Co-Directors at Northern Hair Loss Clinic, Jessica Patrick and Hayley Jennings, reveal why you really are what you eat when it comes to your hair.
As a visual marker of overall health, hair is up there topping the list. It therefore stands to reason that healthy diet that contains the right mix of protein, vitamins, minerals and other nutrients can really help to improve scalp and hair health, while accentuating the look, feel and growth-rate of your clients’ locks. It therefore stands to reason that a deficiency in certain nutrients and an imbalanced diet can lead to bad scalp health, poor hair growth, thinning brittle and damaged locks, and even hair loss. Of course, there are so many other factors that affect hair growth and can cause hair loss –from medical reasons to emotional factors– but it’s important to recognize the role that diet can play too, and it is one of the things that Jessica and Hayley frequently discuss with their clients at the Northern Hair Loss Clinic.
Certain vegan-based lifestyle factors have become more popular in recent years, and while there are many proven benefits to adopting a plant-based diet and removing certain animal-based products from a diet, cutting out major food groups can often have a negative impact on the hair’s overall health. For example, vegans sometimes fail to maintain a good balance of certain minerals, such as zinc. Zinc is hugely important for hair growth, and a lack of it could lead to hair loss. Vitamin B12 only occurs naturally in animal products, so supplementing a vegan diet with this vitamin is also essential. Some people find that their protein intake drops when they switch to a plant-based diet, and a lack of protein in the diet has been shown to lead to hair loss: eating adequate protein is important for hair growth because hair follicles are made up mostly of protein. Refined carbs just won’t cut it as a substitute.
The direct link between diet and hair loss can manifest itself in various ways. A diet that lacks an adequate amount of protein can lead to an iron deficiency and subsequent hair loss, for example. Although rare, some women find that a deficiency in zinc or iron can cause a generalised thinning of the hair across the whole scalp. In addition, malnutrition through extreme dieting can slowly lead to generalised hair loss. Telogen effluvium –a hair loss condition treated at the Northern Hair Loss Clinic– involves around 30% of the hairs going into the resting phase before falling out: this can be triggered by a number of different events, including an extreme change in diet, including an iron deficiency.
When it comes to diet impacting on hair growth there are certain foods that should be avoided if hair loss is a concern. The consumption of high fat, fried foods and hydrogenated oils should be avoided, for example. Studies have linked monounsaturated and saturated fat to increased testosterone levels which could potentially lead to elevated levels of DHT –a by-product that causes hair loss– while hydrogenated oils are thought to affect hair growth by suppressing essential fatty acids needed for healthy hair.
Sugar-free sweeteners should also be avoided: the artificial sweetener aspartame, for example, has been directly linked to hair loss and thinning hair. Studies have linked vitamin D3 deficiency to hair loss, while reduced levels of iron in the blood has also been linked to hair loss. Vitamin C helps the body to absorb iron from food, so this is another vital vitamin for promoting healthy hair growth at the follicular level. Furthermore, research has shown that vitamin A promotes the production of sebum, which helps to keep hair healthy, and vitamin A is also thought to speed up the rate of hair growth and encourage the growth of thicker hair, all while preventing other hair follicles from regressing.
To encourage natural hair growth, a healthy functioning scalp and to discourage hair loss or thinning, a balanced diet full of nutritionally dense fresh produce should always be adopted. The team at the Northern Hair Loss Clinic always advises clients suffering from any type of improper hair growth to consult a qualified trichologist to discuss the potential reasons for their issue.