This article was republished with permission from blog.paleohacks.com. It originally appeared on PaleoHacks.com, a fantastic resource for all things Paleo. Go check out their wonderful blog with healthy recipes.
You dye it. You dry it. You wash it. You brush it. Find out what daily habits are slowly wrecking your hair and how to reverse the damage to get your silky, healthy locks back.
You care about your health. You’re making changes to look great, feel great, and live life to the fullest…But something is holding you back.
You cringe every time you see it in the mirror. Those locks used to be silky and smooth. But now your hair is brittle and dry. Lifeless. Your shower is stocked full of shampoos, conditioners, and other hair care products. Nothing seems to work, though, no matter what you try.
Let’s get to the bottom of this. Keep reading to discover why your hair isn’t as healthy and shiny as it used to be… and what you can do to fix it.
11 Things That Damage Your Hair and How to Fix Them
There are quite a few reasons that could explain why your hair doesn’t look or feel like it used to.
Here are 11 factors you might not have considered:
1. Your Diet
“You are what you eat.” That goes for your hair too! A lot of people don’t think about how their diet affects their hair health, but the two are closely related.
Because your hair follicles are living organisms, they need plenty of nourishment to thrive. That can’t happen unless there are enough nutrients in your bloodstream to reach them.
When your body is deficient in nutrients, it prioritizes where to send the nutrients it does have. Vital organs – those responsible for life and death – get top priority, while other less important organs, like your hair follicles, have to make do with inadequate nutrients (1).
This is why evidence of a nutritional deficiency shows up quickly in your hair. Unhealthy hair is a warning sign that you might not be getting all the nourishment you need.
Focus on whole, all-natural foods like our ancestors ate. Stay away from high-calorie, but nutrient-light processed foods, grains, and sugary treats. Fill your plate with vegetables, fruits, and organic animal protein – you might be amazed at the transformation in your hair!
You’ve probably heard rumors how stress can turn your hair gray or even make it fall out.
The supposed connection between hair and stress levels is often discussed and hotly debated. Some say it’s scientifically sound. Others say it’s nothing more than an urban legend.
One thing’s for sure, though. Physiological stress affects your hair health. If your body is under a physiological toll, whether it’s from lack of sleep, illness, or trying to stick to the latest fad diet, your hair can suffer.
Stress makes your adrenal glands and kidneys work harder. Both of these play a major role in removing toxins that enter your body. When they are forced to work too hard, they can’t process the toxins that get into your body (and hair) as efficiently(2).
Also, emotional or psychological stress can lead to physiological stress. If you’re stressed out about work or a personal issue, you might stop sleeping enough or pick up junk food as an emotional outlet. This can lead to a vicious cycle of worsening health.
Make sure your diet and lifestyle are in check. Sleep, eat well and make time for exercise. And don’t be afraid to get proactive about managing emotional stress. It’s amazing what just a few minutes of yoga, meditation, walking, or a gratitude practice a day can do. Pick whatever you like, and stick with it!
3. Conventional Shampoos and Conditioners
Practically all the hair care product you see at the store are loaded with dangerous chemicals.
These chemicals include:
Sulfates are found in more than 90 percent of modern-day shampoos and body washes (3). You might think something so common wouldn’t be harmful, but in reality, sulfates can create some nasty side effects for your hair, such as dulling, dryness, and brittle strands. The negative consequences only compound when you use the products every day!
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Beware: Sulfates are found in more than 90 percent of modern-day shampoos and body washes
Two of the most common sulfates in these products are sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) and sodium Laureth sulfate (SLES). It’s easy to know if your products contain these chemicals because they’re responsible for causing the product to foam when you massage it into your scalp.
Sulfates also remove oils your hair produces naturally. They strip away way more oils than necessary, which damages the hair and causes your body to work overtime to produce more oils.
Ditch the conventional shampoo and conditioners you find at the store or beauty salon. Using sulfate-free products (one of our favorites come from Morrocco Method) will repair damaged hair and promote a brilliant shine. You also won’t have to worry about stripping away all your natural hair oils, escaping that vicious cycle.
It takes a few weeks to adjust to natural hair care products fully, but your hair will thrive with gentler cleansers. It will look and be healthier – all from Paleo-friendly, 100 percent safe products.
4. Toxic Chemical Treatments
Another huge cause of hair damage is treating it with chemicals. The toxic ingredients found in most shampoos and conditioners are harmful enough. But bleaching, highlighting, or coloring your hair takes it to another level.
The chemicals in these products might not be such a big deal if you only use them once a year. But coloring your hair regularly can cause some serious problems because your hair never has the chance to heal itself between treatments.
You don’t have to stop coloring your hair when you want to change up your look. But there’s a better way to go about it: skip the harmful stuff at the beauty salon or grocery store dye kits.
Morrocco Method’s Henna Hair Dyes offer an effective, completely safe way to color your hair without any harmful irritants or chemical additives. You shouldn’t have to choose the color you want and healthy hair. With Morrocco Method’s henna products, you don’t have to!
5. Heat Damage
Think about just how much heat many of us expose our hair too regularly. Blow dryers, flat irons, and even hot oil treatments are just a few ways we keep the heat on. These things work well for maintaining and styling hair, but they aren’t so great for keeping it healthy.
Appliances and heat treatments can be harmful because they drain the moisture from your hair and cause the outer layer (cuticles) to strip off and break away from the surrounding fibers. Dry, rough hair with plenty of split ends are tell-tale signs of heat damage.
You don’t have to stop using blow dryers and irons completely, but it’s smart to cut back for a while to give your hair time to heal. Air-drying takes longer, though it’s completely safe and the longer your hair is wet, the more the hair shafts can absorb moisture and reach the cortex of your strands.
Also, use a deep conditioner to moisturize heat-damaged hair. Opt for a conditioner without toxic chemicals like sulfates, as those, will just cause more problems. Top-quality, natural conditioners (with ingredients like shea butter and seed oils) will help you get the moisture your hair needs. Combine rinse-out conditioners with leave-in treatments for best results!
6. Lack of Sleep
Most of us are overworked and overstressed. With all of our obligations, sometimes it seems next to impossible to get enough sleep.
This is bad news for your hair, though. Getting less than seven to eight hours of sleep a night spikes your cortisol (stress hormone) levels (4). It isn’t a huge issue if it only happens now and then, but most of us keep up this sleep deprivation for extended periods. The negative effects on your health add up.
Elevated cortisol levels put physiological stress on your body. And when your body is stressed, it has a harder time keeping the toxins out of your hair. You end up with dull, brittle locks instead of the healthy hair you used to have.
This one’s pretty self-explanatory: get more sleep!
The only way to get the sleep you need for optimal health is to make it a priority. It’s just as important as eating well and exercising, so treat it that way. And don’t just think about sleep quantity. You can improve your sleep quality too by avoiding caffeine in the afternoons and improving your sleep hygiene (bedroom environment, temperature, and the activities you do just before bed). Quantity and quality count.
7. Autoimmune Issues
Autoimmune issues occur when your body’s immune system gets confused and treats healthy cells as foreign invaders. As a result, you can experience a broad range of conditions – everything from thyroid problems and celiac disease, to arthritis and psoriasis.
Autoimmune problems can even cause hair loss (alopecia or lupus), brittle hair (due to an overactive thyroid), and dandruff-like flaking (scalp psoriasis) (5).
Your diet has a huge impact on the severity of autoimmune issues, so that’s the best place to start. A sensible Paleo diet focused on produce and animal protein is great. But many with autoimmune conditions must go even further, restricting foods like egg whites, nightshades, and nuts and seeds as part of a proper autoimmune protocol. (Take a look at the GAPS diet for more information).
Many autoimmune symptoms can also be managed by paying more attention to your gut bacteria. The connections between your gut and broader health are astounding, and scientists are only discovering more links as time goes on. Make sure to eat plenty of foods loaded with beneficial bacteria (like fermented yogurt and sauerkraut) and consider a probiotic supplement as well.
8. Environmental Damage
Some hair problems arise from toxins in the environment. Not only is our hair exposed to the elements as we go about our days. It’s also exposed to the water we shower or swim in.
If you live in an area with “hard water” (water with a high mineral content), it can affect the feel, look, and shine of your hair after you shower in it. Hard water also leaves mineral deposits on your hair which build up over time and limit your hair’s ability to intake moisture (6). If you’re a swimmer, chlorine in pools can also weaken your hair’s structure and make it brittle.
The result? Your hair ends up dry with lots of tangles and frizz.
You can’t control every aspect of your environment, but there are a few significant steps you can take. If you live in an area with hard water, consider buying a filter for your shower to keep the minerals from depositing in your hair. It’s a good idea to get the fluoride and chlorine out anyway.
Also, you can use Morrocco Method’s Zen Detox powder, a bentonite clay product, to detoxify hair follicles, roots, oil glands, and even the scalp. It’s a natural conditioner that helps draw out chemicals, heavy metals, and other toxins which accumulate through daily living.
9. Excessive Alcohol
A drink now and then is fine, but excessive alcohol consumption doesn’t just damage your liver. It can also hurt your hair!
Your liver treats alcohol as a toxin and prioritizes flushing it out of your system. As a result, other toxins remain in your body (and hair).
Alcohol is a diuretic, which means it causes accelerated dehydration throughout your body. The terrible “hangover” feeling is directly related to dehydration. Your liver also treats alcohol as a toxin and prioritizes flushing it out of your system. As a result, other toxins remain in your body (and hair).
This one’s pretty easy: just watch how much you’re drinking and make sure to hydrate on a night out.
You might also want to consider switching to the most Paleo-friendly drinks to avoid sugars, gluten, and other harmful substances that could derail your diet.
10. Excessive Coffee
Coffee is like a double-edged sword. A little bit helps you stay awake and get through the day. But too much caffeine can make you jittery, anxious, and headache-prone whenever you can’t get your fix.
Excessive coffee can also damage your hair. Many coffee drinkers suffer hair loss. The connection is still hotly debated, though. Some reports argue coffee might slow hair loss because of its hormonal effects. Others contend it uses up the minerals and B vitamins your body needs to keep healthy hair (7).
Like alcohol, coffee is also a diuretic, which can cause dehydration. Too much coffee can also limit your body’s ability to absorb iron.
The only way to know whether coffee is a problem for you is to try a little experiment:
Abstain from coffee for a month (or at least cut down your intake drastically) and track what happens to your hair. If you find less hair in the shower or falling out all over the place, you have your answer!
You can also try these easy tricks to making your coffee healthier.
11. Improper Brushing
Most of us don’t think about this, but the way we brush our hair (and the type of brush we use) can have a significant impact on how it looks and feels.
Most hair bristles are stiff with rough edges. Brushing with these can weaken the hair cuticle, which causes wayward strands of hair and frizz.
Too much vigorous brushing, or brushing when the hair is wet and vulnerable to breakage, are common mistakes and only compound the issues. Take a look how to brush properly – something I hadn’t learned until researching this post!
Go for a quality boar bristle brush. Boar hair has been used for bristles for hairbrushes and even toothbrushes for hundreds of years (8). Unlike the plastic bristles, boar hair is practically identical to human hair in texture, which creates a ton of benefits for your hair and scalp.
Boar bristle brushes gently massage the scalp, which increases blood flow and unclogs hair follicles. It also helps you distribute your hair’s natural oils evenly throughout, so you end up with a beautiful shine.
Get the Healthy, Shiny Hair You’ve Dreamed Of
You deserve to have healthy, radiant hair.
But as you just saw in this post, a lot of things can stand in your way. You don’t have hours a day to spend on hair maintenance.
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