Crazy Over Keratin – Caring for Your Hair and Nails Whatever Your Age

Whatever the weather your hair and nails shouldn’t have to suffer for it. You can have great hair and nails any time of the year. You just have to know how to protect and nourish them.

Hair starts as a small, sack-like structure in the skin’s follicle. Each single hair shaft is composed of hard protein called keratin, which is arranged in long, tightly bound strands. New growth begins in the follicle and pushes outward so that the oldest part of the hair is furthest from the scalp.

Each hair has a three part growth cycle – active growth, maturation, and rest. During the resting phase, the follicle relaxes its hold on the shaft, resulting in your hair becoming easier to fall or be pulled out. Hair on your head goes through the growth cycle at different times. At any given moment it is normal for about 15 percent of all the hairs on your head to be resting, which you find in your hairbrush, or in the shower when you wash it. If unusual hair loss occurs, or you have problems with dryness, splitting, or breakage, or if you just want to have more healthy and lustrous hair, nutrition can help.

A fingernail is produced by living skin cells in the finger and just like your hair, is largely made up of keratin, a hardened protein. The average growth rate for nails is 0.1 mm each day and this depends on age, gender and the time of year – nails generally grow faster in young people, in males, and during the summer.

The condition of your hair and nails may also be tell-tale signs of underlying medical problems.

Typical hair and nail problems
Here is some useful information about how different nutrients affect the condition of the hair and nails and how underlying health conditions can be revealed.

  • Essential fatty acids – a lack of these acids can cause hair loss. Nails can be affected also, and may have ridges.
  • Biotin – a water-soluble B vitamin, helps break down protein, fats and carbohydrates. A deficiency makes it difficult to for you to grow and maintain strong nails and healthy hair. Our body makes its own biotin in the intestines, and it is plentiful in many common foods.
  • B Vitamins – Folate, B6, B12 – These vitamins are involved in the creation of red blood cells, which carry oxygen and nutrients to all body cells, including those of the scalp, follicles, and growing hair. Without enough B vitamins, these cells can starve, causing shedding, slow growth, or weak hair that is prone to breaking.
  • Iron – Chronic iron deficiency causes spoon-shaped nails called koilonychia, and disturbs normal nail growth. Some studies have found that iron deficiency affects the hair. While this is not proven with large clinical trials, conditions which hinder the metabolism of iron have been shown to result in hair loss.
    Selenium – according to research in China, deficiencies of this nutrient, especially in children, can result in whitening of the nails.
  • Vitamin D – In the winter, reduced amounts may contribute to thin, brittle nails.

Nutrients for Healthy Hair and Nails

  • Best Foods For Essential Fatty Acids: Dark leafy greens, seeds, nuts, wholegrains, soya beans, oily fish and cold-pressed vegetable oils.
  • Best Foods For Biotin: Can be found in most high protein foods, such as dairy products, beans, nuts, almonds, grains and vegetables. Common indicators of having a deficiency of biotin are hair loss and weak nails.
  • Best Foods For Vitamin B6: Chickpeas (garbanzo beans), potatoes (white and sweet), oats, bananas, pistachio nuts, lentils, tomato paste, barley, rice (brown, wild), peppers, squash (butternut), broccoli, carrots, brussels sprouts, peanuts and peanut butter, tofu, apricots, avocados, strawberries, whole grain bread.
  • Best Foods For Vitamin B12: veggie burgers, cottage cheese, yogurt (fat-free, low-fat), milk, eggs, cheese
  • Best Foods For Folate: Lentils, black-eyed peas, soybeans, oats, turnip greens, spinach, mustard greens, green peas, artichokes, parsnips, broccoli, sunflower seeds, oranges, brussels sprouts, seaweed, berries, beans.
  • Best Foods For Iron: Green leafy vegetables, whole grains, almonds, raisins, dates and sesame seeds.
  • Best Foods For Selenium: Brazil nuts, sesame seeds, broccoli, onions and whole grains.
  • Best Foods For Vitamin D: Food sources include eggs and dandelion greens.

Lifestyle tips for Healthy Hair and Nails

  • Be gentle on your hair – your hair is most fragile when wet, so go easy with the comb or brush.
  • Cool dryer setting – try not to have the dryer too hot. This can cause breakage and dryness.
  • Natural products – where possible choose products that are free of parabens and other harsh chemicals.
  • Dry, flaky scalp – take shorter showers to reduce your scalp’s exposure to drying hot water.
  • Over night moisturiser – before bed, massage your scalp with olive, or coconut oil, and wrap hair. These oils replenish scalp oils and can moisturise dry hair too.
  • Tea tree oil – is also a great treatment for fungal and bacterial infections like dandruff . Wash hair and scalp with tea tree oil daily to clear up dryness and itching naturally.
  • Product build up – if weather isn’t the issue it could be a product build-up causing the problem. If this is the case, try rinsing with apple cider vinegar to clear out the residue and then wash as normal.
  • Gentle remover – if you wear nail polish, consider using an acetone-free nail polish remover.
  • Protect those hands – wear protective gloves when working with your hands, ie. whether your gardening or house cleaning, all of these activities are hard on hands. Wear protective gloves to safe guard against damage and chemicals.
  • Wrap up – if you’re out and about, dress warmly. A hat, scarf, and gloves protect your hair and nails from windburn and prolonged exposure to cold air.

Remember – nourishing your hair and nails from the inside and taking care on the outside will encourage shiny, healthy hair and strong supple nails throughout the cold season.

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