The condition of your hair is often considered a reflection of your overall wellbeing, and is easily affected by poor diet and lifestyle habits. Other factors that can lead to hair damage include underlying health issues and exposure to heat and/or harsh chemicals.
The symptoms of hair damage vary according to their cause, but may include:
The harsh chemicals that are used to bleach, dye, perm and style the hair often also damage its structure and condition, especially when used repeatedly over time. Some people also experience hair damage after swimming in chlorinated swimming pools or due to other forms of chemical exposure.
Similarly, repeated exposure to high temperatures from hair dryers, straightening irons and curling wands can also injure the hair structure, as can the tension created by brushing your hair roughly or wearing your hair in tight hairstyles such as ponytails.
Your hair is also sensitive to your nutritional status, and consequently eating a diet with inadequate levels of key nutrients (including B-group vitamins, vitamin C and minerals such as zinc, silica and manganese), may lead to poor hair condition.
Health and lifestyle issues that interfere with the absorption or utilisation of those nutrients can also have a detrimental effect on your hair, and may include excessive alcohol consumption, smoking, heavy metal exposure, crash dieting, stress and many illnesses.
According to the philosophies of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), hair and scalp health may also be affected by issues affecting the Liver and Kidney organ-meridians, which are considered responsible for nourishing the hair follicles with the Blood and Qi (energy) needed to create thick, shiny, healthy hair.
The Chinese herb Fallopia (Phytofol®) has traditionally been taken as a hair tonic when hair is thinning, in poor condition, or prematurely greying.
From the perspective of TCM, Phytofol® strengthens and replenishes Kidney Qi (also known as Jing or Kidney essence) and Liver Qi, and consequently revitalises the scalp and promotes healthy hair follicle function and hair growth.
It is believed to work by encouraging hair follicles to move out of the resting phase of the hair cycle in which hair is shed (telogen phase) and re-enter the growth (anagen) phase, and may also help to maintain healthy hair colour by increasing melanin (hair pigment) levels in the hair follicle.
Many of the B-complex group of vitamins are required for the health of the hair, as well as that of the skin and nails. For example vitamin B5 is involved in maintaining the colour and shine of the hair, as well as helping to maintain nourishment of hair follicle cells.
Other important B-group vitamins for hair health include biotin and vitamins B2 and B6.
Vitamin C is essential for the formation, integrity and repair of collagen, the predominant form of connective tissue in and around the hair follicle. In this capacity, it also helps maintain the texture, tone, elasticity and firmness of the skin.
Deficiencies of a wide variety of minerals may impede the growth and appearance of the hair, so it’s important to ensure you’re getting enough zinc, manganese, iodine, silica and copper, which help to maintain the hair’s condition, colour and shine.