While we try to keep ourselves healthy from head to toe, many of us forget about what’s at the very top of our bodies — our hair. But there’s good reason to want to keep your locks healthy.
Healthy hair can boost self-esteem, but it also plays an important role in other aspects of good health Plus, Your hair can be a window into what’s going on with your overall health. For example, a sudden loss of hair could signal that you’re experiencing too much stress or that you may have an autoimmune disorder.
Here, discover how to keep your hair in its best shape possible, so it’s as healthy and fresh as ever.
What Is Hair Exactly?
Hair is a thin strand, or filament, of proteins, and a major one is called keratin. Hair also includes some fats, called lipids, in the inner shaft. Each strand is covered by a cuticle, which is made up of dead cells that help to protect the hair.
Why It’s Important to Care for Your Hair
Hair serves a role in your health — beyond giving you a confidence-boost. Hair helps regulate your temperature, keeping you warm when it’s cold, and helping wick sweat when you’re hot. It also helps provide a little padding if you fall, and it may protect your scalp from the sun.
Speaking of the scalp, it plays a big role in your health, too. As a primer, the scalp is comprised of soft tissue, and it provides a spot for hair to grow (hey, hair follicles!) and protects you from foreign invaders that may cause infection.
The oil the scalp produces — called sebum — can protect the skin from the sun, and it has an antimicrobial property.
Still, Dr. Wattenberg notes that the oils can also cause odor and infection — which is why you want to practice good hair hygiene!
What Does Healthy Hair Look Like?
Just like there’s a wide array of hair types, there is a significant range of signs of healthy hair. “Healthy hair is hair that is free of breakage and split ends and is achieving its maximum potential for your particular hair type,” says Lamb. “So, for example, if you have a curly hair pattern, it might not be ‘shiny,’ but as long as during washes you are not experiencing excess loss or breakage, your hair is healthy,” Lamb adds.
According to the experts interviewed, these are some of the main signs of healthy hair, though they may not apply to all hair types. “We have to be careful not to define hair health by certain cultural standards,” says Lamb.
- Exhibits little breakage and minimal shedding
- Does not break when it’s brushed
- Does not contain dandruff
- Reflects light
- Has sheen and luster
- Contains moisture