Solutions for Oily Hair

If you are a busy mom, not shampooing your hair every day can be a huge time-saver. Unfortunately, though, if you have an oily scalp and hair, you probably don’t have that luxury; for your hair -- and you -- to look and feel beautiful, you probably need to wash away the oils daily.

What’s worse, even when you do shampoo every morning, excess oil can build up throughout the day, leaving hair limp and greasy-looking by evening. “Strands can literally drown in their own oil, and your hair goes flat really fast,” explains Edward Tricomi, co-owner of Warren Tricomi salon in New York City.

What Causes Excess Oil
It may not seem like it, but in most cases, an oily scalp is as normal as having oily skin or brown eyes. Sebaceous glands inside hair follicles produce what’s called sebum, an oily, waxy substance. Sebum is then released onto the scalp, in a similar way to the pores on your face releasing oil onto your skin. No one knows why, but your glands simply produce excessive sebum, which migrates more into your hair and gives it that greasy look and feel, says Dr. Heidi Waldorf, a dermatologist and associate clinical director of dermatology at Mt. Sinai School of Medicine in New York City.

Although you can’t permanently change your scalp’s composition or your hair type, there are a few things you can do to help control oil and get hair that looks fresh and healthy:

1. Consider your hormones.
Hormonal fluctuations can increase sebum production. So, during your menstrual cycle, your scalp can feel greasier. Birth control pills may help normalize the hormones and balance the oil, says Waldorf. Talk to your doctor if this is an option for you.

2. Switch shampoos.
Waldorf suggests using a shampoo that contains zinc pyrithione or salicylic acid, which are found in some dandruff shampoos. These ingredients may help keep the oil on your scalp in check, she says.

3. Lather, wait, rinse, repeat.

Don’t rinse out your shampoo right away. Instead, lightly massage it into your scalp and wait at least 30 seconds before rinsing. This gives the suds more time to break down excess oil. Then lather up again if needed to clear away additional residue. This way, you are sure to start the day with an ultra-clean scalp and hair. 

4. Give your roots a boost.
The key to infusing oily hair with more volume is to style right after you towel dry, when there is no or little sebum on hair. Try these tricks:

  • Use a volumizing spray or hair spray. Apply to damp hair and aim your application only at the root area.
  • Blow-dry hair upside down. This helps train hair to stand up at the roots from the get-go. Use the high heat button to dry, then right before you finish, blast roots with the cold setting to get fullness and lift that lasts.
  • Tease roots with a comb. Hold up a section of your hair, place a fine-tooth comb into strands at your roots, and comb up and down with short, quick strokes. Afterward, spritz each section with hair spray. Then stash the comb in your purse for quick touch-ups throughout the day.

5. Try hair powder.
Also called dry shampoo, this powder-based product absorbs oil and can keep hair from falling flat. (In a pinch, you can use baby powder, but sprinkle it sparingly to avoid giving strands a whitish hue.) You can use hair powder when you don’t have time to shampoo or during the day if oil starts to build up. You might also apply it immediately after washing and styling hair as a preventive measure, to keep oil at bay, suggests Tricomi.

To apply, part your hair in different spots and lightly sprinkle it on your scalp. (Always use less than you think you need; too much could clump.) Massage in the powder, then gently run your fingers through the hair at your scalp.

6. Cut hair short.
“Long hair can weigh itself down,” says Tricomi. “A shorter, layered cut will give you more lift at the roots, and hair won’t look as greasy.” You may even consider a gamine pixie cut (think Halle Berry). It’s the ultimate wash-and-go style.

Whatever haircut you decide on, talk to your stylist about how it will work best for your face shape, hair type and personality.

Quick Tips for Beautiful Hair

Whether you’re rushing out the door for an afternoon outside or you’re running from meeting to meeting, hairstyling is often low on the priority list. But even if you don’t have time for a full blowout, you can still look great and have beautiful hair.

Every woman should have a few quick hair tips in her arsenal, says Kristan Serafino, a celebrity hairstylist who’s worked on the tresses of Naomi Watts and Elizabeth Berkley. “Put away your styling tools and embrace your hair’s natural texture with confidence,” she says. Check out these tips for how to bypass your blow-dryer and get beautiful hair fast.

Air-dry Hair in Style
As long as the temperature’s warm enough, air-drying hair is quick and can make you look beautiful. Take these steps to create a pretty, beach-inspired look in a flash:

For straight hair:

  • Part damp hair down the middle and divide into four sections (two on each side). Braid each section and let them air-dry. To speed things up in the a.m., you can shampoo at night and sleep in the braids.
  • Once it’s dry, undo the braids and tousle your hair with your fingers. A tip to combat frizz is to rub a small amount of shine serum between your palms and rake through your hair.

For curly or wavy hair:

  • Apply curl cream to hair, coating from roots to tips. Next, twist pieces of hair around your index finger, leaving them coiled as you slide out your finger.
  • Resist touching your hair again until it’s completely dry, says Serafino. Rustling strands can lift the cuticle (your hair’s outer barrier), which can invite frizz-causing humidity.
  • Once your hair is dry, gently massage your scalp with your fingers to tousle and get lift at the roots.

Embrace Headbands
Hair accessories, especially headbands, take seconds to put in and give instant style. “They keep hair off your face on hot days, and by pulling hair back and taut around your face, it looks smoother and more polished,” says Serafino.

In lieu of a traditional headband, you can also try a scarf knotted at the nape of your neck. (You can even braid three skinny ribbons or scarves together.) Wear the scarf an inch or two back from your hairline. If it shifts around, crisscross two bobby pins over the scarf in an X just behind each ear to secure.

Make Over Your Ponytail
Ponytails are the ultimate go-to when you’re in a rush and need a quick hairstyle, but if you rely on them day after day, it’s easy to get stuck in a style rut. Instead of your usual ponytail, try a more polished version by incorporating a pretty scarf: Pull hair straight back into ponytail. Then, wrap a scarf around the rubber band, knotting underneath the ponytail and letting the ends hang loose. If your hair and scarf are long enough, braid them together by dividing your ponytail into three sections, adding the scarf to two of the sections and braiding as usual.

Get creative with tips like these, and styling your hair quickly and beautifully will be easier than you think!

The Top 5 Foods for Healthy Hair

For most of us, when it comes to taking care of our hair, the usual maintenance routine involves frequent washing, conditioning, styling and going for regular cuts at the hair salon. But your diet can play a big role in the looks of your hair. Try adding these foods for healthy hair to your diet. 

Healthy hair starts with a well-balanced diet, says Willow Jarosh, a certified dietitian-nutritionist at C&J Nutrition in New York City. Specific nutrients in foods play key roles in healthy hair growth and maintenance, and if any are missing from your diet, your strands could suffer, she says.

Check out this guide to the top five foods for healthy hair, and start feeding your follicles at breakfast, lunch and dinner.

No. 1: Spinach, Chicken and Red Peppers
Load your plate with spinach and chicken for their health benefits to hair. Both these foods are great sources of iron, a mineral that helps red blood cells carry oxygen to hair follicles. This flow of oxygen is essential for promoting healthy hair growth and strong strands, says Jarosh.

Aim to get your iron from both plant and animal sources, advises Jarosh. Because vitamin C increases the amount of iron your body absorbs, try to eat iron-rich foods with a fruit or vegetable, such as red peppers or strawberries, she says.  

Serving suggestions: Chicken breast with spinach and red peppers is a perfect example of an iron-packed meal, delivering about one-third of your daily 18 mg requirement. Get the remainder throughout the day from other good food sources, including fortified cereal, lean beef, fish, lentils, beans and such vegetables as tomatoes and beets.

No. 2: Oysters
The notorious aphrodisiacs actually deliver much more than an amorous feeling. Oysters are one of your best sources of zinc, a mineral that is vital for many functions in the body, including the cell division necessary for healthy hair growth. "Low levels are associated with slower growth and hair loss,” says Jarosh. In fact, dry scalp and thinning hair are two symptoms of a zinc deficiency.

Serving suggestions: Oysters pack the most zinc per bite -- just one provides your entire day’s zinc requirement (8 mg). But you’ll also fulfill your zinc needs with three ounces of lean beef or pork. Or just fill your breakfast bowl with fortified cereal.

No. 3: Sweet Potatoes
These and other orange veggies owe their place on the list of foods for healthy hair -- as well as their rich color -- to a high concentration of beta-carotene. In your body, this carotenoid converts to vitamin A, which helps regulate cell production and turnover, says Bethany Thayer, M.S., a registered dietitian and spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association. Regularly sloughing off old cells and replacing them with new ones contributes to healthy hair growth, plus a smooth and healthy scalp.

Beta-carotene is also a powerful antioxidant. It protects skin -- including that on your scalp -- from damage caused by UV rays.

Serving suggestions: Try a baked sweet potato for a hearty dose of beta-carotene. Carrots, squash, cantaloupe and apricots also supply ample amounts. A good rule of thumb: For your recommended five servings of fruit and veggies a day, choose a variety of colors, including at least one that’s high in beta-carotene, to get healthy hair.

No. 4: Eggs
Eggs deliver multiple nutrients needed to maintain healthy hair. First, they’re a good source of protein and amino acids, protein’s building blocks. Because hair is made primarily of keratin, a type of protein, getting adequate amounts in your diet is necessary for hair growth and strength, says Jarosh. “We naturally shed hair each month, and diets low in protein could slow the rate at which strands grow back, causing hair to look thinner,” she says. Likewise, eating too little protein may contribute to weak or brittle strands.

In addition to protein, eggs provide zinc and iron, plus B vitamins, which aid in the metabolism of food, says Thayer. They help convert what you eat into the energy your body needs for its various functions, including a healthy hair growth cycle. Specifically, think of vitamins B-6 and B-12 “as messengers that deliver the nutrition from your healthy diet to hair follicles,” says Jarosh.

Serving suggestions: Jarosh advises three to five eggs per week. You’ll also get protein and B vitamins from poultry, lean meats, fish and lentils.

No. 5: Salmon
Fish is a favorite food among nutritionists, and salmon is a superstar they mention frequently thanks to high levels of omega-3 fatty acids. For healthy hair, these good-for-you fats act like internal conditioners, helping to keep your scalp and hair moisturized, shiny and healthy. Salmon also contains other strand savers like B vitamins, protein and iron.

Serving suggestions: Experts recommend eating salmon or other fatty fish such as mackerel, lake trout and sardines two to three times a week to get your fill of omega-3s. Not a seafood fan? Sprinkle two tablespoons of ground flaxseed into your oatmeal or smoothie.

These nutrients and foods for healthy hair are some of the same that give your body a boost. So try increasing your intake, even if it means snacking on carrots or ordering a side of spinach once in a while. You know the saying “When you look good, you feel good”? You’ll see just how true it can be.

Hassle-free Haircuts for Busy Moms

These days, everyone seems to be looking to celebrities for hairstyle cues and new ideas for cuts. The problem is that those hairstyles don’t always translate from Hollywood to hometown. Many of today’s stars have an army of beauty and hair experts to primp and pin every strand, but you have five minutes to run a brush through your hair before you’re running out the front door. 

Instead of Hollywood hair, what you need is a haircut that fits your life.

“Even if you’re seriously busy, you don't have to sacrifice great-looking hair,” says Jet Rhys, owner of the Jet Rhys salon in San Diego. “There are stylish cuts that work with your natural hair texture and don’t require a lot of time or effort.”

Look below for your hair type and find out which cut hair experts say matches your hair texture -- and more importantly, your life. 

If your hair is straight and …

  • Long Get a cut that is all the same length at the bottom except for a few shorter layers in front to frame your face. When you let hair air-dry -- the fastest and most common option for busy moms -- the blunt ends ensure hair dries straight, smooth and neat. The shorter pieces around your face, which should fall at eye and cheek level, soften the blunt lines and give strands extra volume, says Rhys. (By contrast, many layers all over can look choppy if you don’t use a flatiron or blow-dryer.)
  • Short A chin-length bob that’s stacked at the nape of your neck virtually styles itself, says Rhys. The stacking adds natural thickness that you’d otherwise only achieve from a blow-dryer and brush. And because of the shape, hair falls perfectly into place as it air-dries. That frees you up to focus on family activities more important than styling, like packing lunches, carpooling and getting to work on time.

Quick expert tip: Daily shampooing prevents oily and limp hair. But if you’re pressed for time, use a dry shampoo instead. Spray or sprinkle the formula on roots, then massage with your fingertips. Ingredients such as cornstarch absorb the oil and thicken strands.

If your hair has loose waves and is …

  • Long Hair experts say that the best cut for wavy hair falls below your shoulders and has several layers cut throughout. “The layers should be various lengths, hitting at your cheekbones, jaw and neck,” says Rhys. These shorter pieces are lightweight, which encourages your wavy texture and adds natural body when you let hair air-dry. (If your strands are all one long length, the weight could relax waves and leave hair looking limp.)
  • Short A layered bob that’s slightly longer than chin length is your key to stylish, hassle-free hair, says Rhys. Like the longer cut above, layers naturally boost texture and give hair movement. And unlike on straight hair, the layers won’t look choppy, because they blend in with your waves. 

Quick expert tip: To ensure the wavy style holds all day, rub a quarter-sized dollop of gel between your palms, then finger-comb through damp strands and let hair air-dry.

If your hair has tight curls and is …

  • Long Your hair’s smartest cut falls slightly past your shoulders and has a few long layers mixed in, says Rhys. The layers, which should be only 1 to 2 inches shorter than the longest pieces, give hair bounce but also retain enough weight to provide poof control. Unless you plan to shape and style curls daily, more dramatic or varied layers could leave hair frizzy on top and thin on the bottom. 
  • Short A sassy pixie cut is the ultimate time-saver for your hair type and length. “Cutting strands to only a few inches relaxes your curls, eliminating poofiness and frizz,” says Rhys. Because dealing with frizz eats up time, this cute, super-short cut will be a boon for your busy schedule.

Quick expert tip: For long hair, smoothing mousse helps define curls. Scrunch it into wet strands, then air-dry. The less you fuss with your curls, the better they’ll look, says Rhys. For the pixie, rub a dab of styling paste between hands and use your fingers to quickly shape and place various pieces. It will give hair structure and definition.

If your hair is coarse and …

  • Long Braids and locks do away with frizz and require little daily maintenance beyond moisturizing your scalp and hair with an oil or cream. If you want hair that’s long and straight but hate the flatironing and blow-drying that go with it, Rhys recommends an in-salon keratin treatment. “It’s so gentle!” she says. “It smoothes and softens hair without any of the chemicals in traditional relaxers.” Although you must spend two to three hours with the experts at the salon initially, the results last for up to three months.
  • Short A long, layered bob that hits at the center of your neck and has long, sideswept bangs is the cut for your hair. The length adds weight to prevent poofiness, and the layers and bangs give hair shape. Be sure, however, to get a trim every four to six weeks. Naturally dry, coarse hair is prone to split ends. If strands are not snipped, splits can work their way up, leading to breakage and frizz.

Quick expert tip: Every two weeks, give hair an at-home hot oil treatment to soften strands and fight frizz. Look for products that contain natural moisturizers like olive oil and vitamin E. Experts say to leave on for 45 minutes, even if the directions recommend less time. The oil often needs extra time to penetrate, says Rhys.

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Photo Credit: @iStockphoto.com/CandyBoxPhoto


Making Sense of Hair Loss and Scalp Conditions

“My hair was falling out in what seemed like handfuls,” says 31-year-old Samantha Ames*, who began losing her hair 10 years ago. “I even started showering in the dark to avoid seeing all the hair go down the drain.”

To women, hair is often a huge part of our self-image and what makes us feel attractive. Hair loss isn’t merely scary, it’s traumatic. Even the prospect of losing it can make you, well, lose it.

“There’s a stigma attached to women who lose their hair. When I began to lose my hair, I began to lose myself,” says Ames, who founded a Web site called the Women’s Hair Loss Project to unite and support women who find themselves with the same condition.

Yet even though she does a lot to help others with hair loss, she herself does not reveal her true identity publicly. No one who follows the blog or joins the support network knows her real name.

“I’m anonymous so I can be completely honest about my own hair loss situation,” says Ames. “That’s something I would never be able to do if I lived with the fear that a family member or co-worker could Google my name and find out my innermost thoughts.”

Understanding Hair Loss and Scalp Conditions
As with any issue we face, when it comes to hair loss, the more information you have, the better you can deal with the myriad feelings that arise if you start seeing more hair in your drain. Read on to learn about three common types of hair loss -- and what you can do.

1. If you lose about 100 hairs a day …

Diagnosis: normal hair loss
Finding some hair in your shower drain or brush is nothing to worry about. It’s considered normal and a part of the regular growth cycle. “Hair grows for approximately three years, sits dormant for three months, then falls out,” says Dr. Jeffrey Epstein, a hair restoration surgeon in Miami and New York.

What to do: If you’re worried you’re losing too much, gently tug on about 50 strands of hair. If more than one or two come out, you may have abnormal shedding.

2. If your hair falls out after childbirth, an illness or stressful event …

Diagnosis: telogen effluvium
Hair can be affected by any significant shock to the system, including a high fever, starting or stopping use of birth control pills, having surgery or experiencing some other stressor, either psychological or physical.

What happens: The stress causes a significant portion of hair follicles on the scalp to transfer from the growing phase to the dormant phase, called telogen. Six weeks later, those hairs start shedding en masse and can continue falling out for several weeks or even months.

Although it’s alarming to wake up with lost hair on your pillow morning after morning, rest assured that new strands start growing immediately after hair falls out. Plus, since telogen effluvium causes shedding all over, it’s unlikely anyone else will even notice. In most cases, hair is back to normal within six months of when the hair loss started.

During this time of regrowth, it’s important to continue treatment of any scalp conditions. “Inflammatory scalp conditions such as psoriasis or dandruff can reduce the rate at which hair that has fallen out gets replaced,” says hair-and-scalp expert James Schwartz, who holds a doctorate in chemistry. “It’s similar to a plant that’s growing in soil: If the soil is unhealthy, plants tend not to look so good either.”

What to do: Watch for baby-fine strands around your hairline -- the first sign hair is growing back. It’s a good idea to confirm the diagnosis with a dermatologist who specializes in hair loss.

3. If the part in your hair gradually grows wider …

Diagnosis: female pattern hair loss
“One of the earliest signs of female pattern hair loss is seeing more scalp when you part your hair,” says Epstein. “Or your ponytail feels lighter, or your hair is thinner on top and at your hairline.”

Hormonal changes cause most women a little thinning as they get older, which may make your scalp slightly more visible through your hair or at the part. But some women are more sensitive to the changes and are genetically predisposed to significant hair loss. You might experience more extreme, noticeable thinning, and hair loss could start as early as your teenage years.

Although the trait can be passed down from either side, the maternal side is the best predictor. That means if your mother suffers from hair loss, you probably will too.

What to do: The first step is to talk to a board-certified dermatologist. Certain topical products may slow thinning and regrow some hair. But with so many ineffective ones on the market, get advice before spending money. Your doctor may also suggest a hair transplant. Although it produces natural results, the outpatient procedure can cost thousands of dollars.

You can also take steps to minimize the appearance of hair loss. If your scalp is light, lighten your hair color to reduce the contrast. Getting highlights, and using volumizing shampoos and “thickening” powders and sprays help make fine hair look a little thicker. A short haircut will also help you achieve more volume. Or keep hair long so you can pin it back to cover thin areas on the scalp.

Wigs are another option. These days, you’ll find versions made of human hair that look natural and are comfortable to wear.

Regardless of the cause, if you are losing hair, remember that you’re not alone. “At first, I thought I was crazy,” says Ames, “but I had the same feelings as a lot of other women suffering from hair loss.”

* To protect her privacy, her real name is not used.

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