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5 things your hair is desperately trying to tell you about your health

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Signs of distress

We're lucky to live in a modern beauty world where almost every hair problem can be solved by a product. Lacking in lift? Throw some volumising shampoo in the shower. Greasy roots? Spritz some dry shampoo and move on. Damaged ends? Slather on a hydrating hair mask.

And while it's great that we can fix our frustrations fairly easily, paying attention to the problem in the first place could give some insights into your health and habits. In fact, the outside of your hair can tell you a lot about your insides...

Increased oiliness

Possible causes: Stress, sunburn and too much dairy

It's not just sweaty gym sessions making your hair greasy. Turns out if you're stressed, this can raise the level of cortisone your body is producing, which in turn makes your scalp produce more oil.

Sunburn is another lifestyle factor to take into account. Recent research commissioned by Philip Kingsley revealed a staggering two-thirds (68%) of British women said they were previously not aware that hair can burn just like the skin, and over a quarter (26%) of women admitted that they have experienced sunburn on their scalps. If your scalp has seen to much sun, it may produce more sebum due to the moisture loss.

And lastly, a diet high in dairy can also accelerate sebum production on the scalp, as the hormones present breakdown androgens and cause an imbalance.

Dry & lacklustre hair

Possible cause: Lack of vitamin D

A lack of vitamin D can cause hair to become dry and brittle, and possibly even result in hair loss.

According to Medical Today, people with alopecia areata have much lower levels of vitamin D than people who do not have alopecia and a Japanese study in 2012 found that vitamin D can help create new follicles for hair growth and may be able to revive follicles that have become dormant.

While the sun can stimulate vitamin D production in the skin, when it comes to the hair it's best retrieved from supplements, combined with a diet of healthy fats including avocado, eggs, salmon and nuts.

Premature greys

Possible causes: Thyroid disorder and lack of vitamin B12

As the gland largely responsible for producing our hormones, an overactive or underactive thyroid can have an impact on the hair. Research specifically suggests that it may alter the hair follicle (where the pigment is produced), which can result in premature grey hairs.

A vitamin B12 deficiency could also be at play. This vitamin is responsible for the metabolism of both fatty acids and amino acids, essential for hair health. So if lacking, it can result in grey hairs or even hair loss. B12 is found in eggs, meat, poultry, and dairy products, so vegans and vegetarians are at a higher risk of deficiency.

Dry and brittle hair

Possible cause: Low-protein intake

As the main protein present in hair, keratin is key for keeping it healthy and strong. There are products that attempt to mimic the production of keratin, but ultimately, real protein needs to be built by the body from the inside out.

Hair that breaks easily or just won't grow, may reflect a low intake of protein. Try adding more lentils, fish, eggs, nuts and seeds in your diet.

Hair loss

Possible causes: Stress, illness, hormonal imbalance or nutritional issues.

Hair loss affects an estimated 8 million women in the UK and more than half of all men suffer significant hair loss by the age of 50.

"For sudden hair loss, look at what happened 2-3 months ago. Numerous events such as a short term illness or acute period of stress can cause short term heavy hair shedding", says Trichologist Sally-Ann Tarver from The Cotswold Trichology Centre.

The good news? "If this is the case you do not need to do anything, hair loss will stop on its own."

However, if stress or illness doesn't seem to be connected, it may require further action. "If your hair loss has been an issue for some time you may have an underlying nutritional or hormonal issue, blood tests will detect this", says Sally-Ann.

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