How can I grow healthy hair?
January 10, 2011 10:00 AM   Subscribe

DonationFilter: What can I do to grow the healthiest hair possible?

So, after a series of wacky, heavily-colored hairstyles over the past several months, I finally decided to shave off all my hair and start over.

I have it in mind to grow out and ultimately donate my hair to a charity (such as Locks of Love or Pantene's Beautiful Lengths). I am aware of the requirements of these programs with regard to length, dyes, etc.

My only concern is that in the past, when I've grown out my hair, it has had the tendency of always looking dull, brittle, and damaged.

So, what can I do, over the long-term, to grow the healthiest hair possible this time around? Should I be taking supplements? Are there specific products I should be using? What about diet? How should I care for my hair, as it grows, on a day-to-day basis? What things should I avoid?

If it helps, my hair is naturally slightly coarse and wavy.

Any advice/tips would be appreciated! Thanks!
posted by LittleKnitting to Health & Fitness (20 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
try to avoid hairdryers and straighteners as much as possible
posted by raccoon409 at 10:06 AM on January 10, 2011

no dye or heat of course. try to only wash it 2-3 times a week if you can. I think "good fat" type oils, fish etc would be a good hair booster, such as avocado, salmon, olive oil. be careful not to use products that may inadvertently dry your hair out.
posted by supermedusa at 10:06 AM on January 10, 2011

Go no 'poo. It's all those corporate petrochemicals that are stripping your hair of its natural vitality. Trust mother nature and lay off the shampoo.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 10:07 AM on January 10, 2011 [2 favorites]

Use shampoo/conditioner on it as infrequently as you can allow yourself to, and do not use any sort of hair product unless absolutely necessary If you do, wash the product out as soon as you are able.
posted by griphus at 10:07 AM on January 10, 2011

By "product" I mean stuff like mousse, gel, straightner, etc. I don't know anything about stuff that is mean to specifically strengthen hair. However, I do know that the concept of "revitalizing" hair is complete bullshit. Once hair is damaged, it is damaged. Certain products can give it a healthy look and feel, but the actual hair on your head is not in any way made healthier.
posted by griphus at 10:09 AM on January 10, 2011

Avoid heatstyling if possible. I don't know if it's confirmation bias, but I've stopped using commercial shampoos and use brands from the natural foods store that don't have sodium lauryl sulfate and stuff like that, and my dyed hair feels better than it did when I didn't dye it.
posted by elpea at 10:12 AM on January 10, 2011

Just so you know, it has been the experience of several people I know that when you stop shampooing daily (if you do that now), hair was very greasy and unhappy for 2-3 weeks, and then fixed itself and was much healthier.

Which is to say, definitely nthing shampooing only a couple times a week, and never blowdrying or anything like that.
posted by brainmouse at 10:13 AM on January 10, 2011

I'm not growing my hair to donate, since I color it, but I haven't had a haircut in almost a year and even with the lightening, my hair is in great shape according to my stylist. My hair is currently down to the middle of my shoulder blades (at least 10" below the nape of my neck).

I'm down to shampooing once a week, if not every 10 days, and I use a hydrating, sulfate-free shampoo and and conditioner. Specifically, L'Oreal EverStrong Hydrate shampoo and conditioner. I leave the conditioner in for about 5 minutes before rinsing. I don't heat-style at all, including blow-drying. Towel dry, comb out and air-dry. I'll often just twist it in a knot until it's dry (which can take all day) and that gives me some curl and body.

Even with the coloring, I have no split ends, and shiny, healthy hair, with very little daily maintenance.
posted by Lulu's Pink Converse at 10:15 AM on January 10, 2011 [1 favorite]

I have it in mind to grow out and ultimately donate my hair to a charity

I honor your charitable impulse. However, if you're going to invest money in special supplements, shampoos, etc., it would probably be a lot more efficient for you to donate that money directly to charities that provide wigs, thus giving them the money to purchase hair and perhaps benefit someone who doesn't have other sources of income.
posted by Sidhedevil at 10:20 AM on January 10, 2011 [1 favorite]

Try more organic shampoos/conditioners. Olive oil hot oil treatments are supposedly better than store bought. Don't wash, style, etc. every day.
posted by stormpooper at 10:20 AM on January 10, 2011

I've been reading that a wood comb (detangler) is better than a plastic comb for your hair, (I'm still looking locally for one). Never use a brush on wet hair! When you use a brush, use a boar's hair natural bristle brush.

I've read that using the above will get rid of static in the hair, also.
posted by 6:1 at 10:22 AM on January 10, 2011

When I was eating basically an avocado a day, my hair grew like crazy pants. I don't know what your diet is, but if you improve it - more fresh food, more good fats like avocado - in my experience it does cause you hair and nails to improve. Drink a lot of water. More than your hair will benefit.
posted by Medieval Maven at 10:24 AM on January 10, 2011 [2 favorites]

Locks of Love has been criticized here and elsewhere; do a lot of research before donating. One interesting thing that came up on here the other day was that there are sites for buying and selling hair -- for example. Selling it and donating the money might be a reasonable route to go.
posted by kmennie at 10:31 AM on January 10, 2011 [1 favorite]

I've been reading that a wood comb (detangler) is better than a plastic comb for your hair, (I'm still looking locally for one).

Both Whole Foods and The Body Shop sell great wood combs. Yes, it is so much better for your hair than even the broadest silicone-dipped Swedish plastic combs! Definitely something the OP should invest in.
posted by Sidhedevil at 10:45 AM on January 10, 2011

healthy fats and zinc, iodine & biotin in your diet, the avocado is a great one but the others can be lacking in western diets.

When patients have gastric bypass surgery and their hair thins or falls out surgeons/nutritionists here recommend elemental zinc 30mg, iodine in Kelp (Health Food stores) and Biotin (B complex).
It's too late once it is actually growing out to affect the strength & lustre although many of the products mentioned here will add shine temporarily. You appear to be looking for something more substantial though.
posted by Wilder at 10:59 AM on January 10, 2011

Pre-natal vitamins are some people's swear-by. I think eating plenty of protein works well, at least for me. Pick up some whey protein and make smoothies.

But you don't actually need to shave it off--it's possible that even the colored parts can be gently brought back to happiness.
posted by Ideefixe at 11:04 AM on January 10, 2011

If possible don't use straighteners/hair dryers/electric hair curlers.

Maybe hot oil treatments and/or vinegar rinses... they do wonders for my hair and are inexpensive, they're worth a try.

oh, and if you swim often, the chlorine can really damage your hair.
posted by geegollygosh at 11:19 AM on January 10, 2011

I've heard that massaging and stimulating the scalp does wonders for hair growth and health. Hairdressers do it all the time when they wash hair so there might be something to it.
posted by patheral at 1:52 PM on January 10, 2011

i shaved my head almost 2 years ago, and although i am keeping my hair fairly short for now, i have been trying to keep it as healthy and awesome as possible. my hair is a little coarse and naturally wavy, likes yours.

recently, i switched from using regular shampoo and conditioner (Aussie) to using a Lush shampoo bar. if you have Lush where you live, i HIGHLY recommend you check it out. after a week of using the shampoo bar, my scalp felt completely different. i've been using it for 3 weeks now, and i love it. i don't have dry patches, i don't get itchy between washings, and my hair feels awesome all the time. it's incredible! and the shampoo bars are really concentrated, so a $10 bar will last you 4-6 months depending on how often you wash your hair.

good luck!

and, may i just say, you look GREAT!
posted by gursky at 7:41 PM on January 11, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks for the help, everyone! Great answers!
posted by LittleKnitting at 2:43 PM on January 12, 2011

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