How Your Hair Routine Affects Your Overall Health Might Surprise You

As Elizabeth Benedict, the editor of Me, My Hair, and I: Twenty-Seven Women Untangle an Obsession and spokesperson for Dove's Love Your Hair campaign, would tell you, we are in a lifelong relationship with our hair. And it can be a healthy an unhealthy one, depending on how much effort you put in

I spoke to Nick Arrojo, celebrity hair stylist and probably a face you recognize from TLC's What Not to Wear, Edward Tricomi, Master Stylist and co-founder of Warren-Tricomi Salons, and Benedict to find out how your hair routine could affect your overall health. All three experts not only offered advice about the science behind some of our hair products, but they also dove into how our hair affects our mental health.

For her book, which she wrote prior to partnering with Dove, Benedict gathered 27 women and asked them to reflect on their hair's personal meaning to them. And according to Dove's hair research, the statistics behind its effect on our frame of mind are staggering.

Benedict explained that our "obsession" with our hair begins at an early age, right around the time when our mothers or parental guardians start grooming our strands. From that day, we have an idealized hairstyle we want for each day, based on mood, outfits, society and how much work our hair is putting back into the relationship.

In the Dove hair research, Benedict found "only 11 percent of women are happy with everything about their hair." Even more staggering, Benedict found 99 percent of women judge each other based on hairstyles. And that's mentally unhealthy. Your hair does not define you. It does not define your career. It should not define your paycheck. And it surely does not define your social standing.

Arrojo agrees. When I asked which poor hair habits could affect your overall health, Arrojo only had one answer: stressing about how your hair looks. "Stress is never a good thing for the body and mind; learn to love your locks, not to worry about them," he says. Tricomi also states that those with healthy hair usually have habits of drinking plenty of water, taking multi-vitamins, and overall keeping themselves physically healthy.

In addition to potentially having negative mental effects, our hair can be an indicator of poor physical health. Arrojo explains "weak, limp, easily breakable hair might be an indicator of a diet lacking in essential vitamins, minerals and proteins." And Tricomi agrees.

So, in order to keep your hair healthy (and therefore, hopefully, calm your stress about it) here are seven tips for maintaining the locks on your head.

1. Using Appropriate Cleansing Products

Arrojo suggested finding out what products your hair needs and responds best to — and use only them. For me, I know one brand of shampoo and conditioner makes my scalp and hairline break out, so I am sure to avoid it. I also recognize that I have very fine, very thin hair that can turn oily within six hours of my last shower. and anything I can do to make it make it look fuller and add some volume is a gift from God. For that reason, I stay away from shampoos and conditioners with a hydrating-infusing things, instead reaching for things that promise "5x fuller!" and the like.

Additionally, he pointed out studies that have shown cheap hair products tainted with poor ingredients could lead to an irritable scalp, and some drugstore brands have even proven to be harmful to users. Though salon-quality products are much more expensive, it's likely worth the cost to save your hair.

2. Making Your Blowouts Last

I'm still trying to grasp I should no longer wash my hair every day. Though this saves me roughly 10 to 15 minutes each morning, not shampooing feels like I've forgotten part of my routine. But if Arrojo says it's good for scalps to go a few days between washes, then I'll keep practicing and continue loading up on dry shampoo.

3. Being Mindful about Heat Styling

Although most people realize that heat styling isn't ideal for your strands, Arrojo wants to emphasize how important it is to be truly conscious of your styling habits. If you're the type to curl every day, he recommends a protective, thickening lotion. Otherwise, your hair may turn to straw, as Tricomi points out. "An overabundance of chemicals, like using too much hairspray in a confined space, is bad for your physical health. It is important to be mindful of this while styling," he says. Tricomi also recommends only using chemical products, like keratin or bleach, in moderation.

4. Using A Conditioning Treatment

Of course, regular conditioner works wonders on your hair. But a masque treatment filled with extra proteins will add luster and shine to your strands. Arrojo says this is a perfect treatment for damaged, dry, or color-treated hair.

5. Brushing Before Bed

Not only are tangles this simply a pain to deal with in the morning, but Arrojo says working through knots in the morning increases the chance for breakage.

6. Drink Water & Take Multivitamins

As stated earlier, Tricomi believes that taking vitamins and drinking water habitually tend to have healthier hair. Certain multivitamins have been linked to helping hair grow more healthy and strong, and quickly, too.

7. Try Not To Stress About It

In addition to not stressing your hair and scalp with harsh chemicals and heated products, both Arrojo and Tricomi believe if your hair routine stresses you out each and every morning, it's not the right style for you. Arrojo recommends talking with your stylists about different possible options. "Stop obsessing over your hair and change your routine. Find an alternate hairstyle that works in a way that doesn’t affect your wellbeing," says Tricomi. But if it's a serious issue — either mental or physical — keep in mind hairstylists are not doctors.

And though all three hair experts described our hair as being in a "relationship" with ourselves, the terms and conditions of that marriage can be changed in the form of a dramatic, new haircut. Arrojo says a new color or cut can be just the trick to get you out of a rut.

But when finding that "get out of the rut" haircut, Benedict encourages women to stay away from the "S words," — soft, silky, smooth, shiny, straight — that are often found in magazines, unless that is the style you ultimately like. Otherwise, she says to make a statement with your hair, regardless of your position or what the societal norms are in your area.

Ultimately, Benedict says, "I like to think that if we're taking care of our hair, we're taking care of ourselves in general." Sounds pretty right to me.

Images: Andrew Zaeh (3), Bianca Consunji, Kenny Suleimanagich/Bustle; Greg Raines, Ryan Moreno, Lesly B Juarez/Unsplash