Hair Headlines: A Four-Step Plan

(This article by Kerry Camden appeared on the web site first, then appeared on MSN's "WomanCentral" in June 2000. They'd probably thank you for visiting their sites.)

No matter how you cut it, unhealthy hair can be a real problem. Many of us know it as the fried-locks look; others complain of itchy scalp and dandruff.

There's no magic bullet for making and keeping hair shiny, manageable and resilient, says Virginie Payoud, a top stylist at Frédéric Fekkai's Beverly Hills Salon, who has seen her share of lifeless hair.

"It's not just the style, the products, the repair of previous damage or the cut," she emphasizes. "It's all those things -- and the way you take care of your hair all the time."

Here are a few remedies and preventative steps you can take to keep your hair happy.

Everyday care

Hair is most vulnerable when it is wet, so be sure to handle it gingerly. Never brush wet hair, wring it or rub it vigorously with a towel. Before drying, squeeze out excess water with your hands; then wrap a towel around your head to absorb what remains. Detangle gently with a wide-tooth comb. Also, avoid unnecessary fussing. All friction is potentially damaging to the hair shaft so the more you fuss with your hair, the more damage you risk. Keep heat styling to a minimum, and use a heat-activated conditioning product as you style. Brush your hair slowly, gently and only when you really have to.

Shampoo savvy

Since no single shampoo contains every ingredient your hair needs, alternate between three or four periodically. Using several shampoos doesn't cost extra money, and you'll see and feel the benefits. Once a month, use a clarifying shampoo to perk up hair gone dull. Lastly, make shampooing a treat by adding a stimulating scalp massage to your routine. Pour shampoo into one palm, rub hands together, and gently apply pressure to areas where normal secretions of sebum and oil build up (the rest of your hair will be cleansed as you rinse).

Condition with care

Unless your hair is very dry, there's no need to condition your roots since your scalp naturally secretes enough oil and sebum to keep them moist. Use as little conditioner as possible, and work it into your hair from the ends up. If your hair is very oily, try skipping this step occasionally. For dry, damaged hair, leave conditioner in for three to five minutes every time you shampoo and once a month use a moisture-intensive hair mask. Finally, use conditioners that contain Panthenol, a derivative of vitamin B5. It's the only vitamin proven to penetrate the hair shaft, adding body and thickness.

A world of danger

Smoke, UV exposure, pollution, excessively dry or humid climates, dietary changes and medications can alter your hair's condition, so be aware of your environment. During winter, use a gentle, moisturizing shampoo or leave-in conditioner. For summer, use styling products that contain sunscreens.

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