If you're like most brides, you've probably put a great deal of thought into your big-day hairstyle. But if you've had the alarming suspicion that your hair has gotten thinner in recent years, you could be right, and that might making choosing a wedding look all the more difficult. "We have more women coming in their teens and 20s than ever before, but most of our clients are between 30 and 70," says Lars Skjoth, founder hair-loss clinic, Harklinikken.
So, how do you know whether or not hair thinning is cause for worry? "It's completely natural for your hair to shed periodically, as this can be a mere shifting of hairs," Skjoth says. "What's bad is when the hair that grows back is thinner, more transparent, dry, and brittle. If you notice your hairline is changing, if your temple is moving backward, it's a sign of hair thinning. Keep an eye on the size of your part. If it's becoming wider, it's a result of hair thinning. How many times can you wrap a hair elastic around your ponytail? If you're able to wrap it around more times than before, it's definitely a sign of thinning."
Although the stress of a wedding could contribute to hair loss, it's unlikely that it would be the only culprit, Skjoth says. "I'm sure many people know others who are very stressed out, yet they have a great head of hair." He says most thinning can be attributed to an interaction between genetics and hormones. "Stress, poor sleep, and poor nutrition can accelerate the thinning process because certain male hormones carry out the order from the genes to attack hair follicles, which ultimately causes the follicles to shrink, resulting in gradually thinner hair," he says.
Biotin supplements have been thought to reverse hair loss, but Skjoth says that's not the case—hair loss can't be cured by simply one remedy, but requires a holistic approach. He recommends starting at least three to four months before your wedding—but the earlier the better. Eat lots of varied, nutrient-dense food, get enough sleep, and keep stress at a minimum. (Sleeping helps decrease stress, and Skjoth also says participating in enjoyable and relaxing activities can help.)
"If you're stressed, if you're not sleeping at minimum seven to eight hours a night, you need even more nutrients to cope with the attacks on your system," he says. "A very imbalanced nutrient intake, even over short periods of time, can greatly affect your body and your hair. Eat a balanced diet emphasizing unprocessed proteins, good fatty acids like extra virgin olive oils, and crunchy fruits and vegetables. Each of these will break down sugars slowly, which is excellent for your hair as well as your hormone system."
Stay away from non-fat diets, he says, because not only are healthy fats good for the hair, but non-fat foods are often highly processed and laden with chemicals. And another word of caution: "Please do not fall into the trap of trying to lose a lot of weight before your wedding. Losing several pounds in a short amount of time can cause severe hair shedding due to the hormone changes following a severe weight loss," he says.
If you're looking for products to stimulate hair growth, you'll want to steer clear of a quick fix here, too—Skjoth says products that claim to make hair look thicker often contain ingredients that merely coat the outer layer of hair, causing buildup that doesn't easily wash out. Brands like Harklinikken don't use ingredients to make the hair appear different, but ingredients that target the follicle and infuse hydration inside the strands to ensure stronger and thicker hair from the inside out. Their hair loss treatment program, a regimen designed specifically for each client that involves treating your hair with a special extract and shampoo, can increase your total amount of hair by 30-60%.
In general, you treat your hair as you do your face: your scalp, and the follicles that cover your scalp, need to be healthy in order to produce lustrous hair. An unhealthy scalp could lead to hair loss. Avoid applying styling products close to the scalp, because many ingredients in most styling products can irritate it, Skjoth says. Regular shampooing is also important to maintaining your scalp's natural pH balance.
"Applying dry shampoo instead of cleansing regularly is one of the worst things you can do for your scalp and hair," Skjoth says. "Dry shampoo is marketed as shampoo, but it does nothing to actually clean your hair, as it isn't shampoo. It simply disguises dirty hair with powders and chemicals that can irritate the scalp and can even create enough build up to impede hair growth. Think of it like this, would you ever sleep in your makeup, then apply more makeup or setting sprays over the old makeup to refresh your look for the day? Of course not! The same way regular cleansing is important to maintaining beautiful skin, the same can be said for your hair."