You meticulously maintain salon appointments, get up an hour early to do your hair, and have an arsenal of products so large, it could probably rival Jen Atkin's. But as much as you clearly care about the appearance of your strands, what are you doing to ensure they're strong and healthy? We tapped Lars Skjoth, founder and head of research and development at Harklinikken, an internationally-renowned hair loss clinic, who divulged three ways you've been sabotaging your hair's growth (and how to correct these problems). Read on to discover the little errors that could have a huge effect on your hair.
1. You're being too rough when brushing.
We're all in a rush, but don't cut corners when brushing your hair. It's essential that you're gentle throughout this process, especially when you're working with wet strands. "Water weakens the bonds within strands of hair, removing up to one-third of its strength," explains Skjoth. "Wet or damp hair can, therefore, be more easily broken, ripped or torn out when combing or brushing." Furthermore, rough tugging on knots will weaken and possibly permanently damage your hair follicles, which are responsible for growth. Work on small sections, starting at the tips of your strands and working your way up as you detangle. If you have long hair, it's even better to hold your hair tightly at the mid-lengths while brushing, so any tugging is absorbed by your fist, not your scalp.
2. You're not eating a diet that's good for your hair.
If your strands are looking brittle and lifeless, what you are eating could be to blame. Skjoth shared that intensive low-fat diets can cause these problems with your hair.
"Forget about all the low-fat food and seek out full, healthy fats instead," he said. "Your hair, your skin and, for that matter, your overall health will thank you." He recommends fatty, wild-caught fish like mackerel, herring, sardines, and salmon; avocados, seeds, and nuts; cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil; and plenty of dark greens.
"These fats heal and are great for your hair, so make room in your diet for those foods in particular," he noted. He also advised bumping up the protein in your regular meals. Protein is a building block of keratin, which makes hair strong and healthy. Skjoth particularly likes recommending grass-fed red meat, milk products (including butter and Greek yogurt), eggs, and poultry, which are nutrient-dense from the grass.
If you cut back on sugar and simple carbs like white rice, pasta, and bread, you'll see an even bigger difference in your hair. "They are devoid of essential nutrients your hair (and the rest of your body) needs in order to remain vibrant and strong," Skjoth explained. "The lack of high-quality micronutrients, lack of trace elements and certain vitamins, the high percentage of processed carbohydrates and lack of fibers are detrimental to healthy hair growth."
Finally, reconsider what kind of water you drink. Springwater imported from Europe (in particular, France, Italy, and Iceland) is loaded with unprocessed, essential trace minerals like iron, calcium, magnesium, and sulfate, which can improve overall body function. Look for brands like Evian, Volvic, Acqua Panna, San Pellegrino, and Icelandic Glacial.
3. You're not caring for your scalp.
It seems obvious that healthy hair starts at the scalp, but so many of us are overlooking its health in favor of convenience. Dry shampoo may be a time-saver, but using it too frequently can irritate your scalp, clog the hair follicles, and eventually, lead to hair loss. Instead, reduce your use of dry shampoo to a max of two days in a row and wash your hair regularly with a shampoo that maintains your scalp's pH levels. Be sure to really massage your scalp with your fingertips when washing to ensure you're removing any and all sebum, dirt, and product buildup.