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Tips for growing long, healthy hair

January 17, 2012 12:00:00 AM PST
Stress, hormones, diet can all wreak havoc on the effort to grow longer, healthier hair. But a dermatologist says there are things you can do to reverse the trend.

Getting the look of long, healthy hair can be a struggle.

"I used to have really dry, brittle hair that would not grow," says Santa Clarita resident Vianey Arana.

Arana of Santa Clarita says the longer her locks got the more damage she'd see.

"Every time it would grow out a little bit, all of my ends were extremely fried and dead," says Arana.

"What you need to do is take care of your hair as soon as it grows out of your head," says Dr. Shirley Chi, a dermatologist. "So one of the things we can do is we can decrease the amount of damage that we do to our hair by heating it less and doing less chemical treatments to it."

Limiting the damage is the first step. And if you do color your hair, Chi says it's all about maintenance and picking the proper products.

"What I want you to do is look on the back of your shampoo bottles and look for the pH," says Chi.

To encourage healthy growth, Chi recommends buying a shampoo with a pH of 4.5 to 5.5 because it's less alkaline, more acidic, and it will protect your hair shaft.

Next, feed your hair. Eat a diet full of iron and protein like fish, chicken and green, leafy vegetables. Remember hair is one of the last tissues to get nutrients. So consider taking biotin supplements.

"I want you to take 5 milligrams a day," says Chi.

Sleep can actually damage your hair. Not the amount of sleep you're getting but how much you rub your hair on your pillow. Consider wearing a nightcap or a loose braid.

"Right before bed I put it in a braid, I sleep on my silk pillow and I go to sleep," says Arana.

To keep it healthy, Arana trims her hair every eight weeks and she's a big fan of moisturizing masks and natural oils like coconut or macadamia. Just make sure you're not allergic.

And Chi says don't waste your money on products that promise to give you longer, thicker hair. Inexpensive ones work just fine.

"For the money that you're paying, I would much rather you invest in a healthy diet, and maybe even take a yoga class because stress has been shown to decrease hair growth," says Chi.

"Right now I'm just really enjoying having long hair and I really do think everybody can have long hair," says Arana.

It just takes patience. Experts remind us it'll take three to four months before you'll see any improvement.

One more tip for longer hair: Chi says try to avoid using blow-dryers, flat irons or hot rollers whenever possible. If you have to blow-dry your hair, try to let it dry naturally for as long as you can and then just finish it with a dryer at the end.

Even putting on a heat-protective product won't completely shield your hair from damage.

See tips on how to take care of your hair.