Without a doubt, hair is one of the most reliable indicators of the body’s health. Scientists can even test it to determine what diseases a person has had, or any drugs they have used. Almost everything that has passed through the bloodstream ends up in the hair.
Naturally, this includes vitamins and minerals. Many of them are essential to ensure the health of the follicle, the papilla and its matrix, and the hair that grows from it.
The hair that is outside the scalp has no nerves or blood supply, and is classified as “dead” tissue. It must be, or it could not be cut painlessly.
Despite the claims made by manufacturers of externally applied products, it is impossible to “nourish” or “feed” visible hair. These products alter the hair’s appearance, usually by coating it with wax or lanolin. The only way to nourish hair is to provide the nutrients to the papilla while the hair is growing. Healthy hair starts from within.
A number of vitamins and minerals have been identified as having a specific and positive effect on hair health. These include Folic Acid, Niacin, Vitamin B12, Biotin, Pantothenic Acid, Choline Bitartrate, Inositol, PABA, Iodine, Iron, Silica Oxide, Magnesium, Copper, Zinc and Manganese.
It is important to remember that even an intensive vitamin therapy won’t help all men or women with alopecia. There is no “magic cure” for all people, or for all types of hair loss.
Health supplements will, however, produce a positive effect on terminal hair (the thick strands commonly known as “head hair”), and may counteract some types of hair loss. Like all forms of natural or conventional therapies, health supplements will provide the best results if used early in treatment. Starting supplements at the first sign of hair loss, or even before in men and women who suspect that they may be candidates for the problem, can have a positive effect in treating the underlying causes of alopecia before large portions of the scalp are affected.
Thinning hair associated with age may be due to the fact that the capillary loops supplying blood and nutrients to the follicles diminish in older people. A health supplement regime supplying extra nutrients to the hair may keep these follicles healthier.
A healthy follicle and papilla will always produce hair. Unfortunately, for many people, a “healthy” follicle is lacking, either through insufficient nutrients or health hazards.
Conventional medicine uses drugs that target specific areas of the body. Alternative medicine, such as vitamin therapy, focuses on “whole health.” A healthy body is one that is healthy all over, not just in certain areas. The vitamins and minerals which help keep hair follicles healthy will, at the same time, work to keep all of the body in good shape.
When using health supplements, it is important to keep the idea of “whole health” in mind. Supplements will produce better results faster if the following are also done:
One of the most noticeable effects of tobacco smoke is constriction of the veins and arteries. Good blood supply is essential to healthy hair. Constricted veins carry fewer nutrients and oxygen and are less able to nourish the papilla and matrix, where hair growth starts. Nicotine also depletes some vitamins, especially water-soluble ones such as Vitamin C.
Don’t overuse prescription medications
All prescription medicines should be taken as directed. Ask your doctor if natural medicines would be appropriate. For example, antihyperlipidemics taken to lower blood cholesterol can produce hair loss. Natural medicines for lowering cholesterol, such as herbal remedies, will not have this adverse effect on the hair.
Every part of the body, from blood to follicle cells to nerves, depends on a regular supply of essential nutrients. These include proteins, vitamins, minerals and some fat. Unfortunately, the typical American diet is not balanced, and is heavy on animal fat and starch while low in vitamins and fiber. To improve the diet, most people should eat more fresh fruits and vegetables (at least six servings per day) and cut back on red meat, bread, pastry, and fried or deep-fried foods and snack items. It is also important to maintain proper fluid levels by drinking six to eight glasses of water per day.
Don’t overdo alcohol.
Too much can cause vitamin deficiencies, such as low levels of Folic Acid.
Keep stress to a minimum
Studies have shown that high levels of stress may be a contributing factor to many types of alopecia, and will affect the body’s overall health. Many people with high levels of stress react by pulling or tugging at their hair and are sometimes unaware that they are doing it. (The condition is called trichotillomania.) If it isn’t possible to adapt your lifestyle, make small changes wherever possible. Some herbal medicines have also been proven to reduce stress without side-effects.
Treat the hair carefully
Wet hair is extremely fragile. Never brush wet hair. Instead, comb it gently. Take out tangles by working the hair from the ends, rather than forcing the comb through, which will break or pull out the hairs. Blow-dryers, hot rollers and brushing against the grain (such as “back-combing”) are also very hard on the hair
Limit hair treatments
All chemical treatments, such as permanents, straightening, dying or bleaching will weaken the hair shaft, especially if they are used in combination (e.g., dying and then curling the hair). Weakened hairs are easily broken. Hair that breaks at or close to the scalp will give the same appearance as hair that has fallen out.
Avoid tight styles
These can break the hair, or pull on the follicles enough to cause damage. (This damage is known as traction alopecia.) Cornrows or tight braids are bad for this. If you are going to tie your hair back, make sure the ponytail is loose. – Use gentle cleansers. Cheap, harsh shampoos are hard on the hair. Use gentle shampoos. Wash the hair thoroughly, but don’t overwork it, as it is fragile when wet. Rinse very well to remove all traces of the product.