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Top To Bottom: 10 Tips To Strengthen Your Hair Follicles & Protect Your Ends

A full gorgeous head of hair requires constant care from root to tip.

Hair

Whew, y'all. In this never-ending quest to gain some inches on this natural-haired head of mine, something that I've learned the hard way is that, while every part of our strands are important, you aren't going to get the results that you want if you're not giving the roots and the ends of your hair all of the TLC that it needs. And that is what we're going to tackle today. In order to have long and healthy hair (like YouTubers such as TheDaletiá, Janet Davies, Timaloveslemons, Maryam Hampton, All Things GhoCee and a host of others), you've got to nurture your hair follicles and preserve your ends. Here are 10 tips (five for your follicles and five for your ends) that will help to get you there.

1. Hair Follicles: Watch the Heat

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Heat is an interesting topic when it comes to maintaining the health of your hair. I say that because, I'm actually someone who does a blowout every wash day and, ever since I've added that to my hair maintenance routine, I've seen more progress. For me, the key is to deep condition, apply thermal heat protectant, let my hair dry on its own about fifty percent or so and then use a dryer on a cooler setting. Doing this keeps my hair stretched (so that it's manageable with less fairy knots and tangles) which is a good thing.

Actually, what a lot of people don't realize is heat on your hair can actually benefit your hair follicles because it helps to encourage blood flow to the scalp. What you have to be careful of, though, is not applying heat that is too hot (like putting your blow dryer on high) or using heat too often. If you do, that can actually result in permanent damage to your hair follicles (which can ultimately result in hair loss). Even if you are able to dodge that consequence, a lot of heat will almost definitely result in you having dry and brittle hair (which oftentimes leads to breakage).

2. Hair Follicles: Massage Your Scalp with a Peppermint and Thyme Essential Oil Blend

Applying some peppermint essential oil to your scalp and hair is one of the best things that you could do. It's the kind of oil that contains antimicrobial, insecticidal, pesticidal, anesthetic and anti-inflammatory properties.

Because of this, peppermint oil is able to clarify your scalp, soothe it if it's itchy and stimulate hair growth. That's because the menthol that's in peppermint oil serves as a vasodilator; that's basically a fancy way of saying that it increases blood flow to your scalp and hair follicles so that your hair can get the nutrients that it needs. As far as thyme oil goes, not only is it another oil that stimulates your hair follicles, there are studies to support that when it's combined with an oil like peppermint, lavender or rosemary, it can even treat hair loss issues like alopecia areata.

I recommend combining two tablespoons of Jamaican black castor oil or olive oil, along with five drops of peppermint oil and three drops of thyme oil. Heat the mixture up in the microwave for 30 seconds. Apply it to freshly washed hair, massage it into our scalp, let the mixture sit there for 15 minutes, then rinse with cool water. Do this once a month for optimal results.

3. Hair Follicles: Apply an Aloe Vera Mask

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Aloe vera is great for your hair, for a few different reasons. For one thing, if you constantly struggle with having a dry scalp, the antipruritic properties that it contains can help to soothe your scalp and keep it well-moisturized. It's analgesic anti-inflammatory enzyme known as bradykinase, along with salicylic acid, work together to reduce any inflammation that your scalp or hair follicles may be experiencing (this includes if you're someone who happens to get scalp acne). Something else that's cool about Aloe vera is it helps to balance out the pH of your scalp (more on that in a little bit). And yet, one more reason why you should add it to your hair care regimen is Aloe vera is a wonderful treatment for your hair follicles. Because the make-up of Aloe vera is very similar to keratin, when you apply it to your scalp, it has the ability to naturally strengthen your hair follicles. Not only that but the 20 different amino acids that Aloe vera contains will help to condition and strengthen your hair so that the roots of your tresses are healthy from the very moment they grow out of your scalp. That's why it's a good idea to apply an Aloe vera mask to your scalp, at least once a month. For tips on how to make your own, click here and/or here.

4. Hair Follicles: Detox Your Scalp

Sometimes, we forget that our scalp has pores, just like the rest of our body does. And, because a lot of us use hair products (not to mention the fact that we sweat and our scalp sheds dead skin cells), those pores can become clogged which can also lead to a slower rate of hair growth. A surefire way to keep your scalp healthy and thriving is to detox it. If you'd like more info on how to do that properly, no problem. You can check out an article that I already wrote on it. It's entitled "Treat Your Scalp To A Little Bit Of Detoxing This Weekend".

5. Hair Follicles: Eat More Protein

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Have you ever wondered if you actually need more protein in your system than you're currently getting? Some signs that you could indeed be protein-deficient is you constantly feel weak or tired, you're always hungry (no matter how much you consume), you're always getting sick, your moods are all over the place and/or your skin, nails and hair don't seem as healthy as they usually do. Speaking of hair, yours is made up of mostly protein (keratin), so you definitely need to "feed your follicles" with foods that are loaded with it. Some of those include red meat and poultry. But if you happen to be vegetarian or vegan, some non-meat alternatives include lentils, pumpkin seeds, oats, almonds, quinoa, spinach and spirulina.

1. Your Ends: Balance Your Hair’s pH Balance

When it comes to what pH balance actually is, it's kind of a long story. The short of it is, it's the measure of how acidic and/or base something else. When something has a pH balance of 7, it's considered acidic. When something has a pH balance of 4, it's considered base. When it comes to our hair, its average is somewhere around 5. Something that can throw our normal pH balance off is shampoo, conditioner and other hair products. The problem with that is an "off balance" can lead to rough hair cuticles and, eventually, hair damage.

Something you can do to keep your hair's pH balance right where it needs to be is to clarify your hair with an apple cider rinse. Not only will it bring the balance back to where it should be, but apple cider vinegar also contains anti-fungal and antibacterial properties that can treat dandruff and other scalp irritants. Plus, it is able to make your hair softer and easier to manage. Just add a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar to a cup of water and pour it over your hair after shampooing in order to get the best results.

2. Your Ends: Seal ‘Em

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Sealing ends is something that a lot of naturalistas know about. It's a process that helps your hair to maintain the moisture that is already in it, after you wash and condition your tresses. Because your ends are the oldest part of your hair, that makes them the most vulnerable. It also means they need moisture the most. That's why it's important to seal your ends in two ways. One, you should do the final rinse of your hair with cool water. The reason why is because a colder temperature can actually help to flatten and seal your hair's cuticles. Next, you should apply some sort of hair butter (like shea butter) or oil (like Jamaican black castor oil) to your hair while it is damp. By the way, a "sealant" that a lot of people rave about is good old-fashioned hair grease. If that sounds bananas to you, check out "Looking For Hair Growth? It Might Be Time To Bring 'Blue Magic' Back". The lead picture alone, just might make a believer outta you.

3. Your Ends: Use a Leave-In Conditioner

I'm one of those women who, no matter how much I deep condition my locks, my hair is gonna feel dry as the Sahara two days later, and dry tresses will definitely lead to breakage over time. What changed the game for me was putting a leave-in conditioner on my hair. There are a few benefits that come from doing this. It deeply moisturizes your hair. It helps to keep your cuticles nice and smooth. It can provide an extra layer of protection from heat styling tools as well as outdoor elements. And, my personal favorite, it can help to condition your hair for days on end. Hair that contains moisture is hair that is able to remain strong with a good amount of elasticity to it. So, definitely make it a point and practice to use a leave-in on a regular basis. What I use is Aunt Jackie's Quench – Moisture Intensive Leave-In Conditioner (I haven't encountered a better leave-in yet!). But there are plenty of others on the market. Or, you can make your own (check out some recipes here, here, here, here and here).

4. Your Ends: Dry Your Ends the Right Way

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If you're someone who, after washing and conditioning your hair, you towel dry, maybe blow dry, and then simply go on about your business without giving any of that much thought, this could be why your ends are not as healthy as they should be. For starters, our hair is strong-yet-fragile (especially when it's wet), so it's best to use an old T-shirt to dry it rather than a towel. Otherwise, you could cause already opened cuticles to crack and your hair to become frizzy. Also, as much as possible, try and move your T-shirt in a downward motion on your hair so that the tee moves in the direction that your cuticles should be going (which is also downward). Same goes for blow-drying your hair. By pointing your dryer's nozzle (or using the comb attachment) in a downward position, that will help to flatten your hair's cuticles, making them less susceptible to damage until your next wash day.

Your Ends: Dust, Don’t Pull, Your Ends

In the quest for length retention, I get it if one of the last things you want to do is put a pair of shears to your hair. But if you don't trim your ends on a consistent basis, it can lead to tangles, split ends, a lack of shape or volume and, your hair actually not growing as fast as it could—or should. It's not because trimming your hair helps your hair to grow faster; it's that, by making sure that your ends aren't raggedy, that can prevent breakage. After all, if your hair is growing at the roots, but is constantly breaking at the ends, you're not gonna get the inches that you're looking for.

No one said that you had to get a professional trim, every 4-6 weeks. Matter of fact, stylists who aren't haters (you know what I mean, the ones who actually support you growing out your hair instead of always taking five inches off each visit) will tell you that every 4-6 weeks may not even be necessary. So long as your hair doesn't show any of the signs that I've just mentioned, you can probably go much longer without needing a trim appointment. Just make sure that you do consider dusting your ends from time to time. That's like doing a micro-trim where you use your own pair of shears to get rid of any split or damaged ends that you might see. If you do happen to notice some, always cut, don't pull. Pulling the ends of your hair, even if they are fairy knots, is a sure way to harm your hair's cuticles and create split ends in the process. If you'd like a few tips on how to properly dust your ends, click here.

Hopefully, this has given you a little more insight into how to reach your own hair goals. Just remember that, as long as your hair is actually growing, you can obtain length. It's all about taking the best of care of your hair—top and bottom. From the roots down to the very ends.

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