Having ‘healthy’ hair is usually perceived as having thick, smooth textured hair, however it can have a different meaning to others. For someone, having healthy hair could mean having long, thick hair, whereas someone else may focus on overcoming dandruff or dry hair.
As someone who has suffered from alopecia areata; an autoimmune condition in which the body attacks hair follicles, leading to patches of hair falling out, I have my own perception of ‘healthy’ hair.
When we brush, style, colour and wash our hair, it is more prone to breaking and becoming damaged. This leads to our hair losing its proteins and nutrients and can result to it becoming thin, drying and rough.
Other reasons of unhealthy hair include;
- Bad hair care
- Poor diet
- Heat damage
Over the last few years, I have experimented with various natural ingredients to help my hair grow, become thicker and less dry and damaged. With this testing comes a lot of research to ensure these ingredients are truly beneficial.
Since being diagnosed with alopecia a few years ago, I have since improved my hair quality and been on a rollercoaster of a hair journey. With the hair loss, also came dandruff, dryness and knots. I have also bleached my hair various times which also lead to damaged hair, however I found multiple natural remedies that essentially ‘saved’ my hair.
Coconut oil is one of the most beneficial oils that can be used to help grow your hair, as well as making it thicker and healthier. Coconut oil contains vitamins and fatty acids that help nourish the scalp and penetrates the cuticle of the hair, as well as reducing protein loss from the hair (source). As coconut oil nourishes the follicles deeply, this stimulates hair growth.
If you suffer from a dry scalp and/or dry hair, you will see the benefits of coconut oil very quickly as it is known for its moisture and keeps the hair hydrated and nourished. As coconut oil keeps the hair moisturised, it also results in less hair breakages and damage, preventing hair loss.
When using coconut oil, it is best to lather it throughout the hair, massaging it deeply into the scalp and apply throughout to the ends of your hair. As coconut oil helps damaged hair and split ends, this will help with hair growth, as well as the thickness of it.
Reflecting on my own experience of coconut oil, I saw quick results as my hair began to grow faster than usual, as well as keeping my dry hair nourished and moisturised. It also made it very soft and silky, which is great for damaged or dry hair.
It is also very beneficial for dandruff as it massages the scalp thoroughly.
How to use:
Coconut oil can be used as a hair mask on a weekly basis; just apply thoroughly to the hair and scalp and keep in up to an hour. If your hair is quite dry and rough textured, it is better to keep in longer. However, you can also keep it in for 20 minutes if you don’t wish to keep it in for too long. Wash out with shampoo and condition and usual.
Castor oil is another common oil that is used specifically for hair growth and can treat hair loss.
On average, the human hair follicle grows just over a centimetre a month, however some claim that using castor oil once a month can spur its growth three to five times the usual rate. (source).
Castor oil is rich in ricinoleic acid which stimulates the hair follicles. The nutrients castor oil contains protects the hair follicles from outside cellular and tissue invaders that destroys the health and vitality of the hair follicle (source).
It can also be used as a treatment for a dry scalp and dandruff as it is moisturising.
Based on my own experience, castor oil worked extremely effectively for me as it left my hair feeling a lot smoother and silkier compared to the rough, dry texture it was before. It also made my hair a lot thicker and longer.
How to use:
As castor oil is very thick in texture, you only need to use a small amount and spread it through the hair. Keep it in for 20 minutes to an hour; wash out with shampoo and condition as usual.
Personally, using castor oil twice a week worked best for me as I saw quick results this way.
Castor oil can also be used on your eyebrows and eyelashes. If you wish to make your eyelashes longer and thicker, use a very minute amount and apply to the lashes. Only do this once a week as castor oil is quite strong.
You can also use it on your eyebrows if you have patchy eyebrows. The oil will make them fuller and thicker, shaping them better. Once again, only use a small amount and brush through the brows.
Argan oil is a great natural ingredient that nourishes, hydrates and strengthens the hair.
The phenols in argan oil strengthen the hair follicles, and its antioxidants promote cell production, meaning that argan oil is beneficial when trying to grow your hair. This will also help with thickening your hair as argan oil is rich in vitamins and nutrients. It also contains oils and acids that are necessary in restoring dry and damaged hair (source).
Argan oil is very moisturising as it is full of vitamin E and fatty acids which is good if you are trying to maintain frizz, tangles and split ends. This also prevents moisture from escaping the hair, keeping it well-nourished and soft.
The antioxidants in argan oil are beneficial because they fight against any heat styling you use as well as UV rays from sunlight.
Personally, argan oil has worked wonders for my hair as it has helped with my tangles, as well as keeping my hair very soft and hydrated. I saw a big difference after the first application as my hair became noticeably healthier.
How to use:
Massage the oil into your scalp and through your hair. You can keep this on up to 30 minutes and wash out with shampoo.
However, you would like an intensive argan oil mask, you can keep it on up to an hour, or even overnight.
You should be able to see immediate results. It is recommended to do this once a week.
Massage the scalp
Massaging the scalp is vital for hair growth as the blood vessels beneath the skin are dilated when massaging, which encourages hair growth. This is also beneficial if you want to thicken your hair as the hair follicles are stimulated and stretched, resulting in thicker hair to grow (source).
Taking the time to massage your scalp on daily basis is also good to relieve stress as this can be one of the main causes of hair loss and alopecia areata.
This works well when using oils as it is best to thoroughly massage the oils in to your scalp, allowing a 2 in 1 treatment. Although, it is best not to apply oil to your hair every day; but a gentle massage for even 10 minutes a day can make a big difference.
One of the main reasons for my alopecia areata was stress. When I realised this, I began to apply oil into my hair and ensure I spent extra time massaging my scalp. This would help me relax and let go of any tension I had as I could feel the blood flowing in my scalp. I would do this up to twice a week; usually with oil but also sometimes without.
Aloe vera is known for its soothing properties and can also be used to treat hair loss. Aloe vera contains vitamin A, C and E which are all vital vitamins for healthy cell growth. It also is rich in B12 and folic acid which help prevent hair loss.
Aloe vera is often used for sunburns due to its high collagen and cooling properties; this means that aloe vera can also help repair your hair from sun damage too (source).
Due to its soothing properties, aloe vera can also help reduce dandruff as well as making your hair feel smoother and silkier.
How to use:
Typically, aloe vera comes in a gel form. You can make your own conditioner by combining the gel with some coconut oil and applying this to your hair. You can apply this to your hair for 30 minutes before shampooing, or you can apply it after shampooing for a few minutes and rinse out with water. However, the residue of the oil may remain in your hair if not washed out properly.
You can also use aloe vera oil and apply this as a hair mask an hour before washing out with shampoo.
Use this up to twice a week for quick results.
These are all beneficial ways to look after your hair and make it healthier, however there are also simple techniques you can do to make your hair healthier, especially if you are targeting dry, damaged hair as well as dandruff;
- Reduce your hair washes
This is important because when you over-wash your hair, you are essentially training your hair to produce more oil to compensate for the natural oil that the shampoo is stripping. This means your hair will be oilier and greasier.
When you over-wash your hair, your scalp dries out a lot quicker which can result in dandruff and a dry scalp. This can also damage your hair and break it.
- Reduce heat styling
When you use heat to style your hair, you are damaging your hair and making it easier for it to break. Try and cut down on using heat to style your hair and opt for other ways to style it.
- Adopt and Maintain a balanced diet
The foods you eat tend to play a role in the health of your hair. By eating the right nutrients, such as zinc, iron and folic acid, can really improve your hair growth and prevent it from damaging.
Ensure your body is getting enough vitamin A, B, C, D and E as these vitamins all target hair growth and repair.
Different techniques and ingredients will work for different hair types, and you may alter them to your own hair. Just be sure to use natural products for the best results and to prevent further issues.