How to Look After Your Hair and How to Keep it Content from the guide to life, the universe and everything

How to Look After Your Hair and How to Keep it

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A girl looking in a mirror whose hair is being burnt and blow dried

What do Julia Roberts, Jean Harlow, David Ginola, Noddy Holder, Rita Hayworth, Samson and Brian May have in common apart from notorious private lives and poor dress sense? Yep, they all have great heads of hair. Rarely out of the limelight, these stars of past and present are usually beautifully coiffed and curled - and this week we are trying to find out their secrets for healthy hair.

Curly Hair

The following is advice for all those Researchers out there who have curly hair and want to stop it frizzing up - stop touching it! The more you fuss with your curls, the more diffused they get, creating that oh-so-sought-after freshly electrocuted look.

One strategy of attack starts with mousse on freshly washed curly hair. Let the mousse dry naturally and then, if necessary, give it a quick once-over with a blow dryer to give it some lift. Then comb out the mousse-formed dreads that have developed with a wide-toothed comb (but do not brush it), and then resist the temptation to do anything else with it.

Okay, so you can give it a quick spritz of hairspray and apply some extra mousse or gel for a more polished look. Alternatively, you can go ahead and let it fry a bit under the blow-dryer to get it to look bigger and fiercer than it really is, but once you've got your desired effect it, leave it alone!

If you have extra time to spend with your hair, then once you've put the mousse onto it and it's still wet, take a bunch of strands about 2/3mm think and loosely twist them all together. Make sure that they're all close neighbours to each other otherwise it will end up a mess.

Work around most of your head in this way. You don't have to do all of it, but spread the effect out evenly. Then follow the drying tips above. The more you do, the more controlled it gets. What this does is reduce the frizz, but accentuates the curls and you end up with a shower of spiral locks.

The more hand-done locks you have, the more your hair weighs down. The fewer you have, your hair retains it's body giving it a fuller look. Whether this kind of styling works for you may depend on what kind of hair you have.

Shampoo and Conditioner

Make sure you rinse out all the shampoo, but further still, comb the conditioner out of your hair while rinsing it under the shower. Although your hair is already wet, a lot of the water is running over the surface of your hair. Combing your hair allows the water better access to your scalp and washes away the difficult-to-reach dandruff.

If your hair is limp and baby-fine, henna will give it body, shine and bounce. Its also available as 'clear' adding shine and softness without the red and blonde shades.

Any advice on 'too much washing dries out your hair' is more-or-less nonsense as the natural oils in hair are reconstituted after about 20mins; thus making it fine to wash your hair once a day.

Get Dreads

Yep, no fussing about with washing, drying, styling, or any of that rubbish. Dreads are cool and self-cleaning too! If you keep washing it, it just makes more grease. If you decide to have dreadlocks, your hair gets longer quicker, as the hair that breaks off your head stays in the dread instead of falling out. You also never need to buy a hair band again because you can tie your hair back with two dreads.

It's the best decision I've ever made. No fuss, no fiddlin' about. My rastas are a little chaotic, growing together and whatnot, but with time this too shall pass. Plus you get to stick all manner of beads and what not in your hair.


If you have wet or damp hair, you should towel dry it or blow-dry it so that it is almost dry. Otherwise, the atmosphere will pull out more moisture than you want and the hair goes brittle and dry. One stylist recommends a quick towel dry and a five-minute blast with a hair dryer. Also putting wet hair into a ponytail makes it more vulnerable to breakage. Just tie it loosely.

It is highly recommended to blot out the excess water by wrapping a towel round your head for a minute or two. Then comb your hair and let it dry

Hair dryers and rubbing with a towel are very detrimental in the long run, making your hair frizz. Rubbing your head or scratching produces a lot of sebum, which is fine if you wash frequently, but not nice when your hair is greasy already.

How to Cure Dandruff

The cure for dandruff is simple, install a water softener in your water supply as hard water can aggravate dandruff. This may necessitate a water filter as well to make your drinking water safe so be careful. However, it also means you need less shampoo which will improve the condition of your hair.

Dandruff is caused by microbes, not by build-up of shampoo, so don't share combs with someone who has dandruff if you don't already have it.

Cut and Dye

If you are over a certain age you need to be with a decent cutter at least every six weeks. It is also well attested that untouched grey hair will not get a woman an important job. Much as you dislike the idea, put some colour in it. These days DIY is easy. Men, however, are unlikely to make CEO with dyed hair.

Start off with something commercial that calls itself semi-permanent. The box will contain plastic gloves, colour, developer and conditioner. Read the directions three times. Put everything on one side and start again tomorrow. You need a plastic comb and an old towel. And follow the instructions!

If possible get a friend/teenage child to help you put the stuff on - perhaps a 'I'll do yours if you do mine' sort of arrangement. If it looks good, choose the same colour but permanent in 6 weeks time. Do the colour before you have the hair cut. Then, if it's completely awful, you can have a slightly shorter hair cut and it will grow out quicker. Go one shade lighter than your natural colour if you want it to look natural(ish) If you do the middle-aged black or red of Europeans, it's always going to look artificial, but it may also look very chic.

Simply Red

Many hairdressers say you should avoid any shade of red dye. This is because the vast majority of red hair dyes end up looking artificial. There used to be red hair dyes that looked natural, but they contained a chemical that was deemed potentially harmful, so nobody makes them any more.

In my first year teaching I had a Mary Quant haircut with burgundy highlights. One 14 year-old's reaction:

'Ee, miss, you've dyed yer 'air purple. In't it lovely!'

With a mini skirt and high-heeled white boots (in dirty Leeds!) I thought I was the bees' knees. Don't think I dare go that colour now even for Christmas.

From the Inside

Very few people realise that your hair is actually a good indication of how healthy you are. If you really want that extra healthy sheen for your hair and that extra zing, then you must eat lots of protein. Meat and eggs are good sources of protein. If you're a vegetarian, the best source is soya or other pulses.

Zinc is also vital for healthy hair and nails many high street chemists now sell vitamin supplements expressly for the encouragement of healthy hair and nails.


Below is a quick fire list of points to remember in order to maintain a health head of hair:

  • The ends of your hair should be trimmed every few months. Split ends will keep your hair from getting any longer, because the ends keep breaking off.

  • Refrain from brushing your hair until it's completely dry. The hair will untangle much more easily, and you'll break fewer hairs.

  • When your hair is wet, comb it with a wide-toothed comb. This puts less stress on the hair than using a fine comb or brush.

  • If you suffer from greasy hair, use a comb rather than a brush. Brushes, particularly stiff ones, can over-stimulate the sebaceous glands on the scalp, making the hair greasier.

  • Comb your hair before you wash it. This can make it less likely to get badly tangled during washing.

  • The less product the better. Stiff, hair sprayed or over-moussed hair went out with the Beehive hairdo.

  • Don't fall for the promises expensive shampoos and conditioners make. Hair is dead. Repeat, dead. No amount of special herbs, protein formulas, or secret salon recipes will ever change that. All products have the same base. Soap to clean it, and conditioner to cut down on the tangles and frizz.

  • There is one piece of obvious common sense which is... get a good hairdresser who can give you a good haircut - one that will stay right in all weathers and at all times of day.

  • Elastics are probably the worst things you can do to your hair as they can cause your hair to break. Its far better to use scrunchies.

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