Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The most important thing you can do to avoid dry winter hair

I live in the state of Florida and, as you know, one of the things I have to deal with for the better part of the year is how hot and sweltering it can get in the summer time. Currently, the weather is beginning to change and many of us are breaking out our jackets and sweaters. One of the last things we think about when the weather starts to shift is the amount of water we are taking in the a regular basis.

Last year, while siting down having a conversation with my supervisor. I looked down at the palms of my hands and noticed something peculiar. My palms were white with dryness and I had tiny little areas of where my skin began to peel. I quickly picked those areas of skin out of embarrassment hoping the problem would soon go away. Days later, the entire palms of my hands were flacking and peeling. I'd never experienced anything like it. I thought I'd been infected with some type of skin eating bacteria. The more I peeled the loose skin, the worse it became.

My peeling palms were very embarrassing but the most disturbing part was I couldn't figure out how to stop it. So finally, after days of throwing around ideas and inquiring to myself about what could have caused this, I got the notion of increasing my water intake. The amount of water I was drinking at the time was very minimal. Like now, the weather was cooler and the desire to drink water was not that strong. I figured that since I wasn't thirsty, I didn't really need to drink much water.

So for the next couple of days, I faithfully filled my water bottle and proceeded to drink water at every opportunity. I think my goal was to drink at least 2 liters a day. I promise you that 3-5 days later, the peeling stopped and by the next week, my hands we back to normal. That experience was huge for me because it really taught me the power of drinking water and, more importantly, the consequences of being dehydrated.

That whole experience got me thinking. Could the reduction of water intake during the winter months also have a negative impact on the health of my hair? Let's think about what our hair experiences during summer:
  • Circulation is improved, growth is increased.
  • Shedding is minimal
  • The hair thrives overall
In the winter, I normally experience the opposite: super dry scalp, increased shedding, and slower growth rate. I used to think these results were just a normal part of winter but the whole palm peeling incident has really made me think. "Is it possible that some of my hair's winter symptoms have to do with my water lower intake?" When the body's water supply is insufficient, it uses whatever little water it has for critical functions such as making sure the brain and other organs are operating at proper levels. This leaves very little water for our extremities which leads to such things as dry hands, feet, lips, etc. We can see and experience dry hands and feet. But instead of moisturizing our bodies with water, we slather on lotions, butters, and lip balm to cover the problem.

The last thing I was thinking about, when my palms were peeling, was the possible impact of my dehydration on the scalp and my hair follicles. It's important to reiterate the hair strand is 25% water. Not only is the strand made up of water, it also relies on water to carry to the strand nutrients, vitamins, and proteins. If the palms of my hand were suffering at the hands of dehydration, what was going on with my hair? Looking back at my old posts from last fall/winter, one reoccurring message in my posts was about my constant shedding. Because of this, I'll make an un-proven assumption that the amount of water I drank had something to do with my dry, itchy scalp, my massive shedding, and my dry brittle hair. Once I remember being stranded on the side of a highway and, while waiting for the guy to come bring me gas, I read through an entire thread on Longhaircareforum on drinking a gallon of water day challenge. Those who managed to stick to the challenge faithfully boasted of experiencing more moisturized hair along with other desirable benefits. More specifically, they noted that their hair was more able to retain moisture overall. One member, amara11, provided us her opinion on whether increasing water intake actually could affect the already existing hair, not just the new growth. I took the liberty of posting her comment below for your reference:
Originally Posted by locabouthair View Post
One thing to remember is that the water will ony affect the hair the new growth not the hair that is already on your head.So if your hair still feels dry after drinking lots of water, dont get discouraged, you have to give it time for the new growth to come in.
"This is not true. It's a common misconception.

The hair strand is continuous, and though hair is dead, it has layers that are continuous and feed right from the bulb. What you give to your body is not only apparent in the new growth, it is also spread throughout the core of the hair- (again because the entire strand is one continous length and it feeds out from the bulb). Since there is no disconnect between the bulb and the rest of the hair, what is available to the hair at the root, will eventually spread out to the tips/ends of the strand. You may notice it first at the new growth, but it will also make a difference in the hair that has already grown out (though this may take longer).

You can see between the root (bulb and papilla) and the rest of the strand, there is no division or block to the spread of nutrients and minerals to the rest of the shaft. This is one of the main reasons doctor can take tell whether you have ingested certain drugs by studying your hair strands (whether the roots are in tact or not!) "

This year, I'm not taking any chances. I have a new mindset when it comes to what my hair will experience this winter. It's inspiring to know there's something I can do to help manage my dry scalp and the health of my follicles. Along with the help of ultra-moisturizing hair products, I must focus on drinking enough water to make a difference this winter. Now, my water drinking will have a purpose. This purpose is motivating enough to encourage me to drink water even when I'm not thirsty. Hopefully you too have been inspired to really make a commitment to yourself regarding how much water you drink on a daily basis. I know for some drinking water isn't the easiest thing to do in the world. Heck, I only drink water and even I struggled to keep myself hydrated in the winter months. So now comes the time when we talk about some practical ways to turn our water drinking habits from a desire to reality.
One tip that I'll never forget is to start the day off with a large glass of water. At night our bodies are diligently working away to collect toxins. By drinking water first thing in the morning we jump start our digestive system and promote the removal of the toxins collected overnight. Once you've consumed your morning water, fill a couple of water bottles to take with you for drinking during your work day. When you return home refill your bottle and sip until you've drank close to half your body weight in ounces. Before getting into bed, refill another bottle so you've got water waiting for you for when you first awake in the morning. It's a process so don't get down on yourself if you don't drink as much water as you like one day. Just raise the amount even a little bit the next day.

So don't let the cooler weather rob your hair of the vital moisture it needs to thrive. We already have to deal with harsh external factors such as winter winds and lower humidity, the worst thing we can do is deprive the strands of water from the inside. Make the commitment today to combat winter dryness with plenty of water. Your hair will thank you.
  1. I'm in too! I'll be drinking "summer like" quantities of water to stay on this great hair growth road I'm on :) Thanks!

  2. I was just thinking the other day that this cold weather makes you not want to drink any water. A bump is forming on my forehead and my skin is already feeling dry. I may need to get on the water myself.

  3. This is very timely as my sinuses let me know last night that my body was heading toward dehydration. The added benefit of better moisturized scalp and hair is even more reason for me to up my water intake this winter. Thanks for the tips!

  4. I may be a little late to comment here , but as a doctor I MUST correct the misinformation given by locabouthair. The image shown is extremely simple, giving the impression that a hair strand is like a tube. Hair is not like a pipe at microscopic level! There is no "transport system" for nutrients to simply "flow" from root to tip. Also hair provides information chronologically. A drug
    taken recently will be detected in the part of the hair that was growing at that specific time and perhaps a short time after if there are residual traces of the drug left in the body at the end of treatment. It will not be detected in the tips of the hair that may be several years old.
    Using the term "nutrients" in reference to hair is misleading. It gives the impression hair is alive. The chemistry and effectiveness of hair products have nothing to do with providing "nutrition" to something that is dead.