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Proper Nutrition is a Must for Beautiful, Healthy Hair

December 9, 2013

Thinning hair and hair loss is a problem that plagues many people, male and female, and of all ages. If you have noticed a receding hairline, a wider than usual part, a more visible scalp, or balding patches on your head, you may be suffering from hair loss.  If you feel that your hair is thinning, it is important to find the cause and take the proper steps to correct the situation when possible.

The hair on our heads grows in a cycle. At any given time, 90% of the hair is in the anagen, or active growing phase of this cycle. The hair next enters the catagen, or transitional phase. During this phase the hair root detaches from the blood supply and the hair follicle shrinks. This allows the follicle to renew itself. The last phase is the telegen, or dormant phase. This phase can last from one to four months, and essentially allows the hair follicle to rest. At the end of the telegen phase, the follicle goes back into the active growing phase, and the new hair pushes the old one out. This is the normal process of shedding and leads to a loss of 50 – 100 hairs a day. In a healthy head all of these hairs are being replaced and the overall thickness of the hair remains the same.

Thinning hair and hair loss occurs when the shed hairs are not all replaced, or are replaced with weaker, thinner hairs. There are many causes of hair loss and it is important to determine which is to blame before attempting any treatment. Because there are several medical conditions that can lead to hair loss, the first step when thinning hair appears is to consult a doctor to rule out a cause that may require medical intervention.  Thyroid problems can lead to hormonal imbalances that cause the hair to thin, and scalp infections such as ringworm can cause the hair to fall out. In these cases the hair will usually grow back when the problem is corrected. Alopecia areata is an autoimmune disorder that causes patches of permanent hair loss. Hair will not grow on scar tissue so diseases that leave scars such as lupus or lichen planus, or scarring caused by injury or surgery will also result in areas of permanent hair loss.

The most common reason for thinning hair is the aging process. Hair loss due to aging is called androgenic alopecia. The age at which this process starts and the severity of the hair loss is largely determined by genetics. As men age, the hair tends to recede from the front hairline and the crown. This type of hair loss is commonly known as male pattern baldness. In women, typical hair loss due to age occurs in the top third of the head. Women may notice that their part seems wider with time, or that more of the scalp is visible through the hair. Androgenic alopecia accounts for over 70 percent of hair loss in men and 40 to 50 percent in women. Treatments that include the active ingredients finasteride or minoxidil can slow or stop this process, however it is important to consult a doctor before using these treatments to rule out any interactions or potential side effects.

Hair loss can be caused by a variety of medications. In addition to chemotherapy, some medications used to treat depression, arthritis, high blood pressure, and heart disease can cause hair loss. In most cases, the hair will grow back when the medication is discontinued.

Both emotional and physical stress can be a contributing factor in hair loss. A death of a loved one, stress at work, or depression can make one susceptible to thinning hair. A physical shock such as a car accident, very high fever, or extreme weight loss can lead to hair loss as well. Any relaxation techniques such as yoga, meditation, deep breathing, or massage therapy that reduce stress and restore balance in life can help to correct and prevent this type of hair loss. Daily exercise is also an important factor in reducing stress as well as promoting overall health.

Traction alopecia is caused by too much physical tension on the hair. This is typically seen in women who pull hair back tightly into ponytails and buns, or braid the hair tightly to the scalp. The tension on the root of the hair weakens the follicle and the hair falls out prematurely. Using elastics that are not meant for hair, or hair elastics with metal parts, can cause breakage, giving the appearance of thinner hair. Use only hair ties and elastics that are labeled non-damaging, and pull the hair back loosely.

Finally, nutritional deficiencies, or overall poor nutrition, can lead to thin, weak hair. Vitamin D is especially important in maintaining a strong healthy head of hair. Omega 3 fatty acids and other healthy fats are essential in assisting the body to produce and utilize vitamin D. Vitamin A and beta carotene are necessary nutrients for the production of sebum, which lubricates the hair and scalp and prevents dry brittle hair that can break. Deficiencies in lysine, copper, and zinc have also been shown to cause hair loss. Eat a diet that is rich in a variety of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains to ensure healthy levels of these important vitamins and minerals. It is also important to get enough protein in the diet.  Hair is made of a protein called keratin, and if the body is deficient in protein the hair will suffer. Since the health of the hair is dependant on the health of the body, proper nutrition is a must for beautiful, healthy hair.


Lena Whalen is a hairstylist at the award-winning Salon Medusa in West Hartford center. With over 20 years experience in her field, she is skilled at cutting, styling, and coloring all hair types. Salon Medusa is located at 13 South Main Street, WestHartford. More information can be obtained at For an appointment call 860-236-3344.


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