Healthy Ways to Tame Problem Hair

Nightmare hair? Transform your tresses with these smart solutions

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Hair Scare: Frizz

Even healthy hair gets frizzy from time to time. It's caused when the outermost layer of the hair—the cuticle—gets roughed up, which can happen with just a gust of wind or while pulling on a sweater.

Ryan Ruffatti

Healthy Help

Don't comb dry hair—brushing is a surefire way to irritate the cuticle. Instead, try combing damp, towel-dried strands with a dab of conditioner or anti-frizz product before they dry completely. If you must brush dry hair, use wet fingers in lieu of a brush, says Connie Eeyerlin, a stylist at Dionysius Salon in Eugene, Oregon. It won't cause frizz—it'll tame it.

Joe Belanger

Hair Scare: Dandruff

Is it snowing, or is that your scalp? Dandruff, a common condition characterized by flaky, itchy skin, often strikes during dry winter months, according to the Mayo Clinic. Causes include dehydrated skin, lack of shampooing and sensitivity to hair products.


Healthy Help

Add about 10 drops of tea tree oil to 8 ounces of unscented shampoo. Dandruff improved for people who used a tea tree oil-enriched shampoo for 4 weeks, according to a study in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology. A half-vinegar, half-water solution works, too, says Lisa Sharon Belkin, author of The Cosmetics Cookbook. It will act like an astringent and penetrate the scalp to remove dead skin. Another way to prevent a snowy scalp? Rotate brands of shampoo. Even if you're using a medicated one, switching your loyalty will prevent you from building up a resistance. Also, eat more sweet potatoes. They’re loaded with beta-carotene, which the body converts to vitamin A, a dry-skin deterrent, says Joy Bauer, RD.

Sharon Day

Hair Scare: Split Ends

From blow drying and straightening to brushing and twirling, just about everything you do to your hair can cause the ends to fray.


Healthy Help

Once ends are split, the only solution is to trim them off, so prevention is key. Keep brute force on your hair to a minimum by using a soft brush or wide-toothed comb, applying conditioner when you wash it (leave a little extra on hair tips) and avoiding flat irons. If the damage has already been done, try using warm olive oil as a deep conditioner to moisturize the broken hair. Leave it in for a half hour under a shower cap before washing.

Mark Fairey

Hair Scare: Brittleness

Often the precursor to split ends, brittle hair can result from environmental factors like low humidity and dry heat, which deplete strands of moisture, says Valerie D. Callender, MD. Forceful handling—like brushing hair while it's wet, frequently using a flat iron, or spending lots of time in the sun—also contributes. A diet deficient in nutrients like iron or B vitamins can also cause weak tresses, says Bauer. Occasionally, underlying medical issues like hypothyroidism may be to blame.


Healthy Help

Eggs aren't just benefcial when you eat them: Packed with protein, vitamin B12, and essential fats, they also make a great home hair treatment, says Belkin. Try beating a raw egg and massaging it into your roots, then combing it through strands. Another natural remedy is a banana avocado hair mask (recipe here). Leave it in your hair for 30 minutes, twice a month.

Diane Diederich

Hair Scare: Graying

It happens to everyone. We get older, and our hair goes grey. Genetics often dictate when the process will start, meaning you’ll probably begin graying when your parents did. However, premature graying sometimes occurs and may be the result of a B-vitamin deficiency or thyroid disease, reports MSN.

Stephan Bock

Healthy Help

You can't prevent the aging process, but you can try to postpone it. Stock up on nutrients that have been associated with the prevention of premature graying, such as vitamin B5 (found in liver, shiitake mushrooms and corn) and biotin (found in Swiss chard, eggs and peanut butter).


Hair Scare: Odor

Smelly Hair Syndrome isn't an official condition, but Google the disorder and you'll find plenty of mystified people who claim their scalps stink—like anything from wet dog to sour milk—despite practicing perfect hygiene. Some experts believe the offending odors may be caused from a pungent diet (curry anyone?), an overproduction of oil (which traps environmental smells, like smoke) or a fungal infection.


Healthy Help

Try a DIY fragrance rinse for your hair, suggests Belkin. Take plants that smell good, like rosemary, lavender or rose petals, and boil them in water to release the oils and odors. Let the water cool, strain it, and use it as a rinse after washing your hair. If the problem persists, cosmetic chemist Perry Romanowski recommends shampooing with sulfur and Triclosan-based soaps. If that doesn't work, a trip to the dermatologist may be in order.

Siniša Botaš

Hair Scare: Shedding

Every day humans naturally shed about 100 strands of hair that have reached the end of their growing cycle. But losing more than that can be unhealthy and lead to a thinner mane, according to the Mayo Clinic. Excessive shedding can be the result of too much force or pulling, a bad diet, an eating disorder, hormonal changes, medications or an underlying medical condition.

Ilya Andriyanov

Healthy Help

To retain hair, be careful to treat it gently. And if you smoke, stop. Cigarettes have been known to make hair weaker and fall out more, according to WebMD.

Hair Scare: Dryness

Is your hair so dehydrated, it crunches when you squeeze it? Possible causes include excessive washing and blow-drying, using harsh or low-quality shampoos and overexposure to chlorine and dyes, says WebMD. Sun, wind and dry air can also contribute.


Healthy Help

Fatty foods like avocado, mayonnaise, or olive oil add moisture and nutrients to hair, toughening tendrils, says Belkin. Honey also works. Let it sit in your hair for 15 minutes before washing it out. “Honey retains moisture, so you can use it to lock everything in,” says Belkin. Honey also has the added benefit of giving shine to hair. If you’re having trouble applying the sticky stuff, mix it with water to use as a rinse.

Hair Scare: Grease

Glands on the scalp naturally produce oil to lubricate the area, according to WebMD. But sometimes too much oil is produced or a build-up occurs, especially when the scalp hasn't been washed in a while. The extra grease can make hair look dirty and dull.

Rusudan Mchedlishvili

Healthy Help

Fill a saltshaker with cornmeal, shake it over the scalp and then spread it through oily areas, says Belkin. Or, boil gin and water together, let it cool and massage it through hair. Both cornmeal and alcohol will act as drying agents.


Hair Scare: Balding

“Heredity accounts for 95 percent of all the cases of alopecia (baldness) in this country. The remaining five percent of cases can be due to a number of things including diet, stress, illness and/or medications,” according to the Cleveland Clinic. Anemia (iron deficiency) and excessive pulling can also be the cause.

Nancy Louie

Healthy Help

Iron is linked with hair re-growth whether or not someone has anemia, say researchers from the Cleveland Clinic. Pump up your diet with iron-rich foods like red meat and spinach.


Next: Best Foods for Healthy Hair
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Don Chen

First Published March 15, 2012

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