The hair is a protein filament that grows from follicles found in the dermal area of the skin. It grows on almost all surfaces of the human body, except the palms and soles of our feet.
The hair consists of fibres, follicles, strands, and keratin. The amazing thing about the hair is, it provides warmth in cold seasons, protection from dirt, sweat and even injury.
The hair is a fascinating bio-material that also provides us with sensory perception: because with our hair we can sense movements of air as well as touch by physical objects.
As with most tissues and biological substances associated with the human body, hair needs maintenance. The hair on the heads need to be maintained and kept in good condition.
It goes beyond visiting a hairstylist or a beauty salon. Proper hair care involves good hygiene and healthy eating.
Nowadays, men, women and youths want to look fashionable with their various hairstyles and hair designs without actually taking care of their hair. They believe certain hairstyles elevate their status in society, neglecting their hair health entirely.
Well, irrespective of whatever hair you naturally have, be it wavy, curly, or straight hair, all hair is made of protein.
Proteins are complex substances that are present in all living things, including our hair. The nutritional value of proteins is limitless, as these substances are directly involved in the biochemical processes essential for life.
Unfortunately, many individuals today eat junk food (foods high in fat, salt and sugar), essentially diet laden with carbohydrate foods. This habitual diet invariably leads to protein deficiency.
Protein deficiency is a nutrient deficiency that arises when your dietary intake is unable to meet your body’s requirements. An estimated one billion people worldwide suffer from inadequate protein intake. The problem is especially severe in Nigeria, where the majority of the foods and staples consumed are carbohydrates, according to the Nigerian Protein Deficiency Report.
A major symptom of protein deficiency is hair loss. Hair loss occurs when the follicles of our hair are not properly nourished with proteins and amino acids from our diet.
The result is hair dryness, irritable scalp pains, and hair breakage. At this point, the hair falls off from the head, the eyebrows and eyelashes of a protein-deficient patient.
Protein deficiency also causes hair loss to the armpits and pubic regions. This loss of hair all over the body exposes the patient to heat, cold, and even some hair related diseases like ringworms, a fungal disease that targets the hair on the head.
Undoubtedly, protein deficiency is a health issue that causes health problems, including kwashiorkor, hair thinning, and severe hair loss.
Fortunately, there are a couple of things that can be done to remedy this condition.
The first step is to eat healthily! A protein-rich diet that contains vitamins and minerals is an essential prerequisite for healthy hair. Soybeans, berries, quinoa, oats, eggs, dairy products, and fish should be included in our diets to tackle protein deficiency and revitalise our hair follicles.
These protein-rich meals pack a nutritious punch and carry other important vitamins and minerals like selenium, zinc, vitamin B complex and folates necessary for hair growth and texture.
Secondly, always stay hydrated. The body needs over two litres of water a day (about eight glasses). Dehydration can cause hair damage and dryness.
Fluids also help the hair to remain soft and smooth. It is important to drink water, fruit juice and even soy milk regularly.
Finally, proper hair care and hair health are not complete without good hygiene. Wash your hair with natural shampoos, clean your brushes and combs to get rid of accumulated dirt and grime, and wash your scalp with essential oils.
Soybean oil is a good example of essential hair oil that can be used to cleanse the scalp and revitalise dead hair cells. This also helps to get rid of dandruff and dust particles.
Haircare is important. But regardless of the method you choose to maintain your hair, ensure that proper protein nutrition is at the centre.
Reginald Onabu, Researcher and Public Relations Officer, Writes from Lagos