If you’ve ever embraced your inner gardener, you know that it takes love, patience and effort to bring forth a fruitful harvest...and bringing forth new hair growth is no different. Whether you fancy yourself a green thumb, or - like me - you’ve accepted your role as the grim reaper of plantlife, there are some simple considerations that can make all the difference.
Chief among those considerations is soil. Soil quality is a make-it-or-break-it factor in gardening...no matter how hard you try, one simply can’t out-garden bad soil.
In the case of hair growth, your scalp is the soil...when it’s healthy, you’ll see new sprouts - and when it’s unhealthy, you’ll suffer the hair-thinning consequences.
So how do you fix bad soil? By getting to the root of the problem, of course! I know, I know...that sounds like a lot of effort....I won’t lie, it can be! Which is why, in our infinite desire to help you make the most of what you’ve got and live boldly, we’ve outlined 6 of the easiest - yet most beneficial - steps you can take to start healing your scalp and promote new growth. (Hair growth, that is...these tips will do nothing for your tomatoes.)
Disclaimer: It should go without saying, but we’re not doctors...we don’t even play them on TV. Use your good sense, and consult your actual physician, for best results.
Keep Stress Levels Low
I’m betting you’ve heard the saying “Stress is the silent killer” at least once.
It may be harsh...but it’s true. When you’re under any amount of stress, your body releases a hormone called Cortisol. While some Cortisol is perfectly healthy - and even necessary to overall wellbeing - too much will wreak havoc on your entire body. Weight gain, insomnia, hormonal imbalances...you name it, Cortisol affects it.
Don’t think for one minute hair loss isn’t on that list. Cortisol release causes an inflammatory response, which causes hair follicles to swell, in turn effectively shrinking the space available for hair strands. As hair struggles to pass through the follicle, it grows thinner and more brittle over time; if Cortisol levels aren’t reduced, the follicular damage becomes irreparable, strands fall out altogether, and the follicle ceases to function at all.
Well, that must take a long time, at, like, really high stress levels, right?!
WRONG! See, our bodies are programmed to save energy for critical processes - like, say, heart, lung, liver, and kidney function. We don’t need hair to survive, so our follicles are first on the immune system’s “Energy Budget Cuts” short list. While a fabulous head of hair might mean more to you than proper kidney function (I mean, maybe not when I put it like that - but to each their own), it means literally zero to our odds of survival - and thus, it’s the first thing to go.
So what can you do? Show your body support by managing stress through activities like yoga, meditation, running, or boxing...anything to get your stress out and help you cope when new stressors rear their ugly heads (because, like death and taxes, there WILL be stress). As Cortisol levels subside, your body’s inflammatory response will, too...and eventually, with little care and a bit of luck, your follicles will be back at peak performance in no time.
Clean Up Your Diet
It’s simple, really: A healthy body = healthy hair follicles = healthy hair.
And getting a healthy body starts with a well-balanced diet!
Eating a wide array of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains ensures that your follicles are reaping all the nourishment that those vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants have to offer - which means a full head of thick, shiny hair at the end of the day.
Another important factor for optimal hair health: Protein!
Our hair is made up largely of Keratin, which is none other than - you guessed it - PROTEIN! Eating a diet rich in meat, fish, and/or plant-based protein is key to maintaining the strong, shiny, bodifully luxurious locks you deserve.
Protect Your Follicles
People tend to be quick to adopt elaborate skincare regimens for the face....ridding our skin of acne, reducing pore visibility, and striving for a glowing, “dewy” finish can cause borderline obsessive behavior and prompt expensive, ridiculously rigorous pampering routines.
And yet, you rarely hear people talk about such considerations for their scalp - which is weird, because it’s literally right there next to their face.
In high school biology, we learn that all living things are made of cells. Just like the cells that comprise the rest of you, the cells within your hair follicles need three things to survive and thrive: nourishment, hydration, and oxygen.
To keep your hair follicles hydrated, adjust your shampoo schedule to ensure that you’re keeping a clean scalp, but that you’re not stripping the skin of its natural oils too regularly. (You can read more about that here.)
Proper hydration is vital to effective nourishment. When appropriately “watered”, follicles are more receptive to the vitamins and oxygen in your scalp blood supply - creating the perfect dynamic for healthy hair to grow.
Ward Off Dandruff
An unhealthy, debris-covered scalp is prone to “Oxidative Stress”...simply put, that means that the affected area doesn’t get enough oxygen.
A suffocated scalp grows no hair, ladies and gentlemen.
Beyond the immediate air-flow concerns, an unattended buildup of dandruff puts the scalp at risk for fungal growth - which can cause an inflammatory condition called Folliculitis. As the affected follicles swell, they begin to itch...and the scratching that ensues only serves to further irritate and damage the scalp. Similar to Cortisol-induced inflammation, untreated Folliculitis will cause thinning, breakage - and, eventually, balding.
When it comes to controlling dandruff, the number of washes per week is important - but so is choosing the right shampoo. There are a plethora of tried and true dandruff shampoos on the market today...do your research, and take your pick! And as always, if you have scalp health concerns, it’s best to talk to your doctor for help in finding a safe, effective solution for you as an individual.
Beware of Product (Chemical) Buildup
You’d be shocked at how many people assume that a dandruff-free scalp is a clean scalp. In reality, that couldn’t be further from the truth! Our scalps are basically biological junkyards...while dandruff is the most visible tenant, our scalps also collect dead skin cells, germs, sebum (AKA oil), and environmental pollutants throughout the day, not to mention styling products like serums, sprays, gels, and pastes. Which is why we wash our hair! With shampoo, of course. Because it takes away all that nastiness for a truly clean scalp.
Such a common conception that most of us never give thought to what shampoo leaves behind!
Many shampoos contain chemicals, parabens, sulfates, harsh detergents, silicone, and other unspecified mystery synthetics. Sure, they make your hair look great...but keep in mind, it comes at the cost of your scalp health.
Focus on finding a shampoo that’s composed of natural ingredients...after all, nothing nourishes your hair and scalp like mother nature herself! And that goes for styling products, too...you can’t suffocate your scalp with chemicals 23 hours a day and expect it to thrive. Choosing natural styling products is a vital step in improving scalp health, and ensuring effective cleansing when it comes time for a shampoo. That silicone-based serum may make your hair shiny and smooth today, but remember: only the harshest chemical detergents can remove it completely, and as it builds up, hair is weighed down - taking on a limp, lifeless, and eventually lackluster appearance.