Some people are blessed with naturally strong, thick, healthy hair. Others? Not so much.
We won't lie to you: A lot of it comes down to genetics, but things like age, health and your diet and lifestyle also play a major role in your hair.
Nutritional deficiencies can contribute to and even cause hair loss.
Not only does poor nutrition contribute to androgenetic alopecia (or, male pattern baldness), it can also trigger a condition called telogen effluvium, which is sudden thinning hair brought on by the stress that nutritional deficiencies put the body under.
In fact, one 2017 study stated that "nutritional deficiency may impact both hair structure and hair growth".
This means that when you're not eating enough nutrient-rich foods, it can not only slow down hair growth, and create or contribute to hair loss, but also affect the strength of the hair strands themselves.
The good news is, if your hair is being impacted by nutritional deficiencies, then a healthy, balanced diet can help get your hair back on track.
In this article, we'll break down which vitamins and minerals are most important when it comes to hair growth, which foods are best for hair growth, and when it's time to consult a doctor about your hair loss.
The most important vitamins and minerals for hair growth
When it comes to your hair, "incorporating essential vitamins, healthy fats and proteins" into your diet is "absolutely key", according to the Mayo Clinic.
They explain: "the healthy fats provide hydration to your hair, skin, and nails. Your hair is primarily made of protein, so protein intake is necessary for hair growth."
These are the most important vitamins and minerals for your hair, and how they can help stimulate hair growth and keep your hair healthy.
A B-vitamin that's believed to promote hair growth, biotin is "very helpful for hair disorders, according to dermatologist Wilma Bergfeld.
“Biotin improves hair growth and helps with inflammation,” Bergeld told the Cleveland Clinic. “The hair follicle, the skin and the nails all benefit.”
Collagen contains amino acids, which the body then uses to build keratin, the main protein of your hair. It also contains antioxidant properties, which can help your scalp combat oxidative stress.
According to Medical News Today, "hair follicle cells can be particularly sensitive to decreasing levels of iron and may not be able to grow new cells as effectively when iron stores are low".
Omega-3 fatty acids
Medical News Today reports that although there is some evidence that suggests Omega-3s can promote hair growth and thicker hair, more research is needed in the area.
Vitamin A helps your body to produce an oily fluid called sebum. Sebum acts as a natural hair conditioner and helps protect hair from damage like drying out, splitting, and falling out.
Vitamin C helps your body absorb iron, which is important, as iron deficiency can lead to hair loss.
Vitamin D actively stimulates hair growth, so when you're not getting enough of it, it can impact your hair.
Because Vitamin E is an antioxidant, it's thought that it may help to reduce oxidative stress on the scalp, which can cause hair loss.
A zinc deficiency can not only cause hair loss but can actively damage hair, as well. One 2018 review reports that "alopecia is a well-known sign of established zinc deficiency with hair regrowth occurring with zinc supplementation".
The best foods to fill your plate with for hair growth
A healthy, balanced diet can do wonders for every aspect of your health and wellbeing, and that includes your hair.
These are the best foods for hair growth.
Beetroot can help improve blood circulation, which in turn helps deliver the essential nutrients to your scalp and hair follicles. They're also a great source of antioxidants.
A great all-rounder, capsicums are high in vitamin C (higher than oranges, even!), which helps produce collagen and absorb iron. Even better, they're also high in antioxidants and vitamin A.
Carrots are high in beta-carotene, which the body transforms into vitamin A.
Green leafy vegetables, like spinach, kale and collards
Dark leafy greens are a great source of vitamin A, beta carotene, folate, and vitamin C.
Importantly, they also contain iron. Low iron is one of the main culprits when it comes to nutritional deficiencies that can cause hair loss, so it's important to make sure you're getting your leafy greens in. They're also a great source of antioxidants, which can help fight hair loss caused by oxidative stress.
In particular, one cup of spinach has over 50 per cent of the recommended daily intake for Vitamin A.
Beans and lentils are packed with hair-healthy nutrients, like protein, zinc, iron, biotin and folate.
Meanwhile, some studies have shown a connection between soybeans and a prolonged anagen phase of the hair, which is the hair's active growth phase.
Lentils and chickpeas also promote the function of your body's red blood cells, which helps your organs (like your skin and scalp) receive the oxygen they need to function properly.
Pumpkin and sweet potatoes
Seafood, specifically fish containing essential fatty acids, can aid in hair growth. They're also a great source of protein, as well as vitamin D, selenium and B vitamins.
Meanwhile, oysters and prawns are great sources of zinc and iron, both of which are crucial for optimal hair growth. Prawns are also high in vitamin D and B vitamins.
Avocados are packed with the omega-3 fatty acids your body needs for a healthy hair growth cycle. They're also high in vitamin E and are a good source of B vitamins.
Berries are high in vitamin C and antioxidants.
Citrus fruits are a key player when it comes to getting your recommended daily intake of vitamin C, so load up on oranges and tangerines for healthy hair.
Guava is another secret agent that packs a massive punch of vitamin C, with about four to five times the amount of vitamin C as an orange.
Papaya is jam-packed with vitamin C as well as fibre and carotenoids, which also contribute to a healthy scalp.
Nuts, seeds and grains
Nuts and seeds are a great source of many of the most essential nutrients and minerals when it comes to healthy hair growth.
Containing protein, magnesium, omega-3 fatty acids, selenium, vitamin E, B vitamins, and zinc, snacking on nuts and seeds throughout the day can give your hair the boost it needs.
Whole grains like oats and barley can also help promote hair growth. Oats are a great source of fibre, iron, omega-3 fatty acids, polyunsaturated fatty acids and zinc. Meanwhile, barley is a great source of vitamin E.
Load up on these nuts, seeds and grains to promote hair health:
- Almonds/almond butter
- Brazil nuts
- Chia seeds
- Flax seeds
- Peanut butter
- Pumpkin seeds
- Sunflower seeds
Meats, Poultry and Dairy
Not only a good source of protein, but chicken breast also contains essential hair nutrients like L-cysteine (an amino acid), vitamin B3, and arachidonic acid (and omega 6 fatty acid).
Eggs are great for your hair because they're a great source of protein, biotin, selenium, vitamin D, iron and zinc.
Greek yoghurt is jam-packed with protein, vitamin B5 and zinc, and can easily be combined with berries and chia seeds or whole grains for added hair health.
Red meat is high in protein and iron, both of which are essential for healthy hair growth.
When should you see your doctor for hair growth treatment?
If you're experiencing hair thinning or noticing that your hairline is inching backwards and it's stressing you out, we're here to help.
Although lifestyle changes, like diet and regular exercise, can make a difference when it comes to hair loss, sometimes medication is required.
Really, it all comes down to what's causing your hair loss. While some types of hair loss, like telogen effluvium, can be temporary, others are more permanent and require medical treatment.
The best way to figure out what's causing your hair loss is to speak to a doctor.
At Pilot, we believe in treating each person with an individualised approach to their hair loss. When it comes to hair loss, there's no one size fits all approach. You need the right treatments, in the right dosages, tailored just for you.
Our hair treatment plans have been developed by Dr. Russell Knudsen, a hair loss expert with over 35 years of experience.
Using a combination of lifestyle changes, over-the-counter treatments and prescription medications, we're happy to report that over 80 per cent of our patients are able to retain their hair.
When it comes to hair loss, though, time is of the essence, so start your consult today.
Photo credit: NBC