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Writer Franki Black.

Portrait of Tammy Strobel

Writer Franki Black.

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“If you eat well and drink lots of water, it will show in hair ”

~ Chantal De Kock

The Secret to Healthy Hair

Pro tips for enviable tresses

When it comes to hair, the grass is always greener, thicker, curlier or finer on the other side. There are so many products on the market for flailing hair that it’s hard to know where to start. Even though genetics and individual needs play an important role in the look and feel of your hair, there’s a lot you can do to achieve your personal best locks.


Is it really worth spending a fortune on expensive hair products or does it all come down to good nutrition? Steven John Phillips, owner and master stylist of Absolut Hair in South Africa and head trainer at the Foundation Guillaume Western Cape, says it’s a combination of both. “Nutrition certainly plays a very important role in all health aspects of the body, including our skin, nails and hair,” he says. “When our bodies are undernourished, our hair quickly diminishes in thickness and loses shine and elasticity.” Phillips believes in the power of professional hair products in cultivating healthy hair, but warns against the damaging effects of off-the-shelf products. “Products bought off the supermarket shelf are made up of sub-standard raw ingredients, which ultimately damage hair in the long run by stripping it of colour. These products generally contain high levels of foammaking sulfate, which harms the nutritional make-up of hair.”

According to Phillips, hair industry professionals have been using lipid technology found in products for years to replace keratin in the hair, which makes up 70 per cent of its composition. These are said to prevent keratin from washing out due to styling and heating. “Professional hair products are evolving every day and some of the latest ranges actually allow the lipids to hold and bond keratin in the hair, thereby repairing and restoring it back to its virgin state – we’re seeing results instantly.”


Chantal De Kock, co-founder of Cape Town Naturally, an organisation focused on supporting the natural hair community, believes that healthy hair is about good nutrition, care and self-love. She says, “As women, we often run to the shelves to find that holy-grail product, expecting it to transform our hair, but here’s the thing: you have to feed yourself within first: physically, emotionally and psychologically.”

As an advocate of natural hair care, De Kock often turns to the garden to make her hair shine. “Rosemary mixed with heated olive oil is a wonderful treatment, ideal to promote hair growth, while peppermint added to shampoo is a soothing balm for the scalp,” she explains. “Nutrition is key – what you put into your body is what you get out. If you eat well and drink lots of water, it will show in your hair. You don’t need fancy supplements or boosters, just be more conscious of what you consume.”

Despite her faith in natural haircare, De Kock recognises the effectiveness of professional products. “There are some excellent products, but they mostly come with an extortionate price tag. The bottom line is we all have different hair – what works for my curly hair may not work for someone else. You have to try a variety of methods and products, whether homemade or professional, and find a routine that works for your hair and budget.”


Besides following a healthy diet and using sound products, easy habits can help bring out your hair’s shine. Phillips’ top tip is to use thermal protection when styling with heat implements such as a hairdryer or flat iron, to limit damaging chemical processes such as colouring, straightening, curling and perms, and to treat your hair with an intensive in-salon treatment after a chemical process, to ensure the replacement of lost moisture and keratin.


As for hair habits to avoid, Phillips says, “Long hair can be damaged by rubbing it dry with a towel, as opposed to gathering the length and squeezing.” Next on his list is the damage from using a hairdryer without a nozzle, which causes the hair to burn and can lead to breakage. He also advises against using a flat iron, while hair is still wet. “This literally causes the water left in the hair shaft to boil, leaving it exposed and vulnerable to further damage and breakage,” he explains. Finally he recommends reaching for the comb instead of brushing wet hair, which can stretch and break it.

De Kock’s final words for fabulous hair are to reduce the amount of heat used, opting for sulfate-free or natural products, to get regular trims and to spoil yourself with a deep-conditioning treatment. She says, “Love your hair and it will love you back!”