It’s the month of love so how about giving your locks some extra loving care? If you’re on social media, you’ve been bombarded by DIY tricks from rice water (there may be a grain of truth to this one) to horse shampoo to placental extracts to apple cider vinegar but what are the ‘real’ dermatologist-approved haircare tips and tricks?
Hair we go with our top 10 tips….
1. Feed your hair what it needs to grow:
Load up on antioxidant-rich foods, minerals such as magnesium, zinc and selenium (from peanuts, brazil nuts, eggs, broccoli, spinach, oysters, avos, onions, legumes, nuts and sprouts), fatty acids (from fatty fish such as salmon as well as flaxseeds) and PROTEIN. Hair is primarily made up of the protein, keratin, which is in turn made up of amino acids so step up your intake of protein-rich foods and increase your intake of bone broth. Cysteine and Lysine are particularly important amino acids when it comes to hair to keep the hair structure intact, support collagen production and hair growth.
Focus on amino acid rich foods like quinoa, mushrooms, tofu, eggs and nuts. Remember that whole fruits, veggies and whole grains are all naturally rich in antioxidants and hair-promoting nutrients.
Risk factors for dietary nutrient deficiencies include medications (such as anti-epileptics or prolonged antibiotics), pregnancy, heavy menstrual cycles, dietary restrictions (eg vegans) as well as a high intake of raw egg whites so if you fall into one of these categories consider seeing a medical professional to get some screening bloods done. Iron deficiency is one of the key causes of excessive hair loss and even if your blood levels are at the lower end of normal, I have found empirically that bumping up the intake of iron-rich foods such as dark green leafy veggies, beans and lentils and where necessary supplementing turns the hair shedding process off.
2. Supplement where necessary
The jury is out in terms of whether supplementation is more beneficial when it comes to supporting healthy hair growth rather than good nutrition in the absence of an established deficiency. If you are experiencing hair loss or changes in your hair growth, then it is best to chat to your dermatologist and see whether screening bloods and targeted supplementation are warranted.
Remember that over-supplementing with nutrients such as Vitamin A, Vitamin E and selenium can actually contribute to hair loss. Biotin, which was the flavour of the month when it came to treating hair loss is now no longer recommended and in fact, can cause false elevated laboratory test results (in particular your thyroid hormone markers, other hormones as well as markers for heart attacks). It was originally used in treatments as children with inherited disorders of biotin deficiency with hair loss showed regrowth after 3-6 months of biotin supplementation but the evidence for using biotin in individuals without a deficiency is lacking.
My favourite supplement when it comes to supporting healthy hair growth is MSM (Methylsulfonylmethane) which is a source of sulfur supplying essential cysteine to support and strengthen hair keratin. In my practice, we have seen the biggest success stories using this supplement. In terms of hydrolysed collagen – the jury is still out but if you are taking it and feel that it is helping – keep going!
3. Go au naturale and save the heat for the bedroom.
Gently wrap your hair in a towel after washing and allow it to dry naturally. Avoid towel drying or excessive rubbing of your hair and avoid excessive brushing – limiting brushing to just before styling. Avoid the excessive use of heat appliances and when styling the hair using heat, apply a hair serum or heat protectant serum prior to using your hairstyling appliance.
4. Loosen up – your ponytail that is.
Hairstyles which ‘pull’ at the root of the hair cause traction which can actually lead to irreversible hair loss down the line. Leave your hair down or wear in a loose ponytail or bun instead.
5. Start brushing the ends of your hair first
This is one for long hair: Try gently brushing the ends of your hair first in short and gentle strokes to detangle before brushing the rest of your hair from the roots down to the ends. This is to minimize breakage and avoid pulling at the hair aggressively. Also make sure that you are using an appropriate brush. Look for a brush with soft bristles or use a wide-toothed comb.
6. Stimulate blood flow to the scalp
Gentle scalp massage, alternating hot and cold water to the scalp for stimulation, inversion poses, acupuncture and products with vasodilators (see the point below) all encourage healthy hair growth. Try at-home microneedling devices – if you’re using Minoxidil this is a fantastic addition. Just be sure to apply the Minoxidil first and then microneedle to avoid stinging and burning.
7. Treat your scalp topically
The gold standard when it comes to stimulating hair growth topically is still Minoxidil (we use a 5% or 7.5% solution in-practice); you can also increase blood flow to the scalp with ingredients like caffeine or use topical antioxidants such as black cumin seed oil/ melatonin or essential oils ( rosemary/ peppermint/ lavender) to reduce oxidative stress.
A few drops of castor oil added to your conditioner or hair mask has been shown to dilate blood vessels via stimulating of prostaglandin E2 receptor while soothing inflammation.
Other topicals studied include topical curcumin (be careful with staining!), Reishi mushroom (particularly in combination with microneedling) and peptides (eg Thymosin Beta 4 or copper peptides) as well as Polygonum multiflorum (a flowering plant in the buckwheat family) which has been shown in studies to work similarly to Minoxidil by prolonging the growth (or anagen) stage of the hair cycle.
8. Boost scalp hydration + nourish with glycerin
Fill half a pump bottle with glycerin and top up with water then shake and spray directly on to the scalp. Leave on overnight (just cover your pillow with a towel to avoid staining) and wash out in the morning. This is a fantastic treatment for a dry, flaky scalp since glycerin is a humectant drawing water into the skin and softening any scales to be washed away in the morning.
9. Treat your hair to a hydration boost
First up, avoid drying out your hair by concentrating your shampoo on the scalp only and conditioning the ends of your hair after every wash. Conditioners coat your hair, preventing excess moisture from being absorbed into the hair which could cause it to swell up and cause breakage. It also reduces friction while combing preventing trauma to the hair. Nourish the hair with hair oils or a deeply conditioning leave-in mask or conditioner particularly if you are going to be swimming or in steam rooms/ saunas to reduce dehydrating the hair.
10. Platelet-rich plasma (PRP) therapy
Saving the big guns for last. This is an in-practice treatment with staggering results when it comes to stimulating healthy hair growth or treating hormonal hair loss (androgenetic alopecia). Choc-a-bloc full of potent growth factors and anti-inflammatory mediators – platelet-rich plasma (extracted from your own blood) is injected into the scalp stimulating hair follicles and increasing blood flow. This is hair regeneration on another level so it is not surprising that we see the results that we do.
So there you have it – our top 10 tips to give your hair some flair this Valentines Day. Go on – love your locks.