An Integrative Appraoch to Hair Growth

My hair was my thing.  You know- a physical trait that people know you by or often comment on?  For me it was my hair.   I loved my thick, black, curly hair. 

At our wedding in June 2012: In this photo you can see healthy, full hair is coming in on top and it's quite sparse and thin towards the bottom.

At our wedding in June 2012: In this photo you can see healthy, full hair is coming in on top and it's quite sparse and thin towards the bottom.

When my hair started to change, I started freaking out.  The first time this happened was when I had a slew of health struggles  in my later 20s-early 30s.  I saw tons more hair in the drain and it had gotten so much thinner.  When I look at wedding pictures I always notice how much space there is between my curls!

At that time, though, I was already on the mend and the hair was coming in thicker and fuller.  Since we were moving out of the city (after 10 years!) and up to New England a few months later, I decided it was a good time for a change and chopped about 12 inches off to refresh and grow my new, healthier hair. 

I noticed some changes in my hair after each miscarriage, but it bounced back pretty fast.  Those hormones really get a hold of you!

Then I got pregnant with Zeke and OMG!!  Once into my second trimester, my hair was so thick.  I had so much of it!  I marveled at how amazing it was to not see hair in the drain at the end of my shower. 

I was not, however, prepared for the postpartum hair loss. 

At first, around 6 months postpartum, it was just more hair in the drain.  Then over the next few months, I noticed a receding hair line.  WTF?  Literally, all the hair framing my head (top, sides, back) receded.  I now (at 22 months postpartum) have hair that is a 2-4 inches long around my whole head. 

But, of all the hair loss, thinning, and changes, I've experienced over the years, nothing was quite as traumatizing as finding that bald spot in May of 2015. 

bald spot.jpg

It was a Sunday morning and I was pulling my hair back and thought I saw some space between hair growth.  As if in slow motion, I leaned towards the mirror, parted my hair more, and then noticed a really significant bald spot (about 2 inches in diameter).  I stood there in shock for a few seconds and then started crying.  I showed Gideon and I think he tried to be measured in his response, but was equally freaked. 

It was truly bald!  No wispy hairs or spotty loss, but rather a full patch of totally bald head. 

As I suspected, this was classic Alopecia, an auto-immune condition, and for me it was a big red flag.  This was a new one for me!  It meant I needed to take a step back and take care of myself in a way I hadn't been. 

Hair loss, like any other symptom, is your body telling you that something is going on. 

Pay attention.

For many women, thinning hair or hair loss is a common issue as we age.  This often starts when having babies, but then continues.  And continues.  And continues. 

Like so many things in our medical world, we chalk it up to being "normal."  But it isn't really normal.  It is common, yes, but not normal.  Most often, it's a sign of hormonal imbalance and we need to look at many factors to help balance the hormones. 

My hair is now thicker, fuller, and that bald spot has totally grown in!  I am so thankful I took this as an important message and decided to take better care of my body.

As always, we take an integrative approach.  We look at how we can support your body from the inside out with food and supportive detoxification, from the outside-in with topical applications and skincare, and what lifestyle factors will support your body to do what it knows how to do... and just needs a little extra support.  The hair loss is a symptom of something going on IN your body, so we need to look at it from all perspectives.

Given half the chance, the body can heal itself.

Inside-Out:

  • Make sure you are eating a nutrient-dense diet.  This means low on sugars, refined foods, and non-food products.  Basically, eat real food!  Your body knows what to do with it and can utilize the vitamins and minerals in your food to support your skin and hair. 
  • Eat foods rich in essential fatty acids, which will support growth and your healthy hormone levels:
    • Salmon and other oily fish
    • Oysters
    • Eggs
    • Avodacos
    • Almonds
    • Walnuts
    • Sunflower seeds
  • Eat foods rich in iron, essential in hair growth:
    • Read meat
    • Leafy greens
    • Cashewes
    • Figs
  • Eat foods Rich in Vitamin E, which is required to nourish damaged hair and to prevent breakage.  It will aid in your body’s ability to make keratin within hair strands and reduce breakage. 
    • Sunflower seeds
    • Pine nuts
    • Cooked spinach
    • Dried apricots
    • Olives
  • Eat food rich in B-Vitamins:
    • Liver
    • Shellfish
    • Red Meat
    • Eggs
    • Leafy greens
    • Also consider a B-Vitamin supplement, which will support general stress levels, energy, and healthy hormones.
  • Support gentle detoxification so that your body has capacity to take in all the goodness you are giving it!
    • Bitter greens are your mainstay here!
    • Lemon water every morning.
    • Gentle abdominal massage to support daily elimination.

 

Outside-In:

Next, there, are several things you can do to nourish and support your scalp from the outside-in.  Remember, 60% of what goes on your skin (scalp counts as skin!) goes in your skin, so make the best.

  • Give your scalp some sunshine! If you have a clear bald spot, make sure that spot sees the sun.  Not too long, of course, so it doesn’t burn, but just a few minutes on the scalp every day, if possible.
  • Make sure you are using a non-toxic shampoo and conditioner.  While your shampoo choice might be salon-recommended, it could include several extremely toxic ingredients that are going on your scalp and into your bloodstream, potentially causing a hormone imbalance or deficiency making hair loss worse, not to mention many other risks!  Same goes for all hair products.
  • Add essential oils to your shampoo and conditioner.  The ones to look at here are Rosemary, Thyme, Lavender and Cedarwood.  You'll do one drop each per ounce of shampoo and conditioner.  For example, if you have a 12oz bottle of shampoo, you'll do 12 drops each of the essential oils mentioned above.  Add one drop of Ylang Ylang per ounce to give your hair additional shine! 
  • Exfoliate your scalp.  Just as you know exfoliating the skin on your face or on your body is important to remove dead skin and rejuvenate the skin, the same goes for your scalp.  Every few weeks make a mix about 1 Tablespoon of baking soda with ½ cup of water and massage it into your scalp by separating chunks of hair and exposing the scalp.  Add more water if needed.  Let the Baking Soda sit on your scalp for 10 minutes and then rinse in the shower. 
  • Deep condition your scalp.  You can do a deep conditioning/hair mask once a month (great following your exfoliating) a variety of ways. 
    • Mix Castor oil with equal amounts coconut, olive, or sweet almond oil and add the above mentioned essential oils (2-3 drops of each essentail oil in Tablespoons of carrier oil).  Gently massage into scalp for 5 minutes and let sit for 30 minutes.  Shampoo as usual after. 
    • Make an egg mask using 2 egg yolks (preferably from hens on pasture as these will be most nutrient-dense) and 2 Tablespoons of olive oil along with 2-3 drops of each essential oil recommended above.  Eggs are rich in iron, sulfur, phosphorus, zinc, and selenium, all of which promote healthy skin and hair.  Leave on for 15 minutes, rinse with cold water and then shampoo as usual.
  • Make a roller for a specific area/bald spot.  If you have an area that is thinning or a specific bald spot, make a roller bottle like I did.  In a 5ml roller, you'll do 5 drops of each essential oil and fill the bottle to the top with a carrier oil like jojoba, grapeseed, or argan oil.  Apply the roller to the thinning area or bald spot and firmly press (do not vigorously rub as you could break down new hair follicles) into the area.  You can do this morning and night. 

 

Lifestyle:

  • Sleep.  I know I know, everyone tells you get more sleep and it's so hard to find the time. Or maybe you have a baby waking you many times in the middle of the night?  Do what you need to do to rest.  You must rest your body.  Your body is giving you a warning sign and it's time to take a step back and give your body rest. 
  • Manage stress.  Again- another one that everyone tells you to do!  But it's a must.  What is the way you find calm?  If you have hair loss, it's a sign that you need to take a step back and calm your body. 
  • Movement.  Moving your body, getting lymph moving, getting circulation, helping with elimination, aiding in stress reduction, and all the other good things it comes with will support your overall body. 

One more thing...

Finally, give your scalp and hair love.  Appreciate your hair and the changes its gone through.  Be optimistic.  Know you are taking care of yourself and treating your whole body with love.