The normally voluptuous Nigella Lawson is looking thinner in body – and on her scalp. Is her new diet to blame?
Nigella Lawson’s recent diet has been a resounding success — over the past few months she’s shed 3stone [nearly 20kg] and three dress sizes. But it looks as if her weight loss may have affected more than just her figure.
Photographs taken recently seemed to show that her hair, usually so luxuriant, was patchy at the back of her crown. Could this be something to do with the strict diet regime she has been following?
Nigella is thought to have been eating a high-protein diet — and protein, we are often told, is vital for the health of hair. But could dieting be making its mark on Nigella’s hair in other ways?
‘The hair is a wonderful barometer of general health,’ says Glenn Lyons, clinical director and senior trichological consultant at the Philip Kingsley Trichology Clinic in London.
‘Hair loss is a much more widespread problem for women of all ages than anyone realises. There are several factors that can cause it. If a person is anaemic or their nutrition is not correct, that will affect the whole of the head. The crown is an area where women can show thinning for genetic reasons, too, or because of stress. Protein is very important for the growth of hair cells, but I’m a great believer in having a balanced diet. Good quality carbohydrates such as wholegrains are also very helpful for hair to provide the energy that the cells need to grow.
‘Getting enough iron is essential, too. Good fats are as good for hair as they are for the body. We can’t live without them. Hair cells are among the fastest growing in the body, so they need good nutrition. But the body considers them “non-essential”. That means if there is any shortage of decent nutrients, the hair is the first to suffer.’
The unfortunate knock-on effect of this biological fact is that even when you do start eating properly — plenty of protein, oily fish, green vegetables, wholegrain rice and milk, as well as cutting out sugar, junk food and processed food — the hair is the last part of your body to benefit, so it will take three months to see the effects.
‘The old wives remedies of bathing your hair in beer or treating it with eggs to help thicken it do have a small degree of credibility,’ says Mark Woolley, creative director of the Electric Hair salons in London and Brighton.
‘Eggs and beer both contain natural proteins that can temporarily attach themselves to the hair to strengthen it, but there is no scientific proof that either of these actually stimulates the scalp to help hair grow. Neither will do your hair any harm, although, if washing it with eggs, don’t rinse with hot water – you could be left with semi-cooked egg in your hair!’
Hair experts say you’ll get more benefit from foods such as eggs or avocado by eating them than by mashing them up into hair masks. And if you want to accelerate nutritional hair-healing, there are plenty of supplements to try.
‘I have seen clients get great results from a supplement called Bamboo Extract,’ says George Northwood, stylist at the Josh Wood Atelier. ‘Bamboo is a rich source of silica, an essential mineral for maintaining hair health, and you usually see results after eight weeks.’
Other supplements that offer clinical proof of their effectiveness at improving thinning hair include Kerastase’s Densi-Recharge, which shows results for stopping hair loss at eight weeks, and Imedeen’s Hair & Nails supplement.
The nutrients contained in supplements are absorbed straight into the bloodstream, so it’s only in the new hair that starts to grow from the follicles where you will notice the difference.
Part of the problem is that anyone suffering from thinning hair naturally wants to do as much as they can to make it look better quickly — but this can be counter-productive.
‘Be gentle with it and don’t over-stress it with heat or over-styling,’ says Northwood. ‘Avoid straightening irons and use a low heat for blow-drying.’
Strengthening shampoos and conditioners that contain protein can also support hair from the outside.
The good news is that if bad nutrition is behind hair loss, it is not permanent. As Lyons points out, the hair follicles themselves don’t change, they just need to be fed.
It’s a relief to know that if your thinning hair is a result of poor nutrition, if you can reverse that damage. Eat properly and soon your hair will be back to its original glory.
Written by Alice Hart-Davis, this article originally appeared in the Daily Mail