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Luscious locks

From top haircare tips to natural hair dyes, dandruff and hair-loss advice

”There are many undesirable ingredients in conventional hair care products, from parabens and other synthetic preservatives to silicones and petroleum-based compounds," says Niamh Larkin, beauty specialist at Evergreen in Mainguard St, Galway. "these can cause skin irritation and be harmful to the environment."

Ingrid Hume of beauty company pravera agrees: "Conventional shampoos are made from generally synthetic ingredients that help to remove dirt and daily build-up but they can also strip the moisture, natural oils and nutrients out of your hair."

Going natural

"Making a change to natural and organic hair care products may feel daunting especially if you have used the same product for years," says Ingrid Hume. "However, for many, once you have made the change you will be wondering why you didn't do it sooner! Natural shampoos use ingredients from plant extracts and oils. They do not contain harsh or synthetic ingredients and will cleanse the hair and scalp just as effectively as conventional branded shampoo. Natural shampoos include ingredients such as avocado, pomegranate, grapeseed oil, macadamia oil, aloe vera and apple to leave hair manageable and feeling well cared for."

"Natural hair products typically contain better quality ingredients," says Niamh Larkin. "Coconut and other food-based foaming ingredients make shampoos milder and more gentle on the scalp while still giving that foamy clean feeling. Jojoba oil makes a great alternative to paraffin in scalp oils, as well as to silicones in conditioners. Natural, plant-based ingredients work with your skin and hair long term to improve both scalp and hair by addressing the cause of the issue rather than masking it."

Other great natural ingredients include nourishing calendula extract, jojoba oil, vitamin E and sea kelp. You can find a wide range of shampoos and conditioners in health stores and also some natural and organic styling products.

What about dyeing hair?

"Conventional hair colours can damage the hair irreparably," says Ingrid Hume. "Peroxide and the colour pigments are considered carcinogenic. Hair dyes which use plant-based ingredients such as henna are much kinder to the hair and scalp."

"Henna is the most natural alternative to hair dye," agrees Niamh Larkin. "A conditioning plant extract with naturally high pigment, henna improves the quality, texture and volume of hair as well as naturally staining it, giving the appearance of dyed red/brown hair. Henna powder is more concentrated than henna cream and lasts for up to 30 washes. Because of its high pigmentation, henna does not need any synthetic dyes, peroxide, PPD, ammonia, parabens or any other nasties commonly associated with hair dyes. No peroxide means it cannot lighten the hair, but leaves dark hair with fantastic volume and shine."

Losing your hair

"the hair growth cycle can be easily disrupted for numerous reasons, such as health problems, childbirth, hormonal changes, over-styling - and stress," says Dr Jan Wadstein who works with the National Hair Council and Nourkrin.

"The sooner you react to a disrupted hair growth cycle, the better. Firstly, try to identify the trigger – something that occurred two to three months earlier – and ensure this has been addressed. Secondly, look for a treatment which contains the specific proteoglycans that can help rebalance the mechanism that controls the hair growth cycle. Studies show that in 97% of cases, a multivitamin will not help, because less than 3% of female hair loss is caused by a vitamin deficiency.

"Treating hair growth disruption requires replacing the ‘building blocks' that regulate our hair growth, known as proteoglycans. Marilex contains high levels of specific proteoglycans in the precise ratios which regulate hair follicle functioning. Proteoglycan replacement therapy has been clinically proven to help induce and prolong the growth phase of the hair growth cycle."

"Rosemary oil can be added to shampoos, conditioners or even to coconut oil and massaged into the scalp to stimulate hair growth," says Niamh Larkin. "B vitamins (specifically biotin) can be helpful when taken every day, either in supplement form or in foods like brewer's yeast. A few tips to reduce hair fall would be to stop using any heat on the hair (curling/straightening/blow-drying), leave hair down instead of tying up, and try to limit hair washing to once a week."

"Coconut oil is great for hair loss," says Ingrid Hume. "Massage it into the scalp to help restore hair growth. Massage helps to stimulate the scalp and can improve the thickness of hair."

Fighting dandruff

"There are many natural and organic dandruff shampoos on the market which will help condition the scalp and help dandruff," says Ingrid Hume. "Dandruff can also be eliminated at home using natural remedies such as essential oils. Tea tree essential oil contains a compound which possesses a powerful antimicrobial property that helps to reduce dandruff by supressing the growth of bacteria on the scalp. Add a few drops of tea tree essential oil to your shampoo and wash as normal."

"When I'm asked about dandruff my first port of call is to make sure it is definitely dandruff we are dealing with," says Niamh Larkin. "When someone has been using conventional shampoos and hair styling products it is not uncommon for a build-up of product to accumulate on the scalp. When this build-up begins to flake and fall, it can be very similar to dandruff. Often something as simple as switching to a natural (clarifying) shampoo can remove the build-up and have it good as new."

Hair health from the inside out

Biotin – found in brown rice, bulgur, lentils and oats, increases elasticity, protects against dryness and helps prevent breakage.

Vitamin A – found in cod liver oil, krill oil, spinach, carrots and peaches, helps the scalp produce healthy sebum, to prevent hair drying up and breakage.

Vitamin E – found in beans, leafy greens and nuts, helps increase oxygen uptake in the body's blood circulation.

Pantothenic acid, or vitamin B5 – found in whole grains and eggs, is believed to help reduce natural loss of hair and strengthen hair follicles.

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