Skip to content

Better Hair Now: Ask the Hair Health Specialists

Stylist Jim Shaw and Dermatologist Nicole Rogers, MD answer your questions about how to get better hair -- from nutrition, to treatments, to lifestyle changes.

Question:
I am a senior citizen and my hair is very dry. Is there anything I can use to help with my dry hair?
Answer:

Jim Shaw: Make sure you use a moisturizing shampoo followed by a conditioner. You can also use organic oils to finish your hair and give it shine. Doing this can make your hair feel restored and renewed.

Question:
I am a 47-year-old woman with fine, thinning hair that gets frizzy when I blow-dry it. I think the cause is either the medications I take or vitamin deficiency due to gastric bypass. Are there any products I can use to add volume and shine to my hair, and to reduce the frizz?
Answer:

Shaw: When drying your hair, make sure you are using the proper brush for the length of your hair. To reduce frizz, direct the hair away from your scalp when brushing it. I also suggest trying products that include "anti-frizz," or "volume," or "shine" components. It can be a lot of fun to try new products. But if you don't like a hair care product you've bought, give it to your stylist. If you don't have a stylist, find one who loves what they do.

Question:
My hair is curly. After I wash and dry it, it gets big and frizzy. I already use a conditioner. What else can I do to reduce the volume of my hair and make it more manageable?
Answer:

Shaw: I recommend using products that are USDA certified organic. They work best with curly, voluminous hair that can be hard to manage. Try a USDA certified organic oil or cream to reduce frizz and volume.

Question:
I love the look of highlights, but I'm concerned about the process. Is it safe? Can it damage my hair?
Answer:

Shaw: Chemicals are chemicals. And you are certainly using them at your own risk when you choose to. Be sure to do your research on any hair care products before using them at home. For the health of your hair -- and the success of your color -- I suggest you always have your highlights done in a salon by a licensed stylist. I also recommend going to a color specialist for your color requests. Ask the manager of the salon to schedule you with the top colorist, especially for your first coloring.

Question:
What are the best types of conditioners to use for dry, wavy hair that has been colored?
Answer:

Shaw: I recommend using products that are USDA certified organic. We use them a lot in our salons and the results are amazing!

Question:
Is it true that cutting your hair can make it grow back thicker and healthier?
Answer:

Shaw: Healthier, yes. But thicker, no.

Question:
As an actress, it's often required that my hair look thicker and longer than it actually is. Can using extensions damage my real hair? Is it better to use hair extensions made from human hair rather than synthetic hair?
Answer:

Shaw: Friction causes erosion. So wearing hair extensions against you hair and scalp can erode your real hair. And the damage can become more noticeable after multiple uses. If you choose to wear extensions I recommend human hair over synthetic. Seeing the same stylist for your hair care is important here, because your stylist can work with you to help protect your real hair. It's great that you're concerned because your hair is part of your image. If you do not take care of it, no one else will.

Question:
I wear wigs pretty often. But I like styling my own hair, too. When I wear a wig, what should I do to protect and care for my real hair underneath so that it stays healthy and manageable?
Answer:

Shaw: Make sure you keep your scalp clean. It gets hot under wigs. So use a conditioner on a regular basis. Brush any tangles out of your hair before and after you change your styles.

Question:
If I want to change the color of my hair, is it healthier to dye it a darker color than to dye it a lighter color?
Answer:

Shaw: The lighter you make your hair color, the dryer your hair can become. And dry hair is NOT healthy hair. If you color your hair, make sure to use shampoos and conditioners with no sulfates. Ask your stylist about coloring your hair.

Question:
My hairdresser takes great care of my hair. But he doesn't know how to style it like I want. What can I do?
Answer:

Shaw: Fire him. I tell my clients all the time, if they don't absolutely love their hair, fire me! Ask your stylist to recommend another stylist in his salon. Trust me, both of you will be happier.

Question:
My stylist micro braided human hair extensions into my real hair, and it took eight hours! How long can I wear the micro braids without damaging (or losing) any of my real hair?
Answer:

Shaw: I can't say exactly, because it depends on how tightly the hair is braided in and how well the braids were done. The tighter the braid, the more breakage and loss of real hair you may experience.

Question:
I usually wear my hair in large, hanging curls. Sometimes I put rollers in it and sit underneath a hooded dryer to set my curls. Other times I just curl it with curling irons. Is one method better than the other for the health of my hair? Both require a lot of heat.
Answer:

Shaw: You're right. They both require adding heat to your hair. The rollers eventually cool. But you’re curling iron is made to stay at the same temperature, whether high or low. Whether you're using rollers or a curling iron, remember not to curl your hair too tightly or create a lot of tension at your scalp. With either technique, too much tension can cause the hair to snap off. Use a heat protecting spray before curling in order to help guard your hair as you style it.

Question:
How are lace front wigs added to your real hair? What are the downsides to wearing them?
Answer:

Shaw: A stylist starts by braiding your real hair. Then a lace front wig is sewn into your braided hair to cover it. No matter what it is, attaching anything to your scalp and your hair can cause it to erode over time.

Question:
I am 23 years old. My hair is getting rougher and coarser, day by day. Can you suggest some hair oils or any natural ways to make my hair look and feel better?
Answer:

Rogers: First, I would investigate why your hair seems to be changing. Be sure you are not over-treating your hair with heat or chemicals. Second, try to find a good deep conditioner that will help seal the cuticle after you shower or swim. Finally, you may need to add a daily moisturizing product to your hair. Many salons sell "hair repair" products that contain daily moisturizing elements, such as dimethicone (an ingredient in body moisturizers), linseed oil, sunflower seed oil, or tocopherol (vitamin E). Some African-American women use shea butter, coconut oil, or even aloe vera gel to add moisture back into their hair.

Question:
My hair is not thick, but I would like it to be. How can I get thicker hair?
Answer:

Rogers: There are various cosmetic products available, both over-the-counter or through your hairdresser, that can "thicken" the hair by coating the cuticle with various ingredients that make the hair look fuller. Some of these contain either wheat protein or other waxy residues that add body to the hair. But they only work up until they are shampooed out.

Men can either take FDA-approved Propecia (finasteride) orally each day, or apply topical Rogaine (minoxidil) to make their hair grow thicker. Women can also use topical Rogaine. In some cases women may benefit from taking oral finasteride or oral spironolactone.

Question:
I'm an athletic man who goes to the gym multiple times a day. So I'm forced to take multiple showers. Can washing my hair more than once a day lead to baldness?
Answer:

Rogers: Absolutely not! You may shower as much as you please. It will not cause your hair to thin or fall out. In fact, good scalp hygiene is always a great idea to ward off yeast or bacteria that may occupy the hair follicle and possibly cause skin conditions, such as seborrheic dermatitis (dandruff) or folliculitis.

Question:
I'm in my mid-40s and my hair is noticeably thinner. Could I have just been oblivious to my thinning hair up until now? Could there be any environmental factors -- something going on in our world -- that may be causing women's hair to get thinner as they age?
Answer:

Rogers: It is more likely that you are suffering from a gradual onset of female pattern hair loss. There are various other conditions that can cause hair loss. So if you're not sure, the best idea is to see a board-certified dermatologist who will examine and diagnose your hair loss condition.

Question:
I suspect that a drug I've been taking daily for 20 years is making my hair fall out. How long do I have to be off this drug before my hair grows back?
Answer:

Rogers: You should allow a minimum of 6 months to see hair re-growth. But it may take up to a year for your original hair thickness and density to return.

Question:
My hair has become brittle and frizzy, even dry enough that it melts when I use a blow-dryer! I color my hair once every six months. Could the coloring be causing my brittle hair? If not, what else could it be and how can I fix it?
Answer:

Rogers: Coloring your hair should not damage the cuticle too much, especially if you are only doing it every six months. It may be that you are using excessive heat or pulling on your hair too much to straighten it every day. Some women can develop “bubble hair,” which is the formation of small gas-containing cavitations along the hair shaft from excessive heat. You may also have weathering of the hair shaft from swimming in a highly chlorinated pool or from sun exposure.

Question:
My hair will not grow anymore! It breaks and sheds so badly. I take verapamil and lisinopril for my blood pressure. Could these drugs be affecting my hair? What can I do to grow my hair back?
Answer:

Rogers: It is unlikely that one of these drugs is responsible for your hair breakage, as this is something that is usually due to over-processing, meaning overuse of heat, relaxers, or other harsh chemicals on the hair shaft. However, if your hair is shedding, and the onset of shedding was around the time you started one of these medications, it may be worth going off of one at a time for 3-6 months to see if the hair regrows -- with your doctor’s permission, of course. If this does not resolve your hair loss, see a local board-certified dermatologist who can evaluate your hair loss.

Question:
I take medication for hypertension and my hair is falling out. My doctor stopped prescribing the medicine that he thought to be the cause. So how can I get my hair to grow back now? It has become really thin.
Answer:

Rogers: This can be a difficult puzzle to solve. If the hair does not regrow within 6-12 months of stopping the medication, it might be worth getting a scalp biopsy and possibly some blood work. There could be another cause of your hair loss, such as inherited male or female pattern hair loss, thyroid abnormalities, low iron stores, and so on.

Question:
My hair falls out a lot when I let it grow. What can I do to stop this?
Answer:

Rogers: It may not be that your hair is falling out more, but that it looks like more hair is lost because the strands are longer.

Question:
Are keratin-infusing products and therapies safe for your hair?
Answer:

Rogers: Unfortunately, these products contain formaldehyde or gluteraldehyde, which are much stronger relaxing agents than the thioglycolate that is typically found in most relaxing products. Keratin is the window dressing on most of these products because they can still damage the hair and make it very brittle. Repeated use of these products, too close together, can compromise hair strength and result in breakage. Consumers should also be aware of the fact that some Brazilian treatments have much higher formaldehyde content than is allowed by FDA guidelines. These can result in damage or irritation to the eyes, throat, and lungs.

Question:
Are there any vitamins or dietary supplements I can take to make my hair look healthier and grow stronger?
Answer:

Rogers: Most people living in America receive enough of the vitamins and minerals needed for healthy hair through their diet and daily multivitamins. I do not routinely recommend any additional vitamins or supplements for healthier hair, unless a specific deficiency has been identified in a person’s blood work. Low ferritin -- a marker of the body’s iron stores -- can often be supplemented, as can vitamins D and B12. However, be cautious of over-ingesting certain supplements, such as vitamin A, arginine, or selenium, which can actually cause hair loss at very high doses.

Question:
The hair around my temples is getting thinner. What can I do to restore my hair to its original thickness?
Answer:

Rogers: Whether you are a man or woman, you may benefit from topical Rogaine (minoxidil). Rogaine is FDA approved to regrow hair in the vertex of the scalp. But it can also help thicken the hair around the frontal hairline. Men can also benefit from taking oral finasteride (Propecia). Both treatments will require at least six months of use in order to see a nice difference. If you are not satisfied with the results after one year, you might also consider hair transplantation.

Question:
What is the best way to prevent hair loss for men? What can I do if I've already started balding?
Answer:

Rogers: You may benefit from oral finasteride (Propecia) or topical minoxidil (Rogaine) applied to the affected areas daily. Propecia works by inhibiting the conversion of testosterone to DHT (dihydrotestosterone) at the level of the hair follicle. This reaction halts the ongoing hair miniaturization process and helps to regrow new hairs while thickening original hairs.

Question:
What can I do to prevent my kids from getting head lice? We've already treated our son for lice -- partly by shaving his head -- and I really don't want to do the same thing to my daughter.
Answer:

Rogers: The best prevention of head lice is avoidance of other kids who have lice. However, this can be difficult with school-age children who frequently have sleepovers and spend time in close contact. Encourage your children not to share their combs, hair brushes, hats and the like with other kids unless you are certain no lice are present. New prescription items such as Natroba (topical spinosad) will also make the treatment of lice easier with no nit combing required and no risk of systemic toxicity.

Question:
Are all-in-one shampoo and conditioners as healthy for my hair as washing with separate shampoos and conditioners?
Answer:

Rogers: These conditioning shampoos are designed to clean and condition in a single step. They may have both a negative charge and a positive charge so they can clean and condition at different pH values. They are best for persons with chemically treated hair, or those who like to shampoo often. They work well for oily hair and are certainly as healthy for your hair as washing with a separate shampoo and conditioner.

Question:
I swim a lot -- for fun and for exercise. Is there anything extra I should be doing to keep my hair healthy?
Answer:

Rogers: This depends on whether you find that the pool water is changing your hair color or texture. Most brunettes do not have a problem under these circumstances. But some blondes can develop a greenish tint to their hair if there are copper ions dissolved in the pool water -- a reaction that is mostly related to old copper pipes, and not chlorine, like most people think. You can prevent this reaction by washing your hair with special swim shampoos that can help isolate and remove any copper ions in your hair.

Question:
I've tried all kinds of antidandruff shampoos and nothing has worked. What else can I do to get rid of the flakes?
Answer:

Rogers: You may want to see a local board-certified dermatologist in order to better investigate the cause of your scalp flaking. You may have psoriasis, which is a chronic condition that often does not resolve unless topical steroids, UV light, or other systemic medications are used.

Question:
I'm a 43-year-old woman. I wore a part on the right side of my hair for a long time. When I noticed that my hair in that area was starting to look thin, I started wearing a part on the left side instead. I've been doing this for about 6 months now, and my hair on the right side still doesn't look any thicker. Could it be like this forever? Is there anything I can do to correct it?
Answer:

Rogers: Unfortunately, it is not parting our hair that causes hair loss or hair thinning. Up to 40% of women suffer from a condition called female pattern thinning which is similar to male pattern balding, but different in that the frontal hairline stays intact. The hair loss results from a gradual miniaturization of individual hair follicles over the frontal 1/3 to 1/2 of the scalp. See your local board-certified dermatologist for more information and treatment options.

Question:
I visit a stylist every two weeks for a wash and style. In between those times, I style my hair daily, but I don't wash it. Could this be a problem?
Answer:

Rogers: It is probably only a problem if you have developed scalp bumps (folliculitis), scalp itching or dandruff (seborrhea or psoriasis), or tinea capitis (fungal infection of the scalp). If you are not having any of these symptoms, and your scalp appears healthy, there is probably no reason to change your regimen. As we get older the production of skin oils on the scalp declines, and it is not necessary to wash the hair as frequently as before.

Question:
I exercise daily and sweat a lot on my face and scalp. Could sweating and not washing my hair every day hurt it?
Answer:

Rogers: Really, there is no reason to feel that you must wash your hair daily. If you have any scalp itching or seborrhea, it may be wise to wash more often. Otherwise, sweat alone will not hurt your hair or otherwise cause it to fall out.

Question:
My daughters are on their school's swimming team, so they're always in chlorinated water. Can swimming caps actually help protect their hair while they dive and swim all week?
Answer:

Rogers: Yes. Swimming caps can be a great option to protect the hair. Other techniques include applying a hair conditioner before swimming, and rinsing the hair immediately after getting out of the pool. Swim shampoos also help isolate and remove any copper ions that may be dissolved in pool water, which may cause a greenish tint to develop in blonde hair.

Question:
What can I do to protect my hair from getting damaged while I sleep?
Answer:

Rogers: Probably the most important thing to do is to not wear your hair in a tight ponytail or elastic band while you sleep. The tension on the hair may result in hair breakage during the night. Also, if you have a tendency to pull or twirl your hair while you sleep, which you may not be aware of, you may benefit from wearing a silk or cotton bonnet or cap, similar to a shower cap. Just be sure the elastic is not too tight around your forehead and hairline. 

Thank you for joining us for WebMD Ask the Hair Health Specialists. Be sure to check in on Wednesday, Nov. 16, at 1 p.m. ET when we cover common hair problems. Sign up if you'd like an email reminder the day before the event.

WebMD Ask the Specialist Transcript

Reviewed by Nicole Rogers, MD on October 13, 2011

The opinions expressed in this section are of the Specialist and the Specialist alone. They do not reflect the opinions of WebMD and they have not been reviewed by a WebMD physician or any member of the WebMD editorial staff for accuracy, balance or objectivity. WebMD is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Never delay or disregard seeking professional medical advice from your doctor or other qualified health provider because of something you have read on WebMD. 

WebMD does not endorse any specific product, service or treatment. If you think you have a medical emergency, call your doctor or dial 911 immediately.