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6 Steps to Healthier Hair

Plus, Styling Tips for Thinning Hair

WebMD Health News

July 30, 2004 (New York) -- Using the wrong gels, combs, or accessories can wreak havoc on your tresses, resulting in hair damage and loss. But simple steps including choosing the right product can add luster to your locks, says a dermatologist speaking at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Dermatology.

"Hair breakage is the most common cause of hair loss," says Zoe D. Draelos, MD, clinical associate professor of dermatology at Wake Forest University School of Medicine in Winston-Salem, N.C. "The first step is to recognize the factors responsible for lackluster hair in order to learn how you can change your hair-care regimen to improve it.

Don't Scratch

"When people scratch their scalp, they also scratch their hair," she says. The average person with dandruff will scratch their head for 90 minutes a week, she says, and that can result in breakage and loss. If you've noticed dandruff -- white flakes from your scalp -- you can try a dandruff shampoo. Most of these are now formulated so that they are gentle enough to use every day. If that doesn't take care of it, talk to a dermatologist about what treatments may relieve the itch.

Be Gentle With Long Hair

"Long hair is weaker at the ends," she says. Thus, "yanking, pulling, stretching, or combing or brushing it for 100 strokes a day is not a good idea," she says. If you have long hair that is damaged, consider switching to a shorter style to improve your hair's overall appearance.

Use Better Styling Tools

"When choosing a comb, look for a broad-tooth comb with smooth, rounded teeth that easily slips through hair," Draelos advises. "Or a widely-spaced brush that won't damage hair."

Also, "be careful with hair clips and tight-fitting rubber bands because anything that crunches, crushes, or squashes the hair can result in damage," she says. Rather than using rubber bands for ponytails, choose fabric scrunchies that loosely hold hair together.

Splurge on Hair Cuts

"Make sure you choose a trained stylist for a quality hair cut with sharp scissors," she recommends. Any defect in a scissor blade can crush or damage the hair shaft, predisposing it to split ends. "Also get frequent trims."

Avoid Products That Promise Long-Lasting Hold

"Products should leave hair flexible, not stiff," she says. Stiff styling products that promise "long-lasting" hold can actually jump-start the breakage process when you try to restyle your hair by combing it.

Avoid Excessive Hair Coloring and Bleaching

"The basic rules of hair dyeing are always staying within your coloring group, preferably dyeing hair no more than three shades from your natural color," she says. Also, try and avoid excessive chemicals. "Permanent waves that add body can ultimately weaken the hair shaft."

While getting hair relaxed can weaken hair, it can also facilitate length in people with kinky hair since it will be less likely to break when it is combed. Also, she says, hair thins with age, so chemicals used should be weaker then those used during one's younger years.

Brush Up on Beauty

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