What Your Hair Says About Your Health
We ask the experts to comb through our most common hair issues.
Shedding hair is both natural and cyclical, so some hair loss each day is normal. If you notice you are shedding more hair than usual – for example, if clumps are coming out at an alarming rate – see your GP, says hairstylist Brad Ngata of Brad Ngata Hair Direction. If you’re losing a lot more than 100-200 strands a day, it could be a sign of stress, low iron levels, lack of protein in your diet, or a thyroid hormone imbalance.
Dull and dry
Want a bit more shine? Your hair care routine might be to blame. Overuse of heat-styling products, such as hair straighteners and hairdryers, can dry out hair, while poorly done bleaching or colouring can also be a culprit. According to Stephanie Donougher, naturopath for Blackmores, lacklustre and brittle hair could also mean you’re depleted in essential fatty acids, and minerals such as silica, zinc and iron. Eating more foods with these nutrients can help. Dull, dry hair could also be a sign of an underactive thyroid gland. Consult your doctor for ways to treat this condition.
Oily and greasy
“Oily hair, even when the hair is washed frequently, is caused by an oversecretion of sebum from the sebaceous glands in the scalp, which could be due to hormonal imbalance. It can also be hereditary,” states Donougher.
Slow to grow
If your hair growth has gone from fast to slow, it may be the result of a period of illness, severe stress or poor diet. Also, hair tends to grow more slowly in the colder months and faster in the summer. If your locks have always lengthened
slowly, it probably just means you’re genetically predisposed to this rate.
“Dandruff is excessive flaking of the scalp and can be easily treated with a medicated shampoo,” says Ngata. However, if you’re having a lot of trouble with this condition, get it checked out. Adds Donougher, “It could be caused by nutrient deficiencies, most commonly zinc, vitamin C or essential fatty acids, a fungal overgrowth, or overactivity of the sebaceous glands in the scalp.”
Hair that has lightened and dried out due to sun exposure is a sign that you may need to rethink your sun-smart strategy. “UV strips the hair of moisture and can make it feel and look dry. It can also strip any unnatural colour from your hair,” explains Ngata. Ensure you use sunscreen on skin, limit your time in the sun, and use a UV protectant for your hair.
Hair in weird places
If you’re growing hair where it doesn’t usually belong, this could be a sign of polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). How much fluff is too much? “Think gorilla status below the bellybutton, around the nipples, or sideburns on the face,” says Dr Ginni Mansberg. PCOS can lead to infertility, so see your doctor if you’re concerned.