Dry skin and hair can be the result of a number of reasons, including diet, general health, hormonal fluctuations and environmental exposures. Environmental factors, such as water quality and atmospheric pollution, have a strong effect on skin and hair, which are exposed constantly to the outside world. Diet can also make the skin and hair dry. For women, the body’s change in hormones during menopause can also result in changes in skin and hair quality.
Nutrient or vitamin deficiencies are not uncommon causes of dry skin and hair. Biotin, a type of B vitamin, has a connection with the health of hair, nails and skin. Signs of biotin deficiency include thin or brittle hair accompanied with hair loss, as well as dry skin and nails. Other symptoms can include fatigue, depression, sleeplessness and stomach upset.
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Vitamin C deficiencies often cause skin and hair to be dry as well. Without enough of this vitamin, skin can become scaly, rough, and dry, while hair becomes brittle and easily damaged. Other signs of a vitamin C deficiency include nosebleeds, bleeding gums and loose teeth, fatigue, and painful joints.
Other vitamins that can contribute to skin and hair health include copper, iron, manganese, iodine, and selenium. Often, consuming a well balanced diet high in fresh fruits and vegetables, as well as a variety of nuts and whole grains, can prevent and reverse symptoms of vitamin deficiencies. A daily multivitamin can also promote healthy skin and hair. Those who suffer from anemia, or chronic iron deficiency, may require special dietary practices or supplements and should consult a healthcare professional for the best course of action.
For women, hormonal changes that occur with menopause can result in dry skin and hair. With the start of menopause, estrogen levels quickly drop, resulting in a hormonal imbalance between estrogen and testosterone levels. This can result in hair loss, as well as a decreased function of the glands that generate skin oils. Often, as menopause progresses, hormone levels will stabilize and balance, encouraging healthier hair and skin.
Environmental factors can also dry out the skin and hair. Chlorine is found in swimming pools but can also be found in public water supplies in lesser amounts. This chemical damages the cell walls of hair and skin, causing dry skin or frizzy hair. Hard water, or water that contains high levels of minerals, can also result in dry skin and hair. Pollutants in the air can also irritate the skin, making it dry and damaged.
If dealing with environmental factors such as chlorinated water or hard water, dry skin and hair can be resolved in a number of ways. Treating shower water with water softeners can relieve hard water problems, or filters can reduce water chlorination. People who swim in chlorinated pools should take a freshwater shower soon after exiting the pool. Hair conditioners and skin lotions can further reduce skin and hair dryness.