One of the first things you should tend to after you get engaged? Your hair. We're not talking about the style—you'll have a few months to determine how you want to wear it—but in order to get shiny, healthy (and long, if that's what you're after) hair for your wedding day, you'll need some time. On average, hair grows half an inch per month, says Anabel Kingsley, a trichologist (a type of dermatologist that focuses on the hair and scalp) for Philip Kingsley. That's why it's important to give yourself at least six months to see changes. Healthy hair, she explains, is the product of a dedicated regimen, and a healthy diet and lifestyle. Here, Kingsley tells us how to get yours in shape.
Treat your scalp like you treat your face.
The rumor that's been floating around for a while now—that your hair is healthier the less you wash it—is a myth. "Your scalp is an extension of the skin on your forehead, and, like any skin, it sweats, it produces oil and sheds dead skin cells," Kingsley says. "These secretions, along with environmental pollution, collect on your hair, so if you shampoo infrequently, your hair will likely be dull and coated. You don't have to scrub your hair to clean it—gently massage shampoo into your scalp for a minute and rinse well." The myth stems from the fact that decades ago, shampoos contained harsh, damaging soap detergents, but most sold now are soapless and contain moisturizing ingredients.
Use concentrated treatments.
Add a few additional products into your standard shampoo-and-conditioner regimen. The first should be for your scalp, like a toner or exfoliating mask. Philip Kingsley Scalp Toner can be used daily to absorb excess oil and prevent bacteria growth, while, used weekly, Aesop Rose Hair & Scalp Moisturizing Masque prevents dryness. Then add in a pre-shampoo wash a few times per week to strengthen strands and prevent breakage. (Philip Kingsley made one called The Elasticizer specifically for his client Audrey Hepburn.) A moisturizing hair mask—especially if you have color-treated hair—will work wonders in adding instant shine and softness.
Lay off the heat tools.
Let your hair air dry as often as you can during your engagement. "Hair doesn't have nerve endings, so it's not always obvious when you're damaging it," Kingsley says. "High heat can rapidly deplete the hair of moisture, causing brittleness and breakage." When you do dry your hair, make sure to use a heat-protectant spray, like Tresemme Thermal Creations Protective Spray Heat Tamer, and hold the dryer half an arm's length away so the heat isn't too concentrated. Kingsley says a gentle blow dry like this won't harm your hair if you stop when it's "just dry."
Don't expose your hair to anything that can cause breakage—this means sleeping on a silk or satin pillowcase, using fabric-covered hair ties, and choosing a brush with rounded, flexible plastic prongs. "Boar-bristle brushes can scratch the scalp and tear away section of the protective outer cuticle," Kingsley explains.
Eat a well-rounded diet.
Do not crash diet for your wedding. "When you deprive your body of food and nutrients, the first thing to suffer is your hair because it's a non-essential tissue," Kingsley says. "While hair is vastly important to us psychologically, physically we can survive without it, and so our body gives it last priority." Eating protein is key, she adds, since it makes up the main component of hair, and recommends choosing eggs, fish, poultry, lean meat, and low-fat cottage cheese because they contain all essential amino acids.
Iron is important to synthesize hair-cell protein; it's found most abundantly in red meat. "It's also found in dark, leafy greens, such as spinach, but it isn't present in the same amounts and is harder to absorb," Kingsley says. If you're a vegetarian or vegan, consider taking a daily iron supplement. Carbs are important, too, Kingsley says, as they provide easily accessible energy to growing hair cells. She recommends eating a complex carbohydrate with breakfast, lunch, and snacking on one between meals. (This could mean whole grain bread, brown rice; even sweet potatoes.)
Take time for yourself.
"Stress can, and often does, impact the hair growth cycle, making it important to incorporate 'me time' into your weekly routine," Kingsley says. She recommends yoga, Pilates, meditation, swimming—or any hobby that helps you destress amidst the wedding preparation.