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How Healthy, Luxuriant Hair Grows

Just like your skin, your hair reflects your nutritional status. Behind great hair is great nutrition. There are no hair products that can be applied on the outside that will make up for poor nutrition, and there’s a limit to how much conditioners can help damaged hair. Unlike your skin, hair can’t repair itself, so if your hair has become thin or brittle, it’s time to switch your focus from buying expensive hair products to growing a new head of healthier hair from the inside out.
After you start my Beauty Diet, it usually takes two to three months to start seeing results in the condition of your hair. Scalp hair generally grows at a rate of about half an inch per month, or six inches a year, but this growth rate is very individual—yours could be slower or faster. Also, as people age, their rate of hair growth slows. This means patience and consistency are very important as you await your new halo of fresh hair.

Nourish Your Follicles
Hair follicles can be found all over the body, but the highest density of follicles is on the head, which is also where the longest hairs grow. No new follicles are formed after birth. This means you’ll want to take care of the follicles you’ve got. It also means no product can give you more hair than you already have.

The average person has around 120,000 hairs on his or her head. Blondes tend to have more than the average, brunettes are about average, while redheads tend to have a little less than average.

The hair follicles in your scalp are like little pockets. Each hair grows from rapidly dividing cells in a bulb at the base of the follicle. The root of each hair is nourished by the connective tissue around it. Each follicle needs a constant supply of oxygen, nutrients, and moisture to grow hair properly, which is why good circulation in the scalp is important to gorgeous hair.

Each follicle is associated with one or several tiny sebaceous glands that produce sebum. This natural oil softens and protects both the hair and the scalp. It’s easier for sebum to travel down long, straight hair, which explains why curly hair tends to be drier. It’s important to make sure sebum does not accumulate and clog the follicles, which can cause loss of hair.

Building a Gorgeous Head of Hair, One Strand at a Time
The part of a strand of hair that is visible above the surface of the scalp is called the shaft. Each shaft consists of three concentric layers: the cuticle, the cortex, and the medulla.

*The cuticle is the tough outside layer that protects the inner sections of the hair. The cuticle is thin and colorless. Damage to the cuticle can make your hair look dull. It also makes the hair more porous, which means it will absorb more humidity.

*The cortex is the middle layer of hair. The proteins twisted together inside the cortex give hair its elasticity. The cortex contains the melanin that gives your hair its color. Eumelanin creates brown or black hair, while pheomelanin makes hair appear red. Blonde hair is a result of very low amounts of melanin; the shade of blonde depends on which type of melanin is present. When melanin is no longer produced in the hair root, the hair grows in without pigment and appears gray.

*The medulla is the innermost layer of hair. This part of the shaft reflects light, which is why hair looks so different in sunlight.
Feed Your Head
Healthy hair depends on two things:

1. Having a healthy scalp with healthy follicles
2. Giving your body the building blocks it needs to construct strong, lustrous hair shafts.

Stunning hair and a healthy scalp require quality protein, healthy fats, clean water, vital vitamins, and mighty minerals— in the correct amounts. If you consume too much of any one thing, you may end up causing more problems than you correct. For example, an excess of some micronutrients can cause you to lose hair. As long as you follow my Beauty Diet, you’ll have all the beneficial components you need with no risks and no harmful side effects.

For a Marvelous Mane, Eat Plenty of Protein
Many people assume that good hair care starts with shampoo. In fact, beautiful hair starts with what you eat. Hair is about 97 percent protein, so protein is a good place to begin this discussion. Your protein intake can have a dramatic effect on the texture of your hair. Without enough protein, your body cannot make new, beautiful hair to replace the hair that has shed.

Too little protein can change the texture of your hair. It can result in hair that is dull, dry, thin, brittle, and weak. Not getting enough protein can affect hair color, too. According to Dr. Martha H. Stipanuk, a Cornell University professor who studies the effects of protein malnutrition, if you’re consuming less than 7 percent of calories from protein (or less than 26 grams on a 1,500-calorie diet), you can undergo changes in hair pigmentation. You may start to see pale hair or have a band of hair that is a different color.

A main component of hair is keratin, which gives hair its strength and elasticity. Keratin is made up of amino acids, particularly cysteine. It is not necessary to find dietary sources of cysteine, specifically, because it can be synthesized by your body—provided you consume an adequate amount of protein daily.

Eating food from a variety of different protein sources will help ensure you take in adequate amounts of hair-protective amino acids. Among my Top 10 Beauty Foods, the highest amount of protein is found in salmon, yogurt, walnuts, and oysters. Other good sources of protein include fish, shellfish, turkey, chicken, beef, lamb, soybeans, eggs, nuts, and dairy products. (For more information about protein sources, see body beautiful.)

Obtain Your Omega-3s
Your body needs quality fats to grow hair, since about 3 percent of the shaft is made up of lipids. In addition, fats are needed to build the cell membranes in the skin of your scalp and for the natural oil that keeps your scalp and hair from drying out. As you saw in the beauty diet meal plan, a deficiency of essential fatty acids can cause problems like eczema and dermatitis. These conditions can affect your scalp and give you dandruff. A lack of essential fatty acids can also make your hair dry, brittle, and slow growing.

You are probably getting enough omega-6 fatty acids in your diet already, but you may have what’s called a subclinical deficiency of omega-3 fatty acids. Among my Top 10 Beauty Foods, salmon, walnuts, and spinach contain omega-3 fatty acids. Other sources include mackerel, herring, sardines, trout, flax, hemp seeds, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, soybeans, and whole grain products.

Water Is Wondrous for Hair
About 12 to 15 percent of hair is water. As you already know from the Top 10 Beauty Foods, it’s important to drink plenty of clean water for its beauty benefits and for the proper functioning of every system in the body. Every cell, and every hair follicle, needs water. Water is also needed to transport amino acids, vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients to your scalp, keeping the surface of the skin healthy.

Mayonnaise Makes Hair Sleek and Glossy
You would think the ingredients in mayonnaise—including eggs, lemon juice, and oil—would help condition hair. However, applying mayonnaise directly to your hair is just a messy, smelly process that is not worth the unconfirmed benefits. No scientific evidence exists to justify using this sandwich staple for sleek hair; it just leaves your hair feeling heavy and is difficult to rinse out.

Treating your hair with mayonnaise is effective only if you have head lice, since mayonnaise suffocates them. For healthy, shiny hair, consume a well-balanced diet that is high in omega-3 fatty acids and monounsaturated fats, found in nuts, avocados, and olive oil. Quality fats will help you maintain healthy, glowing skin and shiny, soft hair from the inside out—with no smelly, sticky residue!

Fiber for Toxin-Free Tresses
As you read in body beautiful post, dietary fiber helps make sure food moves through the intestinal tract in a timely manner. This prevents undigested food from hanging around in the intestines for too long, a problem that can prevent nutrients from being absorbed, leading to dull and dry hair.

Dietary fiber also plays a role in eliminating toxins from the body. When food does not exit the body quickly, toxins can build up in the gut. Some skin-care experts believe toxins contribute to scalp and hair problems. Toxins like heavy metals are absorbed into the hair and excreted, which is why hair analysis is used to look for mercury, aluminum, iron, copper, cadmium, lead, arsenic, and nickel. To be on the safe side, aim for at least 20 to 25 grams of fiber each day. An added bonus is that fiber takes the edge off appetite, which helps you stay slim.

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