Nutrition for Healthy Hair
To understand how to keep hair healthy, it’s a good idea to have a quick lesson in what hair is made up of.
Every strand is formed out of keratin protein, which is also responsible for nail formation and the protective, outer layer of skin. Each separate hair on your head consists of the cuticle (outer layer, sometimes referred to as the protective layer), the cortex (this contains melanin which determines hair colour) and the medulla (the inner layer, this reflects the light). Every one of your hairs grows out of a follicle and each person has between 100,000 to 350,000 follicles on their scalp.
Healthy hair growth https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qlqlVr6-6yQ is a pattern, hair grows for approximately three years, then it rests for three months and following this period, it drops out, naturally. A new hair is already pushing through ready to replace it.
However, some people’s hair growth does not work to optimum performance and this is down to a number of different reasons.
Many people don’t keep their hair looking great unless they follow a good regime. That means caring for it using good quality nourishing products. It also means using sulphate free shampoos and the right type of conditioners.
Be aware of overusing heated styling tools and avoid too many chemical treatments. Hair should be treated as you would your skin, with respect.
It’s not only about a consistent haircare routine, healthy hair comes from eating a balanced diet, enriched with the vitamins and minerals your hair needs to survive.
Generally, hair is subjected to heat from hair dryers, straightening tools and the sun. It’s also laden with styling products such as gels, mousses and serums, all of which build up in the follicles and can even stunt hair growth.
If you don’t eat properly, your hair won’t have a fighting chance of looking lustrous and glossy, let alone grow healthily. Starve your body of the nutrients it needs and your skin, nails and hair will suffer. If your hair isn’t getting what it needs to sustain healthy hair growth, it will end up snapping off and could even result in patchy hair loss.
Your hair needs stimulation to grow, the blood needs to circulate in the scalp to encourage hair follicles to push through healthy strands. Bearing all of that in mind, what nutrition should you feed your hair?
Hair is mainly made up of Keratin, the hair's own protein. As hair is made up of protein you need to fortify your diet with plenty of protein-rich food. If you don’t eat enough protein, your hair will dry out and could even break.
It is well known that low-protein diets are often the source of thinning hair. Fill up your shopping basket with poultry, oily fish, red meat and dairy. All of these foods are excellent sources of protein. If you’re vegetarian or a vegan, eat quinoa, lentils, legumes and nuts.
Along with protein comes iron. Iron deficiency is often linked to hair loss and that’s because the hair follicle and its root are fed by the blood. Your blood needs to be nutrient-rich and when iron levels drop, so do ferritin levels (where iron levels are stored in the body).
If you’ve noticed excessive shedding, fill up on iron with red meat, poultry and fish. You can add some spinach, cabbage, kale, salad and broccoli too, with a healthy helping of lentils.
Vitamin C is an essential vitamin for healthy skin and nails so it makes sense that you would need it for healthy hair too. It helps iron absorb into the body so it’s one of those nutrients that are part of a chain reaction. It’s also one of the vitamins integral in collagen production, collagen isn’t just for plumping skin, it also strengthens the capillaries that provide the hair shafts with what it needs to grow healthily.
Additionally, being a well-known antioxidant, it fights against cell breakdown. The best Vitamin C rich foods are blueberries, blackcurrants, oranges, broccoli, kiwi fruit, papaya, guava and strawberries. You can also find Vitamin C in sweet potatoes, which are delicious baked!
These fatty acids are essential for the body’s development but can only be obtained through good diet. Omegas 3’s especially are required because they keep your scalp lined and hydrated.
Omega 3 oils come from herring, salmon, sardines, trout and mackerel. There’s also Omegas in walnuts, avocado and pumpkin seeds.
This vitamin is essential for the production of sebum. If you have oily hair, your scalp already produces enough sebum so you don’t need to add it to your diet in bigger quantities, you don’t want your hair to get excessively greasy.
However, if you have dry hair, you might benefit from adding pumpkin, sweet potato and carrot to your diet.
Selenium and Zinc
Both of these are good for supporting healthy hair growth, a lack of zinc can lead to a dry, flaky scalp and even hair loss.
You’ll get zinc and selenium from whole grains and fortified cereals so incorporate these into your breakfast routine. Alternatively, zinc can be found in eggs, beef and oysters.
Biotin is often mentioned as a helper for healthy hair. It’s a B vitamin and when you lack Biotin, hair grows brittle. To get Biotin into your diet, add whole grains, egg yolk, yeast, liver and soy flour.
Alternatively, you might want to add a Biotin supplement, but don’t overdose on Biotin because it can encourage acne breakouts!
Vitamin E protects hair from the sun which is very drying. The best sources of Vitamin E are nuts. Just a handful of nuts a day will give your hair a boost and keep it hydrated.
While supplements are not a replacement for a healthy diet, there are various hair, skin and nail vitamins available that help to top up any missing vitamins. Adding a supplement to your diet is always beneficial but never substitute it for good quality, wholesome food.
If you follow a healthy diet, use good quality hair care products and limit the use of chemicals and heated styling tools, your hair should grow healthily.
Remember, it can take up to a year to see the changes because hair only grows at a rate of 0.5” per month. However, if you have tried eating well, followed a careful haircare routine and you still notice patchy hair loss, excessive shedding or very dry, brittle hair, you should consider visiting a medical professional to check that there is nothing else hindering healthy hair growth.