View Full Version : Apparently, I Have Iron-Deficient Hair. Need Advice On External Care.

Dark Star
October 18th, 2013, 09:41 AM
Well, I thought it was protein overload and/or natural grain alcohol making my hair dry and brittle. Maybe it was to an extent but I more thought it was internal. I never had an issue with protein-moisture balance and I had never even heard of it until I came online and it all made my head spin. I have used protein-imbibed shampoos and conditioners all my life and probably without fail since most have protein. I always had gorgeous hair.

It seems while I am not anemic, my blood test showed I am low enough on iron to cause symptoms and to mandate supplementation. I feel stupid and careless. 17 years as a vegan and not once deficient in anything--even through a bout of orthorexia/anorexia and pregnancy/breastfeeding. In fact, my iron levels were so good during pregnancy, that my meat-eating pregnant friends were coming to me for advice when they were all going anemic around me.

Ironically, I have a nutrition-imbibed background but I have been very depressed (and self-destructive as a result, or at least apathetic) been eating little for months, cut back on vitamin C supplementation (vitamin C helps iron absorption) have not been drinking so much of my green drinks, eating my beets, dried fruits, quinoa.

I have to supplement with iron at 600 mg. per day for 3 months before being re-tested. Not only has my hair been like straw and breaking, I have been bruising a lot, slow in healing, lower in immunity, quite tired and my muscles just hurt. I recently had two super-light periods as well. My focus and concentration have been off and my appetite has been nil. The doctor gave me the option of finding my own iron supplement to take and I was aspiring to do that. However, I am not finding any that even come close to the amount of iron I need unless I gulp an obscene amount of pills which I would rather not do!

I just had a tall glass of spirulina/barley grass/kelp/dandelion/beet juice combined with a vitamin C pill. The doctor says that once I am on my supplement it should take anywhere from 1-2 months to feel better. I am hoping it will be sooner as my body seems to take to such things very quickly.

I have to say I am also a bit angry because I felt something was not right with me last spring. My muscles were hurting just from folding laundry and I was having trouble sleeping, my hair was feeling slightly off and has been getting some greys (yes, I am 36 but as I have my mother's hair, she did not get greys until her 50s) and my appetite was starting to suck as well. Been moodier as hell too as some of you may have noticed (am genuinely sorry about that!). I went to the doctor then but my usual one was on holiday. I asked for blood work then but this doctor did not think I needed it. I wished I had pushed for it then because things are so bad now.

Also, my B-12 was high--surprisingly for a vegan but I probably have healthy stores as I used to supplement for years while now I eat of some B-12 fortified foods to meet the RDA. I reckon my liver is releasing more of this vitamin since it has some similar effects to iron as to oxygenating the blood and kicking off energy levels. My last blood test showed both normal, healthy levels of iron and B-12. I suspect the B-12 has been compensating for the iron now.

And yes, I do have a question as to how to take care of my dry, brittle hair topically while I work on the internal cause. If this whole protein-moisture balance does exist, how do I not throw that by over-conditioning my hair when it feels so dry? I don't want to find that once my levels of iron are back up, that my hair still sucks because I did things to it externally that then messed up.

Right now, I am washing it twice a week. Deep conditioning it once a week and some days I am oiling it and using a leave-in. I use a vinegar rinse on it every week or two. When I wash it, I use a rinse-out conditioner. I reckon it is best to do as little as possible to it. I am wondering if it needs protein to help its strength as I have been avoiding all protein and panthenol too for nearly two months now and my hair feels like it has no strength, or texture. Softer yes, but probably superficially softer due to the products I am using for all I know. If I put nothing on it, it becomes very, very dry like parchment. I really need advice here.

I am thinking of going back to protein via, "Alchemy" products; a shampoo and conditioner. They look nice and are all-natural with no bad alchols but with hydrolyzed proteins. I still worry because my hair was crunchy after the, "GPB" by, "Aubrey". But you know, I have used that before and that never happened. Maybe it happened now because of my oxygen/iron-deprived hair. In fact, the longer I would leave the blue green algae hair mask on, the softer my hair would get afterward--not harder. This is so confusing! Here that head-spinning goes again. My hair is noticeably broken off in places--especially around my hair line. It is sticking out everywhere because of that and also because it has no moisture to keep these shorter strands in check with the rest of my longer strands. 1-2 months to start to show recovery and I worry I will have no other choice but to cut off all my length by then.

So yes, help and as always, many thanks to all of you lovely ladies!

October 18th, 2013, 02:56 PM
Good to hear that you found out about the deficiency and can now treat it. Remember that while the length you have now won't benefit from the iron supplement you are taking at the moment, it will help the new growth.

Your routine sounds ok to me. For what purpose do you use the vinegar rinses? Usually it's for balancing the pH and done after every wash. It doesn't actually clarify hair, although there's some misinformation that it does. If you're deep conditioning once a week, which can be quite frequent depending on how often you wash it, you could alternate between different types of treatments (protein/humectants/penetrating oils) so they won't build up, if build up is a problem. If you've had good luck with shampoos and conditioners with proteins, then by all means, go back using them. The crunchiness you got with those products you mentioned can come from other ingredients too besides protein. With leave-ins and how often to use them it depends. If you have a good rinse-out conditioner and want to keep it simple, using it only on some days or none at all should be ok. Personally I like to use a light rinse-out conditioner (I CO-wash) and then use the leave-in after every wash as the main conditioning product, because I have more control over where I apply it.

Remember to protect you hair from mechanical damage - put it up, don't rip it and protect it while you sleep.

October 18th, 2013, 03:05 PM

Hehehe sorry I giggled at that given the topic of the thread. ;)

October 18th, 2013, 03:10 PM
I sympathise with you. I have to control my iron levels very carefully myself! For your hair I'd suggest oil.. I use olive but I know people here love coconut. It has really strengthened my hair.

October 19th, 2013, 07:00 AM
Glad you have some sort of answer and therefore solution.

October 19th, 2013, 08:24 AM
I second the oil suggestion - I started oiling when I started on this forum and his has made a huge difference. I usually oil 2 to 3 times a week (apply at night and rinse in the morning). I have fine hair and it tends to look dry at the end - oiling has done wonders.

October 19th, 2013, 10:44 AM
I've a mild iron deficiency anemia, too. Or had, since it went increasingly better in the past years. I think there's no particular way to treat your hair, other than taking supplements :).
I'll just keep in mind that anemic hair is frail, so it may require delicate handling and conditioners with more detangling power to minimize any stress. Pampering your hair is always good, but I think that a balanced, rich diet will be more effective on the long run.

October 19th, 2013, 11:10 AM
When I remember to coconut oil the length the night before I wash, my hair feels very strong and smooth after washing. I use diluted shampoo at the scalp, rinse, then conditioner to the length, which I leave on the length while I wash the rest of myself, then rinse. I use a argan oil and coney leave-in (Renpure Originals). Maybe this will be a good routine for you, too.

October 19th, 2013, 02:23 PM
Glad to hear you have a diagnosis. I don't have any great advice for hair care that hasn't already been mentioned but I'm a fan of black strap molasses for boosting my iron intake. I just put a Tbsp or so in a warm cup of almond milk since I'm not a fan of taking piles of pills.
Since it will take a bit before you'll see the benefits maybe you could schedule small trims every now and then as the new healthier hair grows. Just a thought.
Here's to a future happier healthier you. :beerchug: