5 Key Things Your Hair Health Can Reveal About Your General Health
Time to read 9 min
Time to read 9 min
You've likely heard that your skin health is often a good indicator of what's going on beneath the surface. Yet, you may or may not know that your hair health tells a similar story.
From appearance and texture to volume and thickness, your hair plays an essential role in demonstrating your general health, and if you're paying close attention, it can even reveal signs of underlying conditions.
Wondering what exactly to look out for and what it might mean? Here are five things your hair may be trying to tell you about your health.
While going grey is a natural part of ageing (and quite a beautiful one to embrace), premature greying that isn't linked to genetics may be a tell-tale sign of chronic stress.
To understand how stress can affect your hair colour, it's important first to understand how greying occurs. Simply put, your hair colour is determined by melanocytes, which are cells responsible for producing pigment. Melanocyte stem cells — which live in your hair follicles at the base of your hair strands — produce new melanocytes, which produce pigment (melanin). However, as we age, or based on genetics, these pigment-producing stem cells slowly disappear, meaning as your hair regrows, it has less pigment or colour, thus appearing grey.
Wondering what stress has to do with this natural process? When experiencing chronic stress, our sympathetic nervous system (i.e., our fight or flight response) is activated to help us effectively respond to perceived stress or danger. Most of you will know that an activated sympathetic nervous system helps keep you alert by speeding up your heart rate and delivering blood to body parts that need more oxygen to help keep you safe and protected. Yet, this common stress response also directly impacts your hair follicles.
Nerves in your sympathetic nervous system run throughout your entire body, which includes your hair follicles. When stressed, our body releases the hormone norepinephrine into the hair follicle. This chemical directly affects melanocyte cells by turning them into pigment cells and causing them to move out of the hair follicle. As there are no longer stem cells to produce new pigment cells, it causes your hair to turn grey.
Hot tip: Did you know low vitamin B12 levels may also cause your hair to grey faster? We recommend getting regular blood tests to ensure you're at a healthy range for vitamin and mineral intake. If you're low in vitamin B12, add vitamin-rich foods like tuna, salmon, or a supplement to your diet.
Like a plant, your hair requires adequate water and nutrients to grow, thrive, and remain healthy. In fact, did you know that your hair strands are made up of almost 25% water?
With that said, the health of your hair, particularly split ends and texture, can be a sign of dehydration. As your hair isn't one of your body's critical functions, when you're dehydrated, it will redirect any hydration to more essential bodily processes and functions, leaving your hair to look after itself. This inevitably slows down hair growth and causes hair shafts to become weak and brittle, resulting in split ends and lost volume.
Hot tip: In cases of extreme dehydration, you may experience more severe hair loss. If you suddenly notice your hair is thinning or falling out in chunks, we recommend seeking medical advice and increasing your daily water and nutrient intake. Secondly, hair and heat styling tools severely dry out and damage your hair, and thus should be avoided if you're already experiencing a few of the above symptoms.
Healthy hair generally grows 0.35mm per day, with the scalp shedding roughly 100 hairs daily (although certain practices can increase this).
Hair loss is a broad topic attributed to many causes, from genetics and hormonal dysregulation to hypothyroidism, hair tension, infection and more. Yet, one more common contributor significantly impacts your hair's volume, thickness, and overall health: vitamin and mineral deficiencies.
Let's take a closer look at a few common micronutrient deficiencies and how they impact hair health:
Hot tip: Other common nutrient deficiencies correlating with hair loss include copper, biotin, folate, riboflavin, and more. Be sure to get regular blood tests to ensure your body receives adequate nutrients to support hair and overall health.
While a few factors influence dandruff, did you know your diet plays a pretty significant role?
Dandruff is a scalp condition categorised by a dry, itchy and flaky scalp and is commonly caused by an overgrowth of yeast and an imbalanced scalp microflora. Generally speaking, when someone has dandruff, the root cause of the problem can most often be traced back to their diet and digestive tract — where yeast forms and grows.
If this sounds like you, it may be a simple case of consuming too many wrong foods. To minimise yeast overgrowth, we recommend steering clear of the following foods until you see noticeable scalp changes:
More specifically, we recommend reducing fats — such as chocolate and dairy — from your diet, which are known to cause excess oil production, worsening the severity of dandruff. Don't worry; this doesn't mean forever. Slowly reintroduce some of these foods back into your diet once you see improvements.
Hot tip: Focus on maintaining a nutrient-dense diet, such as meat, fish, vegetables, lentils, beans, and whole grains. Secondly, add a good quality probiotic to your diet to help crowd out yeast overgrowth.
All hair goes through a natural growth cycle. There is an active phase where new hair is produced and pushed through the hair follicle, a transitional phase where your hair stops growing, and a shedding phase where you'll experience minor hair loss. While this is an entirely normal process, it can be drastically impacted by imbalanced or changing hormones.
Whether caused by life stages (i.e., puberty, menopause, pregnancy, etc.) or medical issues (i.e., thyroid conditions), various factors contribute to hormonal changes. Unfortunately, most of these conditions have an undesirable impact on hair health, ranging from thinning hair and hair loss to oily, dry, and brittle hair.
Let's take a closer look at the relationship between hormones and your hair:
Hot tip: While several factors contribute to weak, brittle, and thin hair, those linked to hormonal imbalances can often be rectified with the help of a professional.
We recommend seeking medical attention and doing the necessary blood tests to understand how your hormones may influence your hair's state. For instance, decreased oestrogen may lead to hair loss, while too much testosterone can result in thinning hair on your head.
While certain hair symptoms and concerns may require you to look within to rectify more pressing health concerns, you can take several measures to help maintain shiny, luscious locks from the outside, too. Once you've worked on your inner health, we recommend prioritising the following hair-focussed tips:
When it comes to hair health, unfortunately, you get what you pay for. Suppose you opt for a more affordable supermarket shampoo and conditioner. In that case, it's essential to understand that you're investing in poor-quality chemicals that will impact your hair and overall health. While we understand everyone's budget may not allow for high-end products (and that is completely okay), we recommend researching safer alternatives and what ingredients to avoid. Knowledge is power when it comes to hair health!
We recommend Dr Tanya's Hair Wellness Trio — a Holy Basil Serum, Conditioner, and Shampoo — to help nourish your hair from the scalp down. This holy trio is 100% natural for added reassurance you're not putting harsh and dangerous chemicals on your hair and, ultimately, your body. Formulated with ingredients such as Licorice Root, Green Tea, Silk Amino Acids, and more, the Dr Tanya Hair Wellness Trio puts quality and results above all else for a soft, silky finish.
Like skin, all hair is unique and requires a custom approach to keep it healthy, shining, and luscious. As such, we recommend taking the time to understand your hair type and what it needs to thrive.
In the meantime, there are general tips everyone can follow to prioritise their hair:
We all love the result of using a blow dryer, straightener or curling wand, but it should come as no surprise that these hot tools do far more damage to your hair than what they're worth. Wondering why exactly? It's simple:
Hot tip: Minimise heat styling as much as possible. Generally speaking, hair damage results from cumulative heat styling, so be sure to cap how regularly you're applying heat to your hair. Curly hair is more porous, thus, more susceptible to damage, while straight and shiny hair may take a little longer to experience visible damage.