Saturday, May 21, 2011

Ban The Brush For Healthy Hair

We've all heard the recommendation: "If you want healthy growing hair, be sure to brush 100 strokes a day." But quite the opposite is true; the less your brush your hair, the better - especially if your hair is already damaged from chemicals or the environment. Your best bet is to trade in your brush for a comb that won't break hair.

When the "100 strokes a day" method first materialized, women washed their hair with soap just once each month, or once every three weeks if they were wealthy and had a lot of time on their hands. Serious brushing was needed each day to remove debris from the scalp and to evenly distribute the scalp oils down the hair shaft.

Without brushing so many strokes a day, this oil and debris would have built up on the scalp, leaving the hair looking unclean and unkempt. In addition, the ends would have become dry and brittle unless a substitute oil were applied. And, since scalp massage wasn't widely practiced, circulation to the scalp would have been diminished, seriously hampering healthy growth.

Fortunately, today we wash our hair much more frequently, and with slightly acidic shampoos that don't swell the hair shaft and cause cuticle damage like soap does. We also have a plethora of conditioners, both rinse-out and leave-in, that fortify and protect our strands.
Despite the modern hair care marvels, however, the advice to "brush 100 strokes a day" continues to persist. In fact, it's one of the top hair care questions I'm asked on a regular basis.

I always recommend against brushing 100 strokes a day and here's why:

Excessive brushing wears away the hair's cuticle - its protective covering. The cuticle becomes "roughed up" and catches on other hairs, causing matts and tangles. If the cuticle continues to erode, the inner cortex will be exposed and wear down, seriously weakening the hair. Once the cortex goes, the hair is likely to split and break off.

For women with shoulder-length and longer hair, and especially those who chemically process their hair, I recommend only using a brush when you absolutely must. Instead, invest in a smooth wide-tooth comb that won't break hair.

The best combs that won't break hair are handmade from cellulose acetate, a non-petroleum based material that's actually created from wood pulp even though it resembles plastic. Cellulose acetate is very tough and resists breaking, yet is smooth and flexible, allowing you to comb without hurting your hair or scalp.

I recommend that women with damaged hair use a comb anytime they would normally use a brush - to detangle, style, or to "comb out" before bed. Be very gentle, and always start combing from the bottom of your hair and work your way up as you undo any snarls.
When using a comb , you're more likely to take your time instead of tearing through it like you would with a brush. That's because a comb won't slide through tangles, even with a lot of force, like with a brush. You have to gently work out the tangle, which is ultimately better for your hair.

Instead of brushing as a way to stimulate the scalp and promote circulation, opt for a soothing scalp massage instead. Scalp massage is much more effective than brushing for promoting circulation, plus it doesn't affect the hair shaft if done properly. To encourage hair growth, be sure to massage with a mixture of thyme, rosemary, lavender, and cedarwood essential oils in a carrier oil such as grapeseed or jojoba. With regular use, this mix has been proven to correct temporary hair loss and promote new growth (Archives of Dermatology, 1998; 134:1349-1352).

Since the only way to "repair" split or severely damaged hair is to cut it off, it makes sense to prevent the problem in the first place. The first step is simple: ban the brush and opt for a smooth wide-tooth comb that won't break hair or cause excessive damage.

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