Americans face a variety of hair problems: dandruff, balding, brittle and graying hair, to name just a few. Though most are signs of the natural progression of aging, or basic genetic predispositions, various simple measures can contribute to a healthier head of hair.
When to Call Your Doctor
If hair loss occurs suddenly, especially when accompanied by symptoms such as the cessation of the menstrual cycle.
If the scalp develops dry, crusty patches or itches intensely.
Reminder: If you have a medical condition, talk to your doctor before taking supplements.
What It Is
Hair is a nonliving tissue, made up mainly of a fibrous protein called keratin — the same material found in your fingernails and toenails. The health of your hair requires a plentiful supply of nutrient-rich blood to nourish the hair follicles in the scalp, from which new hair sprouts. On average, hair grows about half an inch a month. It’s not unusual for people to shed up to a hundred hairs a day — fortunately, when one falls out, another usually grows in. Problems can arise when hair becomes dry or brittle, stops growing back, or becomes flecked with dandruff caused by excess flaking and shedding of skin on the scalp.
What Causes It
Stress, a poor diet, and hormonal changes (such as those accompanying pregnancy) can all contribute to hair loss. Some hair conditions may also be the result of nutritional deficiencies, environmental circumstances, an underactive thyroid gland, immune disorders, or genetic factors.
How Supplements Can Help
The recommended supplements, which can be taken together, may help your hair grow stronger and healthier by nourishing it at the roots. Though there’s no miracle remedy that can guarantee a luxurious head of hair, you may notice improvement within six months, when new hair has had time to grow in.
What Else You Can Do
Eat sensibly. Avoid fad diets that may deprive you of essential nutrients.
Wash your hair with a mild shampoo. Afterward, gently towel it dry and apply a conditioner. Avoid harsh chemicals, such as the chlorine in pools, and high heat from blow dryers or curling irons.
Protect your hair and scalp from the sun by wearing a hat.
Perform a weekly scalp massage. Not only does it stimulate blood flow, but it also helps relieve stress, which can contribute to hair loss.
Take acidophilus (one or two pills twice a day) to improve GI function and boost your body’s ability to absorb important hair-nourishing substances from the foods you eat. Thinning hair may be a sign that your gastrointestinal (GI) tract is not absorbing zinc and other nutrients properly.
Quit smoking. Scientists in England recently reported that, age notwithstanding, smokers were four times more likely to have gray hair than nonsmokers. The researchers also reported a link between smoking and hair loss.
Dosage: 1 tbsp. (14 grams) a day.
Comments: Can be mixed with food; take in the morning.
Evening Primrose Oil
Dosage: 1,000 mg 3 times a day.
Comments: Can substitute 1,000 mg borage oil once a day.
Dosage: 30 mg zinc and 2 mg copper a day.
Comments: Add copper only when using zinc longer than 1 month.
Dosage: 1,000 mcg a day.
Comments: Can combat excessive oiliness and flaking; take with vitamin B complex.
Vitamin B Complex
Dosage: 1 pill twice a day with food.
Comments: Look for a B-50 complex with 50 mcg vitamin B12 and biotin; 400 mcg folic acid; and 50 mg all other B vitamins.
Dosage: 100 mg a day.
Comments: Promotes the health of the skin and scalp.
Dosage: 200 mcg twice a day.
Comments: Don’t exceed 600 mcg daily; higher doses may be toxic.