The type, the length of growth, thickness, thinness, straightness, and curl of your hair depend on your inheritance, but the condition of your hair depends on the internal state of your body, which feeds the papillae that produce it. For hair to be beautiful, the cuticle and the cortex have to be strong.
It has always amused me when I hear hairdressers arguing about whether or not diet has anything to do with the beauty of hair, because it does, as any farmer knows well. Not only can you change the look of an animal's hair by altering its diet (and that goes for the human animal too), you can also tell a great deal about its internal condition by examining its hair. If you have a sheep that is poorly, its coat shows it. Horses, dogs, and cats are given special vitamin and mineral supplements to improve their coats for shows. But only recently has this aspect of hair care even begun to be looked at for human beings.
What occurs in each hair follicle depends on the current nutritional state of your bloodstream and on adequate oxygen reaching the cells. So true is this that when you put someone on a poor diet, you will detect detrimental changes in the hair bulb even on the second day of the regimen. In a study of people placed on a protein-free diet for fifteen days, researchers have found that hairs plucked from their heads and then analyzed microscopically showed significant changes in color, texture, and structure - damage that took some time to correct.
The worst thing you can do for your hair is to go on a crash diet for weight loss or live on typical Western fare, high in refined carbohydrates, processed foods, and white sugar. Both upset the vitamin and mineral balance in your body, and adequate vitamins and minerals are vital to hair.
Probably the most important element of all for strong beautiful hair is silica. A French biochemist, Professor Louis Kervran, began in 1949 to study the effects of trace elements on living organisms and became fascinated with silica's health-enhancing effects on the hair, bones and nails as well as the whole human body. Kervran was aware that many people in the West, unbeknown to them, have subclinical deficiencies of silica because of our depleted soils and highly processed foods. He also knew that a good supply of organic silica in the form of a nutritional supplement was hard to come by and that taking unprocessed silica direct from the horsetail plant as a ground-up herb can lead to gastric irritation.
Kervran worked for several years to develop a revolutionary technique of deriving a natural silica extract using no chemicals or solvents that would respect the integrity of the wonderful complex of nutrients and plant substances which are bound together with the organic silica in horsetail. The result is a plant-derived supplement with a remarkable ability to support the body's metabolic processes involved in rebuilding the collagen of connective tissue, the ground substance in which it sits. One more bonus: Because of its ability to bind and keep minerals in living tissue and to strengthen the keratin bonds, supplemental organic silica improves the strength and beauty of hair and nails better than anything I have ever come across.
As you get older the amount of silica present in your body decreases year by year. With the decrease comes increasing weakness and fragility of hair, nails, connective tissue, veins, the ground substance of skin and arteries. Most women notice a difference within three to six weeks of beginning to take silica. Make sure the kind you buy has been processed without chemicals and is highly bio-available - which means in a form your body can easily make use of (see resources). You should never take powdered horsetail herb incidentally, for it is extremely irritating to the intestines. Besides which your body will be able to make very little use of the silica present since very little of it will be bio-available.
Another source of plant complexes particularly useful in creating strong hair and nails are sea plants. All seaweed - from kelp to dulse, to the Japanese foods like nori and kombu - are rich in the minerals which your body's metabolic processes require to function properly. In a time when our foods are becoming increasingly depleted in important minerals and trace elements the use of plants from the sea becomes more and more important. Even things which your system requires in minute quantities such as vanadium, chromium, and lithium to help replenish the body's supplies are found in sea plants.
Sea plants also tend to be rich in special forms of fiber called the alginates which have the ability to bind and remove heavy metals from the body. And they are rich in organic iodine which, used both internally and externally, tends to stimulate metabolic processes. A good supplement of sea plants which have been collected from unpolluted waters and then `atomized' or broken into very fine particles can offer another source of important metabolic support on any anti-cellulite regime. This process of atomization is very important in choosing any supplement based on sea plants. For seaweed tends to have very hard cell walls and unless these plants are extracted or their cell walls are exploded to make their mineral contents more easy for the body to absorb, much of the metabolic treasures they contain remain little available to the body. When choosing a good supplement of sea plants it is also important to make sure their source is unpolluted waters. For like fish that live in chemically contaminated waters these plants can absorb many negative elements which can badly disturb body ecology and which you certainly do not want in your body.
One of hair's most important minerals is iron. If you are anemic or iron-deficient, your hair will tend to be brittle, lusterless, and hard to manage. It may also be thinner than is normal for you. Iron-deficiency anemia is a condition often implicated in excessive hair loss. If you have any of these hair difficulties, it is worthwhile having a serum iron test (which measures the total amount of iron in your bloodstream) and a total iron-binding-capacity test (which gives the ratio of blood iron to the blood's total capacity to hold iron). If your serum iron is low then your hair would probably benefit from iron therapy. Your doctor can arrange these tests for you. And it is important to remember, whether or not you take iron supplements, that vitamin C enhances iron absorption by helping ferric iron to be reduced to its ferrous form; also iron is best absorbed when calcium is present in sufficient quantities.
Another important mineral for hair is the "beauty mineral," sulfur. It keeps your hair glossy and smooth. Sulfur is one of the constituents of keratin. When it is supplied in adequate amounts, your hair is strong. Eggs are particularly rich in the sulfur containing amino acids and are excellent hair food. Other natural sources include cabbage, dried beans, legumes, fish, nuts, and meat.
Research has established that a zinc deficiency is commonly the cause of hair damage in animals. It is probably true of humans as well and is certainly one of the factors contributing to the hair loss that women on the Pill or oestrogen therapy experience, since the hormones reduce zinc levels in the body. But the Pill can have other effects detrimental to hair too. It lowers blood levels of vitamins B12, B6, and B2, increasing your body's need for these vitamins as well as folic acid, vitamin C, and the trace minerals zinc and iron. If you are an oestrogen taker and your hair is giving you trouble, it may be helpful to take supplements of these nutrients.
the B Vitamins
The B-complex vitamins are particularly important to hair health and beauty. Deficiencies of biotin, folic acid, pantothenic acid, and PABA can lead to a loss of color, and there has even been some success in reversing the graying process by giving supplements of these nutrients - particularly megavitamin doses of PABA. One researcher claims to have restored color to graying hair in 70 percent of cases.
A lack of any of the B complex vitamins can result in hair troubles and losses. Vitamins B1, B2, and B12 are particularly important in invigorating lackluster hair, dandruff, scaling, redness of the scalp and hair loss,
Vitamin C is important too, because it maintains the health and strength of the capillaries supplying your hair-producing follicles with nourishment. If your levels of vitamin C are too low, this results in perifollicular hemorrhages, in which these capillaries break and bleed, which results in improper nourishment to the papillae.
How fast your hair can grow depends on adequate - but not too much - protein, since more than adequate amounts can deplete your body of the minerals it needs. The widespread notion propounded by many glossy magazines that if you eat lots of meat and drink milk several times a day you will have strong and beautiful hair is simply untrue. It is the right balance of nutrients that is most important. The condition of your hair is greatly affected by medicines that you take - and I don't just mean antibiotics and sulfa drugs, although these two are common culprits for causing trouble. But aspirin, the Pill, diet pills, tranquilizers, thyroid pills, cortisone, anticancer drugs, and even cold remedies are a common cause of brittleness, dullness, breakage, and loss. Hair follicles are ultrasensitive to hormones. If you are taking a birth-control pill and having trouble with your hair, this could be why. Try another form of contraception.