Healthy Hair

While genetics play a key role, your diet, the weather, pollution, and your overall approach to hair care are all critical to maintaining your crowning glory. Find out how a healthy diet and proper care can keep your mane a head above the rest.

Protein is a must:
A well-rounded diet is an important factor in hair and scalp health. Hair is primarily made up of protein, so be sure to eat at least 45 grams of protein daily. Good sources include:
  • lean meat
  • poultry
  • fish
  • beans
  • low-fat dairy products
  • eggs

Diets with inadequate protein can result in weak, brittle hair and loss of hair color, as well as loss of hair itself.

Zinc is essential:
Zinc deficiency can cause hair to shed. Incorporate nuts like Brazil nuts, walnuts, pecans, cashews, and almonds into your diet to combat shedding.

Eat and drink an abundance of:

  • vegetables
  • fruits
  • leafy green salads
  • plenty of clean, filtered water

A multivitamin or zinc supplements can enhance your diet when necessary.

Omegas:
Increasing your intake of omega-3 fatty acids may stimulate your hair follicles and sebaceous glands. While this won’t cause your hair to grow, it may improve scalp health.

Omega-3 fatty acids are found in cold-water fish, such as salmon, sardines, and herring. Other good sources include:

  • flax seed
  • yogurt
  • cottage cheese
  • salad
  • cereal
Know your hair:
here are conflicting opinions about how often to shampoo your hair. It all comes down to personal preference and individual needs, which depend on:
  • your hair type and texture
  • how often you use hair products
  • your activity levels

For example, people with oily hair may need to shampoo every day, while people with dry hair may need to shampoo less frequently.

Choose the right shampoo:
Using the wrong shampoo and styling agent can cause significant hair damage. Look for products that are right for your hair type oily, normal, or dry  and target any problems you have, such as dandruff.
Try to avoid shampoos with harsh ingredients, such as ammonium lauryl sulfate or sodium lauryl sulfate. And remember, cost doesn’t necessarily indicate the quality of a product.

Conditioning:
Conditioning after shampooing is an important step in keeping your hair soft, shiny, and manageable. You can choose a separate conditioner or a shampoo with built-in conditioner. Comb conditioner through for even distribution. Leave it in your hair for two to three minutes before rinsing out. Just like hair washing, not everyone needs to condition every time they wash their hair. Experiment to find what works best for you

FYI:
Experts suggest that many people over-shampoo or shampoo incorrectly. The standard rules of thumb are:

  • Don’t wash your hair more than once a day.
  • Use only enough of the product to cover your hair.
  • Avoid using very hot or very cold water.

Treat hair gently when it’s wet it’s three times more vulnerable to breakage. Don’t rub wet hair excessively with a towel. Use a wide-tooth comb to detangle, but don’t comb too much or brush wet hair.

Hair maintenance tips:

Keep these tips in mind

  • Start off on the lowest heat setting while blow drying and gradually increase heat as needed.
  • Allow your hair to air dry whenever possible.
  • Change up where you place pins and clips so that breakage isn’t localized.
  • If you dye your hair, choose a shade that’s within three shades of your natural color.
  • Massage your scalp often to promote hair growth and increase blood circulation.
  • Get your hair cut regularly — every 10 to 12 weeks — to keep hair healthy and prevent split ends.
Cut it out:
Harsh shampoo, hair treatments, styling products, and excessive brushing contribute the most to poor hair health. However, other culprits include:
  • overconsumption of alcohol
  • low-calorie and crash diets
  • decreased thyroid hormone
  • excessive stress
  • blood thinners
  • some prescription drugs for heart problems, depression, high blood pressure, and arthritis

Below are 5 vitamins and 3 other nutrients that may be important for hair growth:

Many people view healthy-looking hair as a sign of health or beauty. Like any other part of your body, hair needs a variety of nutrients to be healthy and grow (1). In fact, many nutritional deficiencies are linked to hair loss. While factors such as age, genetics and hormones also affect hair growth, optimal nutrient intake is key.

Vitamin A
All cells need vitamin A for growth. This includes hair, the fastest growing tissue in the human body. Vitamin A also helps skin glands make an oily substance called sebum. Sebum moisturizes the scalp and helps keep hair healthy (2). Diets deficient in vitamin A may lead to several problems, including hair loss (3). While it’s important to get enough vitamin A, too much may be dangerous. Studies show that an overdose of vitamin A can also contribute to hair loss (4). Sweet potatoes, carrots, pumpkins, spinach and kale are all high in beta-carotene, which is turned into vitamin A. Vitamin A can also be found in animal products such as milk, eggs and yogurt. Cod liver oil is a particularly good source.

B-Vitamins
One of the best-known vitamins for hair growth is a B-vitamin called biotin. Studies link biotin deficiency with hair loss in humans (5). Although biotin is used as an alternative hair-loss treatment, those who are deficient have the best results. However, deficiency is very rare because it occurs naturally in a wide range of foods. There’s also a lack of data about whether biotin is effective for hair growth in healthy individuals. Other B-vitamins help create red blood cells, which carry oxygen and nutrients to the scalp and hair follicles. These processes are important for hair growth. You can get B-vitamins from many foods, including whole grains, almonds, meat, fish, seafood and dark, leafy greens. Additionally, animal foods are the only good sources of vitamin B12. So, if you’re following a vegetarian or vegan diet, consider taking a supplement.

Vitamin C
Free radical damage can block growth and cause your hair to age. Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that helps protect against the oxidative stress caused by free radicals (6). In addition, your body needs vitamin C to create a protein known as collagen — an important part of hair structure. Vitamin C also helps your body absorb iron, a mineral necessary for hair growth. Strawberries, peppers, guavas and citrus fruits are all good sources of vitamin C.

FYI:
Vitamin C is needed to make collagen and can help prevent hair from aging. Good sources include peppers, citrus fruits and strawberries.

Vitamin D
Low levels of vitamin D are linked to alopecia, a technical term for hair loss (7). Research also shows that vitamin D may help create new follicles — the tiny pores in the scalp where new hair can grow (8). Vitamin D is thought to play a role in hair production, but most research focuses on vitamin D receptors. The actual role of vitamin D in hair growth is unknown. That said, most people don’t get enough vitamin D and it may still be a good idea to increase your intake. Your body produces vitamin D through direct contact with the sun’s rays. Good dietary sources of vitamin D include fatty fish, cod liver oil, some mushrooms and fortified foods. Vitamin D supplements are available online.

Vitamin E
Similar to vitamin C, vitamin E is an antioxidant that can prevent oxidative stress. In one study, people with hair loss experienced a 34.5% increase in hair growth after supplementing with vitamin E for 8 months (9). The placebo group had only a 0.1% increase (9). Sunflower seeds, almonds, spinach and avocados are all good sources of vitamin E.

FYI:
Vitamin E helps prevent oxidative stress and boost hair growth. Good dietary sources include sunflower seeds, almonds, spinach and avocados 

Iron:
Iron helps red blood cells carry oxygen to your cells. This makes it an important mineral for many bodily functions, including hair growth. Iron deficiency, which causes anemia, is a major cause of hair loss. It’s especially common in women (10111213). Foods’s high in iron include clams, oysters, eggs, red meat, spinach and lentils. 

FYI:
Iron deficiency is a major cause of hair loss, especially in women. The best sources of iron include clams, oysters, eggs, red meat, spinach and lentils.

Zinc:
Zinc plays an important role in hair tissue growth and repair. It also helps keep the oil glands around the follicles working properly. Hair loss is a common symptom of zinc deficiency (1415). Studies show zinc supplements reduce hair loss caused by zinc deficiency (1617). However, there are some anecdotal reports that supplementing with too high of a dose can also contribute to hair loss. For this reason, it may be better to get your zinc from whole foods. Foods’s high in zinc include oysters, beef, spinach, wheat germ, pumpkin seeds and lentils.

FYI:
The mineral zinc can improve hair growth in people who are deficient in it. Good sources include oysters, beef and pumpkin seeds.

Protein:
Hair is made almost entirely of protein. Consuming enough is important for hair growth. Animal studies show that protein deficiency may decrease hair growth and even lead to hair loss (181920). However, actual protein deficiency is extremely rare in Western countries.

FYI:
Eating enough protein is important for hair growth, although a protein deficiency is rare in Western countries these days.

Should I take hair supplements:
Food is the best source of the vitamins you need for hair growth. However, if you fail to get enough in your diet, supplements may be helpful. According to research, supplements work best in individuals who are already deficient (22). Furthermore, large doses of vitamins and minerals can be harmful if you aren’t deficient. So work with a doctor to determine if you have a deficiency or not. At the end of the day, the best way to get these nutrients is by eating a balanced, real food-based diet that includes plenty of nutrient-dense foods.

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Photo Credit:Joshua Oyebanji

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