Hair is a sensitive indicator of our internal health. The level of our optimum nutritional status can be judged by the overall health and growth of our hair. Lustrous, dense locks are indicative of absence of any nutritional deficiencies whereas thin, brittle, sparse and grey hair can indicate many nutritional deficiencies and poor nutritional status. This is because whenever there is a suboptimal store of nutrients in the body, the supply of nutrients is first diverted towards the smooth functioning of the vital organs which is of top priority and the supply of nutrients for the hair may end up being inadequate. Thus, hair health may suffer.
Factors Impairing Hair Growth
There are various internal factors which are responsible for causing hair loss.
Unhealthy diets are often loaded with calories, sugar, fats and salt and provide none of the essential micronutrients required for healthy hair. Your hair is a reflection of which foods you consume ! Which means - what you feed your body reflects on the outside. A well balanced, healing diet can improve any underlying diseases in the body and also provide essential vitamins and minerals vital for hair growth and controlling hair fall.
Gut related Issues
Erratic lifestyles, lack of physical activity and sedentary work schedules have led to a variety of gut related conditions such as constipation, indigestion, gastritis, acidity, bloating. Improving diet quality, moving quite often and incorporating exercise regime on a daily basis helps to improve gut motility and blood circulation to the GI system thus minimizing several gut issues.
Presence of hormonal issues such as thyroid, PCOS is also responsible for hair loss. Setting the hormonal cycles in place through necessary diet and lifestyle changes can reverse the issue of hair loss.
When undergoing any kind of stress, whether physical or mental, the body produces a stress hormone called cortisol. Extended periods of stress leads to overproduction of cortisol and downregulates the production of other vital hormones thereby disrupting the normal transitions of the hair growth cycle. Practising calming techniques like deep breathing exercises, meditation, yoga asanas, active sports, hobbies, avoiding overthinking and brooding over matters which makes one more anxious - can help in dealing with stress.
Tackling the above factors shall help keep the body’s internal environment conducive for hair growth as well as prevent hair damage.
Dietary & Lifestyle Tips for Hair Health
- Choose protein rich foods such as pulse, beans and legumes, soya and soya products, nuts, nut milks, eggs.
- Include folate, Vitamin K and iron rich foods such as green leafy vegetables such as spinach, radish greens, cauliflower greens, amaranth leaves, curry leaves, lotus root and cruciferous veggies such as cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, brussels sprouts, alfalfa sprouts which also help to reduce loss of hair colour.
- Consume zinc rich foods such as mushrooms, oilseeds, soya products, and eggs.
- Consume selenium rich foods such as pulses, lentils, leafy greens, oilseeds, milk products such as condensed milk.
- Include 2-3 litres of water on a regular basis since 25% of the weight of each hair strand is made of water. Drinking adequate amounts of water and fluids can keep the hair strands well hydrated and prevent brittle and frizzy hair ends by improving hair strength.
- Avoid smoking since nicotine has shown to accelerate hair loss process and also facilitate premature hair greying.
- Adequate amount of good quality, sound sleep of 6-7 hours is necessary for better hair health since sleep produces the hormone melatonin which is useful for good health of the hair.
Hair Wash Tips Based on Different Hair Types
Determining your hair type, which among the 4 whether its straight, wavy, curly or coily hair type, shall help determine which appropriate hair products and hair treatments to use for maintaining good hair care.
Straight hair needs to be kept clean since they can be oily more often. To avoid oily hair since they tend to get greasy and limp, they need to be washed properly. Reverse shampooing can be done where the conditioner is applied first before applying shampoo and washing it off. Straight hair tends to be thinner and can get easily damaged hence need to avoid overuse of brushes, combs, harsh chemicals and hot styling procedures.
Wavy hair tends to get frizzy and tangled with knots a lot. It's necessary to detangle the knots using a wide-toothed comb or fingers, avoid using a narrow-toothed comb or hair brush. Air drying with a soft cotton towel is preferred over blow drying since it can dry out the hair shafts.
Curly hair is thicker and needs more moisture. Oiling the hair using oils such as coconut, jojoba, olive can help retain softness and moisture. Apply a few drops of oil or leave-in conditioner to prevent dryness.
Kinky or tightly coiled hair types tend to be dry hence using deep conditioning masks as often as washing hair can help in retaining moisture and keeping them hydrated. Using a wide-bristle comb and gentle combing can avoid hair breakage.
Hair Products Based on Different Hair Types
Using the appropriate hair products can go a long way in maintaining the structural integrity of hair shafts.
- For straight hair, it's essential to use shampoos meant for oily hair and dry conditioners since they keep the hair non-greasy and glossy.
- For wavy hair, it's essential to use moisturising shampoos and a deep conditioner which penetrates the hair shafts and hydrates them from within. They help in making hair frizz-free.
- For curly hair, using moisturising and sulphate-free shampoos are beneficial since they avoid making the hair strands dry and stripping them off natural oils. A leave-in conditioner helps to prevent hair from drying and keeps them well maintained throughout the day.
- For kinky and tightly coiled hair, it's necessary to use deep conditioning hair masks and sulphate-free, moisturising shampoos to keep them frizz-free and well hydrated.
Things to consider While Hair Styling
Heat styling—via hot tools like blow dryers, irons, and wands—works by breaking down your hair's hydrogen bonds in order to shape them into the desired way. Using heat styling quite often can lead to hair breakage and coarseness.
- Use hair products depending on your hair thickness. For fine and straight hair, use lightweight products such as hair sprays and mist whereas for thick and curly hair, thick creams and rich oils can be used to better lubrication of the locks.
- Parabens are chemical based preservatives used in cosmetic products to prevent the growth of fungus and molds and increase the shelf life of the skin products. Sulphates are chemicals which is used to provide dense lather, cleansing property to the products. Both the above chemicals can cause acne flareups, skin irritation and oily skin especially among those who have sensitive skin. Hence, its best to go for products which are paraben and sulphate free.
- Opt for natural colouring agents such as henna along with a good hair softener such as eggs or curd instead of using synthetic hair colours. Synthetic hair colours contain damaging chemicals which can harm the hair structure and cause hair to become coarse and dry.
- Try to avoid using hot tools on your hair shafts for styling such as hair straightening, curlers, iron rods since they can damage the hair structure irreparably. If need to be used, they should be used in the lowest to medium heat setting to ensure minimal damage to the hair shafts.
Use protein based hair masks regularly if you often use hot tools for hair styling. The hot tools can cause significant damage to the integrity of hair structure, hence protein rich masks can help to for repair hair shafts.
Hair Care Tips for all Hair Types for all seasons :
- Scalp oil is applied on the scalp for improving the scalp health and need to be kept for atleast 3 hours before washing the scalp for providing the hair with essential nutrients.
- Use rice water and green tea as a final rinse after conditioner for making hair look lustrous, shiny and healthy. It also helps to prevent occurence of dandruff.
- Its necessary to remove sebum and dead cell buildup on the scalp regularly using a scalp exfoliating scrub to ensure the hair follicles receive proper nutrients from massage formulations & oils.
- Using a satin pillowcase as against a cotton one prevents hair breakage and is useful for hair health. Cotton cases tend to absorb essential oils of the scalp and doesn’t make it available for the scalp health. Hence, using a satin pillowcase is preferred.
- UV rays from the sun can harm the hair strands and hence its beneficial to cover the hair/head during exposure under hot sun.
- Trimming split ends can ensure less hair breakage, hence improving hair density.
- Washing hair twice a week using a mild shampoo is recommended. Hair conditioner can be used for detangling the hair and should be used only on the hair and not the scalp. Avoid combing wet hair as it can lead to more breakage, air drying hair is better than blow drying after a hair wash.
- Using a conditioner after hair wash is beneficial as shampoo helps to get the scalp get rid of impurities whereas conditioner adds good shine and bounce to the hair shafts.
- Choose an appropriate shampoo and conditioner which is suitable for your hair type.
- Using baking soda is beneficial as a scalp exfoliator to remove dead skin cells, impurities and excess sebum. It also helps to protect the scalp against growth of dandruff causing fungii.
- Include a well balanced, healthy diet replete with most of the essential nutrients for better hair growth and nourishment. Practice appropriate yoga asanas for ensuring proper blood circulation to the head region.
Maintaining good hair health is possible when most of our dietary and lifestyle factors are balanced well through the day. Its necessary to consider both the internal (diet and lifestyle) as well as the external (use of hair products, hair grooming methods, hygeine) factors for providing good nourishment for overall hair health.
- What are healthy hair vitamins?
Vitamins for achieving healthy hair are Vitamins A, C, E, D and B complex. Other minerals of prime importance for healthy hair are zinc, selenium, biotin and iron.
- Why is health of hair important?
Hair health is an indicator of our overall internal health. To make sure our hormonal and metabolic health is optimum, maintaining healthy hair through diet and lifestyle is necessary.