I was born and raised in Romania, and I remember a very popular tradition we had every year on November 30th. This day Romanians celebrate Saint Andrew (Andrei) – who is considered the protector of Romania. In the evening of St. Andrew’s Day, all the family members put wheat seeds to germinate and everybody needs to take care of his/her plant. It is said that the plants that grow the most beautiful and tall will give its owner a good and a healthy year.
The reason I took us back to this tradition was to make a comparison between how taking care of the seeds by feeding them with water and nutrients and how adequate blood flow to the scalp will promote healthy hair growth.
What is healthy hair?
Healthy hair is smooth, glossy, and flexible yet strong, with the ability to withstand shearing forces. The hair gloss depends upon the smooth layering of the cuticle, while the strength depends on the integrity of the cortex, which is made up of 15% hard keratin (skin contains 2% keratin). Some scientific literature defines healthy hair as pigmented hair, which I don’t quite agree with. While non-pigmented (grey) hair is thinner, it was also observed that the adherence of the cuticle scales was more pronounced in the non- pigmented hair, which gives more shine. Furthermore, the non-pigmented hair requires more rupture strength and has a smaller elastic modulus; basically it is stronger than pigmented hair (1). Many people in their 20’s start to have grey hair, which doesn’t necessary mean is not healthy hair. Aging hair is associated with appearance of thinning, frizz, dryness, loss of shine, but these are caused also by the environmental and chemical factors.
Promoting a healthy hair through stimulating blood flow circulation
An often overlooked factor in promoting scalp health and ultimately a healthy hair, is circulation of oxygen and nutrients to your scalp. Hair receives the nutrients it needs to grow via the bloodstream. So it’s as simple as this: increase the supply of blood to your hair follicles and you increase the supply of nutrients to your hair (2). An increase in blood flow also prevents dandruff, psoriasis, and other scalp problems that affect growing healthy, strong hair.
How this actually works: Hair is formed from hair follicles. The lower part of the hair follicle consists of hair papilla, hair matrix, hair shaft, inner root sheath, and outer root sheath. Hair papilla is located in papilla-like projections of the hair follicle’s lower dermis, the source of hair growth, and consists of a number of blood tissues and cells. The matrix wraps around the papilla and provide access for the capillaries with nutrients (3). Therefore, improvement of blood circulation in the scalp can have a very close relationship with healthy hair, and a blood circulation disorder caused by compression of the capillaries is one of the causes of hair loss (4).
Research showed that a reduced nutritive blood flow to the hair follicles might be a significant event in the pathogenesis of early male pattern baldness. In patients with early male pattern baldness, subcutaneous blood flow was 2.6 times lower than the values found in the individuals with normal hair growth (5).
Enhancement of blood circulation makes sure that the hair follicle remains healthy, strong and stimulate hair follicles to enter into hair growth phase (anagen).
How can we increase scalp blood circulation?
When we exercise we sweat. Through sweat, toxins and waste substances are flushed out from the skin pores, opening the pores in the same time. Likewise, when we sweat from our scalp, it helps to unclog the hair follicles, giving enough space for the new hair to grown.
Moderate to high level cardio workout in form of power walking, running, cycling, dance, or any sport is good for your body and hair.
Apparently, breathing exercise (pranayam) and inversion yoga postures like head stand (sirsasana), shoulder stand (sarvangasana), plow pose (halasana), downward facing dog stretch (adhomukha svanasana), and sun salutation (surya namaskar) are considered to be highly beneficial for healthy hair growth. The inversion pose work by increasing blood flow to your scalp and head area, supplying essential ingredients for hair growth. These postures claim to correct hormonal imbalances, which is another cause of hair loss.
Scalp massages with essential oils
The essential oils enter your system through the olfactory system (inhalation) and/or through your skin and reach into the blood where they bind to receptors and change the chemical composition (6).
Ginkgo biloba is a very popular herbal remedy with numerous health benefits. Among them is its role in improving the circulation of blood to the brain and skin and hence increased oxygen supply (7). Others oils that stimulate scalp blood circulation are lavender oil (8), neem oil.
Recently, emu oil has been marketed as a promising hair care ingredient because it stimulates melanogenesis, promotes hair regrowth, nourishes the scalp and hair. This oil has three superior qualities: restores a natural healthy shine, superb moisturizing properties and effective fortifying agent for limp dry hair to eliminate split ends. Because of its chemical structure, emu oil reduces the blood flow resistance in scalp arteries and capillaries (10).
Having colder showers
Higher temperatures does increase blood flow but colder water causes the body to increase capillary size in an attempt to warm you up. Your skin glows afterwards from the increase in blood flow. This is the logic behind the sauna therapy (at least the original Finnish sauna J, when you stay 20 min in the sauna followed by a cold shower and repeat the cycle at least 2 times).
Depending on the hair concerns and type, sometimes we recommend to our Shtrands customers to raise a conditioner or a hair mask with cooler water that helps with increasing the scalp blood circulation as well.
Thank you for reading. If you have any questions, just shoot me an email at QS@shtrands.com. I answer within 24 hrs.
- Marcella Gabarra et Biomed Biopharm Res., 2015 (12)1: 79-89.
- http://www.nicehair.org/turbo-charge-your circulation#sthash.OVoDoTpS.dpuf
- Paus R, Cotsarelis G. N Engl J Med. 1999; 341(7):491–7.
- Kim, NH. M.S. Daeguhanny University; 2009.
- Per Klemp, Kurt Peters and Birgitte Hansted, Journal of Investigative Dermatology (1989) 92, 725–726.
- Hay IC, Jamieson M and Ormerod AD: Archieves of dermatology 1999 May; 135(5):602-3.
- Current Drug Discovery Technologies, 2015, Vol. 12, No. 1
- Kaushik et al., IJPSR, 2011; Vol. 2(7): 1631-1637
- W Luebke – Cell, 2015
- International Journal of Innovative Research and Development, July, 2013 Vol 2 Issue 7.