Have you noticed that your hair is falling out more than you would like? There’s nothing more disheartening than brushing your hair and noticing that it’s thinning, or worse – waking up and noticing strands of your precious locks have been left on your pillow.
Hair loss can be down to several factors; genetics, illness, nutritional deficiencies, stress or hormonal imbalance as we age. The good news is that there are practical things that you can do to help your hair grow faster and thicker.
It’s crucial to focus on hormone balance as well as minimising your stress levels; enjoying regular exercise, eating a diet which is rich in nutrients and having lots of quality sleep will all help with these issues.
You can also do a hair mask once a week; the best way is to wash and condition your hair as normal and then massage a really high quality oil (May Lindstrom’s The Good Stuff works well for this) or you could try cold pressed raw argan oil which is miraculous for hair, or raw organic coconut oil into your scalp and all the way through your hair to the ends. You can sleep with it in your hair overnight and then wash out when you shower in the morning. Style as normal and you’ll notice your hair is more nourished and glossy.
A good hair cut is essential; rather than looking at what the latest hair trends are, look back at photos from the past five years and pick one where you think you look fabulous. Thinner hair often looks best if cut into a classic sharp bob, rather than styled longer, but the right stylist can advise what will be best for you. Extensions can wreak havoc on hair that’s already thinning, especially if you opt for permanent ones as the process of removing them can result in bald patches, so think carefully and get recommendations before going that route.
And, whilst many of us are slaves to having blonde hair and regular highlights, too much colouring can frazzle your hair so go to the best colourist you can find and make sure they’re using the latest products which will be less damaging to your mane than a lot of their earlier incarnations. You could even decide to bite the bullet and go grey for a while; giving your hair a break from colouring.
There are three hero building blocks which you can take every day for beautiful, thicker hair; these are the amino acids L-cysteine, L-arginine and L-lysine. In addition to taking these every day in a quality supplement form, daily doses of Zinc (found in spinach, beef, shrimp, flaxseeds, pumpkin seeds and watermelon) and Selenium (available in Brazil nuts, yellowfin tuna, halibut, sardines and turkey) also contribute to healthy hair. Vitamins E (found in almonds, raw seeds, kale and spinach) and C (found in oranges, cherries, red peppers, broccoli and strawberries) are also great for your hair.
The science behind thinning hair is this; hormonal imbalance can lead to a proportional excess of androgens (male hormones) over female hormones. Androgens tend to shrink hair follicles, resulting in shorter hair growth and increased hair loss on the head, as well as increased hair growth on the rest of the body, including more facial hair. This tendency rarely leads to the baldness common in ageing men, but it does lead to noticeable thinning. You see the opposite effect during pregnancy when high levels of female hormones ensure thick, luscious hair.
However, like with greying, our tendency to lose our hair as we age is also largely hereditary. It depends significantly on the sensitivity of our hair follicles to male hormones. Some women will experience noticeable hair loss during menopause (as well as at other times of hormonal imbalance, for example; after childbirth, or during perimenopause) and some will not.
Lumity’s Dr. Sara Palmer Hussey, PhD, explains: “Hair follicles are tube-like structures that extend from the lower levels of the skin to the surface. At their base is the bulb; its cells divide every 1 to 3 days, faster than any other cells in the body. The follicle is surrounded by a hair shaft made of layers of hard protein called keratin. The lower layers contain the hair’s pigment, giving it its colour. The hair cycle involves a growing stage, a resting stage and a shedding stage. At any one time, hairs on our head will be in all different stages of their cycle, so that they don’t all shed at once, for example, as they do in other mammals.
“In the growing stage, the cells in the bulb divide rapidly to produce a new hair that when pushed outward will push out the previous hair that is no longer growing. Scalp hair can stay in this active phase for 2-6 years, so that hair can grow long. Body hair has a much shorter active phase of 30 to 45 days, which explains why eyelashes, eyebrows, body hair are shorter than the hair on your head.
“The active phase is followed by a resting phase of about 18 weeks in which the sheath shrinks and creates what is known as a club hair at the root that will be shed in the shedding phase.
“Causes, such as stress, menopause, illness, poor diet or a combination of all four, which accelerates ageing, extend the resting phase and shorten the growing phase, so that hairs do not grow as long anymore and thinning occurs. A hair follicle is programmed to have a certain number of cycles before dying, so if the growth cycle becomes shorter, that hair follicle will die sooner.”
With the science in mind, be kind to your hair. We’ve looked at practical ways to minimise stress before; you could try office yoga or look at these six ways to cut back on workplace stress, you could try aromatherapy, and if you decide to embrace hormone balance sooner, rather than later you might just find that perimenopause will be a really positive time in your life. If you want to overhaul your diet, eating the way they do on the Mediterranean is a great, and delicious place to start.