Your level of health can manifest itself in many different ways. Our skin, nails, and hair are some of the features that people notice first and among the most visible signs of health. Is the hair thinning? Is it brittle? Has it lost its luster? Is it limp?
Because your hair is composed of discharged protein cells and its health is affected by many environmental factors including diet, stress level, and exposure to chemicals, it tells a story.
What is your story?
As for me, I have always had fine hair. At points in my life it has been full, but even then I lost about 100- 150 strands a day, which is normal. With this loss comes active re-growth in the form of new, shorter hair. I have noticed that during stressful times, such as a bad breakup, I have lost greater amounts of hair, sometimes even in clumps. At these times I do all I can to reduce my stress level to help keep my hair as thick as possible. In general, I have an awareness of my stress level in relation to my hair health.
Going Gray at an Early Age
I discovered my first gray hair at 21. Now in my mid 30’s, I am about 35 percent gray.
Gray hair has two causes: mineral deficiency and heredity (pre-mature greying).
Starting at age 18, I embraced a vegan and vegetarian lifestyle for seven years, but didn’t properly educate myself on nutrition. During that time, I lacked the protein and minerals that keep the color in new hair growth. In addition, all the women on both sides of my family went gray at an early age.
I color my hair using natural hair dye from the health food store. For the last five years, I’ve indulged in deep conditioning treatments, glosses, and occasional highlights at the beautiful loft salon my best friend runs, as they have transitioned to mostly organic low-chemical products and color.
Is your hair thinning?
When men lose their hair it is due to testosterone’s effect on the hair follicle, stress, or heredity. When women lose their hair, the causes are similar: hormone imbalance, stress, or other underlying medical conditions.
>> >> Read more about the Reality of Hair Loss
When women are pregnant, they often stop losing any hair at all and as their bellies grow, their hair gets more gorgeous and lustrous than ever. When they give birth the hair will often fall out -– this is normal.
If you’re unhappy with the current health of your hair, here are 10 surefire ways to get your tresses thick, shiny, and bouncy!
1. Eat well
Hair is protein discharge, and adding good quality animal protein to your diet will help encourage growth.
Eat WHOLE eggs. They contain biotin, folate, silica, and B-5, which are all universally known for helping promote lustrous hair. Consuming enough fat can aid in improving overall shine and texture. When I looked at the most recommended (by the very knowledgeable vitamin expert at my health food store) food grade hair, skin, and nail vitamin blend, it was clear that eating more kale (vitamin C and Silica) berries (more C), onions, leeks, garlic or scallions (sulfur), mushrooms (zinc), almonds, brown rice (vitamin E), liver, sunflower seeds (pantothenic acid – B5), lobster, oysters, beef liver, crab, and shitake mushrooms (copper) and a wide variety of antioxidant herbs like ginger, rosemary, and turmeric root, could benefit hair growth and make hair even more gorgeous!
2. Get a shower filtration system
This is a big deal because you can absorb large amounts of chlorine while you shower, and there is no telling what that does to your hair and your health.
Filtering shower water removes a plethora of nasty chemicals and that is good all around.
3. Be careful what products you use
Certain products can clog the hair shaft, and that will impede new growth. Many products contain alcohol, which will strip your hair. The chemicals in most commercial hair care products are simply awful. Choose natural, green products instead. I am a big fan of the John Masters line because he uses a lot of essential oils and plant-based ingredients.
4. Try not to wash so much or don’t wash at all
When I say “not washing” I mean not the typical way … you still need to cleanse your scalp, here is more about that: I was up late one night watching an infomercial for a hair cleanser (Wen brand) that was organic and did not foam, as it had no laurel sulfates, and used no chemicals at all. Many celebrities endorsed it and I found myself glued to the TV for the whole hour-long infomercial. Yes, I ordered the product and have been buying it ever since. It cleans my hair without foaming or stripping, and it extends the life of my color. I like this concept. Most commercial products contain sodium laurel sulfate, which can be very harmful.
Read your ingredients. If you can’t pronounce it or wouldn’t eat it, leave it on the shelf.
For a list of toxic ingredients go to the Green Beauty Team toxic ingredients glossary
5. Be gentle
Comb through wet hair with a wide-tooth comb. Start at the ends and go slowly. Too many people brush and yank at their hair when it is wet and most delicate. Buy a high-quality professional hair dryer and use it at the medium setting, or don’t blow dry your hair at all. When using heating tools like a dryer, flat iron, curling iron, or hot rollers, be sure to use natural products for heat protection. Be slow and gentle and you will be happy with your locks.
6. Wear a hat in the sun if you color your hair
This recommendation is straight from the lovely Joanna Gonzalez, my colorist at Butterfly Studio NYC, especially if you have highlights — this will tone down the brassiness.
7. Do some deep conditioning weekly or bi-weekly
For a simple treatment at home, mash an over-ripe avocado with olive oil and egg yolks, and leave in your hair for an hour while you read or catch up on Facebook. I recommend wearing a conditioning cap, rinsing off well, and shampooing with a gentle non-chemical shampoo immediately after.
8. Harmonize your hormones
This can be a tough one; I work with my clients on this. Harmonizing hormones takes time and patience because often it took quite a while to get them out of whack — it takes time to balance them. Mostly it is cleaning up the diet and getting plenty of rest, stress management, and being very aware of your relationship with synthetic hormones (found in commercial meats, dairy, eggs, and birth control pills)
9. Add some sort of stress management practice
Yoga and meditation and for the love of G-d, please get some sleep!
10. Love the hair you have now
I know this sounds challenging, but if you look in the mirror and say to your friends “I hate my hair!” it actually hurts your hair energetically. Love your hair, no matter what state is in.
Whenever you start to think about hating it, replace that thought with a love thought and affirm: “My hair is lustrous and beautiful,” “My hair is my crowning glory,” or “I am thankful for my healthy, full head of hair.”
You could also rent the movie “Hair” or go see Disney’s “Tangled.”
Some of my clients have walked into my office with hair so thin I could see their scalps. After changing their diet to include the “healthy hair foods” setting rules about sleep and stress management and making sure to have good quality hormone-free animal protein, milk, and dairy, their hair changed drastically. More often than not, it took three-to-six months, but there was a noticeable difference. While I’m not making any promises, I am confident that if you incorporate these suggestions into your lifestyle, you could give Rapunzel a run for her money.