A few weeks ago, as I was preparing to leave the hairdressers, I politely asked the stylist if she could stop my hair from sticking up, static-style, from the top of my scalp. For some reason, lots of short stray hairs were standing upright – and yes, it did rather ruin the look! But when she explained that the offending hair was new growth – lots of new growth – I almost fell on her with excitement.
It’s taken almost a year (read my original ‘sad hair’ post) of a hair-nutrient-rich diet, replete with supplements, to achieve this re-growth. And although I still don’t have the thick hair of my dreams, it is thicker and fuller than a year ago. So how have I done this? Firstly, I’ve stuck rigorously to what we like to call (ahem) the Kale & Cocoa diet (lots of oily fish, leafy and rainbow veg, wholegrains, pro and prebiotic-rich foods, healthy fats and so on). Here’s a list of the top foods for hair, and if you’re a regular reader, you’ll notice how often they crop up in our recipes: salmon, almonds and walnuts, sweet potato and carrots, eggs, spinach and leafy greens, lentils, sunflower seeds, sprouts, Greek yogurt, blueberries, oats, bananas, poultry, beef and oysters (the latter haven’t featured much, I admit, but watch this space). Between them, these ingredients contain a mix of the most important nutrients for hair: iron, biotin, zinc, Vitamin C, Vitamin D, the B vitamins, silica (a trace mineral essential for hair, plentiful in oats) and protein. An amino acid called Lysine is also thought to be important, and can be found in meat, cheese, some fish, nuts, eggs and soybeans.
In addition to the Kale & Cocoa diet, I’ve been taking a supplement – Viviscal, voted Best Hair Supplement by Harper’s Bazaar in 2013. I’ve continued to reverse-condition my hair (condition first, shampoo afterwards), and I’ve also changed my hair care products to L’Oreal’s Elvive hair thickening range – The Guardian’s 2014 Best Hair Product (http://www.loreal-paris.co.uk/hair-care/fibrology#to.)
But hair is a slow responder. While poor diet and stress can show up in skin within days or weeks, it can take months for your hair to respond – either by coming out in handfuls or by becoming brittle and weak. And the reverse is true too. So you need to be patient.
But it’s not just diet. Medical conditions like male-pattern baldness or androgenic alopecia, menopause, polycystic ovarian syndrome, lupus or psoriasis can all result in hair loss. Hormonal change can also wreak havoc with your locks and medications like the pill, anti-depressants, anti-ulcer drugs and beta blockers have also been known to cause hair loss.
How we treat our hair can also have an effect. My hairdresser friend told me to stop wearing my hair in a pony-tail. Combing hair when wet, over blow-drying or going mad with chemical-ridden styling products can hinder healthy re-growth too. So dry your hair without a hairdryer whenever you can and try switching to a sulfate-free product, as sulfates can damage the hair cuticles. The L’Oreal Elvive product mentioned above contains sulfates, so I rotate between that and Viviscal’s sulfate-free shampoo. You can read more about sulfates here http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/05/23/sulfate-free-shampoo_n_1534277.html. And speaking of products, I’m also rather partial to John Frieda’s Luxurious 7 Day Volume range – try the In-Shower Treatment which adds heaps of volume and lasts for a week.
We don’t eat a huge amount of meat chez nous but I’m very partial to chicken livers (particularly when my hair feels thin!). They’re immensely rich in protein, iron, folate and the B vitamins. When combined with green leaves, as in this salad, you also get Vitamin C. It’s quick, easy and (I think) delicious….
WARM CHICKEN LIVER SALAD – serves 2
- 200g organic chicken livers (don’t save money here … chicken livers are cheap so splash out on the organic ones)
- 1 tbsp pink peppercorns in brine
- Juice of half a lemon
- Bowl of mixed salad leaves of your choice
- Dressing made of olive oil, lemon juice, mustard and garlic (or your usual – both balsamic vinegar and pomegranate molasses go well with chicken livers)
Pan fry the chicken livers in a tbsp. olive oil for 4-5 minutes until crisp and brown on the outside but still pink and soft on the inside (this is important – you don’t want them tough). Throw in the pink peppercorns, a good squirt of lemon juice and season well.
Mix and dress your leaves. Pile the livers, peppercorns and pan juices on top. Happy hair day!