- The Washington Times - Monday, November 29, 2004

Susan Frank had greenish undertones to her dyed blond hair, caused by product buildup and her hair’s interaction with the products she used, she says.

Stylist Jenny Schneider “was immediately able to correct that,” says Mrs. Frank, recalling her first visit. She has been a client of Miss Schneider’s for the past five years.

Today, Mrs. Frank has blond highlights on top of a darker layer of hair, cut short at mid-ear and angling to the back.

“She’s come up with a great way of highlighting my hair…. fashionable without being too edgy,” she says.

Hair can be damaged by improper shampoos and conditioners for one’s hair type and by blow drying, heat styling and chemically treating hair to excess, says Miss Schneider, head of the color department at Vidal Sassoon Salon in Tysons Galleria. Hair can respond by becoming dry, frizzy, flyaway and brittle, she says.

“The more often you do it, the more damage it will cause,” Miss Schneider says. “Hair can only handle so much before it says, ‘I’m done,’ and breaks off.”

Washington-area stylists and nutritionists offer advice for preventing damage to hair and restoring and maintaining hair health, both internally and externally.

“Who wants to walk around with damaged hair?” says Scott Gelding, training director at the Graham Webb Academy, a cosmetology licensing school located in Washington. “It’s not just for vanity. It’s for healthy reasons, too.”

Mrs. Frank, of Northwest, gets her hair colored every four to six weeks. She protects it with a deep moisturizing protein treatment after each coloring.

“My hair doesn’t look over-colored, and it’s still pretty shiny,” says Mrs. Frank, a lawyer for a science technology company in Tysons Corner.

The treatment Mrs. Frank uses to restore protein to her hair consists of 90 percent of a protein fiber called keratin and 10 percent of moisture, says Tracy Guthrie, national artistic leader for Color Works, a multiservice hair color salon based in Tysons Corner.

Hair can be damaged by improperly done chemical services, heat styling without use of heat protective products, and the effects of sun, wind and water, Miss Guthrie says.

Exposure to harsh chemicals and heat can damage the cuticle, the protective layer on the hair shaft, causing the hair to become fragile and more susceptible to split ends or breakage, says Dr. Paula Bourelly, assistant clinical professor of dermatology at Georgetown University Hospital.

“Hair is a protective surface, a protective covering, the first line of defense for your skin,” Dr. Bourelly says. “If it’s unhealthy, it won’t do the job.”

Damage can be done by repeated exposure to chlorine in swimming pools (prevented by using a bathing cap), crash dieting, use of certain medications, chemotherapy, malabsorption and malnutrition disorders and eating disorders. Psoriasis, a skin disorder, and hypothyroidism also can affect hair health, along with a number of gastrointestinal diseases.

“Everything we do can cause damage,” Miss Schneider says. “If you use the proper products, they will counteract the adverse effects.”

For example, shampoos, conditioners, treatments and styling products can contain ingredients that help lay down hair cuticles to restore hair’s health and shine. Treatments with protein, moisturizers or a combination of both can help restore the protein and moisture stripped out by a chemical process or other damaging factors.

“We’re strengthening the hair and putting back what’s been lost over time,” Miss Guthrie says.

To maintain that strength, a conditioner is recommended with the use of shampoo, says Ike Alabata, owner of Alterna, a consulting company in Beverly Hills, Calif. that provides product development for the personal care industry.

“The one word is maintenance. You have to have a good shampoo and conditioner for your hair type,” Mr. Alabata says.

However, once hair is damaged, the only way to get rid of the damaged area is to cut it off, says Snow Proudlove, manager of the Tysons Galleria Vidal Sassoon. The same goes with split ends, she says.

Miss Proudlove recommends getting a haircut every four to six weeks and a treatment every six to eight weeks to maintain hair health. Hair grows an average of a half-inch to one inch a month, anything slower or faster can be a result of genetics and diet, she says.

Protein malnutrition as well as a low intake of calories, generally less than 750 calories a day, can cause hair follicles to become thinner or hair loss, a condition also caused by a deficiency in zinc, says Stacey Snelling, a registered dietitian and associate professor specializing in nutrition at the Health and Fitness Department at American University.

Adding protein and calories to the diet can help restore hair to its optimal health, as determined by genetics, but will not provide any additional benefits, says Mrs. Snelling, who holds a doctorate in counseling.

“There are no supplements to take for healthy hair,” she says. “That just doesn’t help. There’s just not one nutrient needed for healthy hair. Really, it’s total nutrition.”

Certified nutrition specialist Sara Ducey recommends a diet rich in proteins that includes essential fatty acids to build hair strength and elasticity, sulfur-containing amino acids to provide hair growth and vitamin B to help build the physical structure of hair.

“We don’t just want to fix up broken hair from the outside. What we want to do is fix hair from the inside,” says Ms. Ducey, associate professor of nutrition at Montgomery College. “It will be more physically beautiful when you are well-nourished.”

A nourishing well-balanced diet includes fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean meats and fish, and if desired, a multivitamin with 100 percent or less of the recommended daily allowance, says Paige Allen, RD, LD (licensed dietitian) and clinical nutrition manager for Washington Hospital Center.

“If you’re looking to have a healthy body and healthy hair, you want to eat a healthy balanced diet,” Ms. Allen says. “If you have a deficiency in vitamins and minerals, your nails seem to become weaker. If you have an unbalanced diet, you might see it first in your fingernails, then in your hair.”

An unbalanced and unvaried diet can cause thinning hair, says Lisa Pawloski, associate professor of nutrition at George Mason University.

“Following that food guide pyramid is pretty good advice to make sure you get that variety of foods,” says Ms. Pawloski, who holds a doctorate in nutritional anthropology.

Ms. Pawloski recommends a diet low in saturated fats, processed foods and salt, and high in carbohydrates from fiber and whole grains, fruits and vegetables, and unsaturated fats.

“Hair is based on genetics, too,” she says. “Even if you do all the right things, it doesn’t necessarily mean you will have hair like the Pantene commercial. But diet does help.”

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