Hair is principally made of keratin, which is a protein, and may accurately be described as a ‘dead’ material. However, the follicle from which the hair grows is very much alive and is considered by complementary practitioners to be a useful eliminatory cell and the hair itself to be a reflection of health. Many conditions, such as hypothyroidism, will be reflected by dry, brittle hair and hyperthyroidism may actually cause hair to fall. Some less well-proven food allergies/intolerance tests examine the hair for molecules of food that have become enmeshed with the keratin structure in the belief that the follicle will remove toxins or compounds less well tolerated by the body, which can therefore be measured.
Most cultures consider the hair to be an adornment worthy of spending much time keeping it attractive. This is an important factor in ‘mate’ selection and care of the hair should be looked upon as a necessity, not a vanity.
Care of the hair and the scalp
Medicated hair products detract from the ability of the scalp to maintain its hair in good condition. If you look at the hair of healthy children you will see that very little needs to be done if the individual is in good health.
The hair follicles and sweat glands act as elimination organs and the more toxins in the system the more the hair will contain debris and the more the sweat will coat the hair with poisons. Dehydration, excess fats, refined foods, additives and preservatives will all take the shine and gloss out of the hair.
The hair itself is dependent upon the production of a protein called keratin which demands an amino acid supply in the diet. The easier the protein is to digest and break down the easier it is for hair to be formed. Therefore amino acids from vegetable proteins and light meat (fish, chicken) will be better for the hair.
Remember that the skin absorbs compounds, albeit at a slow rate, and the highly vascular scalp is an effective route of entry for compounds into the body. Certain plant extracts are less toxic than chemicals and will adhere to the hair just as efficiently. The more natural the hair product, the less likely it is to create a toxic environment in the system. The scalp in which the hair follicles live is a very active part of the skin surface. Sweat, sebum and hair are constantly produced and diseases of the scalp, which include dandruff and alopecia, are best prevented rather than treated. Stress will affect the condition of the hair. When under pressure or stressed, the body produces more adrenaline, which cuts down the blood supply to the skin in order to provide more oxygen and nutrients to essential organs for a fight-or-flight reaction. This 10 per cent reduction in blood flow may not be noticeable but will cut down the nutrient and oxygen supply to the hair follicle, sweat and sebum glands and thereby diminish the amount of essential nutrients reaching the hair follicle.
Do not wash the hair more frequently than is necessary. If your hair is losing its lustre or appearing dirty every day then reflect on your diet, not your hair products. Daily washing removes the natural oils, which in turn diminishes the quality and condition of the hair.
Do not use medicated shampoos. Shampoos with plant extract such of jojoba are perfectly safe and just as beneficial as most chemical additives.
Hair that is dry may benefit from a weekly application of olive oil and lemon juice. Mix one tablespoon of olive oil with one teaspoon of lemon juice and apply until all the hair is covered. Leave this on for 15min and then wash off with a natural shampoo. Dry hair generally suggests dehydration . There is no doubt that shock (an excess of adrenaline) can cause the hair to grey and persistent pressure or stress (persistent production of adrenaline) will encourage greying. The mechanism is described in the section above on care of hair.
Be proud of your hair colour rather than fighting it.
Reduce stress and alter lifestyle to avoid persistent pressure.
Correct diet and mineral supplementation may affect hair colour.
Hair dyes should not be used because the products will be absorbed to some extent by the scalp, but if the use is considered necessary then try to obtain as natural a product as possible.
Changing the colour of the hair stems from an evolutionary need to camouflage or attract attention, either for courting purposes or making the appearance more aggressive before going into battle. The latter use is not so much required any more although the brightly coloured hair of some younger people may be making a form of social statement!
Dyes will be absorbed to some extent by the highly vascular scalp and may create a toxic reaction, major or minor, within the system.
RECOMMENDATIONS • Use only the most natural of hair colourants because the body will deal with natural herbs much better than artificial chemicals.
Medically speaking, avoid hair dyes. Be comfortable with yourself and possibly consider sitting with a counsellor if you have a strong need to appear as that which you are not.
Losing hair may be a physiological or a pathological response. A certain amount of hair loss will occur when the weather becomes warmer, through pregnancy and lactation, and with ageing. Pathological causes may vary from overwashing, medicated or poor quality shampoos, persistent use of hair dryers, especially in association with the current hair design or cutting and possibly from overuse of hairsprays or gels. More serious conditions can cause hair loss, such as hypothyroidism and other metabolic diseases. Skin fungus, most often responsible for dandruff, may cause hair loss and toxins such as excess alcohol, drugs of abuse, steroids and anticancer drugs can all cause the hair to fall.
Nutritional deficiencies of minerals (especially sulphur), proteins and vitamins may all cause hair to thin; and stress, as discussed in the section above on the care of hair, will also have an effect.
Feel assured that if hair loss is associated with physiological causes the hair will regrow.
Whether physiological or pathological, increase vitamin and mineral intake through fresh fruit and vegetables (at least five portions a day) or take a multi-vitamin multimineral supplement at twice the daily recommended dose.
Persistent hair loss with no obvious cause requires a studious examination of hair care and the products used, or a consultation with a complementary medical practitioner or, preferably, a trichologist initially.
Persistent hair loss should be considered by a GP with possible referral to a endocrinologist.
Excess hair is usually only considered a problem if it is facial. Excessive growth is usually an ethnic or genetic predisposition although certain rare metabolic conditions and drugs may encourage hair growth. Hormone imbalance, particularly excess testosterone and other male hormones (androgens), is a cause in women.
If no ethnic or genetic reason is apparent, then a consultation with a trichologist and a GP will be in order.
Discuss naturopathic oestrogen and progesterone treatments before using orthodox drug approaches to blocking androgen effects.
If no metabolic or drug problems are the cause, then hair removal can be considered. Both chemical and electrical techniques can be used, although the latter is less likely to create a toxic response.