September 4, 2021 — 9:02 AM
Everyone's beauty needs are different—what you do daily for your hair, skin, and body won't work for me. That's why beauty is a deeply personal endeavor, that we just happen to make collective. This is especially true with hair care: Not only do you have your hair type to worry about, but the scalp comes into play in a major way, as does your lifestyle. So even things as basic as detangling can result in multiple and conflicting "rules" to follow.
This all being said, there are some habits that really do work across the board. Case in point? These mistakes. Don't worry; we came armed with easy fixes:
1. Not protecting it from heat.
Heat styling—especially when it's a daily activity—does a number on your hair. Hot tools work by breaking down your hair's keratin bonds, so they can reshape them into a new texture (be it straight to curls via a wand or curls to straight via a flatiron). As you might imagine, this repeated process will affect the integrity of the hair's bonds over time. Heat can also do more surface-level damage to the cuticle by singeing the cuticle, leaving gaps and frays on the hair's outermost layer. In fact, "Hot tools can be even more damaging than hair color," celebrity colorist Rita Hazan notes.
One of the most important things you can do for hair health is to coat the strands with a barrier before even touching a blow dryer or hot tool. Heat protectants form a seal around the hair, essentially creating a buffer between the temperatures and your strand—and infusing the hair with antioxidants and moisture to help nurture it long term. (Check out our favorite clean and natural heat protectants should you be in the market.)
Finally, do be mindful of application: Be sure to coat your entire head of hair—that is, if you plan to style all of it. Just spritzing the front, top layers will do nothing for the rest of it (there's no transitive property in hair care, after all).
2. Only using topicals for hair health.
Topicals can do a lot of work for the hair you already have: A good mask can add a surge of moisture and nutrients. A scalp scrub can lift off debris and buildup, unclogging hair follicles. Or leave-ins can help your hair retain hydration in the strand and full, lush hair throughout the day.
But these aren't doing anything for the hair you're growing in. And no matter how much styling product or fancy creme you put on your strands, it's not going to do much if your hair is weak and needs structural support from the get-go.
This is why hair experts often recommend collagen or biotin supplements.* Collagen supplements are made of hydrolyzed collagen peptides—which are basically just short chains of amino acids.* Amino acids are the building blocks of keratin, the protein that makes up your hair. By supplying your body with adequate nutrients, you encourage scalp health and, ideally, overall hair health.* (Check out our all-time favorite collagen supplements here.)
Biotin, an essential B vitamin, also plays a few key roles in the health of your hair.* (Actually, thinning hair and hair loss are very common symptoms of biotin deficiency and can be supported with a supplement, although biotin deficiency in the U.S. is rare.*) See, it is believed to naturally promote healthy hair growth because it is also involved in the production of keratin.* In one small study, women with thinning hair reported significant regrowth when supplementing with biotin as compared to those given a placebo.*
As for taking them together? Well, the two nutrients play nicely with each other. "Collagen and biotin are both safe, well-tolerated cosmeceutical bioactives, supporting hair, skin, and nail health,"* says Ashley Jordan Ferira, Ph.D., RDN, director of scientific affairs at mindbodygreen. "But they have their own unique and individual mechanisms for structurally and functionally doing that, hence the reasonable potential for synergy in combining them. Both collagen- and biotin-containing foods and supplements provide key nutrients or building blocks for our body. Collagen provides macronutrient—protein—nourishment and critical amino acid building blocks. Biotin provides an essential water-soluble B vitamin (B7), which acts as a versatile cofactor in a variety of bodily functions."* Learn more about taking them together in our guide to biotin and collagen.
3. Mistreating the scalp.
Despite the plethora of scalp care products—and the surge of interest and education in the last several years—experts note that people are still mistreating their scalp. There are the people who leave on product, dry shampoo, and buildup for far too long without giving their scalp a proper exfoliation; on the other end of the spectrum, there are those who overdo it with cleansing and strip their delicate skin of its natural oils, throwing sebum production out of sorts (much like you can do with the face).
Only you will know what your particular needs are based on your scalp, hair type, and lifestyle. "It really just comes down to education: Learn about the different factors at play when it comes to your scalp and hair health, then you can adjust your behaviors based on that," says certified trichologist Shab Reslan about listening to your scalp.
If you need help translating your scalp's language, there are several signs to look for that can help you figure out what the issue is. If you are experiencing buildup, signs of inflammatory processes, and large, waxy flakes, it's a sign that you need to exfoliate more. On the other end of the spectrum, if the skin is tight and produces small, white flakes, it may be a sign your scalp is too dry and you need to moisturize with scalp oils.
If you are pregnant, breastfeeding, or taking medications, consult with your doctor before starting a supplement routine. It is always optimal to consult with a health care provider when considering what supplements are right for you.