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Confession time: It may sound silly, but the way my hair is behaving (or misbehaving) can set my day on a path of unnecessary self-consciousness or embarrassment.
Vanity? Obsession? Call it what you will. I’m not alone, though. For many of us, hair is a big part of self-identity. It can affect the outward message of confidence, sexuality, vitality, professionalism, and personal grooming we want to project. That’s a big burden for those follicles to bear.

Hair has no muscles, blood, lubrication, or nerves of its own, but it grows from follicles associated with all of the above. Interestingly, the hair growth that arises from your follicles can be a telltale sign of your body’s overall condition. Physical illness, deficiencies, and self-neglect can be reflected in your hair.

Address those problems, and you can turn bad hair days around. It will take some patience to apply these 5 tips, but it’s worth the effort.

1. Get to the root of thinning hair.

Thinning has many causes. More than one may be the culprit if you are finding extra hair in your brush lately. Some hair loss—50 to a hundred strands per day—is perfectly normal. Some slightly less common, but equally normal, conditions can also result in loss of hair. Hormonal imbalances from pregnancy, childbirth, genetic tendencies, or an estrogen drop during menopause are a few typical reasons behind this type of thinning of hair.

Illness, chemotherapy, trauma, or certain medications can cause more serious degrees of hair loss. Under these conditions, hair loss tends to be temporary, and the passage of stress-free, health-boosting time is the best treatment. However, be aware that a sudden or severe hair loss can be an indication of a medical condition that requires treatment by a qualified health practitioner. Low thyroid levels, diabetes, or iron deficiency, for example, can all result in thinning hair.

2. “Bon appétit” to fortify your follicles.

What you eat affects your health—and your hair. Healthful nutrients support hair growth. Try supplementation, or better yet, add the following through good dietary habits:

  • Essential fatty acids
    : walnuts, flaxseeds (ground fresh), fish, and avocado.
  • Vitamin C (needed to produce collagen, a structural component): citrus fruits, strawberries, and red peppers.
  • B vitamins, especially biotin: nuts, brown rice, and oats.
  • Iron (supports development of keratin, which protects the outer cuticle of hair): green leafy vegetables, cashews, berries, lean meat, blackstrap molasses, and egg whites.
  • Zinc: pumpkin seeds, pecans, fresh oysters, Brazil nuts, and eggs.

And don’t forget water. Poor hydration can result in lifeless, brittle, dry hair.

3. Treat your hair with TLC.

Hair experts agree that how we handle our locks—even when the hair is healthy—can lead to breakage and dryness. Overprocessing with chemical coloring agents, straightening, or styling products can damage the protective cuticle of the individual hair shafts and the scalp. Extensions, weaves, pulling hair back tightly in elastics, and excessively heated tools all take a toll. Conditioning, plus avoiding the sun and harsh hair-product ingredients such as sulfates and alcohol, will make a positive difference in your hair.

4. Ease hair damage with natural, do-at-home treatments.

Is your hair already showing signs of mistreatment? A few simple tricks can make even dry, damaged hair more manageable and strong. Start by increasing circulation to the living tissue, your scalp. Add a few drops of rosemary essential oil to your shampoo, and massage your
scalp. Home beauty experts swear by avocado for repairing damage and smoothing unruly hair. Mash half an avocado and massage into clean, damp hair. Leave in for 15 minutes before rinsing. Or, slather a mix of coconut oil, egg yolks, honey, and mayonnaise on your hair and cover with a warm towel for a special hydrating treat. (While we’re on the subject of nourishing foods, click over for two tasty new recipes that support great hair and skin, from the inside out.)

5. SOS for stress, the most common culprit behind hair issues.

Stress—the everyday kind and the sudden emergency variety—is often the reason behind weakness, low energy, and immune dysfunction. It also can promote dull hair that breaks easily. Worse, hair loss can result from excess cortisol, the “fight or flight” chemical that floods your body with continued stress. Losing hair may have a snowball effect: It tends to trigger a dip in self-confidence, which leads to more stress.

Work pressure, family ups and downs, or even crash diets can be stress makers. Calm your mind and body. De-stressing benefits all aspects of your wellbeing, including your hair. Consider yoga, acupuncture, meditation, or simply me-time.

While you may need to seek medical attention to rule out a few causes of hair loss, these suggestions—along with time—may do the trick for the rest. Here’s to wishing you—and me—great hair days moving forward!

Speaking of moving forward, be sure to watch for my next newsletter. I’ll be addressing a few attitudes that just may make your journey into life after 40 a lot smoother.

©Copyright 2009-2013 Roberta Mittman, L.Ac. All rights reserved.

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