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Hair and scalp, what makes them age prematurely and what are the healthy habits to protect them

May 31, 2023
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Hair and scalp, what makes them age prematurely and what are the healthy habits to protect them

Nutrition, lifestyle and habits that help protect the hair and scalp, keeping it healthy and counteracting hair loss and brittle hair, as well as itching and irritation that can affect the scalp

What makes our hair stressed and aged? A series of incorrect habits, environmental and internal causes can cause an increase in inflammation and free radicals in the area of the hair follicle with a worsening of the health of our hair and with clearly visible consequences, such as dull, dry, brittle hair that tends to fall. Today we will try to understand what we can do to take care of the health of our hair with small daily gestures of beauty.

What makes our hair age

There are several factors that damage the hair structure, such as exposure to UV rays, but also humidity, wind and pollution. Not only that, even the chemical substances contained in some products and the aggressive treatments to which we often subject our hair can damage it (Monselise et al, Int J Womens Dermatol, 2017). For example, hair bleaching occurs with substances, such as hydrogen peroxide, which have to pass through the hair cuticle to reach melanin, which is the pigment in the hair. This action causes a weakening of the hair fiber that, in the long run, can even become permanent (Monselise et al, Int J Womens Dermatol, 2017). Attention should also be paid to treatments such as perms or hair straightening using chemical products, which damage the keratin causing a weakening of the hair (Monselise et al, Int J Womens Dermatol, 2017).

In addition to this, some habits can also damage the hair. For example, combing wet hair, starting from the root, can be a particularly aggressive procedure with subsequent fracture in the hair shaft. But also be careful to wash your hair every day with shampoo, this habit can also be harmful. In fact, the daily use of shampoo, especially if aggressive and designed for oily hair, eliminates the protective layer of sebum that coats the hair, causing dry and brittle hair. If you want to wash your hair every day, it is therefore useful to choose a delicate shampoo (Monselise et al, Int J Womens Dermatol, 2017). Finally, cigarette smoke ages the hair and causes it to gray prematurely (Kesika et al, Pharmaceuticals, 2023).

Good habits to protect your hair

Combing or brushing your hair is important. This action helps to untangle the hair, distributes the sebum, which is a precious protection for the hair, and stimulates the scalp. However, as we saw in the previous paragraph, brushing on wet hair can become aggressive and cause hair breakage. Instead, a good habit is to comb dry hair. In fact, when the hair is dry we tend to give greater strength especially towards the final part of the hair and not towards the roots, thus protecting the hair more against the risk of fractures. Not only that, it is also a good choice to opt for wide-toothed and rounded-tip combs and brushes (Monselise et al, Int J Womens Dermatol, 2017).

Then, when you apply the shampoo, do it with your fingertips and massage gently, without creating stress on the hair (Monselise et al, Int J Womens Dermatol, 2017).

As for the choice of shampoos, conditioners and masks, this too is important for the health of the hair and scalp, so much so that we have dedicated articles to this topic. The links to the articles can be found at the bottom of the page.

Scalp care

The health of the hair also depends on that of the scalp. An inflamed scalp, with itching, redness, erythema and dandruff, can also have repercussions on the hair. In fact, especially if the inflammation is chronic, this condition can stimulate an excessive production of pro-inflammatory substances, which reduce the life span of the hair and the size of the hair follicle (Monselise et al, Int J Womens Dermatol, 2017). Studies have observed that coconut oil can be a valuable ally for scalp care. In particular, massaging the scalp with coconut oil for twenty minutes, then leaving it on for a couple of hours and finally rinsing with shampoo has made it possible, in three months, to counteract inflammation and dandruff, reinforcing the skin barrier, making the skin more elastic and hydrated and enriching the skin microbiota (Saxena et al, Sci Rep, 2021).

Food for hair

A lack of vitamins and mineral salts in the diet can result in a worsening of hair health. Indeed, the human scalp contains an average of 100,000 hair follicles, of which 90% are in the anagen phase, corresponding to the first phase of the life cycle of the hair, that of growth. Under these conditions, the hair follicle requires nutrients in order to efficiently produce healthy hair. Hence the importance of following a varied and balanced diet, which includes fruit, vegetables, whole grains and legumes. The deficiency of some vitamins, more than others, is then associated with hair fragility and hair loss. These hair protective vitamins are riboflavin, or B2, found in cheese, eggs and green leafy vegetables, biotin or B7, found in citrus fruits, whole grains, eggs and nuts, folate, found primarily in green leafy vegetables, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, oranges and beans, and vitamin B12, which is found in meat, poultry, eggs, milk and fortified cereals, as well as vitamin E, which is useful for the health of the scalp and to counteract seborrheic dermatitis (Almohanna et al, Dermatol Ther, 2019). Vitamin E is contained in nuts, seeds, avocados and green leafy vegetables. Vitamin C, contained in citrus fruits, green and red peppers, strawberries, tomatoes, kiwifruits, green leafy vegetables and broccoli, is also very important, on the one hand because it fights free radicals, on the other because it helps the absorption of iron, the deficiency of which is common in case of hair loss (Almohanna et al, Dermatol Ther, 2019 - Gokce et al, J Prev Med Hyg, 2022). Indeed, hair follicles are a storehouse of ferritin, which is the main form in which iron is accumulated. When there is a lack of iron in the body, hair growth stops and ferritin is used to maintain the correct iron values (Rajput et al, Indian Dermatol Online J., 2022).

Warnings

What we have seen so far is what science says, but beware of false myths and DIY. In fact, even the excessive intake of preparations with high amounts of vitamins and mineral salts can be harmful to the body and hair. For example, taking vitamin A in doses greater than 5000IU can even promote hair loss, just as an excess of vitamin E and selenium can cause weakening and subsequent hair loss (Monselise et al, Int J Womens Dermatol, 2017). Finally, it is also important to limit the excessive consumption of sugars, in the form of sweets, candies, sugary drinks and refined carbohydrates. In fact, a diet too rich in sugar stimulates the production of sebum by the sebaceous glands. Sebum protects hair and scalp but, if in excess, causes irritation and inflammation (Kesika et al, Pharmaceuticals, 2023).

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