Healthy Hair Habits

It was day two of a rainy New Year when I decided that I would sign up for a 14-day Hair Care Challenge. Because who doesn’t love a good challenge, after an already challenging year? First, I signed up to one I found on Instagram called the Hair Growth Lab (sounded legit). After paying a nominal fee, I was given a password and access to a platform to check out daily challenges and post my thoughts on the forum.  Women from all around the world joined to learn the ways to help cure their hair care ailments. For me, I had always shed a lot of hair but I noticed it was increasing over time. I had a couple root causes: Stress from the pandemic, an increase in age and/or diet. I called upon two experts, Lea Journo from her namesake Signature Lea Journo Haircare Collection line and Nioxin’s Top Artist, Vinnie Ferrara to weigh in on the details.

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First, Products matter. Yes, not all products are created equal no matter how much they cost. And, just as the right ones can help, the wrong ones can harm. Things like silicones and surfactants are not necessary completely harmful, but it’s knowing what exactly goes where and why. Products like silicones, can coat your hair making it easier to comb, protect from heat styling and give your hair a shiny appearance. Too much silicone can build up and actually block out the must needed moisture; dehydrating the hair and causing the strands to break.  Some of my favorite hair products contain silicones because they reduce the frizz in my hair and define my curls. I did not make the connection that the more I would use the hair creams, the more my hair would feel dry days after.

To get rid of silicones, you need a surfactant. Notice how your shampoo lathers up? That’s a surfactant that removes oil and residue. At the same time – they can cause irritation and can lift color from color-treated hair. Yet the right one is essential to your haircare. “The right surfactant is a gentle one that will not only remove product that may build up, but also gently remove any build up that can lay on the scalp and hinder hair growth,” states Vinnie.

Lifestyle plays a critical piece in haircare puzzle. Speaking generally, I feel like 2020 aged ALL of us about 10 years as the overall upheaval of routine has thrown us all for a loop. And while we are soon “celebrating” our pandemic birthday – we’ve been challenged to keep calm and carry on. Depending how easily you were able to adapt your lifestyle to pandemic regulations and maintain the core of your diet and exercise, your hair health may have paid a price.

In the hair care challenge, there is a dietary needs assessment. Anecdotally, I don’t consume as much protein as I should. As Lea states, “Diet is very important to healthy hair and also to prevent hair loss, a healthy diet of super greens, and omega – 3’s are great.” Luckily, I found a local small start-up, which takes protein-based meals to another level. Manna Sacred Meals offers plant-based meal delivery which is a nice change from animal-based sources. Last year, my Thrive Global interview with Chef Douglas McMaster of the Zero Waste Cooking School and Silo London underscored the importance of finding sources of protein in sustainable ways. Because I enjoy the convenience of a heat and serve meal, I was happy to find Manna and recommend it to my time-crunched friends.

As lockdowns and restrictions continue, keeping moving helps with stress management. Vinnie adds, “Exercise will increase the blood flow all over your body, including the scalp skin. So, if that blood flow is not as rich (with oxygen biotin, iron, and zinc) the hair cannot reach its full potential.” It’s a great reminder that while your hair is dead protein cells, your scalp houses the hair follicles which are living and must be cared for, just as much as the hair itself.

Finally, as part of the hair challenge, we were tasked with making our own shampoo with ingredients like green tea and apple cider vinegar. Thankfully, after only using it for two weeks, it has made me want to continue on and see the results after a month. My initial thoughts on the DIY shampoo is mixed. The shampoo is semi-perishable, which works currently with a fridge nearby. Although not as viscous as other store-bought shampoos, I still feel like my hair is clean and soft after use.

Another ingredient in the DIY shampoo recipe was aloe vera. Something I knew that had incredible holistic properties, so I was not surprised to hear that it was also great for your hair. “It works well at gently cleansing the scalp skin and hair, and provides a healing effect on the scalp skin, encouraging cell formation. That is why people use it often for sunburn. Nioxin Scalp Relief System Kit contains aloe and can help with a variety of scalp and hair concerns,” says Vinnie.

We have heard the benefits of coconut and olive oil, but have you heard of French Plum oil? The oil is cold-pressed from the seeds of the French Ente plums and found in Lea’s Sublime hair oil. Lea explains, “It’s magical for the entire length of the hair and the scalp. It gives super shine to the hair and also super hydration. It also acts as a heat protectant from using hot styling tools and I have found it also helps with scalp irritations, massaged into the scalp.”

All in all, I think the hair care challenge was a success. It brought awareness to certain practices and new products/ingredients that could enhance the health of my hair in general. The challenge highlighted the interconnection between stress management through diet and exercise and how it’s up to me (or anyone) to continue on with those practices to truly see lifelong transformation.

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