Could shampoo and conditioner be ruining your hair? What to do about hair loss? Will natural products-like eggs and olive oil- really make your hair more shiny and healthy? Why you should be eating oatmeal? You can’t change the hair type you were born with, but even if you weren’t blessed with silky, “easy to manage” hair, there are ways to help you maintain healthy hair- and even prevent hair loss. Here are a few a few of these techniques, based on both Chinese and conventional medicine.
1. Proper use of shampoo and conditioner (and abstention from flat irons and straighteners) Washing the hair is essential to its grooming, but the American Association for Dermatology (AAD) states that using shampoo and conditioner appropriately is just as important. “When washing with shampoo, it is advised that you focus on the scalp, whereas the recommendations for conditioner are different,” the Association explains. “Conditioner should be used only on the tips of the hair, and not on the scalp, otherwise it may cause essentially good hair to appear oily or listless.”
Some doctors and stylists recommend avoiding conditioner completely, since it contains chemical substances that damage and thin the hair over time. Dalia Dar, a certified acupuncturist and Chinese medicine therapist, adds that most products contain a chemical substance called Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS), which can also damage hair when used too frequently. “There are shampoos made of natural ingredients, and they are preferable to the standard ones. Their drawback is that they are much more expensive than regular shampoos.” Most hair straightening treatments are based on chemicals that damage the hair’s structure and flat irons burn it, therefore these methods are not recommended for daily use.
2. Identify your type, and treat it accordingly According to the ADD, people must pay attention to match the treatment with their hair type. For example, people with a oily head need to wash it frequently, even every day, depending on the amount of oil the scalp produces. On the other hand, it is recommended that people with dry hair- due to constant coloring, or other chemical treatments- wash it less often. Age also affects the production of oil in the scalp: as we grow older, the scalp secretes less oil, affecting the recommended wash frequency. In any case, if dandruff-, which may indicate an oily scalp at times- appears, the frequency of washes should be increased.
According to Chinese medicine, Dar explains, thin, dry, brittle hair “signals a liver problem, and a problem with blood supply to the scalp. Dull hair indicates weakness in the lungs. Once you identify the cause to the problem, the treatment focuses on it and results are seen as well. Oiliness in skin or scalp, ” adds Dar, “is in some cases a symptom of a moisture- rich nutrition – dairy products, fried foods, and an excess of sugars and trans fats. Therefore, a nutritional change can also improve the appearance of hair.” The fatty acid Omega 3- found for example in chia and flax seeds, and in wild fish- could reduce the appearance of dandruff.
3. Suffering from hair loss? General hair-loss and male pattern baldness is a phenomenon usually rooted in genetics, but it can also be the result of a deficiency in the components most vital to the body, such as iron, B12, and zinc, or of taking certain medications.
“During an iron or B12 deficiency or with people suffering from low blood pressure, the blood supply to the brain may be damaged, leading to the loss,” says Dar. For that reason, hair-loss treatment begins with finding out the cause for the loss. Zinc, Dar explains, is a mineral that holds an important part in our immune system, and a deficiency in it is often expressed by hair-loss. “Sometimes all you need to do in order to solve the problem is to increase zinc intake, for example by consuming nuts, seeds, grains, and legumes, which are rich in zinc. Pumpkin seeds, for example, are highly recommended in relation to zinc. If the cause is iron deficiency, then iron- rich foods should be consumed, such as leafy greens, liver, eggs, and Tahini.”
There are also medications that can cause hair-loss, “like immune system depressants, and anti- depression medications,” says Dar. “Another possible cause for hair-loss is thyroid gland deficiency.” During pregnancy, hair is mostly healthy and vibrant, but loses its shine after birth. “Thus can happen due to certain dwindling in mineral and vitamin reserves in the body, and due to blood loss.”
4. Be aware of damaging stress, High stress levels, evoked by a life crisis, can cause a significant hair loss a few months later. Therefore, it is obviously recommended to try to reduce daily stress levels, if possible (for instance with physical activity and exercising other calming practices). In any case, remember that if you’ve experienced such hair loss- it is not a permanent situation. Usually the hair will grow back within six months to a year of the moment the body returned to normal function.
“With people who have gone through very difficult trauma, an immediate and extreme hair loss can be seen, but those are rare cases. Still, certain stress can cause hormonal imbalance, which can be manifested in hair loss.” Regular consumption of oatmeal can assist those suffering from stress. “Oatmeal relaxes and reduces body stress levels.”
5. Use natural products. In Italy, it is customary to nourish the scalp with olive oil; in Columbia- with a product combining eggs and avocado, and in Canada hair stylists recommend washing the hair in cold water from time to time, since hot water causes dryness of the skin and scalp. Dar agrees that certain home remedies can improve the appearance of hair, and certainly do no harm.
A common home concoction for strengthening and nourishing ,includes a mixture of olive oil, lemon, and an egg yolk. “These ingredients are mixed and then applied onto the scalp and left for a half hour. A recommended scalp infusion combines rosemary and myrtle essential oils. Green tea, which contains a large amount of antioxidants that neutralize toxins in the body, also contributes in maintaining skin, hair, and scalp health.
6. Go swimming often? Condition your hair. The chlorine present in your swimming pool may damage your hair, and even cause hair-loss. Therefore, the ADD recommends washing your head with conditioner before entering the pool, as well as regularly using a special shampoo for athletes. The rationale behind it is nourishing the hair with moisture, since it is often damaged in the pool.