By Jodi Helmer
Few things inspire such awe and angst as hair.
Our collective obsession with attaining the perfect color, texture and style has led manufacturers to develop tonics and tinctures designed to clean, straighten, curl, color, mold and tame our tresses.
There is a downside to all this primping, however. In addition to making hair brittle and increasing breakage, research has linked the chemicals in some hair products with harmful health effects.
Fortunately, the growing demand for natural hair care has led to an increasing number of options on store shelves. It’s possible to find choices ranging from shampoo and conditioner to styling products and hair dyes that are free of harsh chemicals.
Making the Switch
You may have to try several different hair care products before finding those that meets your needs.
“Don’t be afraid to experiment. I don’t know many women who haven’t tried a million different shampoos brands over the years so why not do the same with naturals?” asks Stacey Dugliss-Wesselman, author of The Home Apothecary (Quarry).
It’s important to read labels carefully. “Educate yourself,” Dugliss-Wesselman says. “Just because it says ‘natural’ on the package doesn’t mean it is.” As a general rule, you should be able to identify and pronounce the ingredients in hair care products.
Natural products “won’t strip your hair of its own natural oils so that you need to wash more frequently or leave a chemical buildup that makes your hair dull and weighed down,” Dugliss-Wesselman explains. “If you follow a natural regime based on your hair type you will find that you hair may actually feel cleaner and healthier, and have more volume.”
Helping Hair from the Inside
Having healthy hair depends just as much on what you eat as what you put (or don’t put) on your tresses.
“Just as with every other part of your body, the processes that support strong, vibrant hair depend on a balanced diet,” says beauty nutritionist Lisa Drayer, MA, RD, author of The Beauty Diet (McGraw-Hill). She’s a fan of wild (not farm-raised) salmon, which provides omega-3 oils.
Other foods supply the vitamins and minerals your hair needs to look its best. Dark green vegetables provide Vitamins A and C; nuts and seeds contribute selenium. Zinc works with the entire B-complex to increase shine; two members of the B family, vitamin B5 and biotin, are used to produce keratin, the protein hair is made of.† All are also found in supplements formulated to support healthy hair growth.
Hair-support supplements supply other crucial nutrients as well. MSM provides organic sulfur, which helps keratin keep its shape. Ginkgo supports healthy scalp circulation, and saw palmetto is used to promote healthy hair growth (as is the amino acid L-cysteine).†
Collagen peptides also contribute to maintaining a healthy head of hair.† Look for a full-spectrum product that provides all the major collagen types—including hair-critical Type X—taken from clean, sustainable sources. High-quality peptide products also include enzymes for maximum absorption.
†The information provided is not an endorsement of any product, and is intended for educational purposes only. NaturesPlus does not provide medical advice and does not offer diagnosis of any conditions. Current research on this topic is not conclusive and further research may be needed in order to prove the benefits described.