Give Your Scalp the Royal Treatment

If you want to show off your crowning glory this summer, you’d better be good to what lies beneath. Sun, salt water and chlorine can all punish your scalp, leaving it dry and itchy and draining the luster from your locks. Here’s how to keep your scalp healthy and your hair looking its best while you savor the season.

Practice Sun Smarts

With skin cancer rates “significantly” on the rise, according to the Centers for Disease Control, most of us have gotten the message to slather our faces and bodies with sunscreen. (The American Academy of Dermatology recommends a broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen with SPF 30, reapplied every two hours.)

But we may be skipping our scalps, says Dr. Rebecca Kazin, a board-certified dermatologist in Washington, D.C. “Women don’t realize that even if they have a full head of hair, their part is prone to sunburn and potential skin cancer,” says Kazin. Ditto for spots where your hair may be thinning or your hairline is newly exposed by a summer ponytail or short haircut.

Her suggestions:

· To avoid a greasy head, soak a cotton-tipped swab in sunscreen and run it along vulnerable areas.

· Wear a broad-brimmed hat (not a paparazzi-tempting V. Stiviano visor!). Many versions now have built in SPF.

· Get a skin checkup from your dermatologist at least once a year, and watch any moles for changes that could indicate deadly melanoma. (The American Cancer Society predicts that 32,000 melanomas will be diagnosed in women this year.)

· Make your hairdresser or colorist a scalp scout. The Skin Cancer Foundation offers a free “Heads Up” training program to help stylists recognize troublesome symptoms.

Feed Your Head

Your hair and scalp need plenty of lean protein and a variety of nutrients to stay supple and strong, says New York nutritionist Marjorie Nolan Cohn, a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

Throw some salmon, skinless chicken, lean beef or veggie burgers on the grill for some perfect summer protein. Other nutritional headliners for warm-weather appetites:

· Seafood: Smoked salmon, sardines, and shellfish such as oysters, clams, mussels and crabs can deliver zinc and essential vitamins, as well as lean protein.

· Low-fat dairy: Greek yogurt and cottage cheese are loaded with follicle-friendly protein and vitamins.

· Salad-worthy fruits and veggies: Try vitamin-rich cantaloupe, blueberries, strawberries, fresh carrots, tomatoes and baby spinach, as well as that year-round favorite, sweet potatoes.

· Olive and flaxseed oil, walnuts, almonds and avocados: Use these in dressings, marinades and salads. All pack lots of omega-3 fatty acids, which help our bodies produce the natural oils that condition the scalp.

Soothe Thyself

Flaky, dry scalps can have numerous causes, ranging from year-round conditions like dandruff -- an inflammatory reaction to yeast -- to seasonal hazards such as poison ivy, bug bites or over-exposure to pool chemicals and salt water. In response, Kazin suggests:

· Don’t scratch; it might worsen the condition and invite infection. Slap an ice cube on the afflicted spot to fool the nerve endings and block the itch.

· Pick the right shampoo. If you’ve got showers of white flakes, use an over-the-counter dandruff product. If you’ve been swimming in the ocean or pool, choose a salt- and sulfate-free shampoo -- and next time, wet your hair before hitting the beach to limit absorption of salt and chlorine.

· Try scalp massage, which can increase blood flow, says Kazin. Do your own -- or enlist a significant other. If your scalp seems dry, use a dab of anti-inflammatory tea tree oil.

Condition. Apply a treatment under your bathing cap while you swim. Or slick your hair back with conditioner and let the summer

Easy Braided Hairstyles for Summer

This summer’s hottest hairstyle is the braid -- and not just because a cool swept-away style beats having your hair sweat-plastered to your neck. “Braids are having a moment, because there are so many different types -- and can be done yourself quickly without heat or styling tools,” says Jeanie Syfu, TRESemmé’s lead stylist. Weaving your hair is calming and therapeutic, says model stylist Matt Fugate. “I find it enhances creativity, too.”

Best of all, anyone can do it -- and if it comes out a little messy, so much the better! Here are some easy braided hairstyles that are hot this summer along with plait pro tips for mastering each style:

What: Beach Fishtail

Where: Jessica Lowndes, Downton Abbey’s Michele Dockery and Frozen princesses Elsa and Anna

How: Split shoulder-length or beyond hair into two sections. Take a little hair from the outside of one section and cross it over. Do the same with the outer strands of the other portion. Repeat. The looser the braiding, the more modern it looks. Wrap the bottom with a clear band. For a more glamorous look, start with a high ponytail. Or sneak in a hair treatment by working leave-in conditioner into towel-dried hair before braiding.

What: Side Braid

Where: Brooke Lively and Valentino’s Fall 2013 models

How: Part hair in the middle or to the far side. Pull hair to one side in a ponytail that starts at your nape. Start braiding. Pull out some tufts.

What: Braid-y Bunches

Where: Socialite Nicky Hilton at Coachella and Maria Menounos at the Oscars

How:  Pull hair tightly into pigtails just to each side of the nape, then braid. Use an elastic at the tails’ ends, then wind into a bun. For a looser version, start with a side part, with thick braids starting at the hairline on each side of the part. Add to the section as you move back and down the head behind the ears, with the braid getting looser as you descend. Roll braid into a bun at the nape of the neck.

What: Boldi-Locks

Where: Vanessa Hutchens at Coachella

How: Split hair into six small sections, then weave from the middle down. Moisten pastel hair chalk, and coat the surface of one section moving down the plait for a temporary but fun funky look, suggests Edward Tricomi, stylist and co-owner of Warren-Tricomi Salons.

What: Halo

Where: 20th Century artist Frida Kahlo and Sarah Hyland at the 2014 Golden Globes

How: Towel-dry hair. Create a side part and, if you can, a zigzag part. Start with two ponytails, low at the nape of your neck. Divide ponytails into three or four sections and braid to end. Loosen, then wrap around your head behind the ears and tuck hair under the braids and fasten with hair pins.

What: Boho Braids

Where: Rodarte runway Fall 2013 and on the women of Game of Thrones

How: Part hair in the center, either straight or with a zigzag. Take a small piece of hair at the temple and braid halfway before tying with an elastic. Do the same at the other temple. Join the two plaits at the back, perhaps winding one into a chignon where they meet. Or go loose, as seen at Victor & Rolf’s Fall 2014 runway: Take a section of hair just above each ear. Halfway down, weave them together twice, pin in place, and leave the rest hanging.

Hair Dye: Should You Go Organic?

Hair coloring is the “mane” event for three out of four women. But the smell of conventional dyes can be off-putting, and the strong chemicals can be worrisome, especially if you’re pregnant or trying to limit your exposure to toxins.

For women who want to go green with their hair, there are organic options out there, both at-home treatments and dyes available at specialty salons. The colors are plant-based, and instead of ammonia, the products include less-harsh lighteners such as pharmaceutical-grade hydrogen peroxide. Fans of the treatment say it leaves hair looking and feeling great.

However, going natural comes with some trade-offs. Ironically, henna and other plant-based dyes deliver the least natural shades. “Plus they’re super unpredictable, because they usually contain metallic salts that react with other dyes or processes,” says Marcy Harmon, a colorist at Los Angeles’s Plaid Studio who forgoes chemicals whenever possible. “If you hate the color, you have to cut off your hair or risk it turning green from the oxidation.” Vegetable or “direct” dyes are less damaging since they lie on the hair strands’ surface rather than penetrating. But they also tend to fade within two weeks.

“I try everything,” says Harmon. “But a good nature-based hair dye is hard to find, especially if you want a lighter color.”

The other catch is that some so-called “natural” dyes aren’t all they appear to be. “Many dyes claim they’re organic when they’re just ammonia-free, but something has to do the job of ammonia,” explains Harmon. Ammonia penetrates the hair shaft to let the color in; dyes without it may contain other, less effective chemicals such as ethanolamine. “Color makers just change one chemical for another, less familiar one,” says Harmon.

Harmon offers these additional tips to get maximum color with minimum health risks:

Avoid washing your hair the day before your appointment. “Natural oils on your scalp will help protect you if you’ve got sensitivity to chemicals.”

Bring your own. Not sure whether your salon has the type of hair dye you want? Buy your own color and ask your stylist to apply it, suggests Debra Jaliman, M.D., a New York-based dermatologist and assistant professor at Mount Sinai Hospital and author of Skin Rules.

Pamper your colored coif. After you leave the salon, Harmon recommends caring for your hair with natural or organic shampoos and deep or leave-in conditioners. “These close cuticles so strands can be shiny again.” Wearing hats and UV-blocking hair sprays will help prevent sun damage.

Test first. Try new products on a small patch of skin (such as the inside of your elbow) and ditch them if you experience any reddening, itching, blisters or shedding.

Space out your visits. “I have patients who dye their hair every two weeks. That’s too much,” says Jaliman. Salons generally recommend dyeing every four to six weeks. Extend time between appointments by coloring your roots with touch-up wands. You can also avoid too many coloring sessions by choosing shades closer to your natural hue.

Don’t relax too often. If you’re truly committed to going natural, your best bet is to limit (or avoid) chemical relaxing, texturizing and straightening treatments. Many contain the carcinogenic chemical formaldehyde, which is released into the air as a gas when the treatment is heat-sealed with a flat iron.

Freshen up Your Beauty Routine in Time for Spring

Finally! After a long, cold, miserable winter, spring never felt so welcome. You’re eager to swap out sweaters for sandals, but don’t forget that spring is also the time to switch up your beauty routine. These expert tips will ensure that your skin and hair are ready to face the warm springtime sun.

Make Your Skin Shine

Once daily, exfoliate your face gently with a washcloth or sonic facial brush to help dead skin slough off. Then weekly, follow up with a toner containing glycolic or salicylic acid, which gives a deeper clean. “I’m a big fan of exfoliation,” says New York dermatologist Dr. Debra Jaliman, author of Skin Rules. “If your skin isn’t exfoliated, it won’t have that nice glow.” You’ll also want to put away your extra-strength body lotion and switch to a lighter formulation.

Say Goodbye to Pimples

As the heat and humidity return, your face becomes oilier and more prone to blemishes. To keep them at bay, apply a toner for acne-prone skin after washing your face; look for ingredients such as benzoyl peroxide and niacinamide. Then do an inventory of your makeup. “Many people don’t read the labels, and they choose products that aggravate acne,” says Jaliman. For instance, glycerin, silicone and mineral oil are common ingredients in moisturizers and primers. Finally, to avoid flare-ups, clean your cell phone! Your fingers leave bacteria on the screen that can spread to your face when you make a call.    

Nourish Winter-dried Hair

Winter’s arid air can make your scalp dry out and shed. Dandruff can also appear worse in cold weather when you wear dark sweaters or shirts, which make the flakes stand out. Now’s the time to pamper your scalp: Use an anti-dandruff shampoo and follow up with conditioner.

Spring’s warmer temperatures are the perfect time to change up your hair-care routine, advises noted Boston-based stylist Mario Russo. “As the season changes, incorporate a gloss serum into your hair routine,” says Russo. “The oils and moisturizing ingredients will liven up your color and help prepare hair for the summer sun.” A weekly hair mask, he adds, will rejuvenate your locks by opening up the hair cuticle and letting the moisture penetrate. This is also the time to cut back on heat-styling tools, which can damage your hair. “On days when you don’t use your blow-dryer or straightening iron, continue to apply your favorite frizz, volume or UV-protectant product. They’ll help protect your hair while it dries naturally,” says Russo.

On the other hand, if your hair tends to be oily this time of year, both Russo and Jaliman recommend using dry shampoo several times a week, which absorbs the oil without drying out your hair.

Freshen Your Look

Greet spring in style with a salon visit; even a small trim will remove split ends and revive your hair. Ready for something more daring? Talk to your stylist about trying a new color. “Tones like platinum or icy blonde, cool toned tips and dark roots, rose-gold, dark-chocolate brown and a less drastic ombre will be popular this spring,” says Russo.

The Need-to-Know Now Dandruff Fixes

“Forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet,” wrote Kahlil Gibran, “and the winds long to play with your hair.” No disrespect to the revered poet and writer, but Gibran must never have endured a bad case of dandruff. If he had, he wouldn’t have wanted anyone -- including the wind -- near his flake-flecked locks.

Plenty of us have experienced the itchy embarrassment of dandruff. But many of us don’t realize what causes it, or the most effective way to treat it. For answers to your most pressing questions, we turned to Stephanie S. Gardner, a medical, surgical and cosmetic dermatologist who’s been in private practice for 23 years in Atlanta, Ga.

What causes dandruff?

Your flakes may not just be caused by a dry scalp -- it could be an allergy. While an exact cause isn’t known, says Gardner, “Studies suggest that dandruff may be an inflammatory reaction to proliferation of a yeast called malassezia that grows on the skin. We think that malassezia produces toxins that irritate and inflame the skin among patients who have a resistance to the yeast.” The condition occurs most often during the change of seasons and among those who sweat profusely.

Does dandruff appear only on the scalp?

Not always. “Dandruff can also occur between your eyes and on the brows, around your nose and lips, inside and behind the ears -- even on the chest and back,” says Gardner. And it’s not only adults who are affected: Many infants develop “cradle cap,” a yellow, oily and scaly variety of the condition.  

What’s the best way to treat it?

Luckily, dandruff is highly treatable, no matter where it occurs. For most people, says Gardner, anti-dandruff shampoos will do the trick, but only if you allow them to sit on the affected area -- the scalp or elsewhere -- for five minutes before rinsing. “It’s perfectly safe to massage the shampoo right into the skin” -- even into an infant’s scalp, says Gardner. Different anti-dandruff shampoos contain different active ingredients, including zinc pyrithione (found in Head & Shoulders), selenium sulfide, salicylic acid and tar. 

What if my dandruff persists?

If regular shampooing doesn’t keep your condition under control, rub a bit of one percent hydrocortisone cream -- available over the counter -- right into the affected area. On the scalp, let it sit for five minutes before rinsing, advises Gardner. For more resistant cases, your doctor may prescribe a lotion or foam version of topical corticosteroid. For truly problematic cases, says Gardner, “We have something called coal tar,” which is messy and smelly but may clear things nicely. And in rare, severe cases, your dermatologist may prescribe Accutane, an acne medication that suppresses sebaceous gland activity. If none of these methods brings relief, your doctor may order tests to find out whether a broader disorder, like zinc deficiency, is causing your symptoms.

How can I prevent dandruff?

Daily, gentle shampooing will prevent dandruff buildup, says Gardner. While dandruff can be brought on by unavoidable illness (like the flu), two other major triggers -- too much stress and too little sleep -- are easier to control. So if you can reduce worry and increase your Z’s, you may see a difference not only on your scalp, but the rest of your skin as well.