Building Blocks of Healthy Hair: Inside & Out
Posted on July 13 2015
I cannot count on both hands the number of times I’ve left the salon wondering, “what did I just do?” Frequently it takes a few days to fall in love with my new look, but on the rare occasion when it still feels like a mistake, I make it my practice to get length back as quickly as possible by nurturing my hair with extra love and boosting my diet with foods rich in B vitamins and essential fatty acids. What makes these nutrients so effective? The answer lies in how healthy hair is created.
Before we look at the building blocks of healthy hair from the inside out, let’s look from the outside in -- and the reasons conventional products under-serve our hair needs.
Most shampoos moisturize the hair cuticle with silicones and panthenol. These moisturizing agents only address the outer layer of hair without yielding positive impact on the scalp. To really repair and build healthy hair, we need ingredients that go deeper…
Hair is protein, but it’s porous. “In fact, it’s more porous than our skin,” says Boris Oak of EVOLVh Luxury Natural Haircare System (“h is for hair, and h is for healthy”). “Hair is full of molecules in motion, and we need to get the amino and fatty acids the hair is lacking inside.” Oak offers this analogy as a helpful visual:
“Hair is like rope on the inside and fish scales on the outside. Fatty acids lubricate the rope and amino acids strengthen the rope. The result is hair with more flexibility, elasticity, and strength; hair that when pulled stretches instead of breaks.”
For these reasons, EVOLVh is formulated with short-chain fatty acids. Fatty acids are the building blocks of cell membranes, and short-chain fatty acids are compact, penetrable molecules.
A similar approach is used by Sans[ceuticals], incorporating wheat amino acids and phyto-keratin, both small molecular proteins, to penetrate and fortify the hair cuticle.
In addition to rich lipids for moisture, ingredients like pea sprout can be used to build hair density, and nettle is an effective treatment for dandruff, as used by pioneering botanical brand Intelligent Nutrients.
Moving to the outside of the hair, the fish-like scales determine the shine of your hair. “Hair lays smooth when it’s healthy which is what allows it to reflect light. When the scales don’t lay flat, they cannot reflect light which is what makes hair look dull,” says Oak.
You can treat both inner and outer layers with hair masks. Oak recommends picking up an intensive product rich in amino and fatty acids such as EVOLVh UltraRepair Treatment Masque. Use in place of conditioner or mix into conditioner, especially during summer months when environmental factors such as sun, heat, and wind can weaken hair.
Another effective treatment is a weekly pre-wash oil, such as La Tierra Sagrada’s Treatment. Massage a small amount of oil onto either wet or dry hair and scalp. Pull through to ends and shampoo out. Alternatively, wrap hair in scarf or towel and sleep with the treatment before washing the following day. La Tierra Sagrada is a system built on sacred ritual, and founder Stefani Padilla recommends the New Moon for this deep treatment as a powerful time to help hair grow fast and strong.
Build lasting hair health from the inside out by eating a balanced diet with vital nutrients.
B Vitamins such as biotin (Vitamin B6) and folate (Vitamin B9) help our bodies create healthy tissue. Food sources are the best way to get vitamins into your diet as you’ll eat them in more optimal ratios and provide your body with the accompanying nutrients that help assimilate their benefits. Dried beans, lentils and peas are good sources of biotin, and leafy greens and citrus provide us with folic acid. Try a French Lentil Salad with Arugula & Balsamic Vinaigrette and Spinach Salad with Oranges, Peas, and Pesto. (Bonus: Vitamin C from oranges helps the body absorb iron from spinach; iron provides hair follicles with the essential nutrients for strength.)
Additionally, seek foods high in omega 3 to balance your omega 3:omega 6 intake. Most Americans eat omega 3s in a ratio of 1 part to 20 parts omega 6 (or more). The ideal is closer to 1:3 or 1:1. Omega 3s will help keep hair and scalp hydrated, prevent dandruff, and give you a brighter mood to go with that bouncy hair. Find omega 3s in cold water fish, grass-fed beef, blue-green algae, chia seeds, hemp seeds, flax seeds, and walnuts.
For sustainably gorgeous hair, treat your hair to the nutrients it needs, inside and out.
Because healthy hair goes with everything.
Host of An Organic Conversation
Contributing Editor for Credo Beauty