Healthy Hair: Your 30s


From Health magazine

Baby your hair. The 30s are prime reproductive years for many women, which can be good and bad news for hair. The combo of prenatal vitamins (which keep both hair and body brimming with nutrients) and all those hormonal changes (which keep hair in the growing phase) can add up to thicker, faster-growing hair during pregnancy. But a few months after giving birth, it's normal to lose much of that extra hair as your body returns to normal, says Eliot Ghatan, MD, a dermatologist and cosmetic surgeon in private practice in New York City. Fortunately, simple changes can help during this time. Go light on styling gels, sprays, lotions, and mousses: Buildup from these products can weigh down and dry out hair. And when shampooing, gently massage your scalp for five minutes to encourage better blood circulation to the area.

Check your iron. Month after month of menstruating can deplete your body's iron supply due to blood loss, and that's why women need about 10 more milligrams of iron per day than men—18 milligrams daily. Too little is a common trigger for thinning hair. "When I see a patient in her 30s for hair loss, I often find that she's iron-deficient," says Heather Wickless, MD, MPH, professor of dermatology at Northwestern University and a dermatologist specializing in hair disorders at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. Eating more iron-rich foods like spinach (2 milligrams of iron per half-cup serving, twice the amount in most veggies) and red meat (3 milligrams per 3-ounce serving) can help, but sometimes a change in diet alone won't do the trick. Ask your doctor to do a simple blood test if you suspect that you may be iron-deficient; if you are, she may prescribe an iron supplement.

De-stress for your hair's sake. Balancing a career, your family, and everything else can boggle your brain—and affect the hair growing on top of it. Normally, about 90% of your hair is growing, while 10% rests. But stress can cause the amount of hair growing to dip as low as 60%, says Peter Panagotacos, MD, head of the department of dermatology at St. Mary's Medical Center in San Francisco and author of Hair Loss Answers by the Hair Doc. For garden-variety stress, a regular yoga class, meditation session, or anything you find relaxing (like taking a weekly hot bath or reading a good book) may keep life's challenges from putting your hair to sleep. But if large clumps of hair are falling out (sometimes the result of big-time stress like losing a job, fighting off a severe illness, or dealing with postpartum depression), see your doctor or dermatologist.

Try the Pill. Pesky upper-lip hair may become more of a problem now for women with a genetic predisposition to facial-hair growth. How to keep it at bay? "If you're a nonsmoker, taking an oral contraceptive may do the trick by boosting your estrogen levels," says John Romano, MD, a dermatologist at St. Vincent's Hospital in New York City and an assistant professor of dermatology at the Weil Medical College of Cornell University. Already on the Pill and still noticing excess hair growth? Eat whole-wheat breads and pastas. Studies show that whole grains contain phytochemicals, which also help regulate estrogen.

Next: Your 40s