Beauty & Fashion

This Is What Your Hair Can Tell You About Your Health

As someone who has been a naturalista for many, many years now (minus when I took a break to rock a modified mohawk and so I relaxed it), I would argue with just about anyone who didn’t think that very few things in this life will teach you more about yourself, your level of self-discipline and patience and how to figure out what works best, no matter what everyone else is doing, than our hair.

However, sometimes, when our tresses are not cooperating in the way that we think they should, while it can be easy to simply chalk it up to having a “bad hair day,” the reality is there could be some underlying health issues going on. Yep, even though it’s not discussed a ton, your hair can actually reveal a lot to you as far as your health is concerned.

Let’s tackle that today. Below are seven things that, if you’re noticing about your own locks, you might want to tend to more than just what’s growing out of the top of your head.

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1. If You’ve Got a Lot of Graying Going on…

You might’ve thought that stress causing hair to turn gray was just a myth; it’s not.What science has discovered is not only does stress have a tendency to compromise your immunity, but it also elevates a neurotransmitter known as noradrenaline, which can lead to melanocyte stem cell loss (those stems play a role in the melanin that is produced inside of our hair follicles) which can ultimately cause gray hair.

Althoughsome studies also reveal that it’s pretty normal for people of African descent to start going gray in their 40s, if you’re younger than that or you’re seeing more silver strands popping up than usual as of late, pondering if you’re allowing yourself to get stressed out (which would also include not getting enough rest) is definitely something that you should put some real thought into.

2. If Your Hair Is Shedding More than Usual…

If you’re losing somewhere between50-125 strands of hair a day, that’s perfectly fine.Hair runs on life cycles (each strand has its own), so shedding is a part of the process. On the other hand, if you’re seeing a lot more than that in your comb, pardon the pun, but you shouldn’t simply “brush that off.” Gaining over 20 pounds, hormonal fluctuations, stress, and recently giving birth to a child can all be the underlying cause for why you’re losing more of your hair. Also, a reason that shouldn’t be overlooked or underestimated is being anemic (or borderline anemic).

The reality is that when there isn’t enough blood in your system, your hair follicles are not able to receive the nutrients and oxygen that they need in order for your hair to thrive. So, if lately, you’ve been feeling extra tired or weak, you’re dizzy or lightheaded, you’ve got headaches out of nowhere, and/or you’re experiencing a shortness of breath and you’re losing hair strands, make an appointment to see your doctor ASAP.

If you’re anemic, that’s nothing to play with (Black people are over three times more likely to have anemia than white people, by the way).

3. If Your Tresses Are Dry and Brittle…

Not drinking enough water, not deep conditioning your hair (along with using a leave-in conditioner on wash days), using hair productsthat contain harsh chemicals, and not applying hair productsthat contain sunscreen — all of these things can ultimately cause hair that is both dry and brittle.So, can scalp infections, hormone imbalances, hair shaft disorders (likeMenkes disease), anda side effect of prescribed medication.

Speaking of prescriptions, if you’re on the pill, it’s worth noting that going on or off of it can cause dry hairand/or scalp (due tohormone fluctuations). So, if your hair seems to be extremely dry, no matter what you do, and you do happen to be on an oral form of birth control, speak with your doctor; they might be able to switch up your prescription for something that will be “kinder” to your tresses in the long run.

4. If Your Locks Seem to Be Thinning Out…

Many things areconnected to hair thinning: stress, poor diet, hairstyles that pull at your hair follicles, and permanent hair dyes and relaxers. However, it should also go on record that a hormone disorder calledpolycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) could be the culprit, too. Long story short, PCOS is what happens when your body overproduces certain types of hormones to the point where it can lead to cysts on your ovaries,irregular periods, abdomen weight gain, really oily skin, and excessive body hair — only not on your head (wild, right?).

The way that hair thinning reveals itself when it comes to PCOS is your hair parts may be inexplicably wider or you could have a bald spot on the top of your head. Anyway, if more than one of these symptoms is popping up, see your doctor. PCOS isn’t something that only Google can fix.


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5. If Your Hair Is Dull and/or Limp…

Does it seem that no matter what kind of product you put on your hair, it’s not able to hold any shine or keep a style for longer than a couple of hours? It could bedue to a nutrition deficiency. Yeah, if you’ve been sitting in drive-thrus more than cooking over your stove, the reality is that your hair may be suffering because of it. That’s because when you’re not getting enough protein, iron, zinc, or fatty acids into your system, it can either cause your hair to not look healthy or it can ultimately result in hair loss.

Your strands are made up of mostly protein, so definitelyget some meats, lentils, yogurt, eggs, and almonds into your body. Also, don’t forget about dark leafy greens and quinoa (iron), dark chocolate and whole grains (zinc), and salmon and walnuts (fatty acids).

6. If Your Hair Is Breaking Off Rather Easily…

I promise that if you go to YouTube and put “long hair” and “4 type” in the search field, you’ll see all types of Black women with long ass locks (like these womenhere,here, andhere). In fact, a part of the reason why I penned, “Looking For Hair Growth? It Might Be Time To Bring 'Blue Magic' Back” a few years back was to showcase that no matter what hair type you have, if your hair is growing out of your scalp, you can have long full, super healthy tresses.

The reason why a lot of us struggle with length retention is because due to our hair being naturally drier than some other ethnicities (because our curly texture prevents natural sebum from getting to the tips of our hair shaft), along with how some of us are too harsh with styling — so, our hair ends up breaking off about as fast as it grows.

While deep conditioning and handling your hair like it is silk will probably remedy this issue, if you’re already doing that and your locks still seem to be snapping off like twigs, you might want to see your doctor. Believe it or not, hypothyroidism is another underlying cause of hair breakage and hair loss.

7. If Your Scalp Is Irritated…

Your scalp is the foundation of your hair; so, of course, making sure that it’s healthy at all times is paramount. Although an itchy and irritated scalp could be connected to a dry scalp or dandruff (check out “Stop Scratching: The Differences Between Dandruff And Dry Scalp”), it could be pointing tomore complex health issues including eczema, psoriasis, folliculitis (inflammation of your hair follicles), seborrheic dermatitis and the autoimmune disease lichen planus. Most of these things require an official diagnosis from your healthcare provider or a dermatologist; however, a healthy diet and a low-stress lifestyle can definitely help to bring some much-needed scalp relief.


If there’s one thing that all of us desire, it’s healthy hair. So, if no matter how hard you try, you’re struggling with reaching your goal, before spending more money on hair products, speak with your physician. Ruling out any underlying health issues will get you just that much closer to the hair results that you seek.

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Featured image by Delmaine Donson/Getty Images



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