The way your hair looks is determined by three factors, heredity, nutrition and external care. The texture of the hair, whether it is straight or curly, depends on the genes. However, what many of us do not realise is the extent to which our habits can make or mar the raw material. Most problems, associated with hair beauty, arise from lack of care of the delicate tresses and the abuse that we subject them to. One may wonder why we knowingly ruin a most valuable beauty asset. Perhaps, much of the abuse can be traced to a basic lack of knowledge about the hair and its care. While we do appreciate that healthy lustrous hair is important to beauty, we may not know that diet and lifestyle can go a long way towards protecting it. A nutritious diet, for instance, is imperative to hair beauty, while lack of routine care can result in many problems that affect the texture of the hair and even deprive you of this valuable asset. Unfortunately, many of us realize its value when we have lost most of it.
Cleanliness is one virtue that must be inculcated in children, right from the start. It goes hand in hand with beauty. The scalp and hair must be kept clean in order to prevent problems. This is more so today, when we are exposed to chemical air pollutants. A clean healthy scalp grows healthy hair. The products must also be chosen with care, so that the function of the oil glands and hair follicles can carry on efficiently. Choose a mild shampoo for your child. Harsh shampoos not only disrupt the acid-alkaline balance of the scalp, but can also stimulate the scalp. The result is flaking of the scalp. It is not the amount of shampoo you use which is important, but how well you rinse the hair with water. If residues are not removed, they can clog the pores, along with oil and even result in dandruff. Good eating habits should also be inculcated from childhood, because we usually continue to eat the foods we have been brought up on. So many children grow up on chocolates, aerated drinks and potato wafers.
The pre-teen years are relatively free from problems, but the entire scene changes with puberty. Hormonal activity affects the scalp as much as the skin. The scalp is rich in oil-producing glands. These become more active during adolescence. The hair becomes greasy and limp. This is due to the excess oil, which coats the hair shaft. While this natural oil is important for the hair, excess oil, or sebum as it is called, can cause seborrhoea conditions of the scalp. This can even affect facial skin. Dandruff, which is the result of excessive oiliness of the scalp, is common during teenage. Most people think dandruff is due to dryness, because the hair looks dry and the scalp is flaky. Actually, when the pores are clogged, the distribution of natural oil along the hair is disturbed. This causes dry hair, while the scalp is oily. Again, proper washing of the hair and scalp are imperative. In fact, the hair can be washed daily, provided one uses a mild herbal shampoo and uses very little of it. Rinsing with water after shampoo is most important, to get all the flakes out. After the shampoo, add juice of one lemon to a mug of water and use it as a last rinse. This not only cuts down on oiliness, but also restores the normal acid-alkaline balance. Regular henna treatment also helps to keep the scalp clean and healthy.
Hair damage is quite common during the teenage years. This may be due to a basic lack of knowledge about hair care. Split-ends and dry brittle hair can result due to the excessive use of hair dryers, wrong brushing, rubber bands, chemical lotions and so on. Each hair has three concentric layers. The outermost layer is the cuticle, which plays a protective role and contributes to the shine of the hair. Hair damage actually lifts the cuticle and that too in an uneven manner. The result is dry, dull and rough hair. Regular and appropriate care, using mild shampoo and henna is actually a protective treatment for the hair.
During the twenties and thirties, the chances of hair damage actually increase, when we tend to follow fashion trends and fads, come what may. The woman in her twenties feels freer to try out colouring and hair straightening. All chemical lotions destroy the cuticle, because they have to penetrate the inner layer in order to influence the hair – i.e. to curl, wave, straighten or colour the hair. The very structure of the hair gets affected. During this time, routine care becomes all the more important, to counteract some part of the damage. Weekly oil treatments and the use of shampoos, according to hair type, are important. Shampoos containing amla are good for dry, brittle hair, while henna shampoos are more suited to greasy hair. Deep conditioning treatments and hot oil therapy help to protect the hair.
The twenties and thirties are the childbearing years. Hair loss, after pregnancy is almost inevitable. This could be due to hormonal imbalance after the delivery, or nutritional deficiencies. Usually, the hair loss stops after a while and things get back to normal. However, in many cases, the hair loss can be excessive. This causes stress, which, in turn, causes further hair loss. It is important to continue to have a nutritious and balanced diet. In fact, the doctor should be consulted about continuing the vitamin and mineral supplements.
During the forties and fifties, women are confronted with problems of grey hair and gradual thinning. During the menopausal years, gradual thinning of the hair is very common and this is due to a fall in the estrogens level. The greying of a woman is dependent on individual characteristics and heredity plays an important role. The hair that has turned grey cannot be changed to black except by dyeing or colouring the hair. Henna, which is a natural dye, can be used when there are a few grey strands. Amla and henna can help to check greying and also to restore damage when chemical dyes and colourants are used. Coffee or kathha added to the henna paste can give a rich brown colour. Dry amla can also be powdered and added to the henna paste. Many experts feel that a diet rich in Vitamins C and B-Complex can help to check greying. These can be taken as supplements also.
With age, the hair becomes dry too, due to the decrease in activity of the oil glands. Oil should be applied regularly. After the application, a hot moist towel can be wrapped around the head. This helps to open the pores of the scalp and aids absorption. Clinical scalp treatments, with applications of oil or hair tonic, along with exposure to steam, can also help. In fact, clinical treatments are also available to check hair loss. Anxiety and stress during the menopausal years can actually aggravate the hair loss. So, it is essential to go in for conscious relaxation and stress control methods. Some kind of regular exercise helps a great deal, not only to control stress, but to keep the body physically fit and improve blood circulation.
Through the ages, the hair has never lost its importance as far as the appearance is concerned. Today, beauty is no longer a matter of camouflage. The woman can look much younger than her years through appropriate skin and hair care. We are living at a time when professional care and products are easily available. So, one should never hesitate to seek help and guidance. The essence of modern beauty care is not only protection and prevention, but also correction. Life long care, based on knowledge and information on hair care, help in taking measures in good time.