A healthy head of hair can do wonders for your confidence, bringing out your personality and enabling you to feel comfortable in your skin. Unfortunately, maintaining shiny, sleek, luscious hair is becoming harder and harder as external factors continue to damage it every day. Sulfates in your shampoo, highly stressful lifestyles, and increasing air pollution levels all contribute to hair conditions such as split ends, thinning, and hair loss. These conditions are more commonplace now than ever before. The combination of external factors and our need for a quick fix means our hair is in poorer condition than ever before.
What’s to be done about the state of one’s hair? Perhaps we should all stop looking for quick fixes sold in a bottle with a promise, and turn to some age-old home remedies that have proven results.
What You Need to Know About Your Hair
Before we start to take a look at some home remedies, it’s a good idea to understand how hair grows and how we can support it.
Your body has a lot of hair, and it grows almost everywhere. You might be surprised to learn that all of your hair follicles were formed while you were growing in your mother’s womb. Five months after you were conceived, all the hair follicles you will ever have were fully formed. That means no new follicles will grow, but you will lose some. Hair follicles can go through cycles of temporary death and re-birth through use of medication and home remedies, but there is no treatment to resurrect follicles that have completely kicked the bucket. You may want to look after your hair a bit more carefully because once a follicle has died, there’s no bringing it back.
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The Hair Cycle
Every hair on your body goes through the same cycle of hair growth, which consists of three distinct phases: anagen, catagen, and telogen.
The Anagen Phase
Of all the hairs on your head, roughly 85% of them are in the anagen phase. This growth phase can last anywhere from two to six years depending on your genes. It begins at the papilla, a canal at the bottom of the hair root that carries nutrients from the blood stream to the hair. The cells divide rapidly, adding length to the hair shaft at a rate of about one cm every twenty-eight days, though this growth rate is genetically determined. At the end of the anagen phase, an unknown signal is triggered, causing the follicle to go into the catagen phase.
The Catagen Phase
Once the follicle has completed a full anagen cycle, it moves into the catagen phase, which lasts between two and three weeks. During this stage of the hair cycle, the part of the follicle that contacts the lower portion of the hair attaches to the hair shaft, cutting off the blood supply and preventing the follicle from forming new hair. The hair is then known as a club hair since the transition causes the bulb to take on a club-like shape. Once the club hair is fully formed, it moves into the final phase: the telogen phase.
The Telogen Phase
The final phase of a hair cycle is known as the resting or shedding stage. As the supply of nutrients is cut off, the follicle becomes dormant. The epidermal cells continue to grow around the base of the hair, creating an anchor to retain the hair. After one to four months, the follicle will start to grow again, breaking down the anchor point of the shaft and causing the hair base to break free from the root, effectively allowing the hair to shed. After another one to two weeks, a new shaft will begin to appear, and the hair will re-enter the anagen phase.
Common Causes of Hair Loss
Common causes of hair loss include hormonal imbalances, genetics, stress, and diet. These will be discussed in the section that follows.
Hormonal imbalance is one of the most common causes for hair loss is unbalanced. Some of the most common hormonal problems that can cause hair loss include unbalanced estrogen, thyroid problems, and insulin resistance.
- Unbalanced estrogen
Estrogen can be tricky. In just the right amounts, estrogen will help maintain good moods, boost energy and sex drive, and keep skin clear. Not only that, but there are no problems with hair loss at all. However, hair loss can be promoted by estrogen deficiency. Studies have found that roughly 20% of women will experience hair loss by the time they are 50, and another 40% will experience hair loss after that age. Smoking, weight loss, and menopause are some factors that contribute to suppressed estrogen levels.
On the other hand, some studies have found that an increased amount of estrogen can promote hair growth by slowing the anagen phase, making it last longer. This is particularly prevalent during pregnancy, when estrogen levels are raised. Studies have found that there are significantly more follicles in the anagen phase during pregnancy when compared to normal activity. Once a pregnancy is over, estrogen levels can dip significantly, resulting in shedding.
- Thyroid problems
Hair growth is highly dependent on the proper functioning of your thyroid, and when something in your body throws off your thyroid, your entire system can become unbalanced. This can result in too much hair resting at one time with not enough of it growing. Ultimately, that means you will suffer from hair thinning, loss, or balding. An overactive thyroid produces too many hormones such as T4, and your hair can start to thin as it enters the resting phase. On the other hand, an underactive thyroid can cause hair to enter the shedding phase, causing hair loss all over your body.
- Insulin resistance
Insulin resistance is caused when your body produces too much insulin. This is usually a result of continued high blood sugar levels and is typically a marker for pre-diabetes. One article published in the European Journal of Cardiovascular Risk, titled “Hair Loss, Insulin Resistance, and Heredity in Middle-aged Women Population-based Study,” concluded that the results were statistically significant enough to support the hypothesis that women with significant markers for insulin resistance were at a higher risk of androgenic alopecia.
According to The American Hair Loss Association, hair androgenic alopecia, or male pattern baldness, accounts for 95% of hair loss experienced by men, and by the age of 50, 85% of men will have experienced some kind of hair loss associated with MPB. Unfortunately, this pattern is a gene variation that is passed down from your mother’s X chromosome, and while MPB may be unavoidable, you can try to slow it down.
While we can all relate to be being so stressed that we want to physically pull our hair out, you may be shocked to learn that stress can cause hair loss in a couple of other ways. The first way that stress can negatively affect your hairline is by causing a disorder called telogen effluvium (TE). This disorder causes the hair to prematurely enter the telogen phase, thinning your hair and making you shed. It is one of the most common causes of hair loss seen by dermatologists, and many dermatologists will tell you that stress can have a snowball effect that gradually affects hair growth, creating persistent TE. The second way stress can cause hair loss is through alopecia areata, an autoimmune disease. This disorder results in the body’s immune system attacking the hair follicles and causing hair loss. There may be many things that can trigger the onset of AA, and extreme stress is one of them.
Our diet can affect many of our bodily functions, including hair growth. Under normal circumstances, your scalp will shed roughly fifty to one hundred hairs each day. It sounds like a lot, but the typical scalp holds about 130,000 hairs, so that number is just a drop in the ocean. Good nutrition is needed to keep all those hairs healthy. Protein defficient diets are particularly damaging to your hair, since a good portion of your hair is made from protein. It is important that you get adequate amounts of protein. It has also been observed that a deficiency in essential fatty acids, such as omega-3 and omega-6, can also cause hair to flee from your head.
Encouraging Hair Growth
There are quite a few common causes of hair loss, and to keep a full head of hair for as long as possible, it is important that you look after it; nourishing it and encouraging its growth. Here’s a look at some of the best home remedies for hair growth.
Home Remedies for Natural Hair Growth
Used by the Chinese for hundreds of years, alfalfa is dense in vitamins, minerals, and proteins that offer numerous health benefits. Hair is mainly protein, so the abundance of protein in alfalfa makes it great for supporting strong, healthy hair. Vitamin C and E work together, the vitamin C promoting blood circulation to the scalp and fighting off free radicals at the hair follicles while vitamin E helps increase oxygen uptake.
Alfalfa also contains zinc and iron, elements that are essential for many biological processes including protein synthesis and cell reproduction. Hair loss is a common side effect of zinc and iron deficiency. Alfalfa also contains silica that can help balance hormones, and unbalanced hormones are a common cause of hair loss and thinning. Silica also helps transport essential minerals to the hair, skin, and nails, helping growth and maintaining hair health.
Best way to use alfalfa
The best way to take alfalfa is in juice form. Juicing the leaves and roots along with carrots and lettuce leaves has proven to be an effective remedy for hair loss.
The natural anti-inflammatory effects of aloe vera make it perfect for easing itchy scalps and reducing dandruff while balancing your hairline’s pH levels. It also aids in clearing unwanted dirt and oil out of the scalp and hair pores, reducing the chances of a skin infection and allowing new hair to easily push through the pores. Aloe vera also provides phytochemicals and glycoproteins directly to the hair follicle, supporting cell metabolism and new hair growth.
Best way to use aloe vera
The best way to use aloe for hair loss is to apply it directly to the scalp. You can make your own mask by extracting the sap from the plant, or you can buy a pre-made gel. Apply the mask to your scalp, allow to sit for one or two hours, and then gently wash it out with warm water.
Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple cider vinegar (ACV) seems like an odd thing to use to encourage hair growth and health, but it benefits hair in a number of ways. ACV can help balance your hair’s pH level, as many hair cleansing and conditioning products are highly alkaline. Hair is naturally slightly acidic, so supporting its pH level is important for keeping your hair healthy. ACV also closes the cuticles of hair, making it reflect more light and giving it a healthy shine. Not only that, but ACV’s ability to seal the hair cuticle allows your hair to better retain moisture. The acetic acid present in ACV will also help to remove residual build up and flakes on the scalp that can often cause hair loss by clogging up the follicles.
Best way to use ACV
The best way to use ACV is to make a hair rinse to use after you shampoo your hair. Mix one part ACV with one part water and apply to the hair and scalp. Use a spray bottle to make it extra easy to apply.
Apple Cider Vinegar
Bananas are just good, whether eaten or applied to your hairline. They have a load of health-boosting vitamins and minerals, particularly potassium. Modern diets seem to be lacking in potassium but loaded with sodium. The combination of excessive sodium and insufficient potassium allows sodium to accumulate around the hair follicle and prevent the absorption of essential vitamins and minerals.
Bananas also contain vitamin C, which helps circulation; the essential amino acid tryptophan, which can strengthen hair; and biotin, which can help improve the infrastructure of keratin, the protein that makes up hair, skin, and nails.
Best way to use banana
Eating more bananas is one good way to increase health-boosting vitamins into your body while getting a tasty snack at the same time. A more direct method is to make a banana mask. A simple yet effective recipe is to mash or blend one banana with one tablespoon of argan oil. If the mixture is runny, add a pinch of flour to thicken slightly. Apply to the hair and scalp, cover with a shower cap, and let it rest for 30 minutes. Rinse it out and shampoo your hair as normal.
Beetroot contains many nutrients essential for healthy hair and blood circulation in the scalp. It contains protein, vitamin B, vitamin C, potassium, phosphorus, and carotenoids, all of which are essential for promoting circulation in the scalp as well as hair follicle nourishment.
Best way to use beetroot
You can juice beetroot with other growth-promoting leaves such as alfalfa and lettuce. Be careful, however, as over consuming beetroot juice can significantly lower blood pressure. For a topical solution, boil the leaves of the root and grind with henna to form a paste. Apply to the scalp only, and allow it to rest for 15 minutes.
If you suffer from fine, brittle hair, hair loss, and brittle nails, it may be an indicator that you are deficient in biotin. Biotin is a type of B vitamin that plays a few key roles in the human body, including in fatty acid metabolism and keratin production. This makes it great for supporting healthy hair follicles, and biotin can actually renew follicles that are already in the growth stage. The benefit can be fuller, healthier hair.
Best way to use biotin
Biotin is found in many foods such as dairy products, meats, and oily fish, so eating more of these foods can increase your biotin intake. Alternatively, you could opt for biotin supplements. There is no advised dosage for biotin, and it has been deemed non-toxic even in high doses. It is best to consult your doctor for a recommended dosage and always read product labels.
Increasing the flow of blood to your follicles is a great way to increase hair growth, and one hot new way to achieve this is to use cayenne pepper. A naturally occurring stimulant, cayenne pepper is great for increasing blood flow. When you over consume cayenne, your stomach becomes extremely active, and when cayenne is applied to the hairline, it stimulates increased blood flow to the follicles, increasing the amount of nutrients absorbed. This stimulation becomes apparent when you feel a slight tingling in the scalp as the papilla, or hair root, becomes extra active, and blood flow increases.
Best way to use cayenne
The best way to use cayenne is to infuse it into an oil and massage into the scalp. Combine two tablespoons cayenne with one cup of olive oil and store in a cool, dark place for a minimum of ten days for maximum infusion. Apply to the scalp and let rest for ten minutes, and then wash out and shampoo as normal.
Coconut oil can help keep your hair in top shape for a number of reasons. Firstly, the fatty acids in coconut oil bind to the proteins in hair and help create a protective layer. At the same time, the coconut oil penetrates the hair shaft and provides moisture, which helps to protect the hair from external elements such as heat. Secondly, massaging coconut oil into the scalp encourages the flow of blood and oxygen in hair and imparts its rich supply of vitamins E and K on the roots. This helps encourage hair growth and reduces the potential for dandruff. Lastly, coconut oil contains antibacterial properties that help to keep the scalp clean and healthy.
Best way to use coconut oil
Heat a jar of coconut oil in water to soften it, and then massage into damp hair and the scalp for ten minutes. Wash it out with warm water, and shampoo as normal.
You can strengthen your hair and its follicles with eggs. Eggs contain a lot of protein and are loaded with nutrients such as zinc, phosphorus, and iron, making them ideal for encouraging hair growth.
Zinc deficiencies can lead to a number of problems, including hyperthyroidism. As we discussed earlier, an out-of-whack thyroid can cause severe hormone imbalances that can have many side effects, including hair loss. It is important to consume foods that contain zinc if you want to support a healthy thyroid and, more relevantly, healthy hair.
Best way to use eggs
Shampoo your hair first to remove excess oil and dirt. Crack open a couple of eggs and discard the whites. Combine the yolks with one tablespoon of olive oil and thoroughly mix together. Apply the mixture to your hair from the ends to the roots. Cover with a shower cap and let your hair rest for twenty minutes, and then wash with warm water and condition as usual.
Fenugreek is a versatile plant used in natural medicines all over the world. The entire plant is useful, but the seeds seem to contain the most hair-boosting properties. The high amounts of protein and nicotinic acid that in the seeds are both essential for strengthening and renewing hair follicles. The seeds also contain hormone precursors that enhance hair growth.
Fenugreek, or methi, has been used in India for hundreds of years to treat scalp inflammation and dandruff. The seeds contain essential oils that help moisturize and nourish the scalp, encouraging better hair growth. The seeds create mucilage when they’re crushed. This glycoprotein is created by many plants; it has a greasy texture, and when applied to hair, leaves it smooth and shiny. The seeds also have high levels of lecithin, an emulsifying agent used in many hair care products. It is particularly beneficial to the hair as it can transform dry, brittle hair into supple, thicker hair.
Best way to use fenugreek
Grind the seeds down into a fine powder, and then mix with a little warm water to form a greasy paste. Apply to the scalp and entire length of the hair then grab a shower cap and let the hair rest for thirty to sixty minutes. Wash out with warm water, and shampoo as normal.
Flaxseeds are jam packed with fatty acids and nutrients that create the ideal environment for hair growth, naturally condition hair, and nourish the scalp. They are loaded with omega-3 fatty acids that nourish hair follicles and add elasticity to the hair by protecting proteins. Omega-3 fatty acids can help prevent hair loss and encourage new hair growth. The vitamin E in flaxseeds can help reduce the premature aging and discoloration of hair while promoting hair capillary growth.
Best way to use flaxseeds
There are a couple of ways to use flaxseeds. You can grind them and drink them with water, sprinkle the full seeds on salads or in soups, or use them in other dishes. For a more direct approach, you can massage flaxseed oil into the hair and scalp.
Henna has been used to dye hair for thousands of years. It is also used for henna tattoos because it stains skin. Apart from these uses, henna has some benefits for hair growth. Henna is naturally antifungal and antibacterial, making it perfect for cleansing your scalp and removing impurities that can hinder hair growth. It also helps to maintain the natural pH of your hair and scalp, creating the perfect environment for hair growth. It bonds to keratin too, creating a protective layer and helping to flatten the cuticles. This locks in essential moisture, creating smooth, silky hair, naturally detangling strands, and keeping the hair thick and healthy.
Best way to use henna
There are a couple of ways you can use henna. Firstly, you can add henna powder to your conditioner and leave it on longer than usual. Alternatively, you can mix henna powder with an egg, lemon juice, and a little water to get a wet paste. Apply this paste from the tips to the roots of your hair and to your scalp. Allow to rest one to two hours or until dry, and then rinse. Be sure to test a patch beforehand as henna will alter your hair color.
Hibiscus has many healing properties and has been used to treat a range of health problems for hundreds of years. Its high vitamin C content amino acid composition benefit hair by preventing dry scalp, dandruff, and hair loss in both men and women. Hibiscus flowers are also mucilaginous, making them great for giving your hair a silky smooth texture and helping it retain moisture.
Best way to use hibiscus
Combine coconut oil and five to ten hibiscus leaves and flowers in a pan and heat gently. Bring the oil to the boiling point and simmer for five to ten minutes to infuse the hibiscus into the oil. Allow it to cool, and then mash the hibiscus and strain the oil. Apply to the hair and scalp before sleeping, and wash it out the next morning.
Massaging the scalp with amla oil, also called Indian gooseberry oil, has proven benefits in aiding in hair growth. Firstly, massaging the scalp alone encourages the circulation of blood to the roots of your hair. Amla adds vitamins, including vitamin C, and vitamin C helps fight oxidative damage at in the follicles, improving hair regrowth. Amla also has antiviral and antimicrobial properties that help clean flakes of skin and bacteria from the scalp, aiding the re-growth of hair in the anagen phase.
Best way to use Indian gooseberry
The best way to use amla is to apply it to the hair and scalp in oil form. You can either purchase amla oil or make your own.
Regular hair loss could be a sign of iron deficiency. Iron carries oxygen to the hair, so a deficiency could starve your hair of the nutrients that it needs for healthy growth.
Best way to use iron
While a deficiency in iron can cause hair loss, it is important that you get your levels checked before deciding to self-medicate; over consuming iron can cause more harm than good. One way to get more iron in your system is to eat more foods that are rich in iron. Some examples are eggs, meats, and leafy green vegetables.
Neem is plant that has been used in Indian hair treatments for many years. It is naturally anti-fungal, anti-bacterial, and anti-inflammatory, making it perfect for clearing the scalp of dead skin cells and bacteria that can stunt and slow hair growth. Neem is also packed with even more antioxidants than blueberries, making it particularly good at reducing the cell damage caused by free radicals, which, in turn, leads to healthier hair follicles. The abundance of fatty acids is also perfect for nourishing hair and restoring moisture lost to external factors.
Best way to use neem
You can use a neem hair oil based on other oils and enriched with neem leaf extract. You can also use pure neem oil; just make sure it is pure, organic, and raw. To make your own neem shampoo, just add some of the oil to your regular shampoo. For a more intensive treatment, massage neem hair oil into your hair and scalp, let it act for at least forty minutes or, better, overnight, and then just wash your hair with your neem shampoo.
Nourishing oils used during scalp massages to prevent hair loss and encourage growth also condition the hair root and shaft and the scalp. It also reduces dandruff, dry skin, and other conditions that stop hair growth. Regularly massaging the scalp with oils reduces the chances that hair strands will become brittle, split, and break. Massaging for hair loss is an easy technique that uses fingers and hands to rub, knead, and apply pressure to the scalp. These massages increase blood flow to the scalp, delivering all the nutrients necessary for healthy hair growth cycles.
Onions improve the production of collagen, which is necessary for the growth of hair, and they are rich in sulfur, which can improve blood circulation in the scalp. Increasing the blood supply to the scalp brings more nutrients to the follicles and promotes hair growth. The sulfur also gives onion juice antibacterial properties; it prevents the growth of fungi and bacteria on the scalp, which reduces the chances of hair loss as a consequence of scalp infections, and increases hair strength to prevent thinning and breakage.
Best way to use onion juice
Making onion juice is very simple; you can use a blender, food processor, grater, or a juicer to extract the juice. Just peel and cut as many onions as you need, depending on how much hair you have. Use your chosen method to get the required amount of juice, and use a muslin cloth to easily strain it.
Potatoes are another good natural remedy for thickening hair and giving it the best chance of good growth cycles. Potatoes are rich in vitamins A, B, and C, and a lack of these vitamins can cause hair to thin and fall out.
Best way to use potatoes
This home remedy is quite easy; simply wash, peel, and cut some potatoes, put them in a blender, and run it until you get a puree; you can add some water if it gets too thick. Place the mixture in a muslin cloth and strain it into a clean bowl. You have now separated the potato from the juice extract you need for hair growth. Apply the extract on the scalp and gently massage, using the rest of the juice on the hair strands. Cover with a shower cap and leave it for twenty-give minutes, and then rinse with water. For best results, apply the juice once a week, and make sure you prepare a fresh juice every time you use it.
Zinc is an essential mineral that our bodies need, and a zinc deficiency can weaken your hair shafts, causing hair breakage and very slow regrowth. There are lots of benefits associated with this mineral; it promotes cell reproduction, tissue growth, and broken tissue repair. It also maintains the oil secreting glands that are attached to your hair follicles, reducing the chances hair will fall out.
Best way to use zinc
Oral supplementation of zinc gluconate will provide the best results, but make sure you consult with your doctor prior to self-medicating.
Tips to Keep Your Hair Healthy and Growing
Sulfates are used heavily throughout hygiene products. They give soaps that foamy trademark, but sulfates can strip essential oils and keratin away from you hair, leaving it brittle, thin, and unhealthy. If you’d like to know more about why you should avoid sulfates, check out our article “Best Sulfate-free shampoos and conditioners.”
Eat a Balanced Diet
Eating a varied diet rich in vitamins and antioxidants is a great way to ensure your hair continues to grow healthily and strong. In today’s world, it is so easy to develop deficiencies that can quickly build up and contribute to hair loss and thinning through a number of mechanisms.
Get Your Hormones Checked
If it feels like you have tried every trick in the book to get your hair growing normally, but you are still losing hair or suffering from thinning or weak hair, you may want to get a blood test to check for deficiencies. You should also consider getting your thyroid checked for signs of hyperthyroidism.
Reduce Heat Treatments
Heat treatments such as straightening and curling can cause the hair to lose its moisture, making it dry and brittle. This can lead hair thinning and inevitable loss. Try to reduce the number of heat treatments you apply to your hair, and when you have to use heat treatments, use a protecting spray to avoid drying the hair out too much.