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Women with flowing shiny hair

The ultimate guide to shiny, healthy hair

5 MIN READ • 24th September 2021
Danielle Rawlings by Danielle Rawlings

It’s no secret that everyone wants shinier, more lustrous hair – just walk down an aisle in any drugstore and you’ll find sprays, hair masks and serums galore. But goodness knows there simply isn’t time in your ever-increasing list of things to do to research and try every hair care product and technique. So, to help you save time, we’ve gathered all you need to know to achieve healthy hair that looks like it’s been through the hands of a salon professional every week.

The science of healthy hair

Shine is essentially light reflecting off of a surface, and since light can only bounce off of smooth surfaces, your hair needs to be in tip-top shape to achieve its maximum shine. Products that contain oils and silicones like shine serums and shine sprays can serve as a quick fix, but they won’t help shine if you have brittle, rough and dry hair. Since everything from colour-treating your hair to heat styling causes damage and brittleness, we often find ourselves in a vicious cycle where we continue to perpetuate damage in order to make our hair look shinier in the short term. Even the way we wash our hair can leave it dull, as the rubbing of hair on itself roughens up that outer hair cuticle layer, leaving it dull and damaged, and strips away the natural oils and proteins that you need to keep your hair and scalp healthy. That’s why it’s important to maintain a healthy balance of short-term fixes with long-lasting healthy choices for your hair.

Short-term fixes for your daily routine

Wash your hair the right way

A gentle shampoo and a rich, moisturising conditioner can help to nourish your hair and smooth down your hair’s cuticles (the outer layer of each individual hair) for shinier hair. When you’re done washing, blast your hair with a cold water rinse for about three seconds to help seal in the conditioner. As lifehack.org says, this is a tried-and-true way to get smooth hair as the cold makes your cuticles close up and individual strands stay flat. Then, when drying, blot your instead of rubbing. Rubbing roughs up your hair and can cause breakage and frizz. Instead, give the longer sections of your hair a gentle squeeze with the towel to get rid of excess water.

Preserve your natural oils

Of course, it’s still best if you try to limit hair washing to three times a week if you can, to avoid stripping away the natural oils and proteins – braids, bedhead buns and twisted topknots are all great looks for those in-between wash days. If you’re prone to greasy hair, you can use a little dry shampoo in between washes to soak up excess oil, but try to avoid using too much as it can cause build up on the scalp and clog hair follicles, impeding hair growth. Some stylists even recommend using an apple cider vinegar rinse to help balance the scalp’s natural pH level, and coconut oil to prevent protein loss, which in turn increases shininess.

After-wash treatments

You can also keep your hair moisturised between washes with a leave-in conditioner or nourishing treatment. Choose a lightweight solution with nutrient-rich oils like avocado or olive oil, which smooth out the tiny cracks in the hair follicle that create frizz and dullness. Likewise, as faithinnature.co.uk explains, aloe vera can be used to nourish hair as it’s full of vitamins A, C and E, which are key contributors to the healthy cell growth necessary to encourage shiny hair. Almond oil can also be used to strengthen and repair damaged hair, according to Healthline, as it includes high levels of protein, omega-9 fatty acids and vitamin E, and diminishes friction during hair styling. Glosses also seal the cuticle like a top coat, creating a shiny finish. Get a clear one that works on all hair colours, or choose one that will help boost your specific hair colour and give it more life. Just don’t apply finishing products too close to your scalp, or your hair can look greasy.

Watch the heat

Cut down on heated styling when you can – whether that’s a flat iron, curling tongs or a blow dryer – as they will only hurt your efforts towards lasting healthy hair by removing moisture and burning its proteins. If you do use one, make sure to apply a heat protectant spray beforehand. Don’t apply a ton of product, though, as a sticky gel not designed to protect the hair can actually ‘cook’ it. Likewise, be sure not to hold the hair dryer too close to your lengths, to prevent split ends.

Take care when brushing your hair

Brushing your wet hair can cause excessive breakage and frizz, so it can be a serious shine-killer. “Be sure to use a wide-toothed wet brush, as this will reduce tension as you comb,” says Michael Shaun Corby, global creative director of Living Proof. “Hair is at its weakest when it’s wet, so it’s important to brush gently and dry thoroughly.” Likewise, a wide-tooth comb makes for a great detangler of damp hair, while a boar bristle brush would be the best way to seal the cuticle and distribute those sheen enhancing natural oils your scalp produces. Keep your brushes clean and free of dead hair, oil and product build-up by washing them once a month.

Long term fixes to your hair care

Protect your hair from the sun

Few things can leave your hair looking dull faster than UV rays beating down on it. Therefore, if you plan on having any serious fun in the sun, pack something to protect your hair much like you would sunscreen for your skin – think products with SPFs, or hats, scarves and parasols. Likewise, on hot, sunny days, think about what products or strategies you can use to keep your hair healthy and moisturised, and avoid hair damage.

Change up your diet

Perhaps unsurprisingly, healthiness starts from within, as your diet could have a big part to play in the condition of your hair. Studies show that Omega-3 fatty acid-rich foods like oily fish, eggs and chia seeds can help top up your hair’s oil reserves and amp up the shine. Likewise, make sure you’re getting plenty of protein, which is what hair is made from, with foods such as chicken, fish, dairy and eggs. Iron is also important to maintain the nutrient-rich blood supply, and vitamin C as it helps the absorption of iron, so snack on fruits and vegetables such as blueberries, oranges and broccoli. Zinc can also help you achieve a healthy scalp, so eat your whole grains and eggs.

Avoid stress

Much like your diet, stress plays a big part in your overall hair health, as it can severely affect healthy hair growth and hair loss. So for a full head of healthy hair, the less stress the better. Take time for yourself and try to incorporate techniques like mindfulness and meditation into your routine to maintain a calm, stable mindset, and make sure you’re getting enough sleep and exercise.

Try a different hairstyle

Whatever your hair type or hair texture – straight hair or curly hair – it’s more likely to catch the light when the strands are uniform. As much as we love our layers, they’re counterintuitive when it comes to reflectiveness. So if shine is your desire, get a blunt cut. Likewise, dark hair is naturally going to be shinier because darker colours are simply better light reflectors – so it might be an idea to go darker. According to the leading colourist and founder of The Hair Boss, Lisa Shepherd, glosses, root tints and taking your shade a couple of shades lighter or darker is absolutely fine. A deposit-only demi-permanent colour will not only liven up your pigment but can also work like a gloss by adding shine without chemically altering your hair. However, when you wash your hair, avoid shampoos that contain sulphates and silicones, as these can strip the colour and leave behind residue that can leave you with dull hair.

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