On this page, we break down the latest results of years of research on hair growth pills and how to grow your hair using vitamins. Today, nutritionists and their industry are constantly throwing out new catchphrases like “food is the best medicine” and “food is fuel”.
Most of the time, you hear them in reference to some new weight loss product or multi-vitamin.
It’s rare that you hear one of these nifty catch phrases around the hair loss industry. After all, “food is the best way to keep your hair” and “food supplies the building blocks of your hair” don’t have much of a ring to them. But that doesn’t make them any less true.
According to the American Hair Loss Association, 85% of men in the U.S. have significantly thinning hair by the time they reach 50. And according to the North American Hair Research Society, approximately half of all women will experience female pattern hair loss by the same age.
It’s surprising there is such a stigma around hair loss considering how many people suffer from it. It’s even more surprising when you factor in how much power we actually have to prevent—or at least slow the spread of—hair loss.
That’s right. Heredity isn’t the only reason we lose our hair.
Diet plays a major role in the health of our scalp as well as individual hair strands. As you’ll see, certain nutrients are vital for hair growth. Others actually make up the hairs themselves. And some are responsible for protecting strands root to tip.
You’re bound to experience hair loss if your body remains deficient in the fundamental building blocks of healthy hair.
In order to find foods (and possibly supplements) that contain the right things, you need to understand what those right things are. So before we get into what foods you should eat, let’s talk vitamins and minerals.
That way, it will be easier for you to identify foods that are jam-packed with all of the essentials and truly create a diet that can help to prevent hair loss.
What Is Responsible for Hair Growth and Maintenance?
No one enjoys reading food labels.
But if you are serious about using your diet to transform health, doing so can really make a big difference. And yes, overall health and hair health are directly related.
Understanding the nutrition information in the foods you consume is the only real way to gauge the value of your everyday diet. From there, you can make informed decisions about the changes you need to make to your diet to promote hair growth.
We’ll start with the most vital compounds first.
Every health-conscious person knows how important hydration is to health.
Every cell and every system in the body uses water to function properly—and hair is no exception. You might be surprised to learn that the average strand of healthy human hair contains 12 to 15 percent H2O. It is also vital for the distribution of nutrients to the hair root.
Dehydrated hair is prone to breakage and the effects of long term dehydration on hair and the scalp can be severe. When water in the human body is low, more important organs such as the brain, heart, and kidneys receive water first.
Therefore, it’s vital that you stay well hydrated if you want your hair to grow and remain healthy.
Proteins are the essential building blocks of life. They are the most common “dry” compounds in every single cell of your body.
In particular, a protein called keratin accounts for 91% of all hair fiber. If you don’t have enough protein in your diet, it could potentially lead to the thinning of your hair. However, for anyone reading this post, the likelihood of insufficient dietary protein is low.
Most people in the western world opt for protein-rich diets (even vegans and vegetarians). What is more important for the majority of us is that we get our protein from lean, clean sources.
Essential Fatty Acids
Omega-3s and omega-6s play crucial roles in the proper functioning of the body. You can find them on nutritional labels under “Polyunsaturated Fats”.
They get the “essential” tag because it is crucial to get them in your diet, as your body cannot produce them on its own. The key with omega-3s and 6s is that you need to have the proper ratio as they have opposing effects in the body. The same goes for your hair.
Omega-3s help to improve scalp circulation and alleviate flaky and dry scalps. They also nourish the hair follicles which increases hair elasticity, strength, and thickness. Omega-6s are responsible for locking in moisture and are also vital for hair growth.
You had to know this one was coming. There are variety of “micronutrients” our hair needs to flourish. Vitamins are the organic compounds our body needs for basic processes. Several of them play key roles in hair growth and maintenance.
Vitamin A is vital for the growth of healthy cells and tissues, including your scalp and hair.
The thing with vitamin A though, is that it is usually better to get it in the form of beta-carotene, which your body can turn into vitamin A as it needs it. If you go overboard, too much vitamin A can actually cause hair loss.
Beta-carotene is an antioxidant that helps to eliminate free radicals from your body. It also activates glands in the scalp that secrete an oily fluid call sebum which keeps hair from drying out.
The B vitamins are actually a complex of compounds that often work together in the body as well as co-exist in the same foods.
They are often referred to by the name of the compound as well as by “Vitamin BX” In particular, niacin (B3), pantothenic acid (B5), pyridoxine (B6), biotin (B7), folate (B9), and cyanocobalamin (B12) play key roles in hair health.
Vitamins B3, B6, B9, and B12 all play major roles in great circulation, which is crucial for a healthy scalp and strong hair. Vitamins B5 and B7 are thought to slow hair loss and prevent graying.
Vitamin C, otherwise known as ascorbic acid, is a powerful antioxidant with multiple hair health benefits.
In addition fighting off free radicals and other damaging compounds, vitamin C plays a major role in iron absorption. As you’ll see, iron is yet another important ingredient in a diet designed to boost hair growth.
Vitamin C is also an essential compound in collagen synthesis. Collagen is a connective tissue that gives structure to the body by holding tissues together. It surrounds the hair follicles and provides support to individual strands.
It is important to note that this vitamin is not stored well in the body. This means it is necessary to get plenty of vitamin C in your diet.
Two things to note with vitamin C:
1) It is not stored well in the body; this means it is necessary to get plenty of vitamin C in your diet everyday. 2) Vitamin C works hand in hand with Vitamin E; each is more effective when consumed with the other.
Getting enough vitamin E is one of the most important things you can do to strengthen hair and limit breakage.
It shares two characteristics with many of the other vitamins and minerals on this list:
It is a powerful antioxidant. And it plays an important role in blood circulation.
But it also serves two very unique functions. First, it actually helps the body manufacture keratin within the hair strands. Secondly, it absorbs energy from UV light, which serves to protect the scalp. It can even repair prior sun damage.
It is also beneficial to apply vitamin E topically, though it still needs to be in your diet for best results.
Minerals are the inorganic compounds our body needs on a daily basis. They serve various functions throughout our body. These “micronutrients” can be made up of individual elements (metallic and non-metallic) or combinations of elements.
Copper deficiency is closely associated with hair loss and discoloration.
Though the body only needs small amounts of it, it plays many roles for your hair. It is a component of the collagen that supports hair follicles. It is also involved in the synthesis of many enzymes—some that act as antioxidants and others that are involved in hemoglobin formation.
Copper can help to return hair to its natural color, as it can help to play a key role in melanin (pigment) production. It also helps to rebuild capillaries throughout the scalp, allowing it to heal more easily. When the body has sufficient copper, wounds surrounded by hair heal more quickly.
It also works closely with other minerals in the body. It is vital for iron absorption. Together these two build red blood cells. It should also be balanced with zinc intake in the body because zinc helps prevent your body from absorbing too much copper—which can be toxic.
Yet another micronutrient that is key to blood circulation is the element iron.
Iron is needed to make the hemoglobin that carries oxygen to the hair and an inadequate intake inevitably leads to hair follicles starved of oxygen. Evidence shows that low iron stores is one of the leading causes of hair loss in premenopausal women.
Iron deficiency is one of the most common forms of nutritional deficiency. Long distance runners, vegans, pregnant women, and women who have heavy periods have a higher risk of being iron deficient. Not surprisingly, iron is the most common form of nutritional deficiency.
Don’t forget that your body needs both vitamin C and iron for proper absorption.
Few people have heard of this mineral, but it is perhaps the single most important compound your body needs and it can do wonders for your hair.
Also known as silicon dioxide, it is made up of oxygen and silicon—Planet Earth’s two most abundant elements. It was proven almost a century ago that life cannot exist without silica. When we are young our levels are high, resulting in great skin, nails, and hair.
Silica is an antioxidant. It strengthens blood vessels. And it is another big component of the collagen that provides tissue support throughout the body. All three of these affect hair health.
Furthermore, silica helps to fix hormone imbalance, one of the leading causes of hair loss. Lastly, silica binds to other key nutrients and delivers them to hair and other parts of the body.
Silica is found in many fruits and vegetables. However, it is especially vulnerable to chemical fertilizers and insecticides. This means that the best way to ensure your silica intake is high is to go organic.
Sulphur is another mineral that is found throughout body but is especially abundant in the skin, nails, and hair.
One of the first signs of sulphur deficiency is brittle hair or hair loss. It is key to blood circulation (bet you didn’t see that coming), helps metabolize several important B vitamins, and reduces skin inflammation.
In the form Methylsulfonylmethane (MSM), it helps produce keratin as well as collagen. It also makes the skin more permeable, allowing nutrients to flow into your scalp more easily. For these and other reasons, it is sometimes touted as “nature’s beauty mineral.”
Heat causes MSM to volatilize so the best sources of this nutrient are left uncooked.
The last trace mineral we’ll cover here, zinc plays several key roles in terms of hair health.
Zinc aids in the production of new cells and the repair of damaged ones. It supports the hair follicle and plays a role in circulation. It regulates copper absorption. And it also helps to maintain the oil-secreting glands attached to our hair follicles.
Dandruff, dry hair, and hair loss are all associated with zinc deficiency. Meat and seafood is generally the best source for zinc because the form found in plants is not as easily utilized by the human body.