Six Tips for Healthy Hair and Skin
Thinning hair? Dandruff? Dry skin? Use these gentle, natural ideas to optimize the health of your hair and skin.
1. Preventing and Reversing Hair Loss
Hair loss isn’t just a male problem – many women experience it as well. There are a variety of factors that could play a part in female hair loss:
- Damaging effects of hair treatments or styling
- Twisting or pulling your hair
- Prescription drugs such as blood thinners and medications for gout, arthritis, depression, heart problems and high blood pressure
- Thyroid disease
- Iron deficiency. (Do not take iron unless you’ve been tested and your doctor has recommended a supplement – it can do more harm than good if you don’t need it.)
The good news is there are some nutritional changes you can make that may help prevent further loss and encourage re-growth. Try the following:
- Include omega-3 fatty acids in your diet. Try to eat salmon (preferable wild Alaskan salmon), sardines, herring or mackerel two or three times a week. Or, sprinkle two tablespoons of freshly ground flaxseeds per day on your cereal or salads, or eat walnuts.
- Supplement your diet with the essential omega-6 fatty acid called GLA (gamma-linolenic acid) in the form of black currant oil or evening primrose oil, available in capsules or soft gels at health food stores. Take 500 mg of either twice a day. Be patient with this one. You won’t see results for six to eight weeks.
2. Taming Inflamed Follicles
Folliculitis is an inflammation of the hair follicles, those tiny pits in the skin from which hair grows. Usually, the inflammation is due to an infection with staphylococcus bacteria or a fungus. It isn’t unusual for folliculitis to occur on the scalp, and it can also develop on the arms, in the armpits, or on the legs.
Chronic skin conditions such as eczema or dermatitis can put you at risk for folliculitis, as can diabetes, tight clothing, living in unsanitary conditions, and heat and humidity. There’s also a more severe form of folliculitis that comes from using hot tubs that haven’t been properly disinfected. Known as "hot tub folliculitis," this condition can be painful and resistant to treatment.
Common folliculitis is treated with over-the-counter antibiotic ointments applied to the affected area, but if the area is large, you may need an oral antibiotic.
Shampooing frequently is also recommended in order to prevent recurrences of scalp folliculitis. Look for shampoo made with tea tree oil (Melaleuca alternifolia), a great germicidal and antibacterial agent which can also used to treat fungal infections of the skin.
In addition, I recommend supplementing your diet with GLA (gamma-linolenic acid) and omega-3 fatty acids. GLA, an essential fatty acid which is hard to come by in the diet, promotes healthy growth of skin, hair and nails. The best sources are evening primrose oil, black currant oil and borage oil, taken in capsules as dietary supplements. You can increase your intake of omega-3 fatty acids by eating more wild Alaskan salmon, sardines, fortified eggs, freshly ground flaxseeds or walnuts, or taking a fish oil supplement.
You might also try hypnotherapy, which can be very effective for skin conditions. Look for a hypnotherapist with experience in dealing with these disorders.
3. Dandruff? Try these Remedies
Dandruff – flakes of dry skin on the scalp – can be bothersome and possibly embarrassing. Caused by eczema or seborrhea, it is often linked to climate and genetic factors, not poor grooming habits (as many people think).
There are simple measures you can take to treat dandruff:
- Use a gentle, non-drying shampoo or a tar shampoo daily or every other day until the dandruff goes away, then only about twice a week.
- To restore moisture to your skin and hair, supplement your diet with black currant oil or evening primrose oil. These provide an unusual fatty acid called GLA (gamma-linolenic acid), which promotes the healthy growth of skin and hair. Try doses of 500 mg twice a day; after six to eight weeks, when you start to see improvement, cut the dose in half.
- Use freshly ground flaxseeds or fish oils in the form of sardines or wild Alaskan salmon. These excellent sources of omega-3 fatty acids should help with flaking. Visit your dermatologist to be sure that your dandruff is not from an underlying scalp disease or skin infection.
4. Is Gamma Linolenic Acid in Your Beauty Routine?
Want healthy skin, hair and nails? Try taking the essential fatty acid gamma linolenic acid (GLA). This essential fatty acid offers a wide range of benefits, from acting as an effective anti-inflammatory agent (with none of the side effects of anti-inflammatory drugs) to promoting the healthy growth of skin, hair and nails. GLA can also be used effectively for other conditions such as brittle nails and hair, arthritis, autoimmune disorders, and premenstrual syndrome.
Unfortunately, GLA is hard to come by in the diet, so supplements may be necessary. Three good, natural sources are evening primrose oil, black currant oil and borage oil. Each comes in capsule form, and vary in the amount of GLA they supply as well as in their cost.
Do not expect immediate results when taking GLA: it takes six to eight weeks to see changes after adding GLA to the diet.
5. Thinning Hair Help
It is not unusual for women to experience thinning hair as they age, especially when hormonal changes caused by menopause come into play. If you are experiencing thinning hair (also known as female pattern baldness) or hair loss, keep the following in mind:
- The effects of hair-care treatments or styling, as well as the habit of twisting or pulling your hair, can cause hair loss or thinning.
- Certain prescription drugs (blood thinners and medications used to treat gout, arthritis, depression, heart problems and high blood pressure) can cause hair shedding that might be mistaken for thinning.
- Thyroid disease may be a factor. Speak with your doctor about a thyroid test; appropriate treatment often results in hair re-growth.
- Diet may be an issue. To maintain healthy hair and help prevent further loss, make sure you’re getting enough omega-3 fatty acids. Eat salmon, sardines, herring or mackerel two or three times a week, or sprinkle two tablespoons of freshly ground flaxseeds per day on cereal or salads. Supplement your diet with GLA (gamma-linolenic acid) in the form of black currant oil or evening primrose oil. Take 500 mg of either twice a day for six to eight weeks to see if it helps.
6. Trying Black Currant Oil
Black-Currant Oil (Ribes nigrum), is oil pressed from black currant seeds. It is a natural source of gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), an essential fatty acid that may help lessen a variety of symptoms, including those associated with:
- Autoimmune disorders (including lupus, eczema, and psoriasis)
- Hair problems including dryness, brittleness, thinning, or splitting
- Nail problems such as weak or brittle nails
- Premenstrual syndrome
- Inflammatory disorders
Available as gel caps, look for capsules containing at least 45 mg of GLA. Avoid topical oil preparations. Adults can take 500 mg, twice per day, and children should take half this amount.