7 Secrets Your Dermatologist Knows About Hair
by Ayren Jackson-Cannady
It’s easy to get caught up in the look
of your new natural ’do (because, well, it’s GORGEOUS!). But while you’re busy two-strand twisting, palm rolling and picking out all of that fabulous fringe, don’t forget to check the health of your hair and scalp. If you focus solely on style, you may not notice (until it’s too late) that your hairline is thinning, you’re getting dandruff like crazy or…is that a sunburn?!?
Raechele Cochran Gathers, MD, a senior physician at the Multi-Cultural Dermatology Center of Henry Ford Hospital Department of Dermatology in Detroit, and other experts agree—the scalp is an extension of the skin on the rest of your body, and it needs to be cleansed, moisturized and treated accordingly. Read on for seven things dermatologists know about healthy transitioning.
No. 1: Dandruff Might Not Be Dry Skin
It’s most likely an overgrowth of the yeast, says Mona Gohara, M.D., assistant clinical professor of dermatology at Yale School of Medicine. “It’s not an infection (it’s found naturally on our bodies), but some people are more susceptible to produce more of it—it’s what causes cradle cap in babies, too.” Shake the flakes by using an antifungal shampoo on your scalp only.
No. 2: Your Scalp Can Get Sunburn, Too
If you Big Chop in the summer (or wear braids or locs), make sure to shield your now-visible scalp from extended exposure to the sun with a scarf or sun hat. “Scalp skin cancers are on the rise, and because they’re hard to spot, they’re more aggressive than skin cancers on other areas,” says Dr. Gohara. “There’s even a movement among dermatologists to train hairstylists to spot atypical lesions on the scalp.”
No. 3: Water Works Wonders
As you transition, avoid the urge to go too long without wetting (washing/conditioning) your hair. A general rule of thumb: Shampoo hair once a week or every other week (if you have braids or locs) to avoid product build-up, which can dry out hair. Use conditioner with every shampoo—no exceptions—and pay special attention to the ends, which are the oldest and most dry parts of your mane. Finally, if you routinely hit the gym, rinse your hair with straight-H2O (no shampoo) to whisk away sweat and salt build-up. Follow with your favorite conditioner.
No. 4: Ingredients Can Make or Break(off) Your Hair
It’s important to vet your lock loot. Hair-care products packed with natural ingredients, like olive oil, shea butter, aloe vera juice or glycerin, are always best, because they help hair retain moisture, says Dr. Gathers.
“It is important to add moisture to hair by using products that either preserve or add moisture and to avoid hair styling regimens that can remove moisture from the hair,” said Dr. Gathers. So it goes without saying that sulfates (found in some shampoos) can dehydrate hair and lead to damage. Look for conditioners that contain strand-saving ingredients like wheat proteins, amino acids, hydrolyzed proteins or panthenol.
No. 5: Healthy Hair Starts With a Healthy Diet
A balanced diet does a body (and hair) good. Hair is more than 90 percent protein, so naturally you’ll boost growth if you pack your plate with healthy versions of the nutrient. Chicken and turkey are major sources of protein that can be easily incorporated into your diet. Oily fish, like salmon, is also protein-filled, plus it contains omega-3 fatty acids, which can help ward off dry skin. If you’re a vegetarian, reach for plant protein sources like soybeans, seeds and nuts.
No. 6: Hot Oil Treatments Are to the Scalp What Anti-Aging Serum is to the Skin
Transitioners should pencil twice per month hot oil treatments into their schedules. According to Dr. Gathers, they add a mega-dose of moisture, while increasing the elasticity of the hair.
No. 7: A Scalp Massage Can Relieve Dandruff
That’s right! Gentle rubbing helps loosen dead skin cells (that lead to flakes) and increase circulation to the scalp. Spend an extra minute or two massaging in your shampoo or hot-oil treatment. Even better? Get someone else to do it for you—it’s been shown that a regular massage (by someone else) lowers the stress hormone ACTH (Adrenocorticotrophic hormone).
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