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Essential Nutrients for Healthy Hair

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.
Protein
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
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
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.
Omega 3
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
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.
Zinc
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.
Vitamin E
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.
Biotin
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.

The 411 on Sulfate-Free Shampoos and Conditioners

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.

Understanding Surfactants

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.

 

Going Grey: Our Hair Color and the Meaning Behind the Change

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
  • Climate
  • Pollutants
  • Toxins
  • Exposure to chemicals

 

 

The Anatomy of Hair

When it comes to fashion accessories, hair is probably the most versatile and effective. All those expensive necklaces and bracelets and gaudy rings can’t match up to a good hair style, but hair isn’t as simple as you might think. Hair is a complex mammalian material that has different parts with different functions. It just happens to be outside your body and can be cut and styled. Hair is not just a material with a biological function; it becomes a part of our psychological identity. Even those suffering from baldness can make use of hair restoration services and enjoy the stylistic aspects of hair.

Although it might not always be obvious, we are covered in hair. Aside from the bottoms of our feet and the palms of our hands, our entire bodies consist of tiny hairs, making it a much more prevalent matter than we might initially believe.

So what is hair and what does it consist of? Let’s take a closer look at the fine anatomy of hair.

The Follicle

Hair consists of two structures: the follicle, deeply embedded in the skin, and the shaft, which is visible to us. The follicle is the skin organ that produces hair and consists of several layers, each with a different function. The hair follicle is an important component of successful surgical hair replacement procedures, as this can be considered the “root” of the hair which successfully continues to grow after transplantation.

  • At the base of the follicle is the papilla, which is made up mainly of connective tissue and capillaries that feed the cells.
  • Wrapped around the papilla is the bulb or hair matrix, a collection of epithelial cells and melanocytes, which produce the hair’s pigment. The bulb is the living part of hair, and cell division in the bulb leads to the main structures in hair fiber as well as the inner and outer sheaths. Cells in the bulb divide every 23 to 72 hours, which is faster than any other cell in the body.
  • Surrounding the follicle are the inner and outer sheaths. These protect and shape the hair shaft. The inner sheath follows the hair shaft and ends just below the opening of a sebaceous gland, while the outer sheath continues up the gland.
  • An arrector pili, which attaches to a fibrous layer around the outer sheath, is a muscle responsible for making your hair stand up when it contracts. For those with little body hair, contraction of the arrector pili muscle causes goosebumps.
  • Sebaceous glands are found all over the body. These glands produce an oily, waxy substance called sebum. An overabundance of sebum tends to cause acne, but the substance is necessary for the skin’s lubrication. Sebum is vital to hair as it acts as a natural conditioner.
  • The bulge is part of the outer sheath and is located at the insertion point of the arrector pili muscle. The bulge contains several types of stem cells, supplying the hair follicle with new cells. The bulge also takes part in healing the epidermis after a wound.

The Shaft

The hair shaft, as mentioned earlier, is the visible part of the hair. The shaft is composed of keratin, which is a fibrous protein that is a key structural component in our nails and the horns of other mammals. The hair shaft consists of no biochemical activity and is considered dead, which is good because cutting your hair would otherwise be a terrifying, painful experience!

The hair shaft is made up of three layers: the medulla, cortex, and cuticle.

  • The medulla is the innermost layer of the shaft but it is not always present.
  • The cortex is the middle layer and takes up a majority of the hair shaft. The cortex is highly structured and organized and is the primary source of mechanical strength and water uptake. The cortex also contains melanin, which is responsible for skin pigmentation and, in this case, hair color. The shape of the follicle determines the shape of the cortex. A hair’s curliness is determined by the shape of the hair fiber. Asian hair, for instance, tends to have a round fiber and is thus straight. Oval or irregularly-shaped fibers lead to curly or wavy hair.
  • The cuticle is the outer covering for the hair shaft. The cuticle is made up of a formation of tightly packed scales set in an overlapping structure, kind of like roof shingles. This structure slides as the hair swells. The cuticle is also covered with a thin molecular layer of lipids that allows the hair to repel water. Most hair conditioner products target the cuticle.

 

5 Hottest Summer Hair Trends

The sun shines through every window. Outside, the world seems to be illuminated by a soft, golden light. Kids are out of school, running and playing in the grass. The air is warm and welcoming. Weekends are punctuated with cold drinks and barbeques.

All signs point to summer, and the warmth and the sun shouldn’t overshadow your own beauty. Of course, that doesn’t mean you should rush out and spend your money on the most expensive, stylish outfits. Even the simplest of outfits can look elegant with the perfect hairstyle.

Summer hair trends are all about looking and feeling good in the sun. Here are five of the hottest hair trends for the summer.

Layers

Layered lengths with casual textures are the perfect complement to just about any summer hair style. Layers make for simple, low-maintenance looks. Add some subtle waves for a bit of volume and shape, or couple it with a loose ponytail. Even unstyled, layered hair provides an easy, natural look.

As important as hair accessories are, this season is about looking natural. Only use accessories to add some color and brightness to your hair, but remember that your summer hair looks best free-moving.

The Pixie Cut

Short hairstyles seem to be making quite a comeback (think Twiggy in her famous portrait), and what better time to do away with long, burdensome hair than the summer? The pixie cut is illustrated by short sides and a very slightly longer top and fringe with the top and sides flowing and blending perfectly together. The fringe length has changed over the years from shorter to slightly longer and is more a matter of personal preference.

The pixie crop can be styled in numerous ways, from messy to neatly combed and parted. Longer fringes can be casually swept to the side.

The shortness of the cut should be convenient for those hot summer days that offer the infrequent cool breeze. This hairstyle works with different textures and thicknesses of hair.

The Ponytail

Keeping the hair off your neck and away from your face can save you from discomfort and sweatiness. Tying your hair up into a ponytail will help with just that, but a normal ponytail can be a bit drab.

To add a little personality to your ponytail, make a high ponytail that shows off its base and gives your roots a lift. Tease the loose top section of your hair for a casual, free look. Go ahead and let those little wisps that don’t stay put frame your face.

Make use of hair bands and accessories to brighten up that ponytail and add a bit of color, but make sure to keep things nice and simple. For a more elegant look, wrap a piece of your ponytail around your hair band and secure it underneath with a bobby pin.

The Wave

Curly hair is always popular in the summer, but this year, it’s all about the waves. Use a small curling iron and work on large chunks of hair for larger, fuller spirals. Try to make the waves look as natural as possible. If your hair is naturally curly or wavy, work some lightweight product through wet hair and simply scrunch it.

Wavy hair will give the perfect beach look and have enough volume to prevent your hair from being too suffocating. If you want to keep the hair out of your face, wrap or tie your hair with a silk scarf just behind your hairline. To make sure the scarf stays in place, knot it twice, once horizontally, once vertically. This will keep the scarf tight and the ends even.

The Bob

The key to this year’s hairstyles is revival and evolution, and nothing illustrates that better than the bob. What once began a century ago has now made a comeback. The short, straight hairstyle of the bob was originally a convenient hairstyle for women involved in war work but has since entered the style and fashion arenas.

The modern bob is a bit softer than the sharper bob cut of the 1920s and works especially well with a fringe. These days, the bob style has become much longer, and although it is at times messier than its initial incarnation, the bob can still look neat and straight without any harsh, sharp edges.

For the summer, a bob works well with a casual, textured wave to keep things interesting and varied. You also get the perfect beach-inspired look.

All Natural Extensions

Many women like to get their hair highlighted in the summer time to add that golden, sun-kissed, been-at-the-beach-all-weekend look. The downside: harsh chemicals. All natural hair extensions can add tonal variation and depth of color to your hair, not to mention extra thickness, and all without chemicals or root touch-ups. With natural hair extensions, you can still try almost any of the hairstyles listed above, too!