Some people’s beauty does not depend on a lustrous mane. For the rest of us, however, beautiful hair can upgrade average looks to cause show stopping stares and poor quality hair can make an otherwise attractive person, barely noticeable.
This post is especially dear to me because up until about a year ago, I honestly was not the slightest bit proud of my hair. Slavic people are not famous for having beautiful lustrous hair. In fact, we traditionally have thin, straight and wispy hair. This hair might make hair styling fast and easy, but the fact is, some of us, including myself, can’t even own up to a ponytail most Spanish girls can be proud of by age 5. It’s for this reason, that when I moved to Spain, I was forced to pay a bit more attention to the state of my hair. Living among women with the most beautiful thick hair on the Western Hemisphere can make anyone a bit self-conscious…..
Because of this, I started a 4 part mission to help get my hair happy and healthy.
Part 1: Find out what it takes to have strong and beautiful hair.
From my research there are various key elements needed:
- An abundant supply of fibrous protein keratins available to the scalp- Like nails, hair is made up of keratin. The more keratin available, the more likely the hair will grow at its optimal rate. Keratin supply is directly related to protein in the diet. Lean protein consumption is vital to maintaining hair strong and replenished. Sources include beans, fish and eggs.
- Optimal Iron levels- Iron is essential for growth of hair, so deficiency can lead to slow growth and even loss. A easy sign of deficiency can be the appearance of spoon shaped nails. Some iron rich foods include lentils, skin potatoes, tofu, shellfish, dates, raisins, leafy veggies and whole grains.
- Essential nutrients – These directly nourish follicular roots and help hair growth thicker, faster, stronger and shinnier . Some include, selenium, zinc, biotin and omega fatty acids. Optimal hair health and growth depends on a balance of essential nutrients that you may be depriving yourself of if not eating correctly or partaking in fad diets.
- Good blood supply to the scalp- Good circulation to the scalp is vital to getting our scalp the vitamins and nutrients needed to maintain hair healthy, strong and abundant.
- Ability to manage stress- There are three cycles a hair goes through before it is shed, Anagen (active hair growth phase lasting up to 2-6 years), Catagen (the transitional and the shortest phase, only lasting about 2 weeks) and Telogen (resting phase which can last 1-4 months). Once the hair is shed the follicle once again starts growing new hair to replace it; starting the cycle anew. The longer the hair is in anagen, the faster and longer hair will grow. When the body incurs abnormally high amounts of stress, it shocks hair follicles anagen and cause them to remain longer in telogen. This is bad news because it means smaller percentages of your hair follicles are actively growing hair at any given time, hence causing abnormally high rates of hair loss, without replacement. In normal conditions, 85 % of all hair follicles on your head are in Anagen and only 10-15% in Telogen . When this balance is thrown off, you will notice thinning hair or even areas of the scalp without any hair growth. This phenomenon can also occur in moments of sickness or even with dieting …the body faces shock, and therefore stress, and again force the cycle of hair growth into resting phase. Hair can take up to three months to recover after such a state.
- Hormone Balance: If things seem off, rule out hormone imbalance: pregnancy, menopause, disease, immune disorders and under-active thyroid can all cause hair pattern irregularities. Hormones play a role in certain metabolic processes essential to hair growth cycle. Its always a good idea to have your doctor review your blood panel to rule out conditions which need to be treated with medications, hormone supplements or with a specific nutritional or supplemental protocol.
Part 2: Consult Hair Savant for best treatment regimen promoting healthy hair growth and repair.
I have been lucky enough to work with one of the most renowned dermatologists/hair specialists in Europe and chairman of the International Hair Restoration Society, Dr. Jiménez Acosta, from Las Palmas, Spain. Dr. Jimenez had recommended a few of the best supplements made to give hair strength, shine and even volume. These work on the root of the hair you are actively growing. Although this may take a few months to really give you that aesthetic visual result, proper vitamin and mineral content is best solution for thin, damaged or poorly nourished hair. The most effective supplements, according to Dr Jimenez are those which include biotin and other essential B vitamins (for scalp health and hair strength), the minerals selenium (to promote healthy growth), zinc (to prevents brittleness and thinning especially in cases of underactive thyroid), copper (to prevent premature graying), and sources of essential fatty acids such as primrose and flaxseed oil (which work to restore scalp dryness and itchiness, while restoring overall health and shine of hair).
I, personally, have tried hair supplements by the brands Inneova, Oenobiol and Pilexil, and have seen amazing results. I originally started after pregnancy, concerned my hair would suffer as hormone levels plunged and nursing depleted me of all nutritional goodness. I worried I would face what many friends and patients have commonly complained of…. weak or thinning nails and hair! I can happily say that with the help of these supplements my hair actually improved in thickness and strength! If you can’t find these brands in your area go to your local dietician or natural food market and they will be able to direct you to some supplements with similar compositions. Also, remember these essential nutrients are found naturally in foods. There are many websites listing food sources of such nutrients. A few examples of such sites are Diet and Fitness Today or WH foods.
Dr Jimenez also addressed a few medical remedies for those who are concerned with hair loss or thinning.
For males, Dr Jimenez recommends the medication Finasteride (brand name Propecia, 1 mg/day) as the most effective treatment. It works at the molecular level to block production of a hormone DHT from testosterone. DHT provokes hair loss by blocking hair growth so the fact Finasteride blocks this, makes it a very valuable tool to those doctors treating hair issues. Since women also have low levels of testosterone, they also can produce DHT and, therefore, suffer from androgenic hair loss (hair loss caused by prevalence of male hormones), but are affected, more often, when their female hormone levels subside after menopause. Finasteride is not, however, prescribed often to women as it has shown to be dangerous to the normal development of fetuses. For males, it is a safe and efficient way to retain healthy hair and recuperate some of hair lost.
Also, on the horizon, is another similar acting drug called Dutasteride (brand name Avodart). The manufacturer and researchers claim it is even more effective at blocking DHT and, may therefore, be even more effective it preventing hair loss and re-growing hair! Don’t send your loved ones running to the pharmacy just yet as we are still awaiting the FDA approval of Dutasteride use for the treatment of hair loss.
Another medication Minoxidil 2-5%, is applied topically (or directly to scalp). It is also endorsed by most Dermatologists for the treatment of hair thinning or loss. Minoxidil is safe for women and can also be used as a complementary treatment for men taking Finasteride. In the US, Minoxidil can be found in most pharmacies and the most known brand is Rogaine. In Europe, you must buy Minoxidil over the counter or via prescription and most common brands include Regaine, Alopexy and Regaxidil. Its seems that 5% has better results and most prefer foam form vs the liquid solution.
The good news is that as long as you continue to use these both these medications you will maintain their benefits. The downside is once stopping the treatment, hair recuperated will most likely fall out again. Minoxidil, is thought to work by improving cellular activity, structure and hair growth rate, most possibly by helping scalp circulation. Although the exact mechanism of this drug is unknown, we have seen that with its use, we help shed quicker those hairs in resting, telogen phase and get more thicker hairs in the active hair growing, anagen phase. It shows to be most effective in those who are in early hair loss stages, suffer from hair loss of the crown and central portion of the scalp, and in women patients. Within 4 months of using the 5% solution, many see a halting in the hair loss and some even recuperate the hair they lost.
Like all medications, these are not free of side effects. 5% of Finasteride patients have seen increase incidence of depression and enlargement of breast tissue. Of those using Minoxidil, some complain of increase hairloss in the start of the treatment because of the shedding of hairs in inactive state. Minoxidil can also cause or worsen dry scalp. Also you must keep this medication far from your pet cats, it is toxic to them even with skin contact.
Part 3: Find the hair products, which actually work.
The goal of this part of my mission was to find hair products which protect, hydrate and repair the exterior portion of the hair. With help of celebrity hair savantess, Bonnie Cleverling, and my local hair care savantess, Cristina Lopez at Creatival BCN, I was able to find a few products that my experts and I, can happily endorse.
Kiel’s Magic Elixir– Ingredients include Rosemary lean oil, avocado oil, Vitamin E, omega 6 fatty acids to moisturize scalp and hair, and promote more balanced and healthy environment for new hair growth. You massage the Elixir into the scalp 10 minutes before washing. It provides an ideal environment for hair to grow and thrive. Feel and see the difference in 4-6 weeks. Hair grows with more life, manageability and volume.
Icons Healing Conditioner and Beauty India Oil– Both of these amazing products contain Aragon Oil. Aragon oil is a true beauty oil. More of its properties I will discuss below. The Healing Spray contains quinoa extracts which give its powerful ability to repair and give strength. The Beauty India oil gets its name due to its star ingredient…. Moringa oil. Moringa oil is one of Indias most native and cherished oils. It is main attribute is healing damaged frayed ends and protect hair against aggressors. Beauty india oil is to be place on ends first, then run throughout the hair before styling or prior to bed.
Icon products are simply incredible. Even after their first application you will see your hair as you have never seen it…shinny, thick and silky to touch. You will also grow addicted to the calming power of the natural oil essence… Beauty and aromatherapy in one!
Before I move on I wanted to enlighten you a bit more about Aragon oil. Aragon oil is lightweight, non-greasy and derived from kernels of Aragon fruit of Morocco. It is known best by Morocco’s women and famed for its ability to restore life to hair. Although no real scientific study can prove its benefits, natural medicine professionals, familiar with the oil, claim its properties give nutrition to hair, lock in moisture, help prevents damage by external stressors and improves elasticity. Users, including myself, have found that it restores smoothness and manageability. Aragon oils natural antioxidant properties are said by its experts to strengthen damaged hair by restoring its cellular membrane. By also naturally contains Omega 3 and 9 it conditions the scalp and strengthen the bonding structures of hair and help heal split ends.
Fermodyl Treatment Ampoules– For those of you who have abused or continue to abuse your hair with chemical treatments such as color or straightening and need to reinvigorate life back in to dry, brittle and dull hair, Femodyl formulation products are for you! Fermodyl treatments were developed by chemists who sought and found a protein molecule to merge damaged hair fibers, interact with the keratin and restructure hair. Depending on your hair type, there is a specific formulation for you. They come in ampoules, which are to be broken open and the serum massaged into your scalp before styling. After a month of use, studies have shown increase tensile strength, (that which protects against breakage), by 15% and the diameter of the shaft, (the thickness of the body of each strand hair), was increased up to 20%. This is a great solution for those who have damaged hair to due chemical aggressors!! Here’s your chance to give your hair a new life!
For those of you who are seeking a completely natural line of anti-aging hair care products, look into the Phyto hair line. They are amazing for protecting hair, restructuring damaged ends, hydrating and adding shine and manageability. Working with many high profile clients with demands for both quick results and long term investment, Bonnie has become a supporter and regularly recommends these products. For those who seek a solution to dull, dry hair with split ends try Phytokeratine Reparative Serum. This serum uses plant proteins, Brazilian palm oil, hyaluronic acid and silk peptides to give you shinny and smooth hair! I also love the anti-aging line including the Phytodensium AntiAging Serum and Phytodensium AntiAging Mask. The serum uses B vitamins to add strength and density and a derivative of tyrosine (an enzyme that catalyses the production of the pigment melanin) to help delay the appearance of gray hair. The AntiAging Mask is also fabulous, using natural proteins and a combination of grapeseed and black currant seed oil (rich in fatty acids), to nurture and regenerate hair. The result is healthier, smoother and softer looking hair with maximum volume and shine. Anything non-toxic + prevents aging + beauty benefits = Top AntiAgeing Savantess pick!
For my last bit on products, I wanted to present some research I found on those labratories claiming the latest breakthrough in antiaging hair care. These products are neither medications or beauty products but designed to be somewhat higher scale and sold in drug stores or over–the-counter. They are presenting hair treatments incorporating a start ingredient called Diaminopyrimidine Oxide (Aminexil). Aminexil’s properties are said to help combat premature hair loss and hair weakening from a condition called perifollicular fibrosis. Perifollicular fibrosis is a progressive accumulation of excess collagen, (forming something similar to a scar), around the hair root, pressing on the follicle and making it difficult to work properly. This causes growth of thinner hair, as well as, an overall slowing and even halting growth to a increasing percentage of these hair follicles over time. Studies published show that hair loss and aging (thinning and weakening of hair), no matter what the reason (hormones, stress, age ect) all are related to some degree to the condition of perifollicular fibrosis. Aminexil, is said to help prevent this excessive collagen formation while soften the skin around the follicle. The effects allow follicles it to maintain its natural youthful position and form, preventing abnormal hair growth and loss. Manufactures claim studies have proven slight improvement in new hair growth over 6 weeks (6%), a prevention of loss and an increase in strength and volume (70-80%). Although no real scientific large scale studies have been conducted to prove the efficacy of these Aminexil containing products, its’ ability to serve as an anti-aging product seems intriguing. Below are some products containing Aminexil. I plan to test it out….let me know if you do!
Try: Vichy Laboratoires Dercos Aminexil and AMINEXIL GL M by Keratase
Part IV: Incorporate lifestyle habits to encourage maintenance of healthy hair.
Some lifestyle changes which can AVOID follicular damage, hair breakage, split ends, loss of moisture, and ultimately result in dynamite hair include:.
- Do Wash hair only as needed! Although washing doesn’t contribute to hair loss, it does cause it to be more susceptible to dryness, brittleness and breakage. Wet hair is more likely to break than dry hair and more likely to be handled with heat and aggressive grooming techniques.
- Do Bush your hair before washing….this minimizes complex tangling and therefore aggressive de-tangling techniques which are needed when hair is wet and more sensitive. As stated above we want to manage hair as little as possible when wet. .
- Do Use UV containing conditioners when sunny to prevent drying out and sun related weakening of hair.
- Do Trim hair every 6-8 weeks to avoid further splitting of hair ends. This is more for the aesthetic benefit of having smooth, non-fringed ends. Although trimming hair regularly, WILL NOT help hair grow faster, , it will help prevent it from looking dry and straw-like. The more you allow split ends to “stay around”, the higher up the hair strand they travel…this is why we need to cut them out before they have an opportunity to grow. Some products can make them appear to be repaired but just binding them ends temporarily… They won’t go away unless we cut them out.
- Do Pay attention to what you wash and style your hair with. Talk to your doctor and hairstylist about the current state of your hair and which products might balance it correctly. Each hair type has different need, you may want some professional advice on what those specific needs are.
- Do Consider natural vegetable sourced hair dyes. These are not only better for you, but cause less allergy related issues of the scalp. The color may not last as long but you will come to realize that with time your hairs’ natural beauty will take away your dependence on fresh color!
- Do Find ways to relieve excessive stress…. yoga, walks, a friend to vent to, read, shop …whatever!! As discussed above, stress increases cortisol which is known to shock hair follicles in the anagen phase (when they are actively growing)into telagen (the resting phase)! Since it could take your hair months to recuperate, it would be great to act preventatively! If cortisol (our stress hormone), can do this to your hair, imagine all the other effects it has throughout the body!! Make stress relief practices a priority; no one can prioritize this for you but YOU!
- Do Give your hair a daily scalp massage. A nice 10 min head massage helps condition scalp, strengthen hair roots and increase circulation to the hair follicles, ultimately improving its’ nutrition and proper function. Massages are also an extremely calming tool for tension and stress reduction!
- Don’t wear tight ponytails or up-dos for long periods of time: This stresses and weakens hair at the root and may damage the way hair follicles grow hair.
- Don’t use alcohol containing styling products: This will just dry out your hair and take away its shine and manageability.
- Don’t process your hair with chemical or peroxide containing products faster than you can repair the damage you may be causing. If coloring is important to you, find a way to stretch apart your color sessions as much as possible, combine with intense conditioning and repairing treatments, and cut your hair afterward to avoid further hair splitting.
If hair loss is a concern, see your local specialist. Hair loss can be genetic, hormonal or stress related. There are treatments available to prevent hair loss and even re-grow hair and the earlier we treat, the better. I will post about this topic again in the near future…until then, value what you do have, act preventatively and talk to your dermatologist for more specific information regarding your specific condition!
I guarantee if you apply any these care tips above into motion, your hair will begin to transform and its’ inner potential unveiled. It’s an amazing feeling knowing that we can get that hair we admire on others; we just need to give it a bit more attention, treat ourselves with more care and choose products that make sense! Enjoy your newfound power!