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Planning Retirement Online

Taking a shine to your hair

December 2011 

Shiny hairEven if you suffer from hair loss or hair thinning, it makes sense to make the most of whatever hair you have. Shining healthy hair helps to give an aura of wellbeing and can make an enormous difference to a person’s looks and also confidence.

Hair is probably more complex than most people realise, and despite its thinness, it is made up of several layers, including the medulla (the innermost region); the cortex (a highly structured middle layer that is the primary source of strength and water uptake) and the cuticle which is the outer covering. This outer cuticle layer is vital to help maintain moisture balance and give hair its strength and shine.

Naturally healthy hair will reflect light and therefore have an element of shine to it but the level of shine is very much dependent on how the light reflects off each strand. Straight hair reflects light more directly and therefore the hair will appear more shiny than curly or very wavy hair. Dark hair reflects light more obviously than blonde hair and therefore can appear glossier.

But whatever your type of hair, everyone should be able to achieve a level of shine and a fundamental to healthy shiny hair is a good diet.

Protein is the building block of hair but you also need carbohydrates which help assemble the proteins for hair growth. Iron is important along with B complex vitamins, folic acid and zinc. Vitamin A is important as it helps the scalp produce natural oils and vitamin E is useful because it helps the blood circulate in the scalp and assists in replenishing lost moisture in the hair.

Really, a good normal healthy diet should also serve your hair well; even the recommendations that you should start the day with a sensible breakfast make sense for hair growth as hair has its lowest levels of energy in the morning.

On top of diet, there are a range of tips that many models and others swear by to ensure their hair remains lustrous. Using professional shampoos are a key recommendation. Check the ingredients, some everyday shampoos contain harsh stripping chemicals that will certainly clean your hair but also remove any hope of natural gloss. Over shampooing is a common cause of dull hair as this can leave a small residue of protein after every wash which builds up over time. Chemical treatments such as colouring can dry out and even damage the hair, and with over treated hair it can be difficult to restore a natural sheen. Alcohol based products, even in special shine hair products, can produce long term drying effects on the hair reducing their gloss ability. Too much sun can dry and damage hair, and of course exposure to chlorine or even salt water in the sea is damaging and needs to be washed out.

Finally, heating appliances can strip moisture harshly from the hair and can remove natural shine.

So a little thought on what you use on your hair is important.

In the past, there were numerous tips for shiny hair and some of the old ideas were based on good sense:

  • Rinsing hair under cold water to close and protect the cuticle on the hair does work.
  • Massaging your scalp boosts circulation to this area which in turn can boost the production of natural oils on the head and hair, a key element is having naturally shiny hair.
  • Brushing regularly helps to spread the natural oils produced in the scalp right down to the ends of your hair. But that old adage of brush your hair 100 times a night is probably a bit too much - in effort and time as well as in the potential for extra shine.
  • Brush your hair well before washing; this removes all the loose dirt and leaves the hair strands clear for final cleansing by shampoo.
  • Let your hair dry naturally after washing rather than use a heating appliance.
  • Hairbrushes can cause enormous damage to hair; plastic hairbrushes are not forgiving enough and can damage hair. Brushing wet hair can also be a cause of damage, if possible just towel dry your hair and then leave until nearly dry before brushing.

There are a range of home made treatments (rinsing hair in vinegar or lemon juice etc) that can help to produce more shine, and of course there is an enormous range of commercial products to add health and shine to hair.

Many products are good at adding a coating of shine as a temporary measure; hairdressers can offer a lot of advice on obtaining naturally healthy shiny hair. Most people spend time on the style and cut of their hair; it is worth seeing what you can do to ensure maximum shine as well.

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The above article is part of the features section of called laterlife interest. laterlife interest contains a variety of articles of interest for visitors to written by a number of experienced and new journalists.

It includes both one off articles and also associated regular columns of a more specialist nature such as Healthwise, Gardener's Diary, our regular IT question and answer section called YoucandoIT and there's also 'It could be you' by Maggi Stamp laterlife's counsellor on human relationships. 

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