Although it's often thought about in purely cosmetic ways, a person's hair can actually say quite a bit about their health. For instance, many different health conditions can cause dry hair, in addition to other symptoms. Although it may not be the most glaring symptom ever, dried-out hair can signify a lot about the body's hormonal balances, thyroid health, and nutritional well-being.
To understand why certain health conditions can cause dry hair, first it's important to know a little bit about hair anatomy. Made up of three layers of protein called keratin, a hair shaft is actually dead material, according to Verywell Health. How can something dead reflect on your health? "So as an educator and hairdresser, we know that healthy hair is a reflection of healthy skin," said stylist Travis Valdez in Philly Voice. "So although the actual compound of hair may be dead, there’s still definitely a gradient of the type of hair people have." So if your locks feel dry, there may be a basis for this in your body.
This isn't to say that dry hair is necessarily caused by health issues. After all, habits such as heat styling can damage and dry out hair as well, according to Well and Good. But if your styling habits remain the same and your hair still turns dry, then consider these possible health causes. And as always, don't hesitate to speak with your doctor if dry hair is causing you serious concern.
Some rare diseases can also lead to dry hair as a side effect. In this case, hypoparathyroidism is a rare condition in which the body does not produce enough of the parathyroid hormone (PTH), according to the Mayo Clinic. Because this condition leads to depleted levels of the minerals calcium and phosphorus in the body, signs include dry skin and hair, as further explained in the Mayo Clinic. Sometimes hair loss may even result.
This condition is more common. Hypothyroidism occurs when the thyroid gland does not produce enough hormone to meet the body's needs, according to Medline Plus. It can result in symptoms such as dry, thinning hair and fatigue, as further explained in Medline Plus.
3. Nutritional Deficiencies
Eating a variety of nutritious foods is important for hair health. "Think about supporting the health of your hair by supporting your skin and scalp with an abundance of healthy fats such as avocado, olive oil, and salmon into your diet," said global health consultant and dietitian Megan Faletra in Reader's Digest. It could help bring the shine and softness back to your hair.
4. Disordered Eating
Sometimes dry hair can point to a potentially serious health condition. For example, dry hair, skin, and nails are sometimes the result of an eating disorder, according to the National Eating Disorders Association. It's caused by general malnutrition. On the other side of things, people in recovery from disorders such as anorexia may look forward to "recovery bangs," or fresh hair growth, according to Psychology Today. In this way, the hair can give insight into a person's mental and physical well-being.
If you or someone you know has an eating disorder and needs help, call the National Eating Disorders Association helpline at 1-800-931-2237, text 741741, or chat online with a Helpline volunteer here.
5. Sun Damage
Hair also needs sun protection. As it turns out, prolonged sun exposure can damage hair's outer cuticle, leading to dryness, frizz, and broken strands, according to the Cleveland Clinic. Use hats or umbrellas to keep your hair covered from the sun, and make sure you're protecting your skin as well.
6. Biotin Deficiency
Biotin, AKA vitamin B7, helps the body get energy from food, according to Healthline. In the rare case of a biotin deficiency, symptoms such as dry, brittle hair and nails may result, as further explained in Healthline. To prevent these deficiencies, consume foods that are rich in vitamin B7 such as egg yolks, nuts, and salmon. Whether it's based in nutrition or hormones, dry hair can point to many different health concerns.