Help! My hair's under attack - how to care for damaged hair

Photo by love MaeganOur hair is under attack! We change the colour as often as the seasons change, torment it with hair dryers and straighteners, leave it to scorch in the sun or get whipped in the wind, and we barely give a moment’s thought to feeding it well. It’s no wonder that our crowning glory often looks more like an old mop.

Modern life is putting all sorts of new stresses and strains on our hair, and if that isn’t hard enough, the media is bombarding us with photos of celebrities with gorgeous barnets! What’s a girl to do?

Well, it seems we’re trying to do lots. According to a recent survey, almost a quarter of British women spend more than £2,000 per year on their hair, and on average, we each spend £500 per year on hair products alone (so imagine how much we're all spending now!).

But spending money on our hair doesn’t necessarily mean we’re looking after it in the right way. Here are our tips on how you can beat the modern stresses we put our hair through.

Stress: Colouring

It’s never been more fashionable to experiment with hair colour. But, hair dyes can be hard on our locks, particularly those that are laden with chemicals. There are horror stories out there, about side-effects such as itchy or red skin and even hair loss. Plus, dyeing your hair regularly can also make it dry and brittle, so the strands break more often.

Top tips:

Choose your hair dye wisely. Try using a permanent ammonia-free natural hair dye such as Naturtint. If you’re going to a salon, consider going darker instead of lighter, as lowlights are less damaging than highlights. Always do a patch test before you use a new hair dye, and give your hair a treat with some natural colour conditioners.

Stress: Hair extensions

Hair extensions are hugely popular at the moment with celebrity fans including Victoria Beckham and Cheryl Cole. But they’re not without their problems – Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera have been spotted with bald patches and Jennifer Aniston has said hair extensions “ruined” her hair. They can cause bad headaches and even permanent bald patches.

Top tips:

Er, don’t do it. But if you must, go to a reputable stylist and don’t go for anything too heavy. If you get huge heavy extensions, problems can develop quickly. Keep going back to the salon for maintenance and if you do get any hair loss, take a hint and quit. If you end up with damaged hair, try treating it with a specialist natural conditioner or treatment - choose from a huge range here.

Stress: Environmental pollutants

Pollution - toxins, dust and smoke swilling about in the air – can make your hair look dull, lifeless and limp. A study carried out by the University of London in 2008 even found there could be a link between pollution and male baldness.

Top tips:

Try using a natural hair conditioner with detox properties. Don’t over-wash your hair, as this will weaken it, but do use shampoos designed for dry and damaged hair. If you live in a particularly badly polluted area, you could consider protecting your hair with a scarf – going for that Thelma & Louise look! Coconut Oil is 2015's must have product for nourishing dry hair, check out our range here

Stress: Poor diet

It’s hardly surprising that what you put into your body has an effect on how it looks – and that includes your hair. If you’re not getting enough nutrients, your hair will start to look dull, thin and, well, not totally fabulous. Which is no good.

Top tips:

There are a number of “superfoods” that are great for hair; they’re not called superfoods for nothing. Vitamin B is particularly good for your barnet – that means fish, particularly salmon, and eggs. You also need zinc – so that means nuts including peanuts, almonds, pecans, walnuts, and cashews. Oysters are high in zinc and guess what? So is dark chocolate! Great news. Fruits are also good for a Vitamin C boost. Basically, look after your body, and your hair will be happier.

Stress: Straightening irons

Many of us love our hair straighteners. A third of all women own a pair and apparently one in five men do too. But blasting your hair regularly with a serious amount of heat can cause your hair to become brittle and dry, with strands breaking easily. Straighteners can even make your hair frizzier in the long run, setting up a vicious circle of dependency.

Top tips:

Keep the heat down – don’t use the hottest setting. Try not to use them every day, and don’t use straighteners on wet hair. If your hair does become damaged, give it a rest, and try using natural hair care products designed for dry and damaged hair. We like Dr Hauschka Strengthening Hair Treatment which contains neem leaves and chamomile flowers; these can help soften and repair hair which has been damaged by straighteners. A natural hair treatment can also help revitalise damaged hair.

Stress: Office hair!

If you’re stuck in an air-conditioned and heated stuffy office from 9am to 5pm or longer, five days a week, your hair is going to suffer. Air conditioning and heating can have an adverse effect on your hair; it dries it out and makes it frizzy and brittle. Lack of sunlight can also be a problem – you need Vitamin D for healthy hair growth, and that comes from the sun.

Top tips:

Combat air conditioning and heating with regular natural conditioners and hair treatments to moisturise your hair. Try to get out of the office at lunchtime to give your hair a break and soak up some natural light! You can also top up your Vitamin D levels by eating oily fish, such as salmon, sardines and mackerel, eggs, and fortified margarines and breakfast cereals.

Stress: Backcombing

Hair went huge in the 1950s and the backcombed look has been popular ever since. Charlize Theron has worked the look to great effect and stars like Lily Collins have been seen sporting a fabulous backcombed low bun. The trouble is, backcombing isn’t great for your hair. If it all goes wrong, you can end up with knotted hair and overdoing it can lead to hair loss.

Top tips:

There are several things you can do to minimise the effects of backcombing. Despite the name, try using a paddle brush instead of a comb. It won’t put so much stress on your hair. A good natural shampoo and a repairing conditioner can help your hair fight back. Focus your backcombing efforts on the roots – that’ll improve the look as well as the condition of your hair. If you want to create more volume, try natural methods such as plaiting, rollers and rags worn overnight, and use natural hair styling products such as mousses to give your hair a boost. 

Stress point: Erratic weather

You spend ages getting your hair looking just perfect, step out of the door feeling glamorous and stunning, and five minutes later it starts to rain. Or you start the day looking sleek and professional, and the damp heat of a humid summer’s day starts to give you that Monica from Friends in Barbados look. Weather can play havoc with our hair. So what can we do about it?

Top tips:

The key is to be prepared – check forecasts and plan your hairstyle accordingly! There are ways you can battle the elements with natural hair styling products and hair masks such as the Korres Almond & Linseed Nourishing Hair Mask, which tackles static. But choose your hair style wisely for the weather and you’ll make life much easier for yourself. Braids can stand up to most forms of weather, and top knots, buns and slicked-back pony tails are also an effective way to stay looking smart, rather than like you’ve been dragged through a hedge backwards.

Stress point: Rise in allergies and sensitivities

Allergies are becoming more common, and so are sensitivities to food and environmental factors. Some hair care products can also cause allergies – they might be derived from food products which you’re allergic to, or you might have an allergy to particular preservatives or fragrances. Allergic reactions to some hair dyes are becoming more frequent.

Top tips:

If you’re having problems with allergies, look for natural hair care products and particularly fragrance-free products, which may help. Check ingredients closely on all products if you know you have a particular allergy. Some companies, such as A’kin, produce specialist unscented wheat-free hair products. Natural, unscented baby products are also a good bet. If you suffer from hay fever, wash your hair at night to rinse the pollen out.

Photo by Maegan Tintari