November 22, 2023

Hair Wellness: Magnificent Mane or Troubled Tresses?

For many of us, our hair is an important part of our identity. It is often one of the first things we may notice about another person.  Einstein – the brilliant physicist with the crazy hair…  Fabio – that buff guy with the long blonde hair… 

Many women and men alike struggle with hair changes that may occur for any number of reasons, including:

Seasonal shifts
Autoimmune disease
Hormone imbalances
Heightened stress
Digestive disturbances
Poor diet
Nutrient deficiencies
Metabolic dysfunction
Toxin overload
Recent COVID-19 infection or other viral illness
Surgical procedures
History of anesthesia
Medication side effects
Traction alopecia (a result of tight braiding)
Chemical damage (perms, bleach, etc.)
Environmental factors
Use of poor quality hair products
Excessive use of hot tools
Seborrheic dermatitis
Scalp psoriasis
Telogen effluvium
Scarring alopecia
Androgenetic alopecia

…This is not an exhaustive list.

Often, hair health challenges are multifactorial in nature, including two or more of the potential contibutors above.

The most appropriate starting point for assessing your hair health is a visit with your naturopathic doctor, primary care provider, or dermatologist.  These clinicians can conduct an assessment and run necessary labs based on your presentation to investigate possible underlying factors and offer proper treatment.

In some cases, a scalp biopsy performed by a dermatologist may be necessary to determine a definitive diagnosis.

In cases of scarring hair loss, potential for new growth may not be possible, as hair follicles may no longer be viable.

As with any condition, optimizing the fundamentals of health can improve outcomes.

Maintain a well-balanced diet
Optimize digestion
Properly manage stress
Get adequate sleep
Move your body regularly

The above tasks aren’t always so simple and nobody is perfect, but everyday is a new opportunity to do your best & seek help in the areas with which you struggle to find balance.

In recent times, COVID-related hair loss has been a common phenomenon, resulting from the associated inflammatory response and physical stress on the body. Physical stress and mental-emotional stress have similar effects on the hair cycle— More shedding, less growth.

Some of the steps to take if you believe that your hair struggles may be related to recent viral illness:

Lab work
Exercising more consistently
Reducing inflammation
(proper nutrition, vitamin D, herbal anti-inflammatories
& immune modulators)
Self-care/stress management techniques
Chiropractic care
Massage therapy

These measures not only help to improve hair health, but are positive steps toward addressing the detriments of chronic stress that that so many of us have endured, whether mental or physical.

Additionally, it is imperative to be mindful of using

clean products.

Harsh chemicals in both hair products as well as personal care products can be detrimental to the health of our locks as well as our body’s overall toxic burden.

More energy required for detoxification = less energy dedicated to growing healthy hair.

Think about it — The human body is wise and understands what processes to prioritize.  Evolutionarily, whether we have hair on our heads is not a life or death situation.  Detoxification of junk takes precedence for health.

For hair products in general, it is recommended to avoid the following:

Sulfates/SLS (sodium laureth sulfate)

The above constituents can strip the hair of the natural oils that we require to sustain a healthy scalp and hydrated hair. Washing too frequently or using poor-quality products can lead to dry hair prone to breakage and overproduction of oil — You read that right.  Although we are stripping our hair of oils with these harsh chemicals, the scalp tends to undergo a rebound response by putting out more oil, leading to a greasy head.

When it comes to personal care products, such as makeup, soaps, lotions, facial cleansers, deodorants, etc., it is advised to avoid the aforementioned compounds and seek limited-ingredient, clean brands.

Given the plethora of brands & products in the ever-growing beauty industry, the

Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep Database

is a great resource that offers a helpful starting point in assessing your potential toxic burden. Here, you can search the products that you use or specific ingredients found within your products to attain more information about related concerns, hazard scores, and other aliases that the ingredients may go by on product labels.

These are just some examples of how one may work toward modulating the stress response and reducing  toxic burden to optimize hair wellness and in turn, full body wellness— the holistic approach.

Addressing the root causes of the issue is vital to successful treatment.