Q. Which natural hair-care ingredients can help replenish dry, sun-damaged locks?

A. A summer full of sun, wind, pool chemicals, and salt water can certainly do a number on your hair. Your best bet is to protect your tresses from getting damaged in the first place. Try taking a break from blow-drying, hot rollers, and curling and flat irons, which suck moisture from your hair. Wear a hat when you're out in sun or wind. Rinse your hair in a shower before jumping in a pool, because wet hair won't absorb as much chlorine (and rinse your hair after the swim, as well). And hold off on lightening your hair color; hair is drier in the hot summer months, and coloring chemicals will dry it out more. If you can't resist the urge to go lighter, use a temporary color that doesn't contain harsh agents like peroxide or ammonia.

When choosing a shampoo and conditioner, steer clear of any that contain sodium laurel sulfate (a synthetic foaming agent) or parabens (synthetic preservatives), which can be hard on your locks. Opt for natural hair products with botanicals that condition and strengthen hair; look for chamomile, elder, horsetail, kelp, oatstraw, rosemary, and vitamin E. A great way to rehydrate and soften a summer-weary mane is with coconut oil. Simply massage in 1/2 to 2 teaspoons of food-grade coconut oil (a little goes a long way!); wash out after 15 minutes or leave on overnight for an extra-deep treatment.

This Q&A was written by Victoria Dolby Toews, health journalist and author of The Soy Sensation(McGraw-Hill, 2002). Toews lives with her family in the Pacific Northwest where they enjoy hiking and cycling.