Confidence Tricks

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Amy Poehler is never wrong

Last week I watched Victoria Derbyshire host a debate on the EU referendum on BBC1. Fielding questions from the audience and refereeing between the panel on live television, it was hard to believe that she had finished treatment for breast cancer barely 24 hours before. Wearing her wig, she projected authority, self-confidence and poise. It was so inspiring to see.

It added a different dimension to something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately: how can you project self-confidence and a presence to others when you are struggling to feel comfortable with your appearance?

When I was battling to cover up hair loss, I was painfully self-conscious, convinced that not only was it apparent to everyone how damaged and odd-looking my hair was but that they could also see through to how I was feeling inside. When I got a hair replacement system, I thought this would improve but if anything I felt worse. Anxious about my real hairline showing through and the bumps caused by my hair growing underneath the system, I was convinced everyone would think I was ill. Now that I have hair extensions, I feel the least self-conscious I have in years. But not feeling self-conscious isn’t the same as feeling self-confident.

The truth though is that most people are so focused on their own issues they are unlikely to really be paying attention to my appearance. And as long as my sense of myself is defined by others and what they may or may not be thinking about me, I won’t be able to either project or feel confidence because real self-confidence comes from the inside.

It doesn’t matter whether I have hair loss, bad skin or any other body image issue: all are linked to the same central theme. If I feel broken on the inside I assume it shows on the outside. Fixing how I feel about myself is what really matters – the rest is just window dressing. Conquer that and who knows – I may even make it onto TV…or at least reveal my face on this blog!

Eating your way to great hair

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I’ve written in a previous post about supplements which can help promote healthy hair growth but can you eat your way to better hair? Dena Ryness, a nutritionist from Beautiful. Active. Nourished, offers her advice below.

Diet can definitely make a difference to the overall health and quality of your hair but it’s unlikely to be the only factor in poor hair health. If you are suffering from hair loss, you should still seek medical advice. However, the right diet can make a difference – not just to your hair, but to your skin and your health in general.

Before we look at the nutrients you need to boost your hair health, here are two tips to bear in mind:

  1. Following a calorie controlled diet can be detrimental to hair growth. If you are eating too few calories, you aren’t going to be getting all the nutrients you need to nourish your scalp and hair. Taking supplements is an option but it’s never going to be as effective as taking in the nutrients directly from their source: food!
  2. Try to eat as clean and naturally as possible. This means avoiding processed foods, especially ready meals and chemical-ridden junk and snack foods, and focusing on whole foods, such as fruit, vegetables, meat, fish, eggs, whole grains, beans.

So, having established these principles, let’s look at some of the nutrients you should be incorporating into your diet to ensure maximum hair growth:

Protein

Hair – as well as fingernails – is made up of protein. Ensuring enough protein in your diet will help to boost hair follicles, which will in turn strengthen the hair strands, resulting in better hair growth.

The best sources of protein are lean meats, such as chicken and turkey, fish, eggs and dairy products. Vegetarians should include beans, pulses and nuts in their diet as good sources of protein

Omega 3

Omega 3s are a type of polyunsaturated fatty acid (i.e. a type of fat!) which the body can’t make itself, so it is vital to eat foods which are rich in this nutrient. These types of fats are found in the cell membranes which line the scalp, and in the natural oils which keep the hair and scalp hydrated, so ensuring you have enough of them is very important. Omega 3 fats are anti-inflammatory, and this helps to open the hair follicles, encouraging growth.

Food sources include oily fish (sardines, salmon, herring, tuna), seeds such as flax seeds (which are ground linseeds – freshly ground is best), hemp, sunflower and pumpkin seeds. Wholegrain cereals are another source, as are rapeseed, evening primrose and walnut oils. Look for fresh-pressed versions of these oils, though, as heat will destroy their nutrients.

Vitamin A

Vitamin A is needed by the hair’s sebaceous glands to create sebum, which acts as a natural conditioner, keeping your scalp healthy. Without enough sebum, your scalp can become itchy, resulting in dry hair. Look for vegetables rich in beta-carotene, identifiable their orange-yellow colours. Beta-carotene is converted in the body to Vitamin A

Sources include carrot, pumpkin, sweet potato, apricot, cantaloupe melon, and green leafy vegetables

Iron

Iron helps to make red blood cells, which carry oxygen around the body. Hair follicles and roots are fed by a nutrient-rich blood supply. Without enough iron, the nutrient supply to the hair follicle is disrupted, and this can affect hair growth, leading to shedding.

Iron can be found in red meat, chicken and fish. Vegetarian options include lentils, spinach and other green leafy vegetables.

Vitamin C

Vitamin C aids the absorption or iron. It also helps to produce collagen, which essential for hair growth, as well as maintaining its strength.

Good sources include berries, broccoli, sweet potatoes and papaya

Vitamin E

Vitamin E helps to protect and nourish the hair.

It can be found in almonds, green leafy vegetables, plant oils (such as wheat germ, sunflower, hemp seed, coconut, olive and cottonseed oil – again, remember to look for cold-pressed versions)

Zinc and Selenium

These 2 minerals help to boost the immune system. Zinc will help with a dry, flaky scalp, as it helps to keep the oil glands at a healthy level. This is useful in preventing hair loss.

Zinc and selenium can be found in whole grains and nuts. Additional sources of selenium can be found in liver, butter and garlic, while kidney beans, oysters, beef and eggs provide additional zinc.

Biotin

Biotin is a trace mineral which improves hair growth, strengthens hair, and helps to reduce hair loss.

Biotin is found in yeast, liver, kidney, egg yolk, soya, nuts and cereals.

So, try incorporating these into your diet and eat your way to better hair!

Extending your options: seeking advice on hair extensions

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Healthy hair at your fingertips!

I wrote in my last post about tricks I’ve found to treat and cover up my hair loss but despite all the time and money I spent on them, unfortunately in my case they only provided a temporary ‘fix’. While my hair felt smoother and more manageable after a treatment, it also continued to break and fall out in clumps, eating away at my self-confidence and making me embarrassed to go out in public.

As the hair loss was ongoing I didn’t feel hair extensions were an option as I wasn’t sure my hair was strong enough for the bonds to hold in place. Another barrier was the fear I felt at the prospect of going to a hair salon full of women with long, glamorous hair and uncovering my broken, damaged and uneven head of hair in front of them – something I had only done in front of my closest family.

Instead, I eventually opted for a type of hair weave specifically designed for hair loss sufferers, on the recommendation of a dermatologist who thought it was my best option, given that she was at a loss to diagnose the cause of my hair condition. The financial outlay was significant and represented a big sacrifice, however the hair loss was so extreme and long-standing and was having such a negative impact on my life at that point that I felt I had to finally address the cosmetic effects of it. The fact that the hair weave had been recommended by a medical professional also gave me confidence that this was a sound decision, as did the fact that the salon specialised in hair loss.

I had the hair weave removed at the beginning of the year, after a very mixed experience, leaving me with just a few extensions on the longer, healthier part of my hair. My hair was still very short, uneven and broken, so I was left with three options:

  1. Remove the extensions and cut my hair into a pixie cut
  2. Put the weave back on
  3. Seek a second opinion

I was very reluctant to cut my hair short. Having struggled for four years to maintain what hair length I had and invested in an expensive hair weave, I felt that it would be too difficult to cut my hair at this point.

Similarly, the thought of putting the weave back on filled me with dread.

So I plucked up the coverage to seek a second opinion. I spent a long time with the consultant talking through my options and her recommendation. Although my hair is incredibly uneven, it was also starting to get back some length and thickness after six months of wearing a weave and she was confident she didn’t need six inches of hair to blend in extensions.

She is recognised as an expert in extensions around the world and I felt very confident about booking an appointment after the consultation. The hair she showed me was great quality – something that hadn’t been the case with the weave – and she assured me that the hair would be really easy to style and to colour match with my own hair.

She set aside an entire day for the appointment and I was the only person in the salon, which I really appreciated. To apply a full head of extensions took five hours but ironically this is because I have (or rather when healthy used to have) a lot of hair. She was incredibly meticulous about blending the new hair in with my own and making tiny connections that are so invisible that I can wear my hair up or pulled back without anything showing.

I’m really pleased with how easy they are to style and care for, how well blended they are and how natural they feel.

I feel they represent good value compared to the weave I had, as this set of extensions should last 16 weeks. They never tangle, although I do plait my hair at night as a precaution.

I invested in oil free shampoo (Kerastase Resistance Volumifique Bain) and the matching conditioner to prevent the bonds from weakening and was given a fantastic argan oil to keep the ends looking shiny, as well as a Revlon leave-in conditioner. As she promised, the extensions are incredibly easy to style and dry really quickly, unlike the weave. Even when my hair is wet, you can’t tell it isn’t my own hair.

As with the weave, I only use a soft bristle brush to protect the hair and the bonds.

When extensions are first attached, they will feel a little heavy and it’s common to have an itchy scalp the week after as you adjust to the new hair but all in all, they have been very easy to adjust to.

I previously got extensions on part of my hair only at Lucinda Ellery and I found that they shed a lot so any time I ran my fingers through my hair, several strands would come out. The bonds were much bigger and less unobtrusive, especially as when I dried my hair they would ‘melt’ a little, making them flatter and thicker. The hair also tangled very easily.

So far, of a set of more than 200 extensions, none have come loose and the bonds all feel very firm and securely attached, so three weeks in, I’m very happy!