Known the world over as the “hair doctor”, I was recently invited to Philip Kinglsey’s New York City clinic to meet with one of his consultants to get the lowdown on how our genetics and lifestyle choices affect our hair’s health.
For most of us, it’s our skin where we can see the most immediate effect of a change in diet or lifestyle. More stressed out? Hello breakout. Replacing those chips and Buffalo wings with fruits and veggies? Hello glowing skin! The effects these have on our hair, however, are much more gradual. For example, hair that begins to shed at a more rapid pace (typically anything above 10%), has root causes stemming from months – if not more – prior to most of us taking notice of it.
Further, I learned that genetics plays a huge role in hair loss, and unfortunately when our doctors are checking our blood work, they’re not looking for what Philip Kingsley calls “hair optimal” results; meaning, that you may be in a perfectly normal zone for your Vitamin B12 and Zinc levels, but might be falling short of what’s required for truly healthy hair tissue.
At my consultation, I was asked what my typical daily diet consists of and was told it could be an issue that I consume so little protein and typically only during dinner. Why? Well, the hair follicle is the second most prolific cell producer in the body (after bone marrow), and all the food we eat is converted into simple compounds that the body is able to use – glucose is what’s used as energy for cell production. The liver’s storage of the glucose lasts for about four hours and research has shown that the amount of energy available to non-essential tissues like hair follicles may reduce over time. Therefore, it’s important to eat breakfast (which most of us know, but I myself never do!), that contains protein so that it eventually reaches hair tissue.
Hair is protein, so for optimal hair health we should also be eating protein at lunch. It’s suggested we eat egg whites and/or a serving of ham, bacon, sausage, or fish at breakfast, and 4-5 oz of any meat, fish, poultry, or eggs at lunch (8oz low fat cottage cheese for vegetarians). Though not much research has been done on it, I’m a big believer in the principles of "food combining" (i.e. how the order of what we eat affects digestion), so while I never thought of the order of my meals in terms of hair health, it makes sense that eating protein early in the day would benefit hair better than eating protein later on.
A few other quick tidbits I picked-up were:
- Washing hair every day is optimal for hair health (contrary to what many hairstylists say)
- Wearing your hair in a ponytail everyday will not lead to greater hair loss, unless it’s excessively tight
- Not cutting hair regularly will not effect growth patterns, but it does cause split ends which damages the hair and affects its appearance
- Stress can have a huge impact when it comes to exacerbating hair loss
Since I’m not much of a meat-eater, I’m giving Philip Kingsley’s protein supplements a whirl and have been trying to reel in my stress, as I was told that I appear to be losing more hair than my consultant “would have liked." I’m looking forward to seeing the impact on my hair…in six months.