7 Things Your Hair Says About Your Health

7 Things Your Hair Says About Your Health

If you feel like your hair is going haywire, the causes below might be to blame.

You’re a perfectionist.
A tendency to (literally) pull at your hair, brows, or lashes when you get stressed can signal a perfectionist personality, suggests a Canadian study in the Journal of Behavioral Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry. The researchers explain it this way: When you don’t meet your own impossibly high standards, hair pulling can be a way of alleviating the frustration and dissatisfaction. But this coping tactic goes a little deeper than run-of-the-mill perfectionism—it’s a compulsive disorder known as trichotillomania, and if you’ve got it, cognitive behavioral therapy (learning a less overwhelming way to organize your workflow and deal with frustration) may help.

You’re going through some MAJOR stress.

It’s normal to shed 80 to 100 hairs a day, says New York City dermatologist and psychiatrist Amy Wechsler, MD. But if it looks like you’re losing more than what’s normal for you, it could be a sign of telogen effluvium, a period of (totally reversible) hair thinning brought on by psychological and physical stressors, like an illness, pregnancy, or a period of depression. The thing is, this shift often isn’t noticeable until 3 to 6 months after the event—so it can be tough to associate the cause with the hair loss.

No need to panic: If a big stressor is behind your hair loss, it’ll grow back on its own, though it can take another 3 to 6 months before it’s back to normal. In the meantime, Wechsler suggests focusing on overall wellness: Get 7.5 to 8 hours of sleep a night, do stress-busting activities, and consider taking 5 mg of biotin a day to stimulate growth.

You’re eating too much junk food.
If your hair looks lackluster, dull, brittle, or is thinning, it may be time to rethink what’s on your plate. “When it comes to healthy hair, your overall diet is critically important,” says Wendy Bazilian, RD, author of The SuperFoods Rx Diet. “If you’re eating a highly processed diet, any nutrients you do get are shuttled to your body’s crucial operations, like your heart and other organs,” she says. Your hair won’t turn brittle and dull after one burger-and-fry combo, but over time, strands can suffer from lack of nutrients. To prevent the issue altogether (or make up for past bad behavior), Bazilian recommends a diet heavy on whole, rather than processed foods, and full of color—that’s where fruits and veggies come in. That will give your body—and hair—what you need to stay healthy.

Read more: What your hair can tell you about your overall health