You’re probably familiar with many of the ways aging can affect your skin. And if you’ve been a reader for long, you know some ways to minimize these effects. But what about your hair? Yes, going gray is often part of the package as you age. But many women don’t realize that we’re often at risk of thinning hair too – this isn’t just a man’s problem.
In fact, 40% of women will begin noticing some hair loss by the age of 40. The good news is that there are a number of steps you can take to help keep your hair think and healthy – no matter what color it is.
First, it’s important to note that while thinning hair is considered a common “side effect” of aging, other issues can cause it as well. An unhealthy diet, an allergic reaction, stress, or even an overuse of styling products can trigger loss. And illness can as well. If you start noticing your hair thinning suddenly, you may need to talk to your doctor about it. This is especially true if you can’t pinpoint a likely cause.
Once you’ve identified the issue, whether it was a period of stress or just your age, you can begin working to restore your hair’s natural thickness. (Of course, if it was stress, make sure you’re making appropriate lifestyle changes too!) It may surprise you to know that you may have some of the best tools to help with this on hand already. Your refrigerator and your pantry may be housing just what you need.
Because protein makes up the building blocks of hair, applying a protein-based “mask” can help give the body what it needs to rebuild. Eggs are an excellent source of concentrated protein, and I’m guessing you already have a carton on hand. To whip up a hair treatment, just beat an egg or two together and massage the mix into the scalp and damp hair. Let it sit for 30 minutes, then rinse thoroughly with water and mild shampoo.
Or, if you prefer, you can mix egg yolks with a tablespoon of olive oil and two tablespoons of water. If you do this, you can apply the treatment directly to dry hair. Wash it out after 15 minutes.
If you’d rather leave the egg out of things, olive oil alone can be beneficial as well. It supplies an infusion of omega-3 fatty acids that will nourish and soften the hair and soothe dry scalp. Softer hair breaks less easily. To use olive oil on your hair, first warm it to body temperature. Massage it onto your hair and your scalp, then let it sit for 30 to 45 minutes. Mild shampoo should get it out.
You can also try castor oil this way to give your hair fatty acids along with extra vitamin E. Mixing in ripe avocado with the olive oil will supply vitamin E as well.
Using Topical Vitamins to Strengthen Your Hair
Speaking of vitamins, you know I’m a fan of vitamin C serum for your skin. And vitamin C can help brighten your hair as well. Shinier hair appears thicker and healthier. You can make a puree from oranges that will supply vitamin C to the hair. Plus, the acidic juice will help remove product residue. This residue can prevent healthy hair growth. Just pulse oranges in a blender until you get a thick puree. Apply it to the hair and scalp for an hour. If you find this treatment drying to your hair, follow it up with conditioner.
Finally, you can try aloe vera gel. It’s not just for sunburns! You can apply pure aloe vera gel directly to your hair and scalp. Or you can mix it with olive oil or coconut oil first. Wash it out after 30 minutes. Try this treatment once or twice a week to help strengthen hair.
Foods That Keep Hair Healthy
Of course, what goes on your hair makes a difference in its health. But so does what you put in your body. All of the nutrients we’ve talked about already will help. Look for high-quality protein sources, like eggs or Greek yogurt. Salmon contains protein as well as fatty acids. Walnuts are a good vegetarian source of fatty acids too. Beans are another great choice for protein. And eat foods rich in vitamin C to help protect your hair from free radicals. Even adding a few servings a week of these foods can make a difference.
However, you may already be getting enough protein, vitamin C, or fatty acids in your diet. But there are other nutrients and vitamins you may be overlooking.
To produce the keratin that makes up the hair, your body needs a B vitamin called biotin. But it's possible to become deficient in this nutrient. Some people end up with a biotin deficiency because they're eating raw eggs. A protein found in eggs called avidin binds to biotin and prevents the body from using it. Cooking eggs destroys this protein. But even if you're vigilant about cooking your eggs, you can also end up with a biotin deficiency due to anticonvulsant medications, alcoholism, pregnancy, digestive issues, or other medications, like isotretinoin or antibiotics.
Research published in the journal Skin Appendage Disorders confirmed that in 18 cases of biotin supplementation, the participants' hair growth improved. And that's not all. It also helped strengthen their nails. This makes sense, as your nails are also made of keratin. So taking biotin to help your hair can give you an extra beauty boost in the nail department too.
Biotin isn’t the only B vitamin that’s good for your hair. A study found that B5 increases the thickness of the hair shaft as well. Thicker hair shafts are less likely to break, and of course they contribute to an overall appearance of fullness.
If you've started to notice that you're losing your hair, you may have a B vitamin deficiency. Or it could be an l-cysteine deficiency. Without the protein building block of l-cysteine, the hair cortex becomes too weak to function properly. So you start to lose your hair. Many people become deficient in l-cysteine as they age, and they assume that the hair loss that accompanies this deficiency is inevitable. Fortunately, it's not! L-cysteine supplementation can help reverse it.
One of the reasons the hair needs l-cysteine to function is that this amino acid holds together the keratin molecules that make up the hair cortex. Without l-cysteine, the proper bonds can't form. Even if you’re getting enough biotin to make keratin, if you’re short in l-cysteine, once again, your hair health will be in trouble.
Other Nutrients to Consider
A few other vitamins and nutrients you should be mindful of are iron, zinc, and resveratrol. If you’re still menstruating and you’re losing your hair already, iron deficiency could be playing a role. Consider asking your doctor to check your levels. And eat iron-rich foods like bean, greens, and eggs (including the yolk – that’s where the iron is).
Studies have found a relationship between zinc levels and female (and male) pattern baldness. Once again, beans will supply some dietary zinc. You can also try oysters, grass-fed beef, chicken, nuts, crab, and lobster. Or you can supplement – you want to be getting about 50 mg a day.
Finally, resveratrol is a great partner to vitamin C as you fight back free radicals. It will help protect your hair follicles from damage. Try red grapes, blueberries, or a supplement to increase your resveratrol levels.
As you can see, a healthy diet can supply much of what you need to protect or replenish full, healthy, thick hair. But there may still be some gaps. That’s where a supplement can help. You can try the vitamins I mentioned, especially biotin and l-cysteine, individually. Or you can look for a product that’s done the work for you.
That’s why I like Healthy Hair & Nails. This formula contains biotin and other B vitamins. It gives you l-cysteine. And it supplies vitamin C, zinc, and a variety of other nutrients that support healthy hair. Plus, as the name suggests, you’ll get the added bonus of strong, healthy nails thanks to these nutrients.
When a nutritional deficiency is at the root of your hair loss, it can be a guessing game to figure out what it is. Taking a supplement like Healthy Hair & Nails can help you cover all your bases. And of course, you can pair it with some at-home treatments to strengthen your hair further as it grows.
Oh – and the gray hair – the Chinese herb Polygonum multiflorum has been scientifically shown to help prevent gray hair.
Many women are unpleasantly surprised by hair loss as they age. With the right diet, treatments, and supplements, you don’t have to be among them. The only downside might be that you could need more hair dye!