As the dog days of summer are upon us, many of us may start to notice an increase in hair shedding or widening sparse spots on our scalp. An easy, affordable way to achieve a more voluminous head of hair now and any time of year? Following these simple recipes, tips and tricks using ingredients found right in your pantry and around-the-house can help. Read on to find the one that’s right for you.
What causes hair thinning?
Unfortunately, our hair only seem to get thinner as we get older thanks to a seemingly never-ending list of causes. “Hormone flux or even stress can increase levels of dihydrotestosterone, or DHT, a hormone that shrinks hair follicles leading to thinner, weaker strands,” says New York City dermatologist Cameron Rokshar, M.D. “Additionally, nutritional deficiencies, medical conditions and genetic factors can also disrupt the hair growth cycle and play a role in hair thinning and loss.” Add to that, everything from soaring temperatures and sunlight exposure to salt water and chlorine damage can prod follicles into a “shedding stage” that makes tresses look thin, limp and brittle in the warmer season.
6 ways to reverse thinning naturally
From study-proven remedies to doctor-approved solutions, these 6 at-home tricks can help
Overall shedding? Get your daily dose of vitamin D
Applying too much sunscreen can raise the risk of vitamin D deficiency, warn scientists in The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association. In their review of studies, using sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher reduced the body’s production of vitamin D-3 by 99%. Why is that an issue for your hair? Not getting enough vitamin D deprives our hair follicles of the energy they need to produce thick strands, according to a study published in the journal Skin Pharmacology and Physiology which found a direct correlation between low blood levels of vitamin D — defined in this study and elsewhere as 12 ng/ml or under — and abnormal hair loss in women under 45.
And because low vitamin D levels are also common for women as they get older, those over 45 can be impacted as well. The researchers didn’t pinpoint why, but physician nutrition specialist Melina Jampolis, MD, says the vitamin’s second identity — as a hormone — may be a factor.
To do: Take a vitamin D supplement daily. Doctors recommend taking 1,000 to 2,000 IU of a D-3 supplement (we like Natrol Vitamin D-3 2,000 IU) daily to achieve an adequate blood level of the vitamin. This form is easily absorbed by the body and boosts its stores without having to make adjustments to your diet. Doing so may help stimulate new and old hair follicles, helping regrow stunted or thinning hair. (Click through for more on the benefits of supplementing with vitamin D.)
Breakage? Add some sunflower oil to your conditioner
Fatty acids in the flower-derived oil penetrate hair deeply to increase moisture levels and hydrate parched locks from the inside out, “swelling” individual strands for thicker-looking tresses, stat! Even better? The oil’s vitamins and minerals increase circulation to the scalp to boost hair growth.
To get the benefits if you don’t have a sunflower oil infused conditioner on hand? Francesca Fusco, MD, a dermatologist who specializes in hair care, recommends using a hair-nourishing conditioner that is deeply hydrating and can penetrate the hair shaft to reinforce strands so they are less prone to breakage. Then add the sunflower oil to it to help hair look thicker with every use.
To do: Mix 1 tsp. of sunflower oil into a dollop of conditioner. Apply to damp, washed hair and let sit 3 to 5 minutes before rinsing.
Also smart? Eating ½ cup of sunflower seeds daily. It will provide enough zinc and copper to put the brakes on hair loss in as little as two months, suggests research in the Annals of Dermatology. That’s because modern-day diets are often deficient in these nourishing minerals, which are essential for the formation of strong, healthy hair.
Notice more sparse spots? Give your hair a cuppa Joe
Increased sweating can cause the scalp to become built up with oily sebum, which is a carrier of the hair-loss hormone DHT. A build up of DHT on the scalp can damage hair follicles and lead to accelerated hair loss. But studies have found that topical use of caffeine slashes the risk of hair loss within six months. That’s because caffeine removes DHT from the scalp and acts like a roadblock to stop the body from creating the hormone to prevent future thinning before it begins. “Caffeine also stimulates the hair shaft, further encouraging growth,” adds New York City hair restoration specialist Robert Dorin, DO.
To do: To get the benefits, pour 1 cup of cooled, brewed coffee all over damp hair. Rub onto a clean, damp scalp for 1 minute, let sit for 5 minutes, then rinse.
Frequent fallout? Slather on some chia seed ‘pudding’
The high amount of protein in chia seeds can help repair damaged hair follicles — caused by stressors like UV rays, chlorine or salt water exposure — and fortifies strands at the root to prevent fallout. Plus, the seeds’s high selenium and calcium content stimulates follicles to promote new hair growth.
To do: Simply mix 1 Tbs. of chia seeds and ½ cup of coconut milk (its lipids deeply hydrate) and let soak for 5 minutes. Next, massage the mixture onto a clean, dry scalp for 1 minute. Let sit for 15 minutes, then rinse.
Thinning at the temples? Spritz with a rosemary tonic
According to studies, applying rosemary to the scalp can be as effective at regrowing hair as 2% minoxidil. That’s thanks to its rosmarinic acid which increases circulation to deliver growth-encouraging nutrients to hair follicles. Also great: Peppermint’s menthol has similar hair-growing benefits! Simply whip up a hair spritz infused with the plants to reap the benefits.
To do: Simmer 1 Tbs. of fresh or dried rosemary or mint leaves and 1 cup of water in a saucepan for 10 minutes. Remove from heat; let cool. Strain the mix into a spray bottle. Mist lightly over your scalp daily, massaging in with your fingertips. Store in the fridge for up to one week.
Widening hair part? Brush for four minutes daily
According to Dr. Fusco: “While there is a seasonality to hair shedding that has been studied and points to the busiest shedding season being in autumn, if individuals are noticing more shedding during the summer, among other things, it could be due to inflammation due to dandruff (secondary to sweating).” The excess moisture on the scalp can lead to clogged scalp pores which lead to fallout.
One fix: Just four minutes of gentle brushing each morning may be one of the best ways to grow thick, full hair, according to three intriguing theories: First, brushing helps distribute your natural oils, reducing the oil-clogged scalp pores and giving your hair some natural shine.
Next, it stimulates blood flow to the scalp — a critical factor in improving hair growth.
And third, it helps remove the hairs your head has already shed, making room for new ones to grow. (Make sure you have the right tool; check out these gentle brushes for thinning hair.)
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