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July 29, 2020
Samantha Ford, MS & Ava Ghobadpour, MS RD
This topic is very near and dear to us. In fact, one of the biggest struggles we both faced after having kids was post-partum hair loss. It was so frustrating. We were in one of our most vulnerable times as new moms and within 3-4 months, we started losing hair in chunks. It was everywhere! Not only was it messy (seriously, we had to pay to have our shower drain unclogged), it was emotionally draining. Ultimately, this was what really inspired us to develop Bare Beauty. Our amazing formula combines an ingestible keratin with biotin, hyaluronic acid and antioxidant-rich superfruits to help anchor hair into the follicles, keeping hair thick, strong and healthy.
Although our hair loss experience was post-partum, the truth is this can happen to many of us and for many different reasons. Some hair loss is normal - about 50-100 hairs a day. However (genetic factors aside), sometimes it’s a signal that we may need a little nutritional and lifestyle boost.
If you find that you are shedding more hair than usual, here are a few things to look out for and a few steps you can take.
The post-partum hair loss that traumatized us – we can thank hormones for that. During pregnancy, estrogen levels are high and that means shampoo commercial quality hair. Fast forward nine months and estrogen plummets, taking with it what seems like every last strand. Post pregnancy hormones aren’t the only ones to blame. Our stress hormone cortisol has also been shown to cause our strands to shed more than usual. As our stress levels go up, so does our body’s production of cortisol. Higher cortisol levels have been linked to 40% faster degradation of important elements in the skin that hydrate and distribute nutrients to our hair. Cortisol can increase in many ways: physical trauma (like surgery), an inflammatory diet (including too much caffeine, excess processed foods and alcohol), lack of sleep, mental stress and a sedentary lifestyle.
The good news? It can be managed. A little balance can go a long way:
2) Oxidative Stress
Just like the factors that increase our cortisol levels, an inflammatory diet, lack of sleep, stress and exposure to external damage (i.e. UV rays and pollution) generate free radicals in the body. Free radical accumulation leads to oxidative stress - this has been linked to extra hair shedding. Antioxidants help neutralize free radicals and combat oxidative stress. What does all that mean? Don’t skimp on antioxidant-rich foods! Antioxidants are found in fresh fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Simple words to live by: aim for half your plate to consist of colorful fruits and veggies when you can.
3) Inadequate Protein (and Amino Acid) Intake
Although not very common, protein deficiency has been directly linked to hair thinning and hair loss. How do you know you are getting enough protein? The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends Women aged 31-50 should have 5 ounces of high-quality protein per day. Here are some examples of one-ounce portions:
Protein is comprised of amino acids and a few have been studied for their importance in keeping our hair healthy and strong. An important amino acid is L-cysteine. It's a component of keratin, which we all know is a key structural protein for our hair (and nails). Getting enough L-cysteine in the diet (from foods like poultry, meat, eggs and lentils) can strengthen hair and help with the shedding. We formulated Bare Beauty with a unique keratin that is rich in L-cysteine for just this reason. Another important amino acid is L-lysine, which helps with iron intake (more on this next). Meat, poultry, cheese, eggs, soybeans, lentils, black beans and quinoa are good sources of L-lysine. Some veggies and fruits are also sources - avocados, beets, tomatoes, pears and bell peppers.
4) Insufficient Iron Levels
Iron deficiency is one of the most common nutritional deficiencies and is well known for hair loss. Who is at risk? Our vegetarian and vegan friends who may be relying on plant sources of iron such as spinach. Although great for you, plant sources of iron are not absorbed quite as well as iron found in fish and meat. Other factors that might put you at risk for low iron: menstruation (due to monthly blood loss), illness or injury - or other situations where your iron needs may increase. So, if you check one or more of these boxes, read on. Low iron manifests in many ways and hair loss is just one of them. Fatigue, pale skin, headache, dizziness and brittle nails are a few other common symptoms. If you think you might be at risk, talk to your healthcare practitioner.
In the meantime, iron-rich foods include high quality beef, lamb, tuna, mussels and mackerel. Plant based sources are spinach, sweet potatoes, string beans and fortified breads, pasta and oats. Pairing iron-rich foods with vitamin C (i.e. berries and citrus) can help boost absorption. Quality iron supplements are also a great option when you need a little extra support. Look for gentle absorb formulas if you have a sensitive stomach - taking your supplement with a meal or just before bedtime can also help.
A discussion about hair loss would not be complete without mentioning genetics. Male and female pattern baldness is probably one of the most common causes of hair loss. This happens with aging and runs in the family. If you notice that your family photos have quite a few receding hairlines, take note. The good news is this usually happens gradually and in recognizable patterns. Unfortunately, a lot of this is genetics, but if you are able to catch it early, there are things you can do to help ensure the health of your hair. Be gentle with your hair, avoid harsh brushing, hot styling tools and too much direct sunlight. Ensure a proper, balanced diet - full of fruits, vegetables, and quality protein - and manage your stress.
We hope this helps with an understanding of how multifaceted hair loss can be. From genetics, hormones, stress, diet and exercise, there are so many factors involved. The goal here is balance - move, eat to nourish your body, don’t stress (too much) and find high quality supplements that will help bridge the gaps you may have.
As always, if you have any concerns, it's always best to reach out to your healthcare provider. If you have any questions, feel free to drop a comment!
Samantha & Ava
Clemente Plaza N, et al. Effects of the Usage of l-Cysteine (l-Cys) on Human Health. Molecules. 2018;23(3):575. Published 2018 Mar 3. doi:10.3390/molecules23030575
Epel ES, et al. Stress and body shape: Stress-induced cortisol secretion is consistently greater among women with central fat. Psychosom Med. 2000;62(5):623-632.
Gordon B. How Much Protein Should I Eat? EatRight. https://www.eatright.org/food/nutrition/dietary-guidelines-and-myplate/how-much-protein-should-i-eat. Published May 28, 2019. Accessed July 28, 2020.
Guo EL, Katta R. “Diet and hair loss: Effects of nutrient deficiency and supplement use.” Dermatol Pract Concept. 2017; 7:1-10.
Mirallas O, Grimalt R. The Postpartum Telogen Effluvium Fallacy. Skin Appendage Disord. 2016;1(4):198-201. doi:10.1159/000445385
Rushton DH. Nutritional factors and hair loss. Clin Exp Dermatol. 2002;27(5):396-404. doi:10.1046/j.1365-2230.2002.01076.x
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