For me, my identity is almost exclusively tied up in my hair (pun not intended). The longer my hair is, the more secure I feel within myself, so researching and studying the cycles of hair, the best supplements and herbs to promote healthy hair growth, and minimise shedding and thinning was a massive point of interest.

HAIR CYCLES

The life cycle of a strand of hair happens in 4 phases. Understanding these different phases and what they look like can help you assess what stage of the cycle your hair is in, and is an indicator as to if you should be concerned about the amount of hair you’re shedding.

Anagen – the growing phase which lasts between 3 and 7 years. 90% of the hair on your head is in anagen phase.

Catagen –  Hair follicles shrink and growth slows, the hair separates from the bottom of the hair follicle, but remains in place during final days of growth. At any given time, 5% of the hairs on your head are in catagen phase.

Telogen – Hairs don’t grow during the telogen phase, but don’t usually fall out either. This phase also sees new hairs forming in the follicles that released hair in the catagen phase. The telogen phase lasts around 3 months, and an estimated 10 to 15% of your head is in the telogen stage.

Exogen – This phase is an extension of the telogen stage. During the exogen phase, hair is shed from the scalp. You’ll lose on average between 50 to 100, sometimes more on wash days. The exogen phase typically lasts 2-5 months.

What these phases demonstrate is that it’s normal to shed hair, but there may be times where your hair shedding seems excessive. So, what causes excessive hair loss and when should you be concerned?

THREE COMMON CAUSES OF EXCESSIVE HAIR LOSS

Putting genetics to one side, there are many other reasons why you might be experiencing excessive hair loss.

Stress: The most common type of stress-induced hair loss is known as telogen effluvium. It occurs when stress / a stressful event / trauma / illness interrupts the hair’s growth cycle and sends follicles into a resting phase. This causes the hair to fall out or thin after a delayed period, up to several months later.

When hair loss is caused by stress, it can be reversible and should grow back on its own when the body has readjusted after the event. Managing stress levels, getting adequate sleep, regular exercise, and meditating can help you find balance in the body again.

Medication: Some medications list hair loss as a potential side effect. Certain supplementation can be a culprit too – for example, taking too much vitamin A.

If you think your medication is causing hair loss, talk to your doctor about your options, sometimes it’s possible for an alternative medication to be prescribed. Hair loss that results from taking medication normally stops when the medication is discontinued.

Hormone imbalances: Shifts in hormone production can cause hair to thin and fall out, in both women and men. The thyroid gland plays an important role in regulating hormone levels and hair loss is one of the most common symptoms of thyroid dysfunction. This can signal the body is producing too much or too little thyroid hormone.

So many hormonal factors can play into hair thinning or hair loss in women, including polycystic ovary syndrome, pregnancy, childbirth and menopause. If you feel that any one of these imbalances may be causing your hair loss, consult with a medical practitioner.

Nutrition deficiencies: Protein restriction and very low-calorie diets can lead to hair thinning and hair loss. Your hair needs amino acids, the building blocks of protein. A diet without enough protein may cause hair loss and thin, brittle hair.

To keep hair as healthy as possible, add nuts (not peanuts), which are good sources of zinc and selenium, and foods rich in iron such as lentils and other legumes. Dark, leafy greens, like spinach, broccoli, and kale are also an excellent addition for your hair and overall health.

3 BEST HERBS FOR HAIR HEALTH

Stinging nettle: Nettle is one of the oldest recorded remedies used for treating and preventing hair loss. This is primarily due to the high amount of sulphur and silica in nettle, which improves hair health by strengthening the hair shaft.

Nettle also offers a cocktail of essential vitamins and minerals that can benefit hair health, including Vitamins A, B, C, D, and E, and minerals such as folate, riboflavin, magnesium, potassium, calcium, iron, and manganese. 

Horsetail: Horsetail (Equisetum) can help with hair loss because of its silica, antioxidant, and selenium content. Silica can increase hair fiber brightness and reduce hair loss, while antioxidants can reduce micro-inflammation and aging. Selenium has also been known to promote healthy hair growth.

A key benefit of horsetail for hair health is its anti-inflammatory properties. Inflammation in the hair follicles and scalp can cause and exacerbate both hair thinning, breakage, and scalp irritation.

Rosemary: A study from 2022 found evidence that rosemary oil can aid in hair growth. The study stated that rosemary oil had the same effect as Minoxidil, a hair growth medication, after 6 weeks of use.

Rosemary oil’s antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties may help protect hair from environmental damage and scalp inflammation, and may also increase blood flow to the scalp, which could stimulate hair growth.

There are so many contributing factors to hair health, hair growth, and hair loss, this article barely scratches the surface, but it is a good departure point.

I’ll be publishing more articles on hair health during the course of winter, as this is when our hair takes a real beating from changes in temperature and loss of light.