Hair-related Problems and Solutions in Germany
The topic of premature greying of hair and hair fall haunts almost every Indian woman ( and many men, too) in Germany. When we arrive in Germany from India, one significant change that we notice is that our hair starts greying and thinning. Some of us also experience severe hair loss.
This could be due to changes in weather, diet and even stress. We also need to understand that just like we inherit our height, skin colour, eyes etc., from our parents and family, we also inherit diseases like diabetes, hypertension etc. So, hair fall could be in your family, and you may be suffering from this problem because it may have been genetically passed on to you. Therefore, the reason for hair problems could be anything.
Some things are in our control, and others are not. In this article, I am writing down my learnings about how to tackle this problem by managing the factors we can control.
To find the solution to the problem, we need to know its causes and work accordingly. There are three main reasons for hair problems. These are:
- Stress – in the body and mind
- Improper diet- one that doesn’t nourish enough
- Improper care- using the wrong hair care products / following unhealthy practices etc
Let us discuss each of them and find out how to tackle each problem.
Problem 1: Stress
Solution: Reduce Stress
Studies have shown that stress can cause premature hair greying and loss. When we move to a new country, whether we realize it or not, we go through some amount of stress. When people move in from India, they have many things to cope up with including finding a house, taking care of their children’s school, learning the language, dealing with paperwork etc. We are out of our comfort zone, there is a lack of familiarity, and we are unable to do things with the same ease as we could in our country. All these activities can increase stress levels. So, a straightforward solution is to avoid stress and take it is easy as much as you can. I have written a few articles about my learnings in Germany. Those who move newly to Germany, may find them useful. I regularly write articles on various topics, so watch that space for more!
Problem 2: Improper diet
Solution: Eat right
Here, we must understand that what we consume is crucial to our well-being. The food groups that are absolutely important from the perspective of hair growth are:
- Vitamin B and Biotin
Biotin is a type of vitamin B which is excellent for hair growth. Non-vegetarians can fulfil their biotin needs by eating fish, eggs etc. Vegetarians can include biotin by eating sweet potatoes, mushrooms, broccoli, banana and sunflower seeds. All of these are readily available in German supermarkets. Sunflower seeds can be lightly toasted and eaten as a snack. You can also include them in your chutneys, dosa batter and roti dough. When you make your dosa/chilla/adai, just sprinkle some seeds on top. They give a nice bite and taste great too. Another good source of Vitamin B is flax seeds. These are easily available in seed form (Leinsamen in German) and powdered form (Leinsamen Mehl). The best way to eat flax seeds is by powdering them and including them in your roti dough, dosa batter etc.
Many Indians, especially those who are vegetarian, don’t consume as much protein as the body needs. Even if you eat 1-2 bowls of dal in every meal, it doesn’t fulfil the body’s protein requirements. Studies have found that every person needs 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. So, if your weight is 60 kg, you need 48 gm of protein. A few cups of watery dal/sambar can’t do the job!
-For non-vegetarians, meat, eggs, fish, etc., are good protein sources. But if you are vegetarian, consume lentils (dals) in other ways (other than the conventional way of making dal as a gravy). Try Handwo, Chilla, Adai, Nuchinunde etc. By eating these dishes, you consume more dal than you would do by eating a cup of dal in the gravy form. Recipes for the above-mentioned dishes and many more are available on my MY KITCHEN page.
-Three products in German Supermarkets that are high in protein are Quark, Skyr and Körniger Frischkäse/Hüttenkäse. All are vegetarian and available in low-fat versions (called Magerstufe). So, vegetarians (and, of course, non-vegetarians too) can include them in their diet.
-If you eat eggs, include them in your meals. If you don’t have time to make elaborate dishes, boil the eggs or make a simple half fry, and you are done.
– Other great sources of protein are Paneer ( available in Indian shops/can be made at home), Tofu ( available in Asian stores), Green Soybeans, called Edamame in German ( available in the freezer section of German supermarkets and Asian stores), legumes like Kidney beans ( Available in dry form in Indian stores and canned in German Supermarkets ), Green peas ( frozen available in German supermarkets), Soya chunks, called Sojagranulat ( available in Indian shops as well as in some german supermarkets).
– Protein shakes after a workout are also worth considering.
Selenium is a mineral needed for good hair growth. Non-vegetarians get it from meat, poultry and eggs. Vegetarians can include Brazil Nuts in their diet. Brazil nuts are easily available in German supermarkets. They are called Paranuss Kerne. So, if you are not allergic to these nuts, include them too in your meals.
- Vitamin C and antioxidants
In spring and summer, supermarkets in Germany are loaded with berries. Strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, you name them, and they are there. Include them in your diet, as they are a great source of vitamin C and provide the antioxidants to protect our hair follicles. In late winter and early spring, oranges dominate the fruit shelves in supermarkets. They are sweet and delicious. And, of course, lemons are available all year. Add them to your poha, sabudana khichdi, chilla, dholka, coconut chutney, salads or make lemon rice, lemon sevai etc. The options are many! Another good source of Vitamin C is Aliv Seeds ( also called Haleem Seeds). These are called Gartenkresse in German. They are available in organic stores and also on Amazon. At the onset of winter, make Aliv Laddoos and eat one daily. The recipe for Aliv Laddoos is available here.
- Fatty Acids
For non-vegetarians, Salmon is a great option. It is easily available in Germany. It is an excellent source of fatty acids. Vegetarians can get it from walnuts ( Walnusskerne) and canola oil (Rapsöl).
- Vitamin D and Iron
Two other important nutrients needed for good hair are Vitamin D and Iron.
Many Indian women are low on Vitamin D . Especially those who are vegetarians. Non-vegetarians can get Vitamin D from fish and meats, but vegetarian sources are few. Vitamin D levels also are said to become low in winter( due to lack of sunlight). So, check your vitamin D level with your doctor and take a supplement if needed.
If you are low in Vitamin D, there is a good chance of having low Iron too. Vitamin D is essential to absorb iron. Therefore an iron deficiency may indicate low vitamin D levels in your body. So, check that too on your next doctor’s visit and take supplements if prescribed. Dates, figs and prunes are good sources of iron. All are available in German supermarkets.
Vitamin D tablets and Iron syrups and tablets are available in stores like DM, Alnatura etc. But it’s a good idea to get a checkup done and take supplements if prescribed by the doctor.
Check out my recipes page for recipes using the ingredients mentioned above. Also, check my German Supermarkets page for detailed information on food products in German Supermarkets.
Problem 3: Improper Hair Care
Solution: Follow best practices
- Maintain Hygiene
Washing hair regularly and keeping them clean is essential. Use shampoo or Reetha, whatever suits you.
Reetha ( soapnut) is a natural product. It has been used in India for centuries as a cleaning agent. The nuts are available online at Amazon. The nuts have to be boiled in water and then cooled. This liquid soap can be used as a shampoo.
If you prefer shampoo, watch out for Sulphates and Parabens.
Shampoo manufacturers add sulphates so that more lather is produced while washing. But they can cause excessive dryness by removing too much moisture from hair. So, If your hair is already dry and frizzy, buy sulphate-free shampoo. Look for the words Sodium-Lauryl-Sulfate on the shampoo bottle.
Similarly, parabens, which are added as preservatives, also cause dryness and irritation on the scalp. So, you can avoid them too. Look for the word Paraben on shampoo bottles.
Some of the good shampoo brands in Germany are:
Body Shop, Yves Rocher, Alpechin, Moroccanoil, Cantu, Kérastase, Herbal Essences and Seba Med.
- Extra care
You could also consider using a Hair mask once in a while. While a conditioner makes your hair shafts smooth and reduces frizziness, a hair mask boosts the strength and growth of your hair strands. So if you don’t want to use too many products, replace your conditioner with a mask.
Oiling and massaging your hair is something that we are aware of. Fix a day in a week to oil and massage your hair and practice it regularly. If you have dandruff, you should avoid it though.
The best oil for this purpose is Castor oil. It is called Rizinusöl in German and is easily available in pharmacies. You can even buy it from amazon. Bring a bottle from an organic store in India if you have a trip planned to India. It is pure and of good quality and cheaper too. Apply on your hair as well as your eyebrows.
Coconut oil also works well for hair. Organic coconut oil is available in supermarkets and on amazon.
Other oils available in Germany that have good reviews are Weleda Intensive Nourishing Oil and Mielle Rosemary Mint Oil for Scalp and Hair. You can also consider Avocado Oil and Argan Oil for your hair.
- Check the hardness of the water in your home and fit a softener if needed.
In many places in Germany, the water is hard. Hard water contains minerals that create a barrier, preventing moisture from getting to the hair. Hair washed in hard water may become excessively dry and frizzy.
A simple way to test if the water in your home is hard or soft is by using a hardness test strip.
If the water is hard, install a water softener. A simple and cheap solution is fitting a filter to the showerhead or buying a showerhead with filters.
Hair colouring: Many people complain about excessive hair loss and a lifelong dependency on hair colouring products once they start using them. If you still want to colour, choose a safe product with good feedback by checking with your friends.
Regularly drying your hair using a hair dryer: It is best to let your hair dry naturally after a wash. Towel dry them and let the rest of the water evaporate. But if time doesn’t permit and you need to dry them quickly, use a table fan or use a hair drier that blows hair at normal temperature and NOT hot hair. Hot air can cause brittleness, breakage, dullness and dryness of hair. Philips and Remington are popular hair dryer brands in Germany.
Hair straightening: The plates of hair straighteners are hot and can damage your hair when used regularly. So, reduce its usage, and when you use a straightener, use Heat Protection spray or gel ( called Hitzschutz in German). Here again, the popular brands for hair Straighteners are Remington and Philips.
Here are some Home Remedies:
- Heat mustard oil. Add fenugreek and onion seeds. Remove from heat and let this oil cool. Store in a bottle and apply this oil twice a week to reduce greying of hair.
- Soak cooked rice in water overnight. The next day, separate the water, mix it with onion juice and apply it to your hair.
- Boil curry leaves in water. Strain out the leaves and drink the tea.
- Mix glycerin n rose water. Put this solution in a spray bottle. Spray the solution on the scalp. This will help retain moisture in the scalp. Leave it for an hour, and then wash your hair with shampoo.
- Soak fenugreek seeds overnight. The next day, grind the seeds with water. Strain and apply that water on your scalp.
- Soak Fenugreek seeds overnight. The next day, grind the seeds, combine them with yoghurt and apply the paste on the scalp and hair strands. Leave for 25 minutes. This helps against dandruff.
- Massage your hair with mustard oil/ghee.
- Apply yoghurt/egg yellow on your hair before applying shampoo.
Please note: I have written this article based on my learnings acquired by researching the internet, checking discussion forums and my personal experience. I am neither a nutritionist/ doctor nor an expert at giving solutions to hair problems. I have done my best to share the correct information. But I would ask my readers to do their due diligence before following anything mentioned in this article.
E.g., Regarding the foods: Please check if you are allergic to some foods or have been asked to avoid certain foods by the doctor. Also, check the recommended quantities.
Regarding products: Although I have shared product links, please check the details and buy what works for you.
Regarding home Remedies: These are the commonly known home remedies, but the results vary from person to person. What suits one may not work for the other. So, please be aware of that before trying out any home remedy mentioned in this article.
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