Too much sugar leads to thinner and weaker hair because it incites inflammation, depletes your body of the nutrients that create healthy hair, and it can weaken the protein bonds that make your hair strands grow long and stay strong. But that is when you eat too much sugar. And the hair health issues come from other sugar induced issues, not always directly from consumption.
Regularly eating too much sugar can lead to health issues including arthritis and multiple sclerosis, it can also cause chronic inflammation in your body. When this inflammation occurs, it can lead to issues that might start with just an itchy scalp. And when your scalp is itchy, you scratch it. The scratching can cause self-inflicted shedding. But the negative impact of sugar and inflammation on your hair's health doesn’t stop there.
The inflammation can eventually grow into severe hair loss issues like scarring alopecia, and according to this article on semantic scholar, have even been shown as an underlying cause in pattern baldness for both men and women.
Too much sugar also leads to oxidative stress that can ultimately damage the mitochondria that are critical for a process called keratinocyte differentiation, which ensures a proper hair growth cycle. There's a great study on this at Research Gate found here. Added sugars are especially damaging as they actually deplete energy from your body, and according to the National Institute of Health can displace key nutrients your hair needs, such as niacin, magnesium, iron, and zinc.
But added sugars aren’t the whole story. The American Heart Association recommends limiting added sugars to 6 percent per day (roughly 100 calories), but the FDA labeling guidelines don’t capture how processing foods can impact how your body absorbs the sugars, even if they’re naturally occurring. This is why it is important to not assume that non-added sugars are healthier.
Too much natural sugars can also be bad for you. And in addition to inflammation and oxidative stress, sugar can also cause weak and brittle hair, both directly and indirectly, and sugars can have an impact on sebum production according to this study.
Spikes in blood sugar can cause your body to produce excess sebum, and too much sebum leads to buildup and oily hair. This might indirectly cause you to wash your hair too often. And washing your hair at the wrong frequency can dry it out and cause premature breakage.
Sugar can also severely weaken your hair directly through a process called glycation where the sugar attaches to the keratin protein your body uses to produce hair, and in doing so weakens it and makes your hair more prone to breakage.
For healthy hair, watch your sugar intake closely and pay special attention to added sugars, especially in places people often overlook like morning fruit juice, sauces, dressings, and even condiments. If you found this hair health article helpful, subscribe to our blog below for more nutrition and styling tips.