View Full Version : Really damaged hair, please help!

July 8th, 2013, 08:04 AM
Hi everyone, I really need some expert advice on hair health.

I am facing my latest big cut next weekend - after growing my hair for nearly two years I have decided I can't live with it being so damaged even though I love the length (this is a repeated pattern over the last 10 years). It is tangled constantly, it feels rough and dry, I have a ton of breakage at the scalp and I can snap little pieces of hair off my ends :(

My main suspected culprits are diet and bleach... Before you laugh, I do know that bleach is horribly damaging and the incident in question was 10 years ago ;) However it was the first time my hair became damaged and it has never gone back to its condition before that incident. It was totally ruined and I had to cut it all off. The condition did improve with many cuts and growing out periods but it has never ever gone back to its original condition (I was very lucky to have soft, tangle free, breakage free curls as a teen).

But the second possible culprit is poor diet, or more specifically an illness that causes me to not absorb food well. I was diagnosed with Celiacs disease 3 years ago and had to cut gluten out of my diet. Anyway my gut was very damaged and I wasn't absorbing food well at all (I got very underweight until they diagnosed me) and on top of that I was already vegetarian so I dread to think how little protein was absorbing.

What I really want to know is - have I permanently damaged my hair/folicles/scalp when I bleached it or is it more likely that my poor nutritional state has been causing the damage ? Does my hair sound like hair lacking protein? How much affect does our diet/health have on our hair from your personal experience? Has anyone been through something like this?

Thanks so much for reading all that, I am praying that someone may be able to give me a little ray of hope that my hair might improve as my health does.

(As a side note I have had virgin hair for 5 years now, I do not use heat on it at all only air dry, and I use low sulfate poo/no siliconce conditioner and occasional clarifying shampoo to removed hard water build up. I detanlgle with conditioner and do not style my hair hardly at all and wear it down almost all the time. I think I am pretty gentle with it!)

July 8th, 2013, 08:18 AM
Have you talked to your doctor/s about this? If not, maybe start there. My guess is your hairs' condition have to do with your illness.

I know lack of nutrients can affect your hair in a negative way. I have a friend who had a gastric bypass wich absolutely fried her hair. It's a common side effect to the operation, due to the fact that the body has to adjust and in the beginning basically is in starving mode. (I'm no doctor, so this explanation is VERY basic and probably not entirely correct.) Anyway, her hair was just like yours, now her body has adjusted and her hair is growing back in again.

I don't think your hair follicles or scalp is permanently damaged, at least I've never heard of such a thing. If you get better, I'm sure your hair will get better with you.

It sounds as if you are treating your hair just fine. Have you looked in the article section? There are some articles about protein and moisture there, if that's what interrests you.

My recommendations regarding hair care and style is to not do something too drastic about it. If you decide to change your routine, change one thing at a time, that way you will know if something is good or bad for you.

Good luck and I hope you feel better soon!

July 8th, 2013, 08:54 AM
Sorry to read you have been suffering so much with your health and hair.

Bleach ten years ago is not causing your problems now unless you burned your scalp and permanently damaged the follicles, you would have known about that at the time. Nutrition is more likely the culprit unfortunately, it has a massive effect on every organ and tissue in the body, including the skin (scalp). Protein is only one relevant nutrient, the skin needs a whole range of essential fatty acids, vitamins and minerals. Coeliac is linked to several nutrient deficiencies, has your dietician advised which to focus on? Are you now eating an anti inflammatory nutrient dense diet including plenty of oily fish? Have you been advised to take a course of freeze dried probiotics (beneficial bacteria)? Are you eating mainly wholefood carbohydrates like beans and lentils or are you having gluten free substitutes (wheat free bread/ pasta/ breakfast cereal)?

Clarifying shampoo does not address hard water it addresses product build up, do you mean chelating? There are sulphate free versions, ION Swimmers for example. Komaza Care do some lovely scalp and hair friendly products with proven ingredients tho they do use some wheat (I understand some coeliacs can use it topically some cannot). Hydrolysed protein, ceramides and panthenol are particularly good for patch repairing and strengthening hair. Aloe vera is proven anti inflammatory, healing and collagen inducing, I've heard good things about sea kelp bioferment from people whose knowledge base I respect.

I have heard Komaza Care's customer service is excellent and they can recommend products via e-mail, they also offer a detailed hair analysis service if you are not on a budget.
This company is run by a research scientist with an interest in skincare long hair and science based DIY, she is seriously knowledgeable and comes up with thoroughly researched recipes that are raved about
If you are interested in learning from her last I heard she was active on this forum http://skincare.boards.net/

July 8th, 2013, 09:01 AM
Firstly, learn a bit about healthy food! A gluten free vegetarian diet is possible, I tried, but you'll need to be careful what you're eating. Special gluten free breads and crackers are very low in vitamins, protein and fiber, so I recommend you find something else to replace bread. Maybe amaranth crackers?? (I had a hard time to find anything on a budget) Corn products are okay, but nutritionally not great either. Brown rice, potatoes, lentils, peas and beans are great sources of carbohydrates, minerals and vitamins and protein. You can eat nuts and seeds, dairy, eggs(very efficient protein source!) and soy products for protein too. Or make your own bean burgers:) Maybe taking some sort of vitamin will be necessary.

If your hair is all virgin now, It can't be bleach;) Diet is very likely to be the problem, because when you lack in nutrition, your body treats your organs first and that will affect your hair. Protein and vitamins (especially b-vitamins which I believe are in things like meat and yeast...) are essential for healthy hair growth. So for hair care, I'd try to protect it as much as possible. You're doing fine allready, but maybe try wearing your hair in protective updo's and oiling the ends.

Best of luck!

July 8th, 2013, 11:22 AM
I'd go to the doctor.

July 8th, 2013, 11:39 AM
Thank you all so much for reading and answering fully! I am so SO relieved you all think its not any sort of permanent damage from the bleach. I had a horrible demon at the back of my mind saying it might never ever get better :( Phew! :joy:

Eolan, I have talked to my doctors about it but they weren't terribly helpful, they agreed it could be a side effect of poor health but didn't really have anything more to offer. But it sounds like your friend was in a similar position to me, I imagine similar things were happening in our bodies in terms of nutrient absorption. I will definitely start reading the articles too, in case there are things I could be doing to give my hair a boost whilst I am getting better. Thank you :heart:

Firefox, thank you very very much for all the advice :) When I was first diagnosed they did some tests and found I had a couple of deficiencies (zinc, and B12 if I recall rightly) and I was mildly anemic, and the doctors main advice was to go back to eating meat and eggs (which I had never liked much so I didn't eat them, apart from cheese I was almost vegan at that point). Apart from that I feel the nutritional information has been pretty poor actually - I saw a dietician too and she didn't have much to say except to follow a healthy 5 veg a day diet, replace gluten containing foods with gluten free ones and eat more meat. I was not advised on probiotics at all. I have tried to improve my diet myself but from the sounds of it I might need to do alot more learning about this - I am not even entirely sure what an anti-inflammatory diet consists of! My recent blood tests (a few months ago) showed no serious deficiencies, so I must be improving.

My protein sources are salmon, tuna, pork, eggs tofu and beans (only about once a week though), I also eat cheese and milk daily and olive oil, and I take an omega/fish oil supplement, I try very hard to eat at least 5 portions of raw fruit and veg a day or have cold pressed fruit juice as I read that the nutrient level is much higher in uncooked food and I usually eat a big salad or blend 3 or 4 fruits into a smoothie. I have recently also started incorporating nuts and seeds daily. I really try to avoid processed foods/junk foods, I think I only eat a little sugar now in yoghurts/plain ice cream. In terms of carbs I avoid gluten free replacements as I just don't enjoy them - I eat brown rice, potatoes with skins on, gluten free oats and beans, but I haven't had lentils in years. Would it be good to take Aloe internally? I saw it in the wholefood shop the other day and wondered if I should be taking it but I had no idea whether it would help me. Also where could I get probiotics - I only know of them in yoghurt/drink? Is there anything obvious I am still missing nutritionally? I still have times of horrible exhaustion and alot of trouble with my skin (dermatitis, eczema), which my doctors said were linked to the illness and would improve as I got better, perhaps there is something nutritional in that too? I take a multivitamin, but I am never sure how well we really absorb nutrients from pills :hmm:

I didn't realise clarifying shampoo didnt remove hard water build up...oops. Well it is doing something as my hair feels a little better after I use it, but perhaps it is just removing conditioner build up? Would you recommend a chelating shampoo to someone with delicate hair? We live in a very hardwater area, it is horrible on my skin too :( Komaza sound amazing - I would love a hair analysis - if it isn't wildly expensive I will definitely be doing that, and getting in contact about what shampoo/conditioner might be good for me.

Cranberrymoonz - Thank you! :D To replace bread at the moment I mostly have oatcakes (the gluten free kind), which I think some people can't tolerate but don't seem to bother my body. Or at least I hope so! I was very dubious about them when I first saw them because oats were one of the worst things before I was diagnosed, they made me feel so ill, but apparently it isn't actually the oats that have gluten in, they are just usually contaminated with wheat due to the way they were processed. I certainly haven't noticed any side effects. I have never eaten amaranth, but I will try to get some next time I am shopping, I would like to try them as I am pretty limited at the moment. I think I definitely need to go back to lentils and incorporate more beans - making my own bean burgers sounds perfect, yum! - are they easy to make? Updo's will be hard once I have had the big chop on Saturday, but once it has grown a bit I will try to do them more often too.

Jacqueline - Haha, yes I do go, pretty regularly. To be honest they don't seem particularly interested in my hair or what it might say about my health!

July 8th, 2013, 03:08 PM
Definitely chelate if you have hard water, ingredients include EDTA, citric acid, ascorbic acid, acetic acid, phytic acid (AKA inositol) or oxalic acid. Usually you will see two or three in a chelating or swimmer's product. I honestly don't know exactly what chelating products are available here in the UK, both ION and Aubrey Organics do sulphate free swimmer's shampoos which you might be able to order.

I am qualified to degree level in nutrition so can make general comments, doesn't sound like you've had much in the way of quality specific guidance to date which is disappointing. The coeliac or eczema charity sites can be very useful, they keep up to date with research but present it in plain English.

Anti inflammatory foods/ nutrients: long chain omega-3s in oily fish (mackerel, sardines/ pilchards, herring, fresh tuna but not canned, to a lesser extent salmon and trout and omega eggs), short chain omega-3s in certain seeds (chia, ground flax, to a lesser extent walnuts and pumpkin seeds), vitamins and antioxidants in low sugar fruits (all berries, red and blackcurrants, rhubarb, pink grapefruit) and non starchy vegetables especially the bright and dark coloured ones in the full rainbow of colours (blue/ purple, red, dark green, yellow/ orange). Five a day is your minimum, the research actually supports the equivalent of NINE a day and most western countries now advocate seven to nine. A serving is 80g, do weigh and measure for a while - with salad leaves 80g is a CRAZY amount, with carrot or broccoli it's small. There is no requirement to eat raw, in fact cooking releases nutrients from some product for example lycopene from tomatoes. Beans and lentils count as one of your five to nine a day, as do sweet potatoes and concentrated tomato puree/ paste so there are 'cheats'. If you do have raw produce chew your food way more than you think you need to: smoothies are great as are soups, far superior to juices.

Pro inflammatory foods/ nutrients: a excess of omega-6s found especially in grains nuts and many vegetable oils, larger servings of dairy and meat (100 to 125g is recommended), sugar even if it is natural in sugary fruit juice, white/ refined carbs, wheat, white potatoes, long grain rice, caffeine, alcohol. You will note there are healthy nutritious foods here, balance and moderation is the key: in no way am I saying don't eat nuts, dairy or meat you absolutely should. Omega-3s balance out omega-6s, magnesium balances out the calcium in dairy.

The most common nutrient deficiencies are magnesium, bioavailable vitamin D and long chain omega-3s, none of these are normally tested for. If you eat oily fish several times a week you should not have an issue with the latter two. Good sources of magnesium include cocoa powder, chia seeds, ground flax, pumpkin seeds. Consider eating beans or lentils daily for the mineral content, they are also gentler on the blood sugar so much less inflammatory than rice or potatoes. Most people don't like them but organ meats like liver and shellfish like molluscs are super nutritious including way more haem iron, zinc and B12 than regular meat.

Nuts and seeds are great for minerals which you may have been low on if you have only added them recently, also great for protein and fibre so eat them daily, you obviously are not eating most grains and potatoes are not mineral rich. Try to get a balance between the omega-6 rich nuts and omega-3 rich seeds. Consider switching out the white potatoes for purple potatoes (Asda, Sainsbury) or sweet potatoes. I also wonder if you were low on healthy fats generally, do you have whole olives, avocado, block creamed coconut, cocoa powder/ dark chocolate?

Which supplements are you taking, is your multi complete/ 100% or close to that in all the minerals and vitamins listed? What strength/ dose is your fish oil and how often do you eat salmon? You can get acidophilus from Holland & Barrett for probiotics/ friendly bacteria but please check with your doctor before taking any supplements. Must be stored in the refrigerator once open and eaten with or after food.

I had atopic eczema and contact dermatitis for over twenty years, tho clear now for two years since I changed ALL my products! Dermatitis is partly genetic, can be a symptom of coeliac (the skin is an organ of excretion and can display stress), is absolutely contributed to by undernutrition, unhealthy lifestyle choices, also affected by what we put on our skin. All forms of dermatitis including eczema are inflammatory and are partly the result of an inappropriate immune response ... and so are allergies including yours to gluten so it all links in. You use sulphate free shampoo but are you sulphate free generally? Sulphate surfactants are hidden all over: shower gel, hand wash (at home and work/ college), washing up liquid, household cleansing products, laundry detergent, commercial toothpaste, mouthwash, aqueous cream, permanent hair dye, shaving products, face wash.

Chlorine and fluoride in tap water can also irritate dermatitis, also excessive wetting/ soaking flushes out the skin's Natural Moisturising Factors. Thing that can help for some people: if you can afford it a shower filter (no idea how much they cost), cut back on shower frequency or have shorter showers/ don't run the water over yourself, just wet and rinse with the water off between. Ingredients that help replace the NMF include urea and lactic acid, one of the B vitamins topically can help increase ceramide production which strengthen the skin barrier in all forms of dermatitis IIRC (?niacinamide/ nicotinamide?). Moisturising products containing medical grade lanolin is also good for strengthening the skin barrier in atopic eczema but caution in seborrhoeic dermatitis.

Sorry for the essay, lifestyle healthcare is my passion so I get carried away!

July 8th, 2013, 08:16 PM
Hair quality is improved from the inside out. Hair is 100% protein. If you are not consuming adequate amounts and or consuming poor quality it will be reflected in your hair first before your body shortchanges other areas such as maintaining muscles and organs. Along with that is a balanced diet based on food not supplements. Supplements may enhance a balanced diet but will not balance a poor diet. Once that is in hand it is time to go see you GP and have some blood tests looking at your thyroid function, cortisol levels, estrogen/testosterone ration and amount of DHT in addition to everything else on the typical panel tests. Your hair is dead. Once damaged there is no permanent repair available. You can temporarily improve the appearance but and condition but the internal structure will remain as is. Unless you get everything inside right first, you can chelate, oil, condition, moisturize etc., etc., your hair structure will be weak and fragile as it grows and the problem will persist.

July 8th, 2013, 08:41 PM
I don't know if this will help at all and Im no pro like the rest of these ladies in here but I was sulfate/cone free for at least 5 years and started noticing some pretty intense end breakage and velcro ends when I started really growing my hair and not getting as much cut off. I caved in and started using cones/sulfates again and it really seems to strengthen and smooth my ends.

July 8th, 2013, 08:46 PM
Sounds like you're not eating a vegetarian diet anymore, so I'll recommend The Perfect Health Diet (http://perfecthealthdiet.com/buy-our-book/) I read it the other day, and it's full of interesting and useful information (as well as dietary advice). It absolutely suits someone who has to eat gluten free.

I honestly think your problem is mostly a dietary one, rather than something you're doing (or have done) to your hair. Bleach is massively damaging, but not 10 years after the fact unless your scalp suffered severe burns (and even then it would probably mean that your scalp wasn't able to produce hair in places, rather than the hairs themselves growing back damaged). Reasonable hair care, without heat, dye etc. tends to lend itself to pretty strong, healthy hair as long as the body is able to support healthy hair growth.

July 8th, 2013, 11:22 PM
Firefox and Mesmerise have given you great dietary information, but I'll pile on my two cents as well ;)

My husband was diagnosed with celiac last summer. We originally went gluten free, but found he still had many of the same problems, so three months ago we switched to the specific carbohydrate diet (http://www.breakingtheviciouscycle.info/) which was originally formulated for celiac sufferers who found little relief on a gluten-free diet. It has been a god-send. Most of his persistent symptoms have lessened significantly, if not disappeared.

There are many diets which somewhat resemble each other, like the paleo diet, G.A.P.S. diet, the previously mentioned perfect health diet, all of which have some dietary rules in common and promote lower inflammatory foods. It's definitely worth it to look into them, and see what you might like to incorporate into your dietary choices.