The test: Take a clump of hair just over 2cm in width and gently tug the hairs. If more than six strands come out it could indicate your hair is shedding more than normal.
What it reveals: Hormones could be playing havoc with your health as well as your hair. Hair has a three-year cycle of growth, rest and periods of shedding. The changes in hormone levels that come with stress, illness, pregnancy or post-birth disrupt this cycle, causing the shedding to occur earlier and resulting in thinning hair. But annoyingly, it’s often only apparent two to four months after said event.
The solution: First things first – don’t panic! If the event that caused your hormone surge is over, then your hormones will have already started to balance out so your ‘normal’ hair cycle will have kicked in again. But if hair continues to thin over another three months with no obvious trigger, seek medical advice to rule out a thyroid problem or alopecia.
The snap test
The test: Pluck a hair from the roots at the top of your head. Give it a gentle tug; if it snaps nearer the root than the tip you’ve identified brittle top layers.
What it reveals: It’s likely you’ve been under a little pressure recently and as a result your body has been producing excess cortisol. The stress hormone could not only be blocking your body’s absorption of nutrients, but can speed up the ageing process and lead to visceral fat around your middle: a predictor of future heart disease in women. It also hinders the absorption of calcium, which is vital in protecting against osteoporosis as well as strengthening the keratin bonds in hair and nails.
The solution: While long-term stress should be tackled with lifestyle changes, vitamin B6 and B12, zinc and magnesium are the anti-stress nutrients that will help to balance hormones. Eat spinach, nuts and brown rice to boost magnesium levels, plus dairy to give a hit of zinc.
The root ruler
The test: Monitor your hair growth: it should grow approx 1.3cm each month. Ask your colourist to leave a 2mm section behind your ear so you can measure growth from the roots. If it’s uncoloured use a longer ruler and measure monthly.
What it reveals: If your hair isn’t growing your iron levels could be low. Nigel Russell, trichologist and director of Holistic Hair, says “If you’re low in iron your body will rob your hair and scalp of it.” Janeen Howard, medical herbalist from supplement brand GO Healthy, says. “I’d recommend iron supplements for overall growth and wellness of hair as it carries oxygen to the roots.” Iron deficiency is common in diets lacking protein; this leaves you lacking in energy – especially around your period when iron levels drop further.
The solution: Eat two servings of red meat twice a week, and more lentils.
Dry and flaky: One in five of us suffers from a flaky scalp and one reason is because we’re putting in too much product. “People over-layer product – they use gel, mousse and hairspray,” Russell says. If you are layering on too much product every day, he says “you’ve either got the wrong style or the wrong hairdresser!” The perfect PH level for the scalp is slightly acidic at 5.5 – anything above that and it will start to dry out the scalp.
Russell recommends using a holistic hair sensitive scalp shampoo which uses apple cider vinegar and works to bring the PH level of the scalp back to normal. Dairy and alcohol could also be to blame. The body finds them hard to metabolise, and this then sends the immune system into overdrive, resulting in a flaky scalp. Try eliminating dairy and alcohol for a week. Instead of cow’s milk opt for soy or rice milk.