Locks looking more lacklustre than lovely? Check in to the hair-mare clinic and get to the root of the problem
By Justine Knight
There’s nothing like lank, greasy hair to make your self-esteem vanish. Sebum – natural hair oil produced by hormones – keeps your scalp lubricated, which is key for healthy hair. However, when sebum levels go into overdrive, the result can be a greasy mane that looks more stringy than sexy. “Oiliness tends to be linked with dirty locks, but it can also be triggered by hormone levels and even over-cleansing – as stripping the scalp of its natural oils can cause it to produce more to compensate,” explains Paolo Lai, top stylist at Holly Willoughby’s favourite pampering spot, Neville Hair & Beauty.
The tress stest
One day after washing your hair, take a piece of tissue paper and press it at your centre parting and behind your ears where the hair meets your scalp. Hold the tissue to the light. If you notice traces of grease, then your hair may be at risk of “oil spill” – but don’t panic and hit the shower as this could make the problem worse.
- “Step away from the shampoo,” says Paolo, who advises washing your locks less frequently to balance oil levels. “Try shampoo containing oil-balancing ingredients such as tea-tree oil.” We love Superdrug Naturals Tea Tree & Peppermint Shampoo, 79p (1).
- Keep conditioner away from the roots to stop your scalp getting greasy.
- Cut down on the number of styling products you use as each one will add to the oiliness.
- It’s normal to wash your hair every other day, but your hair will get used to whatever cleaning routine you sustain. Avoiding over washing is key.
- If you’re still oily, see your GP as you may need your hormone levels tested.
A fine line
“The first sign of thinning hair tends to be a general lack of volume, but more advanced thinning results in the scalp becoming more visible around the crown,” says Keith Hobbs, clinical director of The Institute of Trichologists.
“Although often hereditary, a slowed-down hair growth cycle can be linked to stress, poor diet and hormone fluctuations.” Keith also blames hair extensions and rough styling for making hair follicles weak which leads to thinning.
The tress test
To put shedding to the test, hold 15-20 hairs between your thumb and index finger, then pull slowly and gently. If more than six strands come out, you may have a problem. Alternatively, measure the circumference at the top of your ponytail to assess how much volume you’ve lost. Do this weekly to get an overall idea of how much thinner your hair feels.
- Keith prescribes some TLC and clever products. “First, avoid heated appliances and damaging styling techniques such as straightening as they can traumatise hair,” he says. “Then boost volume and scalp health with products such as Nioxin Hair System Kit 1, £23.95 (2), which contains a shampoo, conditioner and treatment loaded with antioxidants, botanical extracts and protein.” Try using this weekly.
- For serious cases, Keith recommends medicated solutions such as Regaine For Women, £25.52, which contains the active ingredient minoxidil to stimulate hair follicles and boost hair growth. Or try spraying on Toppik Hair Building Fibers, £26.95, to camouflage sparse patches.
- Trichologist Philip Kingsley recommends bolstering your diet with hair-friendly nutrients iron and protein, which are found in red meat, fish and eggs. Alternatively, you can try taking a supplement such as Philip Kingsley PK4 Hair Soya Protein Capsules, £22 (3).
It’s the splits
Trichoptilosis, aka split ends, might sound prehistoric, but there’s nothing extinct about the frizzy and flyaway finish they create. “Split ends are very common and are caused by dryness and damage,” says Paolo. They can also be aggravated by blow-dries, sun worshipping and chemical treatments such as bleaching and colouring.
Rub your fingers over the ends of you hair. Feeling rough? Uh oh, split ends are on their way. Luckily the brand-new Clynol Glow Precious Oil, £17.95 (4), helps achieve 90 per cent split-end reduction thanks to ingredient African marula oil, a superfine oil packed with antioxidants and smoothing oleic acid. Apply to damp hair, then wash and style as usual.The tress test
- If you can already see the splits, head straight to the hairdressers. “Trimming half a centimetre off your hair every six to eight weeks helps eliminate the damage that creates splitting and encourages healthy hair growth,” says Paolo. Invest in a moisture-boosting serum treatment too. We heart Kérastase Fibre Architecte, £34.50 (5), which boosts shine and hair strength to prevent those nasty little splits.
The flake escape
“Dandruff is a scalp condition caused by something called the malassezia globosa fungus, which naturally grows on everyone’s scalp,” explains Head & Shoulders principal scientist, Dr Rene Rust.
“The fungus feeds off the skin’s natural oils, creating by-products on the scalp. This leads to irritation and increased cell turnover which causes dandruff.” Nice. So the oilier your scalp is, the more the fungus has to feed on, increasing your chances of developing dandruff.
- “The best way to treat dandruff is to tackle the fungus at the root of the problem,” says Dr Rust who recommends anti-fungal shampoos. Head & Shoulders Anti-Dandruff Shampoo Classic Clean, £4.99, leaves hair flake-free, while Jason Dandruff Relief Treatment Shampoo, £9.49 (6), soothes away specks with rosemary and olive oil.
- If you suffer with a dry, flaky scalp, Philip believes it’s important to treat the problem from the inside. “Stress, hormone changes and a diet of salty, sugary and fatty foods can trigger excess oil on your scalp, so make sure you monitor your health,” he says. Protein will help promote healthy skin on your scalp, so try snacking on protein-packed nuts, seeds and prawns to boost your barnet.