Hair loss, along with its loss of shine, is a widespread problem and can be due to several causes: seasonal factors, stress, unbalanced and incomplete diet, environmental pollution. If every year at the end of summer (or at the end of your holiday) you find yourself battling with dry, dull and brittle hair, it is time to learn how to take a few precautions to protect your hair from the sun and salt spray, stress factors that damage the hair fibre. Find out how!
The basics of always nourishing your hair
If you want to ensure the well-being of your hair, you must first have a varied and balanced diet. It is therefore also important to prepare your hair for sun exposure through proper nutrition, which can nourish and strengthen our hair.
Some foods are natural hair supplements, therefore particularly suitable for those who want healthy, shiny hair. Whole-grain cereals are rich in sulphur amino acids and promote keratin synthesis, and are also rich in zinc, an essential element for protein synthesis and the development of a healthy hair, as it affects the activity of the hair follicle.
Other foods that are good for the hair are salmon, rich in iron and Omega 3 fatty acids, eggs, rich in vitamins and proteins such as biotin, beans, also a source of biotin, flaxseeds and Brazil nuts, with a high Omega 3 content, fresh fruit and vegetables, especially carrots, rich in vitamin A and antioxidants, and finally clams and giblets, rich in vitamin B12.
Let us now try to understand why these nutrients are so important. Hair is mainly composed of keratin, a structural protein also found in the skin and nails. In order to enable keratin synthesis, it is necessary to take in a good amount of cystine and methionine, which are two amino acids found mainly in plants.
With regard to vitamins, the most important ones for healthy hair are vitamin B5, which protects the hair against hair loss and is found in many foods, both animal and vegetable; vitamin B6, which is important for keratin synthesis and is mainly found in vegetables; vitamin H, or biotin, and vitamin PP, also known as niacin, are found in meat and eggs vitamin C, in which citrus fruits, parsley and chilli peppers are rich, as well as fruits such as kiwi and pomegranate.
In cases where not enough active ingredients are taken through food or in the case of an increased need, taking the right food supplement can be a valuable aid.
What are hair supplements used for?
There are several purposes of hair supplements. They combat hair loss, help the protective activity of the scalp, but also nourish the hair and make it strong, healthy, voluminous and shiny. This is not only during seasonal changes, but in general during periods of particular stress and when the hair appears fragile, dull, dry and brittle, such as after prolonged exposure to the sun and saltiness. It is important to emphasise that these products can also have a preventive action: we can therefore 'prepare' for stressful events, to maintain the health of the hair in a natural way.
When to take hair supplements
In addition to periods of physiological hair loss, it is advisable to take supplements in cases of:
- physical/psychological stress
- unbalanced nutrition;
- hormonal imbalances (e.g. due to menopause);
- factors that have caused weakening (bleaching, dyeing, excessive exposure to the sun, use of aggressive cosmetics, etc.);
- genetic predisposition to hair loss;
- environmental pollution;
- prolonged exposure to sun and saltiness (such as during summer holidays).
Which one to choose?
Hair growth supplements are intended to provide substances effective in combating hair loss problems, but also to strengthen and maintain healthy hair. There are many products on the market, but the best ones definitely contain nutrients useful for hair trophism, i.e. biotin, selenium, zinc, copper, cysteine, keratin, B vitamins (or brewer's yeast), vitamin A and E.
Practical tips and good habits to protect our hair from the sun
Having understood the importance of the correct nutrients for the preventive health of the hair, let us now look at some good habits that can be useful especially in summer for hair protection.
- Protect your head with hats or scarves made of light, breathable materials. They serve to avoid direct exposure of the hair to UV rays.
- Apply a protective oil: especially useful for your ends, it creates a sort of barrier on the hair to defend it from the aggressive action of the sun, salt and chlorine.
- Take a shower after a bath, even a quick rinse is enough. In fact, fresh water eliminates salt, which, when it remains in contact with the hair for a long time, weakens and dries the hair.
It is important to emphasise that keratin, the structural protein of the hair, is made up of long chains of amino acids, in which vitamins and trace elements are interposed, and its integrity can be compromised by external and endogenous factors. These certainly include ultraviolet rays, which directly damage the hair structure if not properly protected.
As always, the multifunctional approach is the winning one: we learn to take care of our hair from inside all year round, and then pay particular attention to those delicate periods, such as summer, when our hair is more exposed to damaging agents and needs specific care. The right habits and the choice of appropriate, quality products can really make a difference in the process of achieving shiny, healthy hair that lasts all year round.
O'Connor K, Goldberg LJ. Nutrition and hair. Clin Dermatol. 2021 Sep-Oct;39(5):809-818. doi: 10.1016/j.clindermatol.2021.05.008. Epub 2021 May 24. PMID: 34785008.
Trüeb RM. Effect of ultraviolet radiation, smoking and nutrition on hair. Curr Probl Dermatol. 2015;47:107-20. doi: 10.1159/000369411. Epub 2015 Feb 20. PMID: 26370649.
Adelman MJ, Bedford LM, Potts GA. Clinical efficacy of popular oral hair growth supplement ingredients. Int J Dermatol. 2021 Oct;60(10):1199-1210. doi: 10.1111/ijd.15344. Epub 2020 Dec 9. PMID: 33296077.
Finner AM. Nutrition and hair: deficiencies and supplements. Dermatol Clin. 2013 Jan;31(1):167-72. doi: 10.1016/j.det.2012.08.015. Epub 2012 Oct 18. PMID: 23159185.
Draelos ZD. Hair, sun, regulation, and beauty. J Cosmet Dermatol. 2014 Mar;13(1):1-2. doi: 10.1111/jocd.12080. PMID: 24641599.
Epstein HA. The next frontier of sunscreen protection: beyond sunscreens. Skinmed. 2011 Jul-Aug;9(4):247-50. PMID: 21980710.