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10 Steps to Enviable Hair

We would all love to have a full head of thick, shiny Rapunzel-worthy hair but there are factors in our lives that can have a negative effect on hair quality and growth, causing it to become weak, dry and lacklustre. These factors can include nutrient deficiencies, stress, hormonal changes, poor circulation and even over-brushing. So, here are my top tips to encourage optimal hair growth and condition, taking you from hair despair to magnificent mane in 10 easy steps…

Protein Power
Keratin, a substance that provides the strength and structure of hair, is a protein, and our body makes it from the proteins that we eat. So to ensure you have strong hair, eat a variety of protein-containing foods every day: meat, fish, eggs, beans and lentils, nuts and seeds, and dairy products are all good examples. Great ways to get more protein include swapping your morning cereal for scrambled eggs on wholegrain toast, adding a handful of nuts or seeds to your porridge, and swapping your usual snacks for a couple of oatcakes with tahini (sesame seed paste) or a natural yoghurt with added pumpkin or sunflower seeds.

Harmonise Your Hormones
Most women experience some hair loss as they get older. Balancing your hormones can help to minimise these changes. Diet, lifestyle and exercise can make a big difference here. Herbs such as black cohosh and red clover can also help balance hormone levels naturally. Red clover is non-soya based and so is ideal for those who want to avoid soya.

Healthy Fats For Healthy Hair
If you have dry or brittle hair, or a dry or scaly scalp, you could be deficient in essential fatty acids. As most of us know, fat is not all bad, and the essential fats have many vital roles in the body including maintenance of healthy skin, scalp and glossy hair. Oily fish, raw seeds and nuts, cold-pressed flaxseed oil and avocados all supply good levels of healthy fats. Try a mashed avocado with lemon juice and black pepper on a slice of toast for a healthy hair-loving snack.

Ditch The Sugar
Sugar is an ‘anti-nutrient’, meaning it provides no nutritional benefits of its own, and actually uses up nutrients in the body to process it, including those that you need for healthy hair. Refined carbohydrates such as white bread, pasta, white rice and anything else made with white flour have a similar effect, as they have had all the vital nutrients stripped away from them, and are quickly absorbed and turned into sugar in the blood. So replace sugary snacks with a piece of fruit and a few nuts, or try some of the protein-rich snacks mentioned above. Ditch the white carbohydrates and go for whole grain alternatives.

Iron For Strong Locks
One of the primary causes of hair loss in women before menopause is low levels of iron. This results in loss and thinning of the hair all over the scalp, although it can be worse on the top. If this matches your symptoms, ask your doctor to test your ferritin levels (ferritin is the ‘storage’ form of iron in the body). The best sources of iron are meats, beans and lentils, green leafy vegetables and seeds such as sunflower and pumpkin seeds.

Circulation, Circulation, Circulation
One of the reasons for hair loss and poor hair quality can simply be reduced circulation to the scalp, meaning fewer nutrients are available to the hair follicles. Vitamin C and bioflavonoids in fruits and vegetables support healthy blood vessels, so make sure you get at least your five-a-day, if not seven or ten! Spices such as ginger, cinnamon and cayenne can also stimulate circulation and getting regular exercise is important too, as well as for its many other health benefits.

Address Your Stress
Stress and anxiety can also affect our hair and may trigger excess hair loss. Most specifically, a type of hair loss called alopecia areata, where hair starts to fall out in patches, is often related to stress or traumatic events. This could be because stress can disrupt our digestion and absorption of nutrients needed to nourish the hair, and also because stress can affect the circulation to the scalp. So do what you can to avoid it – try yoga or meditation classes, listen to relaxing music, take time to do things you enjoy, and try to eliminate the main sources of stress from your life. Avoid coffee and other caffeine-containing drinks, which trigger the stress hormone adrenaline to be released.

Keep It Natural
Some chemicals in hair treatment products can cause a reaction on the scalp which affects hair growth and quality. Some chemicals can also be drying for the hair. Look for more natural alternatives at your health food store.

Avoid Drastic Weight Loss Diets
Very low-calorie diets are a common trigger of hair loss. Low-calorie diets often do not provide enough essential fats and protein, vitamins and minerals to nourish the hair. If you need to lose weight, it can be far better to choose a healthy eating plan such as a low-GL (low glycaemic load) diet, and make sure you are including protein with every meal and a source of essential fats every day. Taking a multivitamin and mineral can also support your nutrient levels while you are losing weight.

100 brushes a day?
It may go against the old wives’ tale, but too much brushing can actually break the hair and cause more to fall out. Never brush your hair when it is wet – use a wide-tooth comb instead, or ideally leave it to dry naturally before brushing. Tight ponytails or other hairstyles that pull on the hair can also affect its condition and increase hair loss, so avoid these if you can. Ensuring you have regular trims – especially if you have long hair – also reduces breakage and hair loss.

How do you take care of your hair?

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