‘Tis the season to be jolly….
It is also the season of excess – food, alcohol and hair styling!
What exactly happens to our hair at this frenetic time of year? Trichologist Tracey Walker MIT says that overeating isn’t normally detrimental to hair health as long as we are obtaining proteins in our diet (red/white meat, fish, eggs, cheese, nuts and seeds). If proteins are omitted from our diet, hair growth is often slower even when the energy value of the diet is the same. Also, the hair produced is a much poorer quality.
Alcohol and smoking do have a negative effect on our diet, which in turn could have a detrimental effect on our hair. Both alcohol and smoking deplete the water soluble vitamins such as vitamin C and the B group. Vitamin C helps form red blood cells and aids the absorption of iron which is an essential mineral for hair health.
The B vitamins are critical for maintaining healthy function of the nervous system and for reducing the effects of stress upon the body. These vitamins are also essential for the metabolism of fats and proteins and they play a large role in hair and skin health.
If your alcohol levels are high, it may be worth increasing the foods that contain vitamin C such as citrus fruits and also foods high in B vitamins such as whole grains, pork, beef, chicken, fish, eggs, milk, nuts and mushrooms.
However, the biggest stresses on our hair this time of year are the excessive amounts of styling with heated devices. Try to be mindful of the amount of heat and trauma the hair is exposed to. Keep the hair dryer on a cooler setting (even if it takes a little longer to dry the hair!) and keep those hair straigtheners on a cooler setting too. Trichologists see a lot of hair damage caused by excessive heat and pulling and this can be easily prevented. If you are styling your hair more than normal, treat your hair to some good moisturising products, which will put the moisture back into the hair that the heat has remove. Black hair responds well to steaming, so treat yourself to a conditioning treatment at the hairdressers or a trichological clinic.
Enjoy the festive season and when thinking about those New Year Resolutions include these five points to improve your hair health in 2018:
- Include protein foods in every meal – hair is made of protein and needs the protein from our diet to form hair
- Include iron-rich foods such as red meat and green leafy vegetables in your diet. Low iron status is an extremely common cause of hair loss/thinning in women
- Use the appropriate shampoo and conditioner for your hair/scalp type for example, if your hair is prone to being dry, use moisturising shampoos and conditioners to replace the moisture. If you have an itchy/flaky scalp treat this with a medicated shampoo to avoid excess scratching which can also cause damage to the hair
- Cut down on the use of heated appliances. Using them daily on a hot setting can cause undue damage to the hair
- Finally, avoid low calorie or starvation diets in the New Year – it is common knowledge that not eating enough calories or losing large amounts of weight quickly causes hair shedding.
Tracey is the Director of Education for the Institute of Trichologists whilst maintaining her own practice in Cambridgeshire one day per week.