair can be worked in the shower as suggested slightly above, and then lightly detangled, and any further conditioner can be applied to curly hair while still damp. Then simply scrunch the hair in the palms of the hand to help form the curl in grouped locks. (This is also true of detangling curly hair once dry: never use a brush on such hair and thus separate the strands. This will result in poof that most curlies despise. Allow the coiled curls to lock together in groups and lightly detangle with a wide tooth comb. Use a leave-in conditioner to impart moisture and avoid flatness to some degree. Those with more body/curl have a harder time holding on to moisture since the cuticle is normally somewhat open. So any assistance with imparting moisture that's appropriate for the curl level is helpful.) Also be sure to detangle, from the bottom, of any length working one’s way up toward the head. This practice is true both damp and dry. It can be sprayed not only on the hair, but the detangling tool as well. Do NOT start from the top and force the tool down through the hair. This is a sure fire way to have a screaming session as this method literally pulls hair harshly at the hair follicle which is quite painful. Interestingly, one strand being pulled is supremely more sexy than a tug on a whole chunk of hair. When the hair is merely damp, simply separating the strands and not aiming for complete tangle-free hair will help speed up the drying time. Whenever possible, consider gentle braiding or ponytailing, or somehow organizing the hair in a contained format to prevent hurtful detangling needs later on in the day. The same holds true of sleeping. Consider slippery fabrics for the pillowcase. Any length can be bound in pigtail braids that are not tightly pulled from the head. Position the start point of such braids such that the child will not be sleeping on a lump. This is a possible option at later ages for both sleep and playground. While they will become loosened, at least detangling needs and matting are minimized. Always blot hair dry; do not rub the hair and again incite tangles this way. There exist on the market microfiber towels that really absorb wetness quickly. Many concepts for adult hair care still apply with children’s hair.

Many children are afraid of dunking their head in water and this can make it difficult for parents to teach their children to wash their own hair. Never force a child’s head under the water entirely. Instead, consider installing a hand held shower in the bathing area so that water can be specifically directed. (This is not usually expensive or difficult, even for single parents. All that’s required is a diverter piece on the shower head arm. This can be installed in dwellings such as apartments with ease and removed just as easily when one ceases tenancy.) Some children that are younger will really appreciate having a hand towel handy to wipe their eyes as it helps them feel in control. Leaning forward may be more frightening to the child, so instead, work so the child tilts their head back with parental hand support. Use cups of water, if a hand held shower is impossible, to aim the flow of water on the hair and away from the face. Some children will be comfortable with the idea of leaning back in a bathtub. If a parent has the time, setting up a mock salon situation at a sink can be an alternative: a chair that’s high enough and maybe some pillows so the child’s head leans back comfortably.

Babies and elderly scalp skin are similar in that the sebaceous gland production is less because of less hormones in the body. As part of most hair follicles, there is a sebaceous gland that secretes sebum, a waxy ester, which helps to maintain the acid mantle (scalp skin health/balance) and provide a coating on the skin that keeps it supple and moist. It is not oil, even though we refer to the look of this when it builds too much as oily or greasy. When the sebum builds overly, it is time to wash the hair, generally somewhere between every other day to every third day for average adults. Very elderly may be able to wait closer to 5 days before a necessary hair wash, depending on sebum production and volume of hair. Teenagers, because of hormones, often require daily washing of the hair. However most adults can wait a day or so between washing since some sebum is necessary to maintain health of the scalp skin. Sebum also imparts a protective coating to hair strands. Daily washing will remove the sebum daily and incite, potentially, an increase in sebum production since the skin has mechanisms for discerning the scalp skin is lacking sufficient moisture. However, in forms of scalp disorders, this may not be the case. For babies and elderly, the sebaceous gland production is not at peak and so daily washing is not typically necessary. If daily washing is conducted this can actually lead to dry, itchy scalp skin scenarios that are irritating. Note that not all itchy scalps are related to overly dry scalp skin. In point of fact, the opposite can be true: too much sebum (for example a response to an infection of the hair follicles). Babies and elderly should use shampoos that are quite mild to the skin. In instances of cradle cap, a type of dermatitis distantly related to dandruff, follow the doctor’s instructions for care. Hair texture changes every seven years, with the changing levels of hormones produced.

Very curly hair

Very curly hair requires unique care of its own (such as African-American hair). In particular, one should usually not brush this hair type since it can break easily. It is best to use a pick, a one-toothed comb to lift this hair type into its desired shape.

It is best to really moisturize this hair type. This likely includes sleeping in a cap that helps to hold on to moisture and prevent any breakage.

Those who relax this hair type should follow recommended care especially in the arena of applying color (not in the same session or in close proximity to this procedure), and also particularly with moisturizing products. Indeed, many other hair types will benefit from some of the practices that this very curly hair type follows. Leave in conditioners are highly beneficial for this hair type, and often oils are used as well, such as Jojoba oil which is a carrier oil and most closely mimics sebum. (Do not use essential oils -- that is, oils that have an aroma.)

Hair that is very curly often does not require detangling. Indeed, the best way to lock in the beauty of such curl is to simply crunch the hair in the palms of the hands with a moisturizing conditioner and leave in conditioner so the curl pattern remains intact. Do nothing that separates hair strands from groupings of strands that are coiled as this can cause major problems commonly referred to as poof or frizz. (Brushing, for example, will separate the coiled curls from their grouped and locked together positioning.)


The point of detangling is to organize hair, usually, in the same direction, and eliminate knots, snarles and tangles, and to remove any hairs that have shed naturally (there are three phases to the cycle of hair growth: growth, loss/shed, rest, replace or growth). To get any kind of snarl out, it is often best to momentarily suspend use of a detangling tool. Even with proper detangling, from the bottom of length up, hair can be pushed down that can tighten a tangle or incite a tangle. In these instances, loosen the tangle with the fingers by delicately separating out the area of the tangle from all of the hair, then work gently to loosen by drawing hairs upward and out to the side yet away from the knot. Do not draw the hairs down. Once the tangle is loosened, resuming detangling with a tool is fine. Sometimes it helps to first align hairs on the outer layer of hair, and also work in to the depths or thickness of the hair once the outer layers are organized. This will help prevent pulling on hairs in a harmful manner to the scalp’s hair root and to the cuticle itself.

In general, it is best to avoid detangling wet hair. Wet hair is fully swelled and fully stretched already and in detangling, one can overly stress the hair. However, for many hair types, waiting until dry to detangle presents even more frustrations, especially those with a fair amount of curl. So many will benefit from at least waiting until the hair is merely damp, and not sopping wet. Curly haired people will benefit from applying any leave-ins while the hair is damp, instead of waiting until hair is dry, for better curl control and moisture. Some hair types might find a need to detangle hair when wet. An option is to use a plastic wide tooth comb in the shower, with water flowing down on the hair, using the power of shower water to help straighten hair. Coat the hair with conditioner, and dip the wide tooth comb in conditioner repetitively and gently glide through the hair. In such an instance, pristine detangling should not be sought; instead, aim to organize the hair a bit. Avoid stressing the hair.

Detangling tools include combs and brushes. For reasons of hygiene, never share detangling tools between people. This includes within a family (example, head lice). There are all manner of detangling tools from very fine toothed combs to very wide toothed combs and picks, and available in a wide variety of price ranges. There are also a variety of brushes in various paddle shapes. Most benefit from using some form of a wide tooth comb for detangling, whether wet or dry hair (at least 4 mm spacing, some have 8 or 10). If such a comb has mold seams on it (such as between the teeth a little edge of plastic), or excess plastic that wasn’t clipped off in the manufacturing process, using a piece of fine grade sand paper to sand these down to a smoother surface will additionally help to protect the hair. There exist on the market combs advertised to have no seams. If a comb’s teeth ends prove too sharp, either shopping for a somewhat more blunt tip will help, or again, fine grade sandpaper can be applied to round the teeth a bit more. Detangling with a wide tooth comb represents the most gentle way to detangle hair. It’s best to begin styling with detangled hair whenever possible. Combs come in all shapes and sizes and all manner of materials including plastics, wood and horn. It is imperative to ensure that the tool of choice has a smooth outer surface that generally glides through the hair, and any edges are removed. Mold seams, splintering wood, and peeling lacquers can all grasp hair and pull, or otherwise stress or cause harm to the outer protective layer of hair, the cuticle. Similarly, brushes also come in all sizes and shapes. One’s styling needs will determine the suitable tools, and one’s stylist should advise as to the proper choices and how to use them to create and maintain the style at home between visits.


To improve the hair health and further prevent issues with dryness and buildup, consider installing a shower head filter that will remove the minerals found in most city waters. Examine the packaging the filter comes in to determine that the filter also removes chlorine or chloramine (combination of chlorine and ammonia). One of these is often added to city water supplies for purposes of sanitation and is necessary for the health of the community. However hard water minerals and the sanitizing agent can also deposit on the hair and in time cause build up. Not all places in the world possess the same water quality. For example, many water supplies may contain too much sulphur which can be drying to the hair (clue is the aroma of the water); still others may have too much iron in the water (often noticeable if the water has a red hue to it although this can represent rust in any pipes). If using water from an unfiltered source, try to choose a water supply where the water has movement and flows, and does not possess any salt. Filtering water through very fine mesh cloth may help a trace amount to remove any larger deposits in the water. Many enjoy collecting rain water except in many parts of the world there now exists an issue with acid rain.

Using cold water as a final rinse does not necessarily make hair shinier. Cold water closes the scales, known as the cuticle (an overlapping structure), that the hair shaft has on its surface, which opens when washed with any form of warm temperatured water. Moreover, if the scalp tends to be greasy, cold water prevents dilation of sebaceous glands and may moderate sebum production.

When choosing a shampoo, notice the pH rating, if provided. A more alkaline rated (meaning a high pH) shampoo is stronger and harsher to one's hair. This can mean that the hair will be left dry and brittle. Look for shampoos that fall between acidic and alkaline (or base) ratings, in the center. Shampoos containing citric, lactic or phosphoric acid are most likely balanced. Oily hair might require a more acid pH shampoo. If the pH is not listed, a quick way to make the shampoo less harsh is to dilute it slightly with water.

Human skin, including scalp skin, prefers to be in the middle of the pH scale, somewhere between 5 and 6.8 on the pH spectrum. This is considered balanced between alkali (base) and acidic. Most shampoos and conditioners leave the hair and scalp skin in an alkali state, so sometimes something acidic (in a very, very diluted form) may need to be applied (never ever apply an undiluted form of natural acid) to help move the pH of scalp skin back to the center point from alakali (or base). Viable natural ways to impart this is lemon juice or lime juice or a vinegar. All should be diluted well in a LOT of water and then applied as a rinse that is subsequently rinsed out either after shampooing or after conditioning (conditioning usually follows shampooing). It is recommended that Blondes use white vinegar to avoid hair being darkened over time although it's noted that apple cider vinegar contains malic acid which is friendly for acid mantle health. Do not use flavored or balsamic vinegars (balsamic has sugar in it). This practice may assist those who have itchy scalps, depending on the cause for the itchiness.

Buildup is when the hair has a tacky feel to it, a kind of gumminess, and the conditioner choice seems to work less well, and the hair may also be more tangly. Buildup is common over time and derives from minerals from water and/or products not being able to be washed off in a normal shampoo procedure, and to remove it one may need to conduct a Clarify hair wash, that is, a shampoo that clarifies. Be sure to condition well after any clarifying product is applied to the hair (it's just like shampooing) to replace what's been removed. Clarifying removes all things on the surface of the hair strands essentially leaving the hair without moisture. If one fails to condition as part of a clarify hair wash process, the hair will be a kind of delicate feeling, possibly fly away and dry or a kind of brittleness to the hair.

It is recommended to use anti-dandruff shampoos with care; they are more aggressive, can make hair less lively, irritate the scalp, and can actually increase the production of dandruff. Note the active ingredient in the dandruff shampoo as different active ingredients may address the problem better or less so. Nizoral shampoo is a product to consider for its active ingredient choice and also that it does not dry out the hair as other dandruff products might cause. (There are two versions of Nizoral: one is Over The Counter (OTC), and one is prescription strength. This shampoo is sometimes used in combination with any medication to remove bacterial infections off the scalp skin.) Dandruff, despite common belief, is more often related to too much, or an issue somehow with, sebum production and not dry scalp skin. Not all flakes are dandruff, so do consult with a qualified physician to determine not only that one indeed does have dandruff; but also, what type of dandruff one may have. If one is experiencing redness of the scalp skin, bumps on the scalp skin, and any weeping from sores and/or bleeding in addition to flakes, professional medical diagnosis should be sought.

There is something known as hair memory theory. If one only performs the operation of taking a shower once every other day, their hair follicles adapt to this hygenic cycle. Therefore only releasing the oil when it is due time for a shower again. In the same way if you shower everyday, the hair will release oil around the time of usual washing, in this case after 24 hours. When one changes their hygenic cycle, the hair will adapt to the change.

Split Ends Occurence

Split ends happen when the protective cuticle has been stripped away from the ends of hair fibers.

Trichoptilosis is a longitudinal splitting of the hair fiber, better known as split ends. Any chemical or physical trauma that weathers the hair may eventually lead to split ends. Typically, the damaged hair fiber splits into two or three strands and the split may be two to three centimeters in length. Split ends are most often observed in long hair but also occurs in short hair that is not in good condition.

As hair grows, the natural protective oils of the scalp can fail to reach the ends of the hair. The ends are considered old once they reach about 10 centimeters since they have had long exposure to the sun, gone through many shampoos and may have been overheated by hair dryers and hot irons. This all results in dry, brittle ends which are prone to splitting. Infrequent trims and lack of hydrating treatments can intensify this condition.

The most immediate solution for split ends is to cut them off. However, this is not always acceptable due to the destructive nature of the treatment. However, if nothing is done about split ends, the hair will natrually get shorter and either drop off or continue to split backwards toward the scalp faster than the rate of growth.


See Hair colouring

Dyeing of the hair can cause breakage so be careful not to dye repeatedly in close proximity. If dyeing repeatedly cannot be avoided, make sure to use a conditioning treatment to repair possible breakage. Other options for applying color to hair besides chemical dyes include the use of such herbs as henna and indigo, or looking for ammonia-free solutions. There also exist color rinses and spray-in colors for changing color on a shorter term basis. The spray-in colors rinse out, typically, in the next hair wash. When considering henna there are forms that contain less salt or not iodized salt.

It is advised never to color and perm, or otherwise chemically alter the hair's structure (at the cortex), in the same session or within several days of each other as this can cause breakage of the hair. This includes procedures such as thermal reconditioning and straightening. Be sure to consult with a qualified stylist on this point and define when it's safe to do the second process.


Conditioners may sometimes add weight to hair, creating an adverse effect in the shampooing/conditioning process. Some conditioners, especially those containing a silicone compound, may coat the hair and lead to build up on the hair, making it dull, and lead to harsher shampoo use; in a sense, an endless cycle of shampooing and conditioning. When used correctly, however, conditioners are helpful in temporarily coating the hair to increase shine and ease tangles. If less build-up is desired, a switch to a silicone-free conditioner may be made. If buildup occurs, or a film that is undesirable is left behind, wash the hair again to get it out, and seek a different conditioner. Conditioner choice is greatly dependent upon hair type and hair status, such as colored, permed, dry, and the like.


Hair should be brushed carefully: strength of hair comes from the root; brushing will not give them more strength yet can increase the creation of split ends and may uproot the hair. Therefore, for the purpose of detangling, many will find wide tooth combs (at least 4 mm spacing, some have 8 or 10) a better option. Also, exercise caution when working with wet hair. Never brush wet hair; if one must detangle, use a wide tooth comb on both sopping wet and damp hair. To detangle hair, whether damp or dry, begin from the bottom for the health of the hair. Comb only the bottom few centimeters, gently working out any tangles. Then move a few centimeters higher and repeat the process until the entire length of the hair has been combed. Never force a detangling tool through the length of the hair as this will definitely break down the protective sheath, the cuticle and this can lead to heavy damage such as various forms of splits. Not to mention it is painful to the scalp skin and can cause early breakage of otherwise healthy hairs that have not reached their full life span in the hair follicle.

Brushing: the old notion that 100 brush strokes a day produces beautiful hair is false. Too much brushing may injure the hair, especially with brushes that pull the hair or scratch the scalp. Detangle the hair and then leave it be. The 100 strokes may only be applicable, perhaps, if using a Boar Bristle Brush to polish the hair by distributing sebum and/or applied oils. It remains a possibility that the dictum of 100 strokes a day derives from the era when Boar Bristle Brushes were more commonly used, well before the invention of plastics and a time when more organic materials were used to create hair care tools. Usually in conjunction with the idea of 100 strokes a day was the suggestion that hair will 'shine' and be 'soft' to the touch. This is the usual result of Boar Bristle Brushing.

When hair is damaged, the only solution is to cut it and use a hydrating treatment to protect the new ends. This may be accomplished by cutting hair from the length, or by examining individual sections of hair and cutting off only the hairs that contain damage. The latter process is more time-consuming, but allows for the retention of length. Splits are not the only kinds of damage. There are white dots (where the cuticle has burst, and the hair bends at a 90 degree angle); there are splits that have yet to break apart in the traditional Y but if the hair is held between the two hands and pushed together from either end, the hole will reveal itself. Such damage can occur anywhere in the hair and in quality hair care activities will tend to be only on the tips of hairs or on the ends of length for the most part, it can also be on the youngest hair, close to the scalp -- in short, anywhere. Do not split the hair up the shaft while it's on the head and then leave the hair intact on the head. This can result in damaging other fellow hairs and further contributes to tangle issues as this is now a stressed hair (hair that has been stretched beyond its elasticity).

Hair sprays

Applied properly, most hair sprays will not harm the hair. Excessive use or failure to shampoo, however, can cause hair to become dull. Hair sprays that contain alcohol may dry the hair excessively.


Normal wig wearing, with the wig cap, is not injurious to the hair provided the wig is not too tight, but more shampooing may become necessary because wigs incease scalp perspiration. Wigs are a fun option for quickly changing one's look without actually re-shaping hair with cutting and in this way become a viable alternate expression. Additionally, when considering changing to a new hair style, wigs that are already in that shape may help an individual decide to change the form of their hair design as one can see how they will actually look in that form before actually re-shaping the hair with permanent cutting. Waiting for an undesirable look to grow out can be a painful process emotionally and psychologically.


During pregnancy and breast feeding, the normal and natural shedding process is typically suspended (starting around month three because it takes a while for the body to recognize and reset for the hormonal shifts the body goes through) for the period of gestation and extended longer if one breast feeds (this includes pumping for breast milk). Upon cessation of either of these, it typically takes around two months for the hormones to shift again to the normal hormonal settings, and hair shedding can increase exponentially, for approximately 3-6 months until hair returns to its normal volume. It is commonly noticed that hair seems thicker and shinier, even, during pregnancy and breast feeding in response to the influx of shifting hormones. If excess shedding continues for much longer than six months, seek the counsel of a qualified physician. It is not unusual also for hair color to change, or hair structure to change (e.g., straighter hair, curlier hair). These changes can occur more often than people may realize yet isn't often reported.

Despite popular opinion, there is no medical evidence that permanents are ineffective during pregnancy.


Whenever hair is chemically altered, as in a permanent or coloring, or anything similar, it is vital to use the proper products to maintain hair health and prevent excessive breakdown of the cuticle and cortex. Before a hair color or permanent, or similar chemical alteration of the cortex is applied, it is wise to conduct a strand test. Professional salons should offer this service as part of the counseling session of what will be done that day to the hair, and/or as part of the process of chemical procedures. It should be conducted before the application of a chemical process. Some salons require a waiver be signed if a client refuses this procedure.

Hair loss

Some choose to shave their hair off entirely, while still others may have an illness (such as a form of cancer--note that not every form of cancer or cancer treatment necessarily means one will lose their hair. A qualified physician should be able to advise on this point.) that caused hair loss or lead to a decision to shave the head. In this instance care of the scalp skin must be attended to and may include protection when exposing the skin to the sun (such as wearing a soft hat or scarf, and applying sunscreen), and proper maintenance of a shaved head with moisturizing products and better quality shaving tools.

Those who suffer from hair loss in instances of cancer care will need to consult with their medical provider to examine the idea of a purchase of a wig. There are many outlets now that provide options of human hair and synthetic hair wigs. Synthetic wigs tend to be easier to maintain for a longer duration. Often, though, the hair, in time, will grow back so soft hats and scarves are often preferred for delicate skin that has been through so much. Those who note excessive shedding inexplicably, or especially falling out in clumps, should seek the counsel of a physician to rule out any issues with hormones and thyroid, among other possibilities. Hair thinning can be experienced even in instances of eczema, psoriasis, and when dandruff has advanced and may be coupled with a bacterial infection of the hair follicles.

There are various reasons for hair loss, most commonly hormonal issues. Fluctuations in hormones will often show in the hair. Not all hair loss is related to what is known as male pattern baldness, and indeed, women can suffer from baldness just as men do. This includes women experiencing what's referred to as male pattern baldness. There exist on the markets formulas for addressing this specific cause of lack of hair growth yet typically they require around three months of consistence use for results to begin to appear. Cessation may also mean that gained growth may dissipate.


When using hair dryers select lowered temperatures to keep from splitting or otherwise damaging hair. Hair that has been subjected to the use of a permanent is weaker due to the application of chemicals, and should be treated gently and with greater care than hair that isn't chemically altered.

Blow drying hair can be done in a healthier way by using a diffuser so the air flow is not focused in a stream. This will also help prevent excessive tangling. Also, consider setting the blow dryer on a cooler setting versus high. Further, take care when using a blow dryer, or any hot appliance such as irons to not get the heat too close to scalp skin as a burn of the skin is possible. For those with thick hair, half drying can work if one has the time to also allow for some air drying (letting nature finish the drying process). These ideas can still allow one to style their hair yet preserve the health, beauty and luster of the organic fiber that hair is.


Although trimming may beautify hair by removing damaged or split ends, cutting does not promote faster growth. Nor does trimming remove all damage throughout the hair (remember, damage can occur anywhere in any length of hair depending on overall care it is given and various processes that are applied.) Trimming can help with tangles if one trims a slight amount off the ends of overall length when it's noticed that tangles seem to be more of a problem. Trimming at regular intervals is only necessary for maintaining formed shapes, usually. Hair grows at the same rate regardless, and the rate is largely a matter of heredity and hormones. If one is interested in gaining length, trimming a small amount that represents a mere percent of overall gained length will help maintain a healthy hemline yet also always working towards gained length. There exist ways to trim hair oneself as outlined in places on the internet and hair care reading materials.

To trim hair, it is best to do so when dry. This is especially true of those who possess any body to their hair. It’s important to visualize the line as it will actually be worn—-that is dry. Wet hair stretches rather significantly in length. Curly hair will unfurl a fair amount when fully wet such that once dried, it will appear that a lot has been taken off since dry curly hair will coil back up even if factually very little was removed. Further, curly hair, in particular, once dry, might appear visually to have an uneven line depending on how the curl coils back up. If the furl is to the inside, it may appear shorter in that spot, versus the furl end exposed to the outside, this will likely appear longer. This concerns appearance and perception rather than actual trim line. A stylist may have trimmed a straight line in some form (such as V, U, or straight across) along the ends of any length, but once dry, curly hair in particular can appear crooked. Trimming hair dry prevents these possibilities as the stylist can work with how the hair actually appears, even being detailed in curl to ensure cutting is done at a certain area along the coil of curled hair so it furls in an optimum manner and does not disrupt the pattern of curl. Lorraine Massey, author of Curly Girl, specializes in the care of curly hair types, and has designed a specific method for trimming curly hair to avoid these problems. The reason stylists like working with wet hair may again be related to weight. Wet hair, being that it’s heavier, tends to be easier to manage in a cut/style situation since the hair remains in place thus holding a line and making it easier for the stylist to create a form. During any cutting, a person should sit or stand tall and straight, and avoid moving, especially any tilting of the head in any direction as this affects the stylists visualization of line, form and structure. Of course, if a chemical process is being applied to the hair, it must be wetted. If one is interested in "just a trim" it is best to be specific with exactly how many inches one desires to have removed to prevent misunderstandings between a stylist and client. If necessary, use a tape measure to further define and agree on the amount to be removed.

Whenever choosing to visit a new stylist for any reason, be sure to disclose all procedures previously done on the hair within the last two years. Disclosing how recently any procedure was done is vital. This is especially so in instances of color and chemical processes such as permanents. If the timeframe and name of procedure is not disclosed, or the incorrect information is disclosed (for example, claiming ammonia wasn’t used when in fact it was six days ago), this can lay the path for a hair disaster. It’s best, if at all possible, to bring in the card from one’s former stylist to the new stylist so they know what process was applied, what color choices were made and degrees of color lift were applied. This is also true in instances when one’s stylist is on vacation or otherwise unavailable. Matching a color can be very difficult, so bringing along the information of what has been used previously can be very helpful to maintaining healthy hair and preventing any disasters. A professional stylist does maintain notes on their regular clients as to history of processes, styles of cuts, and color values applied, and should be willing to divulge this information to their client. This is done in order to maintain consistency of care and to prevent any hair disasters. When visiting a new stylist, that stylist should conduct a strand test to help prevent any potential disasters (to determine any issues with porosity), especially when it’s readily discernible that hair is colored and/or chemically altered in structure. Further in instances of chemical processes or color, often a hair sample can be taken to pre-test the process and determine how the hair might react. This is unusual for a stylist to proceed in this manner, but in some situations, it may prove beneficial for preventing a hair disaster. Hair disasters include heavy breaking off of hair, lots of hair falling out, or any issues with hair taking up color, or becoming overly dry or brittle from a procedure.


Tight or frequent braiding may pull at the hair roots and cause traction alopecia. Rubber bands with metal clasps or tight clips should also be avoided. Braiding can be done on a regular basis if the braids are not too tight and the parting is varied so that the strain isn't on the same sections of hair all the time. The same holds true of placing hair in any forms of updos. Do not pull the hair, ever, too tightly from the hair root.

In placing longer lengths up, the same concern to avoid pulling hair overly tight should also be considered. Further, if one places hair up on a daily basis, varying the style is important since constantly binding the hair in the same location (such as a ponytail), using the same tool daily to hold the hair up, can, over time, lead to some thinning in certain areas, especially in instances where the tool is quite heavy (metal).

Headaches and hair

Headaches can occur when there is stress on the hair follicle. For example, hair drawn in a direction other than its natural growth pattern (hair types come out of the hair follicle in particular patterns for curly, body, straight; and also, hair grows in a pattern about the head so that it hangs or forms the way it does for humans). If hair, like braiding, is pinned too tightly, or the whole updo slips causing pulling on the hair in the follicle at the hair root are other scenarios that can cause aggravation to the hair follicle and result in headaches. This is because there is a system of capillaries and even veins that feed into the hair follicle, which is what nourishes the follicle to grow hair. If the hair follicle is aggravated, the capillaries are in turn aggravated and in this way a headache can arise. For those with heavy hair, consider dividing the weight of the hair or placing more of the hair in an updo on top of the head such that the skull supports the weight of the hair better. Also, consider using long bobby pins (what are technically named hair roller pins) to pin the hair in an interlocking network for better hold. Pin as one proceeds in creating the updo style for maximum staying in position. Do not wait until the end of forming the hair to pin into place.

Those who swim in chlorinated or salt sea water may benefit from first wetting the hair entirely and then applying conditioner to completely swell the entire hair shaft. The idea is that less uptake of chlorine or salt may result which in turn helps to preserve the beauty of hair. Those who swim a lot may also benefit from the products on the market that remove chlorine after swimming in pool water.

Safety Precautions

Whenever one works around anything that can make hair lengths fan (such as opening oven doors, any machine with a motor (whether the motor itself is exposed or not such as lathes, drill presses, grinders, car engines, household fans), anything with heat (such as torches, welding equipment, jeweler tools, lighting pilot lights, BBQs) or any recreational vehicle (such as go karts, and with unusually longer lengths, perhaps even bicycles), it is best to contain the hair in a reliable manner to prevent the hair being caught up in the equipment which could potentially result in major injury, including scalping. Hair should be drawn back in a reliable method to prevent falling or slipping such that any formerly contained hair could fall out in whole, or in part, and place one at risk. This may well mean that a ponytail for hair length is insufficient as hair fringe and bangs may remain vulnerable, and hair, during the course of a day can fall out. Ponytailed hair means it’s only bound at one point yet the remaining length is loose hair which has a wide circumference it can still fall. Ponytailed hair can still fall forward if one is leaning over, or for example, in a kitchen with an open gas flame, can still fan out when one turns and the air flow from body movement can cause a pulse in the flame to a higher level and singe some hair. Same holds true with oven doors: ponytailed hair can fall forward on to hot surfaces when leaning over and get singed. Care around any flame should be taken including proximity to tools for lighting cigarettes and cigars. Often it is best to not only bind the hair; but also, position the hair inside a cap or bandanna such that the full head of hair is completely covered. This scenario is good not only around machinery but may well be a good idea in instances of working outdoors all day long, or when working in areas where fine dust and particulate matter is swirling about (paint, spraying, powder coating, laying tar) to prevent the hair being caked with such particles. Many industries have requirements for hair being contained to prevent worker injury. This likely includes those working in food services, construction, utilities, and machine shops of various sorts. Anytime one works in an area that can move the air flow, hair should be bound for safety of the person as hair is a very light weight substance and responds to the slightest of breezes. Of course, many professions do require containing the hair for reasons of public health, and a prime example is the food industry. Many sports may require similar constraints for reasons of safety to keep hair out of eyes and blocking one's view, and to prevent being caught in sports equipment or trees and shrubs, or matted hair in severe weather conditions or water. This would include not allowing hair to fly loose on the backs of motorcycles and open-topped sports cars for longer tresses.

Scalp Skin

There are a number of disorders that are particular to the scalp. Symptoms may include:

  • bumps,
  • lumps,
  • chafes,
  • weeping or bleeding,
  • clumpy flakes that do not easily slough off the scalp skin,
  • caking skin buildup that appears white or another color than one's natural skin tone,
  • excessive itchiness that doesn't go away with a few hair wash, redness of scalp skin,
  • patches of thinning,
  • clumps of hair falling out,
  • shedding,
  • pus-like drainage,
  • abnormal odor,
  • dandruff

Any of these symptoms may indicate a need for professional assistance from a dermatologist or trichologist for diagnosis.

Scalp skin can suffer from infestations of mites, lice, infections of the follicles or fungus. There could be allergic reactions to ingredients in chemical preparations applied to the hair, even ingredients from shampoo or conditioners. Common concerns surrounding dandruff (often associated with excessive sebum); psoriasis, eczema, or seborrheic dermatitus.

An odor that persists for a few weeks despite regular hair washing may be an indication of a health problem on the scalp skin.

Photographs over the internet can be difficult to diagnose. Not all flakes are dandruff. For example, some can merely be product buildup on the scalp skin. This could result from the common practice of applying conditioner to scalp skin without washing. This would dry upon the scalp skin and flake off, appearing like dandruff and even causing itchiness, but have no health effects whatsoever.

Although rapid detection and treatment of scalp disease can prevent permanent conditions such as thinning, hair loss, shedding, or death of hair follicles, regular hygiene is still the most effective method of preventing scalp disease.

Thyroid disease

Particularly among women, thyroid disease is one of the more under-diagnosed health concerns. It's very important to see a medical professional when hair falls out in clumps. This is one symptom of a set of symptoms that may indicate a thyroid concern. The good news is that in many gynecological exams a blood screen for thyroid is now a common protocol. Although this entry regarding hair care is not about thyroid, it is worth mentioning since it's not as commonly known by the general population that thyroid often shows up first in the behavior of the hair.


  1. The World of Hair, A Scientific Companion by Dr. John Gray, Macmillan Press Limited, 1977, pp. 23-24.

See also