Hair loss is one of those inevitable things that comes with aging—even for women. While the issue is more common in men, hair can play such a defining role in how we see ourselves, losing it can take an emotional toll on anyone who experiences it. It’s estimated that 50 percent of women over the age of 40 will have some form of female pattern hair loss, according to the Cleveland Clinic. Many things that are out of our control can contribute to thinning hair, including genetics and the hormone fluctuations associated with menopause, but a few lifestyle choices can affect how much hair you are finding in the shower drain—especially when it comes to your diet. Read on to find out which type of food could be exacerbating your hair loss.
We all know that eating a diet high in fatty foods is not good for us—it can cause weight gain and issues like high cholesterol and high blood pressure, which can lead to serious health problems down the line. But research from a 2021 study published in the journal Nature found that consuming fatty foods, like processed meat and anything fried, can also contribute to hair loss. The “good fats” found in things like salmon, nuts, and avocado can still be on the menu.
Your hair goes through a growth cycle in which it sheds and replenishes itself—that is why you will always see hairs in the shower drain, even if you are not experiencing hair loss. “The hair follicle naturally cycles between growth and rest, a process fueled by hair follicle stem cells. During the growth phase, hair follicle stem cells become activated to regenerate the hair follicle and hair,” reports Science Daily. These new hairs replace the ones you’re finding in your brush—it’s all a part of the process.
But the study, which was performed on mice—since they are anatomically, physiologically, and genetically very similar to humans—showed that “obesity-induced stress, such as that induced by a high-fat diet” can deplete hair follicle stem cells and disrupt this hair growth cycle. In an abnormal cycle, the stem cells fail to activate and new hairs do not grow, ultimately leading to accelerated hair thinning.
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The researchers, who were from the Tokyo Medical and Dental University in Japan, also found that hair loss caused by an unhealthy diet was more likely to occur as you get older. Of course, hair loss in general happens as we age, but when coupled with a constant intake of fatty foods, it could make the problem worse.
Opting for a diet full of lean proteins (your hair is made of protein so it’s important to keep your intake up, reports Healthline) like lean meats, beans, and legumes over processed meat, cheese, baked goods, and other foods that are high in saturated fat is one of the keys to maintaining a full head of hair as you age. A 2017 study published in the journal Dermatology Practical & Conceptual stated that “nutritional deficiency may impact both hair structure and hair growth,” so it is also important to consume foods rich in vitamins and minerals, particularly vitamin C, vitamin D, and iron, per Healthline.
Beyond diet, your stress levels can also affect your hair, and of course, how you take care of it. Investing in quality shampoo and conditioner that works for your hair type is a start, says Healthline. But when you think about your hair care routine, you should also consider your scalp. A healthy scalp can be the difference between lackluster and full locks.
One thing you can do that may combat the stress in your life and improve your scalp health, is a daily head massage. A 2016 study published in the journal ePlasty found that massaging your scalp for just four minutes a day can increase your hair thickness. This practice gets the blood flowing around the hair follicle, which can stimulate growth. It also redistributes your hair’s natural oils which can prevent flaking and dryness, another cause of hair fall. Of course, there are also many products that can help with hair loss, but simple diet and lifestyles changes are a good place to start.