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.

How to Style Hair Without Heat

You may never be fully dressed without a smile -- and the same goes for great hair. Beautiful tresses are a powerful thing for women, and many of us turn to blow-dryers, straighteners and curling irons every day as the path to a polished look.

However, these hot styling tools can damage healthy hair if they’re used too often. Break out of your heat haze, find your new go-to ‘do (no matter your hair type) and commence a little mane damage control to keep your lovely strands, well…lovely! Here’s how to style hair without heat.

Hair Solutions: Braids, Buns, “Born” (a.k.a. Natural)
Always look to the three B’s: Braids. Buns. Born (and by “born,” we mean natural):

  • Braids: The braid is the new black, figuratively speaking. This ever-versatile style lends a certain boho-chicness to an ensemble, plus it requires little to no effort (and especially no heat!) and can be worn in a variety of ways. Try a messy side braid for a casual look, a crown of plaits for an über-romantic vibe, or a partial side-swept version to tame unruly bangs.
  • Buns: Be it a low chignon or a high topknot, buns are the instant-chic answer to the persistent “what to do with my hair” question. This style beautifully transitions from office to happy hour, is flattering for every hair type, and, to top it off, works best with locks that have a little texture on them (read: not freshly washed or styled). Try gently teasing a high ponytail before twisting your hair up and bobby-pinning it for a fuller look that is special-event worthy without doing any damage.
  • Born: Many women have a bad habit of wanting what they don’t have, especially when it comes to hair. Instead of using heat tools to force your hair to do what it doesn’t do naturally, embrace what Mother Nature gave you -- with a little help from styling products.

“Air-drying, especially if your texture is curly or wavy, is a great way to style without heat,” says Luca Blandi, senior stylist at the Oscar Blandi salon in Manhattan. “A little extra conditioner after a shampoo will make it beautiful.”

Vaso Spirou, owner of Salon Vaso in Miami Beach, Fl., and her team at the salon agree: “Depending on the event -- work or play -- a simple styling product to add wave and movement is all you need for beautiful hair without the heat.”

Undo the Damage
How much heat is too much? Spirou recommends turning to heat styling tools no more than once a week. “Especially in sunny climates, you really want to limit your use to keep your hair healthy. Use an at-home deep conditioning treatment to recharge your strands and bring them back to health.” To get the most out of a conditioning hair mask, cover your strands with the mask, then cover with a shower cap and let your body heat do the work while you do chores for half an hour.

You can also make the styles you achieve with heated tools last longer between washes, says Blandi. Sprinkle your roots with a dry shampoo to keep your hair looking fresh. And, of course, never underestimate the power of a trim. Since your tips show the most wear-and-tear, snipping them off every few months will keep your tresses fresh and healthy.

Use Heat Wisely
When you do use curling irons and straighteners, “look for tools with ionic capabilities and titanium plates, which are less damaging,” says Spirou. Good tools should also have temperature-control options so you can keep the heat on the lowest setting. Lastly, don’t forget to reach for hair prep before heating things up. “A heat-protecting treatment or spray before styling will shield your hair and make it less vulnerable to damage,” says Blandi.

Repair Winter Damage -- Fast! -- With These Beauty Tips and Tricks

Winter’s here -- and so are all the beauty challenges it holds. Cold, dry outdoor air and overheated indoor environments make for limp, static-y locks, tight, uncomfortable skin, chapped lips and cracked soles. So not appealing.

The good news? Our beauty tips and tricks will help you repair winter damage fast.

Hair
To fight dry hair and split ends, choose products with rich conditioning ingredients, says board-certified New York City dermatologist Whitney Bowe. “Look for products containing wheat protein, which targets and repairs hair’s most damaged parts without a greasy buildup near the scalp.” The other ingredients you want to see in your shampoo and conditioners? Powerful natural hydrators and masks such as oat protein, dimethicone, macadamia nut seed oil, green tea extract, olive oil, algae extract, shea butter, argan oil, glycerin, wild mango butter and sunflower extract. Cetrimonium chloride also has conditioning and anti-static properties.

Scalp itch and dandruff typically worsen in the winter. “Try using dandruff shampoo,” says Elizabeth Tanzi, a board-certified dermatologist in Washington, DC. “If that still isn’t enough, visit your dermatologist for a scalp solution prescription.”

Face
When skin doesn’t produce enough sebum (or oil), it can get rough, irritated, inflamed, sensitive and flaky -- and wrinkles are more pronounced, explains celebrity aesthetician Renée Rouleau. Winter’s dry air steals even more moisture from your face.

To avoid damage, don’t use harsh scrubs. Wash your face with lukewarm or cool water and a low-lather, creamy cleanser containing soothing ingredients like green tea, aloe vera extract or chamomile. Apply a hydrating serum with marine extract, vitamins C and A, azulene, hyaluronic acid and lipids; then follow up with a good moisturizer containing flower and nut extracts (rose hips, lavender, geranium, macadamia, grape seed), dimethicone and glycolic acid. At night, adds Rouleau, use a humidifier in your room to rehydrate your skin.

Soft, smooth skin comes from the inside as well. Eat plenty of cold-water fish such as tuna, sardines, cod, mackerel, herring and trout, which have the essential fats your skin needs. And remember to drink plenty of water.

Lips
Rule number one: Don’t lick them! Wear lip balm with dimethicone and petroleum, and reapply often.

Body
To relieve dry skin and eczema, Tanzi recommends taking only one bath or shower daily and using a moisturizing body wash with lavender or oatmeal. As soon as you get out of the tub, treat your whole body to a thick lotion or cream with shea or cocoa butter, sesame oil, petroleum and ceramides to lock in hydration.

Elbows and Heels
Exfoliate rough patches with urea-rich healing creams, applied every night. “Then use a pumice stone or washcloth to gently remove the dead skin, and follow up with a ceramide moisturizer in the morning,” says Tanzi.

Feet
Try this bedtime foot treatment from Stafford R. Broumand, a board-certified Manhattan plastic surgeon: Apply a thick layer of plain petroleum jelly all over your feet, and cover them with cotton socks. “When you wake up and remove the socks in the morning,” he says, “your feet will be soft and smooth.”

Hands
All the soap and sanitizers you use to prevent colds can also dry out your hands and nails. Instead, “use a gentle cleanser to wash,” says Tanzi, “and before bed, smear on petroleum jelly or a thick hand cream [honey and shea butter are excellent ingredients], and cover up with cotton gloves overnight.”

For ragged cuticles, apply cuticle oil before the hand cream; you want one containing vitamin E, shea butter and oils such as jojoba, argan and sweet almond. Then follow Bowe’s example and keep a tube of soothing hand lotion by the bathroom and kitchen sink so you can apply a dollop every time you wash your hands.

Photo: Corbis Images

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.

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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