There are many different factors that affect hair health and influence hair loss, but the saying “beauty comes from within” rings true. Just like a garden won’t grow in depleted soils, our hair won’t grow long and healthy if our health is out of balance.
I personally experienced Telogen Eddluvium, or postpartum hair loss, after the birth of both of my girls. Although postpartum hair loss due to hormonal changes is normal, in my case, iron-deficiency really worsened my hair loss. With baby number two, I thankfully lost a lot less hair but still noticed increased shedding around four months postpartum.
So what are some of the potential causes of hair loss and what are some tips to naturally help hair loss?
1. Eat Nutrient-Rich Foods
The health of your hair (and skin and nails) is and outward sign of inside health. Each strand of hair requires a whole host of nutrients and healthy conditions to grow. A good balance of the following vitamins and minerals will keep your hair strong, hydrated, and beautiful:
Protein – Hair is made of protein and if your body is lacking your dry and brittle hairs will show it.
Iron – Iron deficiency is a major cause of hair loss since hair follicles and roots require nutrient-rich blood to grow. An iron-deficient body will channel its limited oxygen supply to support the most important bodily functions rather than less significant ones like hair strength and growth. Unfortunately, low-iron levels are especially common during pregnancy and after. I struggled with anemia during my first pregnancy and my thinning scalp could vouch for it. Good sources of iron include pastured meat (especially liver), dark leafy greens, and blackstrap molasses.
Vitamin C – Vitamin C aids in the absorption of iron. That’s why it’s a good idea to eat vitamin C-rich foods along with iron-rich foods. Vitamin C also aids in the production of collagen which helps hair regeneration. You also need Vitamin C to produce collagen which is the main structural protein found in skin and is what gives hair its strength. I take collagen powder daily in my morning smoothie.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids – Are important for everything! But our bodies cannot make these acids and we usually don’t get enough in our modern diets unless we’re eating lots of oily fish like wild-caught salmon and sardines and certain nuts and seeds. I supplement cod liver oil daily to get my Omega-3s.
Biotin – This B vitamin is essential for hair health and regeneration. Liver and egg yolks are an extremely nutritious source.
Vitamin A – Vitamin A is needed to make sebum, the natural oils on our scalp that are necessary for scalp and hair health. Lack of sebum leads to a dry, itchy scalp and dry hair.
These are some of the important players when it comes to hair health. We could also mention zinc, niacin, selenium, vitamin E, and others. Eating a diverse, nutrient-dense diet is step one when it comes to hair health. Supplementing wisely also helps, but supplements on their own can never be a substitute for a healthy lifestyle. They may temporarily help hair regrowth in the short term but what our bodies need for long-term health is nutrient-rich foods. Make meaningful changes by cutting out junk and only eating real food.
2. Balance Your Hormones
Balanced hormones are, to put it plainly, very important for overall health, including hair and scalp health. Hormones influence energy levels, control your metabolism, direct your sex drive, and determine fertility. Here are some of the ways hormones influence hair loss:
Estrogen & Testosterone
Hair loss is generally less common in women because we normally have higher levels of estrogen and lower levels of DHT (dihydrotestosterone), a form of testosterone that in excess leads to head hair loss. A decrease in estrogen, like in the postpartum period or during menopause, and increase in DHT will cause hair to thin and fall out. At the same time, too much estrogen (caused by excess weight or endocrine disruptors found in plastic), can cause hair loss as well.
Insulin not only regulates blood sugar levels but also affects hair growth. Several studies, including this one, have found a connection between insulin resistance and androgenetic alopecia, or female pattern baldness.
Some symptoms of thyroid disorder (or other autoimmune illness) include fatigue, weight gain/stubborn weight, mood swings, brain fog, joint and muscle pain, cold hands and feet, digestive issues, PMS and other hormone imbalances. Hair loss is also a common issue. When there is a hormonal imbalance the body works on establishing balance and focuses less on noncritical processes like hair growth.
Balancing your hormones naturally requires a lifestyle commitment to healthy patterns. This is a great, comprehensive article with tips on how to balance hormones naturally. Healthy eating, exercising (including sweating to release toxins and improve pore and sebum health), and reducing stress are key ways to keep your hormones balanced. And that brings us to…
3. Reduce Stress
The growth phase of a strand of head hair (anagen) can last between two to six years. After the growth phase is complete the hair follicle will shrink temporarily (catagen) and then the hair will enter a resting phase and stop growing (telogen). At the end of its life cycle the hair falls out (exogen). It’s normal to grow and lose hair everyday – even losing between 50-100 hairs per day through exogen is to be expected.
Stress disrupts the natural process of hair growth (and can cause graying). It shortens the growth phase and causes excess hair loss. This study showed that mice that were exposed to sound stress for 24 hours experienced premature catagen and subsequent hair loss. “Psychoemotional stress indeed alters actual hair follicle cycling in vivo, ie, prematurely terminates the normal duration of active hair growth…” (Source).
4. Be Gentle With Your Hair
Hair styling and chemical exposure (dyes, bleaches, heat, relaxers, harsh products, etc.) can damage and thin hair. Certain hairstyles such as tight braids, extensions, sew in hair, and even tight ponytails can cause hair loss in the temple area known as traction alopecia. Hair damage and loss can be mitigated once the unhealthy styling pattern is stopped, but if not corrected, damage to the hair follicles may be permanent.
Some steps you can take to start being gentle with your hair:
- Immediately stop any unhealthy hair patterns.
- Don’t over-wash your hair as this will cause it to dry out and be stripped of much-needed natural oils.
- Wash hair using cool (never hot) water and a natural, hydrating shampoo that will not strip sebum or damage natural pH levels. When washing, avoid scratching the scalp and instead gently massage it clean.
- Don’t use harsh brushes and combs that pull hair – Comb dry hair with a wide tooth wooden comb.
5. Use Natural Hair Growth Serum (Recipe)
Although the main causes of unhealthy hair and hair loss are internal, the use of topical treatments can help improve hair health and lessen damage and loss. The following oils are renowned for improving hair health:
- Castor Oil – Castor oil is rich in the Vitamin E, minerals, proteins, and beneficial fatty acids that our hair needs. Its antibacterial and antifungal properties keeps the scalp healthy and its ricinoleic acid increases blood flow to the scalp, increasing sebum production, balancing scalp pH, and improving hair growth and strength.
- Argan Oil – Argan oil has been known for centuries to make hair healthier and more beautiful and even improve growth. One drop goes a long way.
- Rosemary essential oil – Increases scalp circulation promoting growth and effectively treats hair loss.
- Cedarwood Atlas essential oil – Prevents hair loss and stimulates the hair follicle to promote hair growth.
- Clary sage essential oil – Promotes hair growth, reduces hair loss, improves overall scalp health.
- Peppermint oil – Promotes hair growth.
- Lavender essential oil – Promotes hair growth.
Hair Growth Serum Recipe
You can experiment with your favorite oils from those listed above, but this is one of my favorite combinations:
- 2 tsp castor oil
- 1-2 drops argan oil
- 2 drops rosemary essential oil
- 1 drops clary sage essential oil
- 1 drop peppermint essential oil
- 1 drop lavender essential oil
Hair Growth Serum Instructions:
Combine the oils and massage into the scalp. Gently massage with the serum for at least 5-15 minutes 1-2 times per week. You can also just massage your scalp with the tips of your finger, no oil required.
Regularly massaging the scalp will increase blood circulation. The increased blood flow also increases flow of nutrients and oxygen to the scalp and promotes hair health and growth. You can use this serum as a leave-in condition or wash out after a couple hours or the next day. If you’re having trouble getting the oil out, wash your hair with one whole egg.
Other Natural Tips:
Herbal Rinses: Many people like doing herbal rinses to improve scalp health and hair growth. Herbs that are beneficial for hair health include: chamomile (also lightens hair), hibiscus, marshmallow root, burdock, thyme, rosemary, lavender, mint, fenugreek, sage, and nettle. To use, infuse as you would if you were making a tea, wait for the tea to cool, and rinse your hair after washing. Massage the infusion into your scalp and hair. You can leave the tea in or rinse it out with cool water.
Garlic and Onion: It may sound strange (and smelly) but here is a study that discusses onion juice as an effective natural treatment for hair. Topical garlic may be effective for hair growth too.
In my experience, improving overall health (by eating healthy, supplementing, exercising, and balancing my hormones) really improved my hair loss after the birth of my second child (in comparison with my first). I also noticed that my second daughter was born with a full head of thick, wavy hair that was almost two inches long! I’m not sure if that’s just a coincidence or related to my improved health as well.
Using my Hair Growth Serum (recipe above) has also dramatically improved the growth rate, strength, look, and overall health of my first daughter’s hair, which started looking dry, thin, and dull in the colder weather. Her hair is now noticeably stronger, shinier, and has greater body thanks to castor oil. My husband’s hair looks better than ever after regular use of a castor oil/coconut oil mix.