Essential Nutrients for Healthy Hair
A balanced diet can provide numerous benefits — a good nutrition can lower your risk of developing a range of chronic diseases and even help you handle stress better, but did you know your diet also affects the health and look of your hair? Just like skin, the condition of your hair is an outward sign of inside health. The cells that make up each follicle of hair require a regular supply of key nutrients.
Adding a few varied ingredients to your diet is easy, practical and an inexpensive way to promote healthy tresses. The following vitamins and minerals will provide you with the necessary balance to supply your hair with all it needs to remain strong and healthy.
Ensuring you have sufficient amount of protein in your diet is important for making your hair full and vibrant. If you are not consuming enough protein in your diet, your hair is likely to become dry, brittle and weak. Protein deficient diets may result in hair loss. Lean meats such as fish are the easiest way to pack protein into your body along with vegetarian sources such as nuts, soybeans and whole grains.
Iron is an especially important mineral that helps hair follicles grow. When one experiences a deficiency of iron, they may experience hair loss and baldness. Iron is especially important to healthy tresses, because it helps cells carry oxygen to hair follicles. The best sources of iron are red meat, chicken and fish. They provide iron with a high bioavailability, meaning the nutrients are readily available for absorption. Alternatively pair meatless sources, such as soybeans or lentils, with a vitamin C-rich food like an orange to boost iron absorption.
Vitamin C is an all-in-one solution by itself—it is an antioxidant that is readily used by the body. It assists our bodies in the production of collagen that strengthens the capillaries that supply the hair shafts. An adequate amount of Vitamin C may also prevent both discoloration and hair loss. In addition, it boosts blood circulation throughout the body, ensuring your scalp is as healthy as possible. Some recommended sources of Vitamin C are blueberries, broccoli, guava, kiwi, oranges, papaya, strawberries and sweet potatoes.
Introducing more omega-3 fatty acids into your diet promotes shinier and richer looking hair. Omega-3s support scalp health and also provide the natural oils that keep your hair hydrated. Deficiency in essential fatty acids can otherwise result in a dry scalp or dandruff. Try fatty acid rich fish such as salmon, sardines, and trout and plant sources including avocado, spinach and walnuts.
Vitamin A importance to your hair is skin deep; it produces a conditioning substance for the scalp known as sebum. Sebum is natural oil created by our hair’s sebaceous glands and provides an essential conditioner for a healthy scalp. A low production of sebum may have you experiencing an itchy scalp and dry hair. Including colored vegetables in your diet that are high in beta-carotene (which makes vitamin A), such as carrots, pumpkins and sweet potatoes are a great way to boost your vitamin A intake.
In addition to helping the immune system function properly, zinc plays a significant role in scalp protection and has the ability to produce new proteins that are building blocks of strong hair. A lack of zinc can lead to hair loss and a dry, flaky scalp. Cashews, green beans and soybeans are a great source of zinc along with oysters, lobster and lean beef.
The sun can damage our hair just like it can damage our skin. Make sure you consume foods rich in vitamin E to provide protection for your hair. As an antioxidant, vitamin E contributes to your hair’s overall health by fighting off harmful free radicals. Good sources of vitamin E include sunflower seeds, almonds, cabbage, asparagus and avocados.
Possibly the most recommended supplement for hair health is biotin. Also known as vitamin H, biotin can improve hair that is splitting or thinning. Biotin deficiencies are not common because our own bodies produce this vitamin. In cases where a person may produce low levels of biotin, it can cause brittle hair and may lead to hair loss. A balanced diet with biotin rich foods such as bananas, beans, eggs and salmon should help maintain your natural biotin production.
Essential Nutrients for Healthy Hair
Cleanliness is close to godliness. It’s a popular idiom that gets repeated time and time again by mothers and teachers sick of sloppy homework assignments. Of course, you won’t become an immortal for keeping yourself clean, but it helps set a proper personal image; not to mention, proper hygiene is directly related to a healthy lifestyle.
When it comes to personal hygiene, we often don’t realize all the chemicals and ingredients that often go into the products we use. Keeping clean is important, but what we clean ourselves with plays significantly into that concept of cleanliness and health.
Sulfates, an ingredient found in shampoos and conditioners, among other cleaning products, have recently come under fire as a potential catalyst for hair loss.
Before delving into the world of sulfates, we have to under surfactants. Surfactants are found in every cleaning agent, whether it’s shampoo, body soap, facial wash, or laundry detergent. The chemical nature of a surfactant allows it to surround and trap oily materials while simultaneously reducing surface tension. This expedites the removal of oil, sweat, and dirt. Put simply, the surfactant is the cleaning factor in the formula.
However, surfactants are detergents, which can be harsh or gentle depending on the concentration and the type of compound used.
Sulfates in Shampoo
In the last few decades, shampoos have the used sodium lauryl sulfate or the related sodium laureth sulfate as surfactants. The main reason: they are super cheap and create lots of bubbles and foam.
People hold certain notions about shampoos and what they should do. They expect lots of lather and foam in their shampoo, but that’s actually a misconception. Lather and foam do nothing for hair and only occur as a result of the sulfates binding to air instead of oil. If anything, excessive foam is merely a sign of wasted shampoo.
So What’s Wrong with Sulfates?
So sulfates create a lot of foam, which the general public is trained to appreciate, and it’s cheap for manufacturers. What’s the big deal?
- Interesting enough, outside of the world of hair care, sodium lauryl sulfate is used around the world in clinical studies as a skin irritant. In higher concentrations, it has been shown to corrode skin. Of course, that doesn’t mean that commercial shampoos have enough of a concentration to cause irritation to your scalp, but if your skin is especially sensitive, washing your scalp in SLS probably won’t feel great.
- Sodium lauryl sulfate is rumored to be potentially carcinogenic (i.e. cancer causing). Although this has not been proven in experimental studies, SLS has been shown to cause significant epidermal changes when applied.
- Sodium lauryl sulfate strips your hair and scalp of essential oils, which causes a drying effect while also fading any dyes in your hair. Just imagine what it could do to your scalp.
- With that drying effect, your hair follicles can sustain some severe damage. This could, in turn, lead to hair loss. This may be the reason why teenagers often have problems with thinning hair.
Although the information surrounding SLS is a bit shaky, there’s no proof that SLS is more beneficial than alternatives either. It would be wise for health-conscious consumers to avoid shampoos containing SLS as it’s often a marker for the use of other undesirable ingredients.
What to Look for in a Shampoo
Now that you’re convinced to stay away from sodium lauryl sulfate, what ingredients should you look for in shampoo or conditioner?
You’ll want to find natural ingredients. Look for ingredients like glucosides and glycerine, which should show up on the label as decyl glucoside or coco-glucoside. These ingredients come naturally from corn and sugar. These shampoos obviously won’t have as much foam or lather as you might be used to, but your hair will still feel healthy, clean, and soft.
Another option would be using nothing but warm water to clean your hair. While this sounds potentially disgusting to many, you have to realize that your hair is the way it is because of years of using shampoos containing harmful chemicals, like sodium lauryl sulfate. Once those chemicals have worked their way out of your system, your hair will be left as clean as ever.
The better you take care of your hair, the better it will take care of you, so choose wisely and keep yourself informed about products you consume.
Hair is an important feature. For some of us, hair is the first thing we notice when we meet someone new. Hair is ultimately versatile. It can be styled differently on a whim, shaved off, or grown long. With the right hairstyle, you can completely change the way your outfit looks. It is the perfect accessory.
However, as we age, hair often grows weaker and thinner. In the worst case scenario, we will succumb to baldness. Hair loss affects about two-thirds of men over the age of 60 and a quarter of women over the age of 50. Baldness happens for various reasons. The most common form of baldness is androgenetic alopecia—which you might know as pattern baldness—and is hereditary. Other causes of baldness include stress, the environment, or specific medications.
Even more common than baldness is graying hair. As you age, your hair will undoubtedly turn color. That’s just how things work out unless you want to constantly dye your hair. The big question here is: Why does hair change color in the first place?
Understanding Hair and Hair Color
First, we have to understand hair. As one of the defining characteristics of mammals, hair is made up of keratin, a fibrous structural protein that is also found in fingernails, the outer layer of human skin, and the horns and hooves of animals.
Hair actually starts out white. It gets its color from melanin, a pigment that is also responsible for skin color. Our hair’s natural color depends on the distribution, type, and amount of melanin in the middle area, or cortex, of the hair shaft.
With the rainbow of different hair colors in existence, hair actually only has two different types of pigments: light (phaeomelanin) and dark (eumelanin). The two shades mix and blend into different concentrations to make up the massive range of hair colors.
Melanocytes, which are the cells that make up melanin, are found around the hair follicles. As the hair grows, melanocytes inject melanin into the hair’s keratin. As you grow, the melanoctyes continue injecting your hair with pigment, giving your hair its warm, colorful hue.
Why Do We Lose Hair Color?
Hair can change or lose color for a variety of reasons.
- Most commonly, as the body ages, the follicles and melanocytes might slow down or eventually stop production. This results in colorless hair, which appears gray when coupled with normal, colored hair. Similarly, follicles can produce color in spurts, which causes your hair to look less bright or faded.
- Genetics may also have a hand in graying hair. Genes regulate the exhaustion of the pigmentary potential of each hair follicle. However, this happens differently for everyone and for every follicle. Some follicles take whole decades to completely lose pigment.
- The sun can act as a natural bleaching agent, significantly lightening hair color. People with blonde or brown hair who spend lengthy periods of time in the sun might find their hair turning a few shades lighter. Once bleached by the sun, hair does not turn dark again. Instead, it is trimmed and replaced by growing hair roots. This is why some people have lighter tips and dark roots. As effective as it is, sun bleaching your hair is not recommended as it damages your hair and increases your risks of skin cancer.
- Believe it or not, your mood can actually result in physical changes in your body’s functions. Extreme fear or stress can change your hair color. Your psychological state has a significant impact on your hormones and body chemistry. In turn, this can affect your body’s production of melanin and the amount of melanin injected into each strand of hair. However, this will not happen instantly and may take years.
- Those suffering from malnutrition notice a distinct lightening in their hair color, along with much weaker strands and slower growth. This change in hair color is usually reversed once the individual receives proper nutrition.
- Some medical conditions, like pernicious anemia and Werner syndrome, can result in changing or graying hair color.
Other possible factors include:
- Genetic defects
- Exposure to chemicals
Hair loss can be a difficult period in a man or women’s life and the thought of losing your lovely locks can have a negative emotional effect. Sometimes the best way to cope with hair loss is to accept it and change your hair style, but some people just can’t do without their hair. You probably remember your dad and grandpa wearing those obnoxiously fake looking hair pieces and wigs. Today, the technology has come a long way and you have plenty of options to help you keep that full head of hair. Whether your hair line is just starting to recede or you have lost all of the hair on your crown, there are both non-surgical and surgical procedures that can help you overcome hair loss.
Non-surgical hair replacement techniques
Although non-surgical methods are not able to re-grow lost hair, they can help reduce the visible baldness. There are two general non-surgical methods that are used today. First is a hair piece that either uses your hair, other human hair, or synthetic hair to create a wig that looks natural and fits into the balding area of your head. The second method is to use oral or topical drugs. Drugs may not be the all they are marketed to be, but they still can be effective for certain types of balding issues.
• Hair duplication process: The best way to match your hair style, color, and thickness is by using your own hair. The latest technology is capable of duplicating the hair from the back and sides of your head and then using that hair in a modern hair piece. Your hair will look natural and will seamlessly blend with the hair that is left on your head.
• Hair additions (Hair piece) – The wig or toupee has come a long way from the old uncomfortable and unrealistic pieces of the past. The technology for attaching both human and synthetic hair to a practically microscopic hair piece has allowed both men and women to live their lives without anyone noticing they have a hair piece in place. Quality hair pieces can be attached using either double-sided surgical tape or glue, and will look, feel, and function the exact same as your original hair. You can treat it the same every morning in the shower and be confident it won’t fall off during even the most active day.
• Minoxidil: The only FDA approved drug on the market. It can be taken orally or applied topically and works to increase the strength of your existing hair. Although some people have reported hair growth after using the drug, testing hasn’t proven that it is effective for re-growing hair, only increasing the thickness and what is left.
• Finasteride: This is another drug that is often available over-the-counter and has a large following of men that use it for hair strengthening and growth. While it may not be the best fit for everyone, some people can see great benefits from using this drug. It reverses the effects of balding by decreasing the DHT hormone. It is only an effective treatment for male patients.
Surgical hair replacement techniques elitist
If you are not happy with the way your hair is growing and a simple hair piece or hair strengthening drug doesn’t work for you, there are surgical options that can be considered. While almost everyone is eligible for a hair replacement surgery, there is one exception. The patient must have existing hair still remaining; either on the sides or back of their head. Hair replacement surgery is surprisingly low cost compared other options like taking drugs for the rest of your life. Surgery is quickly becoming one of the most popular options for dealing with balding in both men and women.
• Hair transplantation (hair replacement): With the latest technology available, hair transplantation has become safer and more popular than ever. The method takes hair follicles from areas of your scalp that still have strong hair growth and transplants them into the balding areas. This permanent procedure can give you back the full head of hear that you were looking for with just a few easy treatments. Your physician should be trained to give your hair a natural look that gives you back your hair but also takes into consideration a slight receding of the hair line that would occur naturally in all men.
• Scalp reduction (scalp stretching): This is an invasive procedure that removes the bald skin from the scalp and stretches the skin with hair over that area. Patients with large bald areas will not be able to use this method because it would require removing too much skin. But, if you are only experiencing slight balding, scalp reduction may be your best choice.