Many of us, both men and women, think about how to keep healthy, shiny locks. Yet sometimes, we may miss certain clues that our hair is revealing about our health. Some conditions that affect our health can appear as changes in our hair’s look, texture, or thickness. So, the next time you look in the mirror, watch out for these 8 signs that may indicate underlying health problems:
1. Dry hair
No matter what your shampoo bottle says, dry hair is not a natural hair type. It’s a condition that can be dealt with. Dry hair develops when your hair doesn’t retain enough moisture. Washing and blow-drying your hair too often, using the wrong shampoos or conditioners, or even over-brushing can easily compromise the moisture your scalp and hair naturally produces. Dry hair can also be a symptom of vitamin A deficiency. Vitamin A repairs the hair and helps keep the scalp moist by supplying keratin (the protein in the hair). Food sources containing vitamin A include liver, eggs, sweet potatoes, and oranges. Be aware that a vitamin A overload can backfire badly, though.
2. Greasy hair
The oils in your hair come from sebaceous glands attached to each hair follicle. When these glands are not functioning normally, it can cause problems with the skin and hair. Greasy hair usually indicates that your diet isn’t healthy enough and that you consume too many refined carbohydrates and saturated fats. To solve this problem, try to limit your intake of fried foods, sweets, and smoked foods. Adding a few drops of tea tree oil to your shampoo may also help your sebaceous glands work properly.
If diet changes don’t work, greasy hair may indicate that you’re experiencing metabolic or hormonal issues. Hormone changes can cause sebaceous glands to make excess oil, which also explains why teenagers often struggle with oily skin and acne.
Dandruff doesn’t do any harm, but it is rather embarrassing for those who have it. White flakes are basically dead skin cells that get clumped together with scalp oil. To decrease the buildup of dead skin cells, try using an anti-dandruff shampoo. You may need to try several different products to find the one that works best for you.
Yellow dandruff, on the other hand, is a sign of seborrheic dermatitis, an inflammatory skin condition that occurs when there are lots of oil glands, and is often associated with a hormonal disorder or fungus. You may not want to scratch too much in that case, because that can break the skin and cause infection.
4. Itchy scalp
An itchy scalp is often a symptom of dandruff, though it can also be a result of a nervous system disorder caused by stress. Don’t worry so much, and get yourself some good rest to help your scalp and hair stay healthy.
If accompanied by irritating pimples or peeling skin, though, an itchy scalp can be a sign of eczema, a skin condition commonly seen in babies and children, but which anyone can get. Although the cause of eczema is unknown, its symptoms can be relived by applying moisturizers and steroid creams. Avoiding harsh soaps and conditioners helps, too.
5. Hair shedding
Everyone sheds some hair, and as you may know, seeing a few stray strands on your hairbrush is no big deal. In fact, most people shed between 50 and 100 hairs every day, which is part of the normal hair life cycle. If you are suddenly noticing much more hair loss than normal, though, this could be a sign that your body has low iron stores or anemia. Vegetarians and women who have heavy periods are more likely to experience excessive hair shedding due to low iron. Iron supplements or changes in diet that include more iron-rich foods can help you keep your hair.
6. Hair thinning
When your hair continues to shed as normal but does not grow back, your hair will become thinner. While hereditary or genetic hair loss is the most common cause of thinning—there isn’t much you can do if it’s genetic—you can at least make sure your hair isn’t thinning due to protein deficiency by consuming more.
Protein plays a major role in hair growth. The human body needs protein for several reasons and considers hair growth to be the least important among them. If you’re not getting enough protein in your diet, the body uses it elsewhere, which leaves the hair protein deficient. Consult a doctor to figure out if you have a protein problem and how much protein intake you should be consuming to prevent hair loss.
7. Weak hair
If your hair looks dull and weak, it could mean you’ve spent too much time in the sun without proper protection. While the vitamin D we get from the sun is great for hair growth, exposure to the sun’s rays without protection can cause some serious damage to our hair. UV rays can degrade hair proteins and pigments, and can even lead to hair protein loss. As a result, hair becomes weaker with a duller-looking color. The sun can also take moisture away from our hair, leaving it drier, frizzier, and rougher in texture.
Next time when you go to the pool or the beach, don’t forget to throw on a wide-brimmed hat. Comb your wet hair a nourishing oil to create a barrier from the sun while keeping hair hydrated for the rest of the day.
8. Early gray hair
We associate gray hair with aging, but gray hair can arrive sooner than expected as a result of stress. Whether the legend of Marie Antoinette’s hair turning white the night before she was put to the guillotine is true or not, stress does seem to play a role in speeding up the graying process. A 2013 study published in Nature Magazine suggests that hormones produced in response to stress can deplete the melanocyte stem cells that determine hair color.
Sometimes, early graying indicates other health problems. Vitiligo, for example, is a condition where the immune system falsely identifies melanocyte cells as hostile and attacks them. Vitamin B12 deficiency is also known to cause graying hair. Foods rich in vitamin B12 include shellfish, liver, salmon, and yogurt.