Healthy hair starts with what you eat. Shampoo commercials will have you believing otherwise, but the truth is high quality hair growth requires particular nutrients. If you’re lacking in these nutrients, it’s going to show up in your hair. This is one of the first signs I’ll look for to assess someone’s nutritional status, because it’s so common. How to avoid losing chunks of hair when you brush, ensure your hair is strong and keep it shiny?
- Protein – you may think you eat enough, but most people don’t. If your hair is thin, sprouting greys prematurely or falls out easily then this could be why, as protein is the major component of hair. With an inadequate intake of protein, your body will prioritise restoring your muscles, neurochemicals and digestive enzymes over building your hair. See this post to work out how to get enough protein in your diet.
- Essential fatty acids – I’m talking oily fish (salmon, tuna, trout), free-range eggs (yolk included), nuts and seeds (chia, flax, pepitas, sunflower). These oils are great for your skin too, but they’ll also keep your hair glossy and shiny and your scalp dandruff-free. It’s really difficult to get enough essential fatty acids unless you make a conscious effort to do so, so take the pressure off and take a high quality fish oil capsule daily.
- Zinc – we need zinc for cell division and the proper functioning of protein in the body, two processes that take place a lot at the hair matrix. Many of us don’t get enough zinc in our diets, because who eats oysters every day? Keep up your daily intake with cooked spinach and leafy greens, walnuts, almonds, cashews, pumpkin seeds, chickpeas, green peas and quality grass-fed organic meat like beef, lamb, chicken and pork. You may like to take a zinc supplement for a period of one month to get yourself out of a deficiency, but consult a healthcare professional to see if this is right for you.
What else can you do?
Aside from addressing your diet, there are a few tricks you can try to maintain your hair health from the exterior.
- Use argan, coconut or macadamia oils in your hair, either using a small amount on your fingertips applied to the dry ends of your hair or applying a greater amount to the entire lengths of your hair and leaving overnight for a hair mask. My preference is argan oil, also marketed as “Moroccan” oil.
- Wash your hair less often, as frequent washing can dry out hair at the ends and increase oil production at the roots to compensate. I aim for one wash every 7 days. It can sound impossible at first and it depends on your hair type, but for me this works well. I usually leave my hair out for 4 days and tie it up for another 3 days or so. I sometimes rinse my hair in the shower and use conditioner without any shampoo if I need to freshen up after a workout.
- Limit your heat-styling and hair dryer use. I love my straightener as much as the next naturally curly-haired girl, but I try to use it once a week or less.
- Protect your hair from the sun. Harsh sunlight can be just as damaging for your hair as it is for your skin. Wear a hat, tie it up or stay in the shade – although a little bit of sun exposure is fine and definitely a good thing for you.
- Protect your hair when you go swimming. Coat your hair in coconut oil or your preferred conditioner/hair mask before you go swimming so that it is protected from the damaging, drying effects of chlorine and salt. The oil naturally repels the water, to limit how much your hair absorbs. Rinse out your hair with fresh water as soon as you can after swimming and apply more conditioner to keep those lengths hydrated.