5 Key Things Your Hair Health Can Reveal About Your General Health

Written by: Rebecca Eaton



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. 

The quick guide:

5 Things Your Hair Health Might Be Trying to Tell You About Your General Health

1. Premature greying 

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. 

Up close photo of lady’s hair blowing in the breeze

2. Split ends and weakened hair 

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. 

3. Hair loss

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:

  • Iron — As the most common nutrient deficiency contributing to hair loss, inadequate iron supplies often result in excessive hair shedding and loss by disrupting the normal hair growth cycle. 
  • Vitamin D — Vitamin D plays a prominent role in hair growth and maintaining hair follicle health. Several studies have found a link between people with inadequate Vitamin D levels and hair loss conditions. 
  • Zinc — You may know zinc as the mineral that supports immune function, protein synthesis, and cellular division. What you may not know is that it's also essential for hair follicle function to help protect against shrinkage and delayed growth. Studies have found that those with hair loss conditions such as alopecia areata, male and female pattern hair loss, and telogen effluvium generally have lower zinc levels. 

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. 

Photo of lady’s hair blowing in the breeze while looking at the ocean

4. Dandruff

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:

  • Sugar
  • Alcohol
  • Refined carbs

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. 

5. Fine and dry hair

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:

  • Puberty — This stage has a significant impact on reproductive hormones. While men will generally see an increase in testosterone, women will start to produce more oestrogen. However, too much testosterone can disrupt normal hair growth. For example, those with excessive testosterone may experience hair thinning on their head, yet an increase in facial hair. Secondly, during this phase, the increased hormones may stimulate oil production, producing oily hair. 
  • Menopause — Typically, women will produce more oestrogen and less testosterone pre-menopause. However, during this transitional stage, oestrogen levels decline, and testosterone may increase. What exactly does this mean for your hair? Testosterone converts to DHT in the hair follicles, which is suggested to impact hair follicles and play a role in hair thinning. 
  • Pregnancy — You may have noticed when someone is pregnant, their hair looks lush, thick, and healthy. Well, there's a good reason for this, which all ties back to hormones. During this stage, women will experience an increase in progesterone and estrogen. These two hormones extend the growth phase of the hair cycle, resulting in less shedding. As hormones rebalance post-pregnancy, the hair growth cycle, including hair shedding, returns to normal. 
  • Stress — Remember how we mentioned the link between chronic stress and premature greying? Unfortunately, it can impact your hair health in more ways than just pigmentation. Stress can also result in hair loss. Research suggests that increased adrenaline and cortisol may interfere with your hair's natural growth cycle by extending the shedding phase. Secondly, these stress hormones may also suppress oestrogen, resulting in hair loss or thinning. 

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. 

Girl with long blonde hair holding three Dr Tanya haircare products

3 Tips to Maintain Optimal Hair Health

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:

1. Invest in a good quality shampoo and conditioner

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. 

2. Know how to care for your hair

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:

  • Don't overwash your hair — Generally speaking, your hair doesn't need to be washed daily (unless specified by your healthcare professional). Over shampooing your hair can strip the natural oils, resulting in excess oil production and the appearance of oilier hair. It seems counteractive, right?
  • Get the temperature right — Hair is porous, meaning what you put on it will be absorbed by it. Washing your hair in hot water can dehydrate your scalp and strip its natural oils. The result? Breakage and frizz. 
  • Be mindful of how you treat your wet hair — Did you know your hair is up to 3x more susceptible to breakage when wet? Avoid roughly towel drying your hair when wet or brushing it with harsh bristles. Instead, let it air dry or use a wide-tooth comb to detangle it. 

3. Minimise the use of hot hair tools 

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:

  • High heat weakens your hair — Exposing your hair to extreme heat changes the shape of the keratin strands in your hair, which subsequently weakens your hair due to lost elasticity, and increases your susceptibility to damage. 
  • High heat reduces moisture — Your hair consists of bonds that are made up of fats, oils, pigments, water, and keratin proteins. When your hair is exposed to heat, it strips the natural oils away and evaporates the water molecules. This process can crack the hair cuticles, which allows more moisture to escape and increases your chances of further hair damage. 

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.