Life on Marbs: Hair’s the (Mane) Thing

Hair, huh? I won’t lie, it’s been quite the challenge to maintain some semblance of control over my lion’s mane in the searing heat of Marbella the past few days. My hair has turned into quite the fuzzball between its few newly-acquired highlights and my inability to simultaneously hold a brush and my new Dyson hairdryer: #WastedOnMe! Scenes reminiscent of Monica’s Barbados head have ensued…”It’s the humidity!”

My top tip to tame the mane after a stint on the beach is to leave oil in it during the day before you stick it in a hun bun. This should leave it (somewhat) more akin to spun silk than a haystack when you wash and dry it in the evening. I love l’huile prodigieuse de Nuxe.

Hair comes the science bit- concentrate! (Do you remember Jennifer Aniston from the L’Oreal Elvive advertisements… I clearly can’t get enough of the Friends cast today!)

The developing fetus has formed all of its hair follicles by week 22, by which time there are about 5 million follicles all over the body. 100,000 of these are on the scalp, the largest number we’ll ever possess since we do not produce new follicles after we’re born; we have to make the best of what we’ve been given #ThroughThickAndThin!
Redheads have fewer hairs than brunettes who have fewer than blondes!

In the mane, hair is composed of a protein known as keratin. The same keratin that is infused into hair cuticles as part of the 12/16 week blow dry conditioning treatments.
Keratin also plays the leading role in the composition of our nails as well as the outermost layer of our skin.

Each hair strand comprises 3 distinct layers:
– The cuticle: the thin, transparent outer layer which serves to bolster and protect the strand.
– The cortex. This contains melanin and gives hair its colour. Its shape also determines whether we have straight or curly hair.
– The medulla. This is the light-reflecting innermost layer.

Akin to skin, healthy hair can reflect inner health. It is vital to maintain optimal nutrition to ensure our hair is as healthy as it can be, whatever our hair type, to keep it growing at a pace of c. 6 inches (or just over 15cm) per year.

Mane-changers in hair nutrition include the following:

– Protein: diets deficient can result in brittle and weak hair and hair loss in extreme cases. Incorporate the usual suspects- chicken, turkey, eggs and so on and/or vegetarian sources – nuts, beans, lentils.

– Iron: deficiency (anaemia) can result in hair loss. Beef, lamb, pork, chicken, turkey and seafood are great sources as is dark chocolate (yay!) and other vegetarian sources such as spinach, cumin, turmeric, parsley, broccoli and kale: #AllTheGreens.

– Vitamin C augments iron absorption as well as being an excellent overall antioxidant for hair and general health. Rich sources include sweet potatoes, strawberries, oranges, red peppers, kale and broccoli.

– Omega-3 essential fatty acids (essential because they cannot be synthesised by the body, therefore need to be ingested) are intrinsic to a healthy, hydrated scalp and crown of hair. Up your intake of oily fish (such as salmon, mackerel and sardines) and plant sources such as avocado, walnuts, pumpkin and chia seeds, flaxseed, hemp oil and edamame to get your hair-fix.

– Vitamin A plays an A-game in producing sebum which is our hair’s natural conditioner. Deficiencies can lead to an itchy scalp and dry, lacklustre hair. Animal sources include eggs and meat. Beta-carotene, vitamin A’s precursor, is found in green, leafy vegetables and yellow and red fruits and vegetables, e.g. Spinach, sweet potatoes and carrots: #EatTheRainbow.

– Like iron, zinc is an important mineral for scalp health. Look to red meat, beans, nuts, crab, lobster, oysters and whole grains.

– Selenium is another vital mineral for a healthy scalp. It can be obtained from food such as Brazil nuts, yellowfin tuna, sardines and grass-fed beef.

– Vitamin D has often been implicated in hair loss. Sources include fatty fish like mackerel, herring and salmon as well as eggs and beef liver.

– Vitamin E is another key player in hair (and skin) health. Sources include almonds, spinach, sweet potato, avocado and sunflower seeds.

– Biotin is a B vitamin which is important for supple hair and is found in eggs, almonds, nuts, legumes, whole grains and meat.

I’ve written separate posts about vitamins A and D and omega-3 if you’d like to have a gander over to!

All of the above nutrients are available as single supplements or as components of multivitamin/mineral complexes if you feel your diet is lacking.

The mane issues that patients present with in my GP work include dandruff, scalp psoriasis and hair loss.


Seborrhoeic means this dermatological condition affects the sebaceous (oil-producing) glands and dermatitis means inflammation of the skin.
The condition is believed to be due to yeasts of the Malassezia species. These live on the skin of every Tom, Dick and Harry usually without posing any problems, but the occasional person reacts to these yeasts and the skin becomes inflamed. A lack of cleanliness is not the cause.
An anti-yeast/antifungal shampoo used as directed should clear most cases. Ketoconazole (Nizoral) usually the first port of call.


Psoriasis is a relatively common inflammatory skin condition which can affect the scalp alone or in conjunction with psoriatic plaques elsewhere on the body. It looks like severe dandruff and can lead to hair loss in extreme cases.
A coal tar-based shampoo is the usual first line treatment. This can often be combined with salicylic acid and/or coconut oil. A calcipotriol scalp application (a synthetic derivative of vitamin D) and/or topical steroid scalp treatments are then used. A professional diagnosis and opinion is essential before stronger guns or more specialised treatments are employed.


Hair loss is a frequent flyer in the land of General Practice. Losing hair every time we comb or wash it is entirely normal provided the shed rate does not surpass the rate of replacement. There are a multitude of factors that can disrupt the hair growth cycle. Certain chemotherapy drugs and other medications, age, heredity, hormonal imbalances, thyroid under- or overactivity (see your doctor to see if blood tests are indicated), stress, yo-yo dieting and rapid weight loss or gain as well as dietary deficiencies all affect scalp and hair health.
Alopecia is a type of hair loss that typically causes patches of baldness (‘alopecia areata’). It is thought to be auto-immune, i.e. a disease where your own immune system attacks healthy cells in your body after mistaking them as foreign. Here, the hair follicles are under attack. They are usually capable of recommencing hair production when the trigger disappears. Possible precipitants include stress, environmental influences, viruses and other infections, medications and heredity.

TELOGEN EFFLUVIUM is hair loss or significant thinning after physiological or psychological stress. It occurs as a result of hair prematurely entering the resting or ‘telogen’ phase.
It commonly occurs after childbirth. Other triggers include eating disorders, an underactive thyroid gland, significant emotional stress and major surgery.

Soo… Keep (hair) plugging away at eating well and stress management to optimise your scalp and hair health and see your doctor if you feel you have a condition that needs further intervention.

Have a good hair day!

As always, queries welcome and if you’d like to read more, please visit!
P.S. Tech issues today have resulted in a post devoid of pictures… I’ll add them on my return from Spain.


My name is Michelle and I’m a Dublin-based GP (family doctor). Life is short: take the minimalist approach to maximise your health!


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