I recently taught a workshop on healthy hair care and preventing hair loss and I just want to share a few tips from the class with you!
Hair loss can have several causes, from stress to genetics to autoimmune disorders. Some of these are easier to solve than others, but treating our hair (and bodies) well can help slow -and in some cases reverse- hair loss no matter what the cause.
Some amount of hair loss is a natural part of the hair cycle. It’s normal to lose between 50-100 hairs on days you don’t shower, and up to 200 hairs on days you do. Which should tell you right away that if you’re concerned about hair loss you should be showering less often!
At any given point, about 90% of your hair follicles should be in the active growing phase and 10% should be in the dormant or falling out stage. Hair loss can involve either an imbalance in the number of active vs inactive follicles, or a change in the growth of active follicles so that they no longer produce hair of the original color, length, or texture. If you’re concerned that you’re losing too much hair, take about 60 hairs between two fingers and gently pull. If you get more than 5-8 hairs you likely have an imbalance in the number of active vs inactive follicles.
The most common form of hair loss is also the most well-known. Commonly called ‘male-pattern baldness’ or androgenic alopecia, it actually occurs in all genders. While there is certainly a genetic component to this type of hair loss, it can also be mediated with herbs and hair care -if you catch it in time. Hair loss that has been present for 3-5 years or more becomes very difficult and sometimes impossible to resolve. This type of hair loss typically presents as a receding hair line or thinning of hair along the part or crown of the head. It is generally caused by DHT, a form of testosterone that is also responsible for many prostate issues, which essentially ‘attacks’ hair follicles. Luckily, DHT can only function in low-oxygen environments, so by increasing circulation to the scalp we can prevent this type of hair loss.
Androgenic Alopecia: Saw Palmetto as an herbal supplement blocks DHT, and topical rosemary oil (like Prism’s Hair Growth Serum) blocks DHT directly in the scalp. 7 Star Treatments, like Prism’s Hair Restoration Treatment, also increase circulation to the scalp, blocking DHT.
The second most common form of hair loss is called ‘telogenic effluvium’, which literally means your hair is falling out. There’s no change in your hair follicles, simply too many of them are in the dormant vs growth stage. This is usually caused by hormonal stress like starting or stopping birth control, HRT, or hormone blockers, after birth, menopause, or even just a stressful time in your life. Yes, you can actually stress yourself out so much that your hair falls out! Besides tackling whatever caused this problem in the first place (getting acupuncture and a custom herbal formula to balance hormones and reduce stress, practicing mindfulness meditation or other stress-reduction techniques), the best thing you can do is to be gentle with your scalp to prevent as much hair loss as possible.
This also applies to hair loss caused by chemicals, heat, or other types of physical damage to the hair and hair follicles. This is most likely the case if you suddenly notice your hair refusing to grow more than a few inches long and then breaking off.
Care for Your Hair Follicles:
- Prevent sun damage: wear a hat or scarf to cover hair and scalp
- Switch plastic brushes for a pure boar bristle brush or a wide tooth comb, only use on dry hair
- Air dry hair or use a hair wrap instead of blow drying. Heat protectant sprays do not help because wetting hair before drying actually increases damage!
- Wash hair only 1-3 times per week
Avoid drying, damaging, and toxic product ingredients (organic products generally do not contain these ingredients and are a good choice):
- Ethanol, isopropane, propanol or isopropyl alcohols (fatty alcohols like lauryl alcohol, cetyl alcohol, myristyl alcohol, stearyl alcohol, cetearyl alcohol and behenyl alcohol are ok)
- Aerosols (use pump sprays only)
- Sulfates (organic coco-sulfates and sulfonates are gentler)
- Fragrances (essential oils are ok)
- Zinc Pyrithione and Coal Tar (in dandruff shampoos, use an organic dandruff shampoo instead)
- Sodium laurel/laureth sulfate (SLS), aka ammonium laurel sulfate, sodium dodecylsulfate, sulfuric acid, sodium salt sulfuric acid, A12-00356, Akyposal SDS, Aquarex ME, and Aquarex methyl
- Proplyene glycol (PG), PEG, or Polyethylene
- Salt Sprays (too drying)
Try these hair-safe products instead:
- Prism’s Hair Serum or Intelligent Nutrients’ PurePlenty Nourishing Scalp Serum
- Prism’s Hair Tea, apple cider vinegar, or baking soda in place of shampoo
- 100% Pure’s Kelp and Mint Volumizing Shampoo & Conditioner
- Acure’s Volume Shampoo & Conditioner
- Avalon Organics Biotin B-Complex Thickening Shampoo & Conditioner
- Juice Organics Volumizing Shampoo & Conditioner
- Desert Essence’s Anti-Breakage Shampoo, Conditioner, and Hair Mask
- Desert Essence’s Fragrance-Free Shampoo and Conditioner
- Badger’s Hair Pomade or use coconut oil to style
- Dissolve 4t sugar in 1c water and put in spray bottle, use in place of hairspray
- Use cocoa powder and a makeup brush in place of dry shampoo, or an organic non-aerosol dry shampoo
- Use alcohol-free aloe vera gel as hair gel, add water for a flexible hold
Avoid chemical and heat styling and harsh dyes. Check out salons that use organic products and ammonia and paraben-free dyes:
- Twist Salon in Alameda (curly and kinky hair)
- Zanai’s Love of Hair in Oakland (curly and kinky hair)
- Modena Salon in Berkeley
- Edo Salon in San Francisco
- Ingenious Salon in San Francisco
- The Plum Organic Beauty in San Francisco
Hair breakage (and hair loss) can also be caused by malnutrition, either not getting enough nutrients your hair needs to grow, or something is preventing you from absorbing those nutrients. Most commonly this is due to anemia. Make sure to get checked out by a healthcare provider to determine the underlying cause!
Nutrition for Hair Health:
- Hair and Skin from Nature’s Way
- Hair, Skin, and Nail Support from Gaia Herbs
- A prescription formula from Prism, tailored to your individual constitution
- Omega Plus from Thorne, or:
- Omega-3 from salmon, mackerel, tuna, white fish, sardines, walnuts, hemp seeds, flax seeds
- Basic Nutrients (if you don’t need iron), Basic Nutrients IV (with iron), or Basic Prenatal from Thorne, or:
- Vitamin C from oranges, kale, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, strawberries, grapefruit and kiwi.
- vitamin D from halibut, mackerel, eel, salmon, whitefish, maitakes and portabellas.
- Vitamin A from Sweet Potato, pumpkin, Carrots, Peaches, Kale
- Vitamin E from Fish, Beans, Leafy Greens, Meat, Nuts and seeds, Whole grains
- Biotin & B5 from chicken, avocado, legumes, nuts
- Niacin from Fish, lean meats, Portabellas, Sunflower seeds, Avocado, Mushrooms, Tuna, Nuts
- Iron from spinach, Swiss chard, collard greens, navy beans, black beans.
- Zinc (especially with autoimmune alopecia) from oysters and other seafood, Whole grains, Legumes, Sunflower seeds, Pumpkin
- Selenium from brazil nuts and other nuts and seeds, oysters, tuna, mushrooms
- Collagen from bone broth; or boost your own collagen production with dark leafy greens and red fruits and veggies like cherries and beets
- Lycopene from guava, papaya, grapefruit, asparagus, purple cabbage
- Avoid Inflammatory foods like dairy, red meat, trans-fats (like margarine), gluten, alcohol, coffee, eggs, bananas, mango, pineapple, watermelon, nightshades (eggplant, paprika, peppers, potatoes, tomatillos, tomatoes), and soy.
If you’re not sure what kind of hair loss you’re experiencing, a dermatologist can examine your hair under a microscope and determine this for you. Beware the Rogaine they may prescribe, however, as it can often cause hair growth in unwanted places! Rosemary oil on the scalp (like Prism’s Hair Growth Serum) has been shown to be as effective as Rogaine and does not have this side effect.
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All advice on this site and blog is for educational uses only. Always consult your doctor before taking any herbs or supplements, or schedule an acupuncture appointment with Katrina to get your own personalized herbal formula and acupuncture treatment.