Healthy Hair at Home

Kitchen staples could be the answer to your best hair yet
By Cara Lucas

Aging produces many challenges and maintaining healthy hair is certainly among them. As we age, our scalps produce less sebum, a waxy matter that coats the cuticle and keeps hair shiny. The hair growth cycle also slows, making hair thinner and finer. Add to that women’s fluctuating hormone levels (another contributing factor to thin hair) and it’s not shocking so few of us reach our golden years with the same lustrous locks we had in our youth.

If you’re looking for a good way to maintain healthier hair, start with this maxim: Be gentle. This can mean steering away from harsh chemical treatments, protecting your hair from the sun, or choosing the right cleansing and conditioning treatments for your hair type.

With hair care, as with most health and wellness issues, it’s a good idea to go as natural as possible—and it doesn’t get much more natural than using the affordable and healthy hair treatments that are already in your refrigerator, cupboards, or pantry (though you might not know it). These natural ingredients can enhance your best asset or act as a healing agent for damaged hair, says John Masters, creator of John Masters Organics hair product line.

“Organic olive oil and organic coconut oil help to moisturize. Organic apple cider vinegar can be used as a rinse to clarify hair, to help seal in hair color, and bring your hair and scalp back to proper pH levels after chemical treatments and swimming in chlorine,” says Masters.

You might think that the following formulas actually sound a lot like a delicious breakfast, but these aren’t meant for Saturday brunching—they are intended to care for your hair.

EGG:

All Hair Types

A raw egg can be a great solution for any type of hair thanks to its yolk, which is loaded with fats and proteins. This inside-out combo is a natural moisturizer: the egg white, which contains bacteria-eating enzymes, counteracts the yolk by removing unwanted oils.

Apply: If you have normal hair, use the entire egg to condition hair. Oily hair calls for egg whites only: for dry, brittle hair try using only the yolk.

Use half a cup of the aforementioned egg mixture, depending on what suits your hair type. Apply to clean, damp hair. If there isn’t enough egg to coat scalp and hair, use more as needed. Leave for 20 minutes, then rinse with cool water and shampoo hair.

LEMON + OLIVE OIL:

Itchy Scalp

To fight flakes brought on by poor diet, stress, or climate, try a lemon-juice and olive-oil mixture in your hair. Lemons contain alpha hydroxy acids which act as a gentle exfoliant to slough off loose skin cells. After the exfoliation occurs, the olive oil moisturizes the newly exposed skin beneath.

Apply: Mix two tablespoons fresh lemon juice, two tablespoons olive oil, and two tablespoons water, and massage into damp scalp. Let mixture sit for 20 minutes, then rinse and shampoo hair.

DAIRY:

Dull, Lackluster Hair Types

The main cause of dull hair is overusing styling products, but environmental pollution plays a role as well—all the buildup actually leaves a dirty film that dulls shine. Check your fridge now, because dairy products like sour cream and plain yogurt utilize their lactic acid to strip the grungy coating and inject moisture so healthy hair shines through.

Apply: Massage half a cup of sour cream or plain yogurt into damp hair and let sit for 20 minutes. Rinse with warm water, followed by cool water (to seal and lock in shine), then shampoo hair as you normally would. Treatment can be applied every other week.

AVOCADO:

For Frizzy Hair

Two words: Avocado. Mask. Packed with omega-3s, antioxidants, and vitamin E, avocado is packed with nutrients. Also, the oils in the avocado are very similar to those in our skin, and proteins boast the best combination of nutrients for smoothing and weighing down unruly hair.

Apply: Mash up half an avocado and massage into clean, damp hair. Leave it on for about 15 minutes before rinsing with water. Amp up moisturizing power by combining mashed avocado with one or two tablespoons of a hydrating ingredient, like sour cream, egg yolks, or mayonnaise.

HONEY MASK:

For Dry or Damaged Hair

Oily hair is no fun, but dry hair is even worse. Dry hair usually indicates damage of some kind. This could be from harsh external environments; exposure to certain chemicals; shampooing too often; overuse of the hair dryer, straightener, or curling irons; high mineral content in local water; or too much time in the sun.

Apply: Massage half a cup of honey into clean, damp hair, let sit for 20 minutes, then rinse with warm water. You can also add one to two tablespoons of olive oil to loosen the honey for easier application. For extremely damaged hair, trying mixing honey with one to two tablespoons of a protein-rich ingredient, like avocado or egg yolk, which will help replenish the keratin protein bonds UV rays attack.

For a conditioner, mix a cup of honey with half a cup of olive oil. (Use two tablespoons oil for normal to oily hair.) Using a small amount at a time, work mixture through hair until coated. Cover hair with a shower cap and leave on 30 minutes. Remove shower cap and shampoo as usual.

BAKING SODA:

Residue-Ridden Hair

Sodium bicarbonate is known to break down essentially anything acidic. So, if you want a clarifying rinse to get buildup and gunk out of your hair, this is it.

Apply: Mix one to two tablespoons of baking soda with small amounts of water until a thick paste forms. Massage into damp hair and let sit for 15 minutes. Rinse with water or apple cider vinegar, then shampoo hair.

CORNMEAL:

For Oily or Greasy Hair

Cornmeal (or cornstarch) is an inexpensive way to remove oil and grease from the scalp.

Apply: Pour one tablespoon cornmeal or cornstarch into an empty salt or pepper shaker and sprinkle onto dry hair and scalp until you’ve used it all. You can also apply a dusting to hair with a makeup brush. Shake or brush out any excess.

A good cleansing and conditioning routine are the basic steps to achieve healthy-looking, shiny hair. A quality organic diet, exercise, and proper rest are, of course, very helpful in enhancing your overall appearance.

Many of these ingredients can be used for more than one type of treatment. For instance, lemons can also yield natural-looking highlights. “Simply spray fresh-squeezed organic lemon juice into the hair and get a little sun. Repeat this daily until natural lightening occurs. This takes time but works,” says Masters.

If buying a premade hair treatment, make sure that all ingredients are certified organic. Masters says to look for jojoba oil, evening primrose oil, avocado oil, and essential oils for dry hair. For oily hair or dandruff, look for zinc and sage, and for damaged hair, steer toward ingredients like hyaluronic acid, essential fatty acids, vitamin B5, and soy proteins.