Everybody wants hair that’s strong, shiny, and easy to manage. But it can be challenging to get to that place. Most of us have to deal with some sort of hair issue that stands in the way of a healthy head of locks.
Genes do play a role when it comes to your hair type, strength, and volume. But that doesn’t mean you have no control over your hair.
In this article, we’ll look at 10 steps you can take to help strengthen your strands, boost hair growth, and enhance the look, feel, and health of your hair.
1. Dial down the heat
Blow dryers, straightening irons, hot curlers, and other heated styling tools can take a toll on your hair, especially if your hair is fine, dry, or prone to breakage. Too much heat can weaken your hair, resulting in strands that are damaged or frizzy.
To limit damage from hair drying, researchers who conducted a 2011 study recommend holding the blow dryer about 6 inches away from the surface of your hair, and to keep the dryer moving and not concentrated on one spot.
Limit your blow-drying and other heated styling sessions to two or three times a week to give your hair time to recover in between each session.
Set your dryer and other heated styling tools to a lower heat setting to reduce the chance of hair damage. You may also want to consider using a heat protectant product on your hair to minimize damage.
2. Boost your vitamin intake
Like the rest of your body, your hair needs specific vitamins and minerals to be healthy and strong. Research has shown that nutritional deficiencies may be linked to hair loss.
The vitamins and minerals that may be most important for hair growth are:
- Vitamin A: found in sweet potatoes, carrots, pumpkin, spinach, milk, eggs, and yogurt
- B vitamins, especially biotin: found in egg yolk, liver, salmon, avocados, nuts and seeds, and dairy products
- Vitamin C: good sources include citrus fruits, strawberries, and bell peppers
- Vitamin D: found in fatty fish, egg yolk, and fortified foods like milk and orange juice
- Vitamin E: good sources include sunflower seeds, almonds, spinach, and avocados
- Iron: found in oysters, clams, eggs, red meat, lentils, and spinach
- Zinc: good sources include oysters, beef, pumpkin seeds, and lentils
If it’s difficult to get the necessary nutrients from the foods you eat, you may want to consider taking a multivitamin that includes these vitamins and minerals.
However, it’s important to check with your healthcare provider before taking any supplements, especially biotin. Research shows that excessive biotin intake can affect laboratory test results, such as tests designed to detect heart attacks.
3. Go easy on the shampoo
Keeping your hair clean is important. But most shampoos use ingredients that strip away your hair’s natural oils in an effort to reduce oiliness and remove dirt.
Unless your hair is extremely oily, you can probably cut back to washing with shampoo two to three times a week instead of every day. Washing your hair too frequently may dry it out and possibly weaken the hair shaft.
Also, don’t use too much shampoo. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, you only need a quarter-sized amount of shampoo, applied mostly at your scalp, to clean your hair.
4. Massage your scalp
Revving up the blood circulation in your scalp may help boost the health and condition of your scalp, and also increase blood flow to the hair follicles.
According to a small 2016 study, a 4-minute daily scalp massage may have the ability to increase hair thickness and strength over time.
You can massage your own scalp by applying pressure in circular motions with your fingertips for several minutes. You can do this on dry hair or when your hair is wet, just before you apply shampoo.
You can also buy a scalp massager. These handheld, brush-like devices work to stimulate your scalp.
5. Up the protein in your diet
Getting enough protein in your diet is important for hair growth, as hair follicles consist mostly of protein. Research shows that a lack of protein in the diet can result in hair thinning and hair loss.
Protein-rich foods that may help boost hair health include:
- fish, like mackerel and salmon
- nuts and seeds
- lean meats
- spinach and kale
- beans and legumes
6. Try an egg yolk mask
Egg yolk contains the same proteins that make up a strong hair follicle. And, according to a 2018 study, the peptides in egg yolk may help stimulate hair growth.
Egg yolk also contains several essential nutrients that have been linked to hair growth and healthy hair, including vitamins A and D, biotin, and folate.
You can make your own egg yolk mask by following these steps:
- Use 3 egg yolks and 3–4 tbsp. of slightly warm coconut oil.
- Mix the two ingredients together well.
- Once the mixture is well-blended, apply to your scalp and roots.
- Put a shower cap over your head once the mixture has been applied.
- Let it sit on your head for 10–15 minutes.
- Rinse it out with cool water.
7. Use a cool rinse
Showering with water that’s too hot may cause heat damage to your hair, both at the root and on the cuticle. Steam in the shower can open up the cuticles on your hair, which may result in hair that’s dry, frizzy, and prone to breakage.
To protect your hair, lather up with lukewarm water. Then, finish your shower with a spray of cool water on your hair and scalp. This may help seal your hair cuticle, making it easier for your hair to retain moisture.
8. Use aloe vera on your hair and scalp
Aloe vera is rich in vitamins A, C, and E. These vitamins may help promote healthy cell growth, including the cells in your hair. In addition, aloe vera also contains vitamin B-12 and folic acid, both of which may be helpful in promoting healthy hair.
However, it’s unclear if these beneficial vitamins actually penetrate the scalp upon topical application of aloe vera.
You can apply the pure gel of the aloe plant to your hair and scalp, or look for hair products that contain aloe vera ingredients. You can also make your own aloe vera hair mask for extra conditioning.
9. Swap your towel for a T-shirt
According to hair care experts, rubbing your wet hair with a terry-cloth towel after washing can cause hair damage and breakage due to the friction that’s created between the towel and your hair.
You can opt for a microfiber towel, or an easier and cheaper solution is to use a simple cotton T-shirt.
The smooth T-shirt fabric will create less friction when drying and, therefore, less damage and frizz. To use a tee on your hair, follow these steps:
- After washing and rinsing, gently squeeze sections of your hair to remove as much water as possible.
- Bend your head forward and wrap the T-shirt around your head in a turban style.
- Leave your damp hair wrapped in the shirt for 5–10 minutes, then unwrap.
- Gently squeeze the T-shirt around any sections of hair that have excess moisture, then dry and style as usual.
10. Try a hot oil treatment
Hot oil treatments are a popular choice for helping to restore moisture to dry, frizzy, or damaged hair.
A coconut and avocado oil treatment may be especially beneficial. According to a 2003 study, coconut oil has the ability to reduce protein loss in both damaged and undamaged hair.
Like coconut oil, avocado oil also contains essential fatty acids as well as vitamins A, B-5, and E.
To make your own hot oil treatment, follow these steps:
- Mix together 1–2 tbsp. virgin coconut oil (room temperature) and 1–2 tbsp. avocado oil. You can use more or less, depending on how long your hair is, but keep the ratio of both oils roughly equal.
- Put the oil mixture in a glass jar, and gently lower it into a pot of hot water.
- Allow the oil to melt together and warm inside the jar for about 2 minutes. You don’t want the oil to be too hot, just slightly warm and well-mixed.
- Test the temperature on the back of your wrist. It should be lukewarm, not hot. If the oil appears to be hot, don’t risk touching it. Wait until it’s cooled.
- Once the oil mixture is at a safe temperature, apply to your scalp, roots of your hair, and ends. Work the oil into the rest of your hair.
- Apply a shower cap and allow the oil to penetrate your hair for 20 minutes.
- Rinse well with lukewarm water.
The bottom line
Achieving strong, healthy hair requires work on all fronts.
While minimizing heat damage and over washing is important, what you put into your body counts too. Eating a balanced diet that includes a wide variety of vitamins, minerals, and sources of protein can help boost the health of your hair and scalp.
If you notice that your hair has become prone to breakage or that you’re losing more hair than usual, it’s worth mentioning it to your doctor. Hair loss is normal for many men and women, but it can sometimes indicate an underlying health condition.