Lockdown Might Have Affected Your Clients’ Hair and Scalp Health – Here’s What you Need to Know
The coronavirus lockdown certainly changed a lot of our everyday practices when it comes to things like food and exercise as well as upping our stress levels by an unhealthy amount. With all of these elements taken into account it’s no surprise that the health of your clients’ hair might have taken a turn for the worst.
We spoke to Hannah Braye, nutritional therapist at Bio-Kult to uncover how different lifestyle changes may have had a negative effect on your clients’ hair and scalps over the past few months.
Lack of sunshine
At the start of lockdown people were only allowed outside once a day to exercise, and for those who are fully shielding, the amount of time they have spent outdoors in recent months is likely to have been severely limited. This may have resulted in a significant reduction in vitamin D levels.
Vitamin D is synthesised by the skin in response to UV-B radiation from the sun and many people already have sub-optimal levels. Data from animal studies suggests that vitamin D plays a role in hair follicle cycling, meaning when there isn’t enough vitamin D in your system, new hair growth may be stunted. This is further evidenced by the observation of hair-loss in those suffering with rickets (which is caused by vitamin D deficiency). Vitamin D deficiency has also been linked to alopecia, the autoimmune condition that causes bald patches on the scalp and other areas of the body.
Drinking too much alcohol
Unfortunately, excess alcohol intake can deplete many nutrients from the body, especially the water-soluble B vitamins. The vitamin B family includes eight water-soluble vitamin substances—thiamine (B1), riboflavin (B2), niacin (B3), pantothenic acid (B5), vitamin B6, biotin (B7), folate, and vitamin B12—that aid in cell metabolism. Riboflavin, biotin, folate, and vitamin B12 deficiencies have all been associated with hair loss.
The stress hormone, cortisol, is known to affect the function and cyclic regulation of the hair follicle. When cortisol is present at high levels it has been demonstrated to reduce the synthesis and accelerate the degradation of important skin and hair elements (hyaluronan and proteoglycans), by approximately 40%, potentially leading to increased hair loss – hence the expression “I’m pulling my hair out” that people often use when they are stressed or anxious.
Taking steps to reduce stress levels is likely to be beneficial for many aspects of health. It could be something as simple as going for a daily walk on your lunch break, doing some breathing exercises or a guided meditation in the morning or carving time out for a bath and an early night in the evenings. For those suffering with severe stress cognitive behavioural therapy or counselling may be beneficial.
With changes in routine and increased stress levels, many people have also struggled with sleep issues during the last few months. Interestingly, a small study in men found that when they underwent a sleep deprivation of 48 hours this resulted in a 19 percent decrease of beard-hair growth. This effect reflects the lowering of protein synthesis during sleep deprivation, and is thought to be related to hormonal disturbance.
Sleep hygiene is important to encourage a good night’s sleep. Reducing exposure to blue light from screens is thought to help encourage melatonin production (our sleep hormone), so switch off phones and computers at least an hour before bed. Ensure your bedroom is dark and cool and implement a regular bedtime routine, going to bed at the same time each evening to help regulate circadian rhythms. Magnesium is an important nutrient for sleep and relaxation, so increasing leafy green vegetables, nuts and seeds and/or taking a supplement may be useful.
Micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) are major elements in the normal hair follicle cycle, playing a role in cellular turnover. With limited availability of certain fresh foods in the supermarket, financial constraints and increased stress, many people may not have been eating as well as they could.
Vitamins that have a particular impact on the condition of hair include vitamin C, B vitamins and vitamin A. Minerals which influence hair growth are zinc, iron, copper, selenium, silicon, magnesium and calcium. The best way to ensure you are obtaining all of these nutrients is to eat a balanced wholefoods diet.
Another aspect to focus on is nutrient absorption, as you can be eating the best diet in the world but if you aren’t absorbing properly, your hair isn’t going to see the benefit. A key aspect of this is supporting the gut microbiome (the community of microorganisms in the gut), which play an important role in supporting the health of the gut lining where nutrients are absorbed.
Gut bacteria also synthesise certain nutrients for us, including B vitamins, which are important for hair health. To support the microbiome, incorporate traditionally fermented foods such as live plain yoghurt, kefir (water or dairy), kombucha, sauerkraut, kimchi and miso into the diet on a regular basis and clients should consider taking a good quality live bacteria supplement such as Bio-Kult Advanced Multi-Strain Formulation.