Do your strands take on the brittle texture of hay? Are your ends beginning to sprout multiple splits due to years of countless blowouts? Either way, hair damage is a tell-tale sign that your tresses are due for a little TLC. Since we’ve all suffered from lackluster locks at some point or another, we’ve called in top healthcare professionals to help unlock the secrets of bountiful, healthy hair. And who better else to trust than doctors themselves?
That’s why we’ve consulted medical professionals, including dermatologists and hair transplant surgery specialists, to get the scoop on the healthy habits, nourishing foods, and potent supplements that’ll help you grow long locks or just maintain an impressive mane. Find out what these tips and tricks are, and then brush up (get it?!) on these 30 Best and Worst Foods for Healthy Hair.
“One of the best things you can do for your hair is eat nutrient rich foods,” Faisal Tawwab, MD, family practice specialist asserts. “Doing so can keep your hair thick, increase growth, increase shine, and decrease the likelihood of greying. Choose foods high in Vitamin E, such as almonds.” Thanks to their high levels of healthy fats and muscle-boosting L-arginine, almonds also happen to be one of the 6 Best Nuts For Weight Loss.
Iron deficiency, or anemia, can cause you to frequently feel cold and tired, as well as take a toll on your locks. “Hair loss is often caused by a iron deficiency, so be sure to stock up on spinach!” says Dr. Tawwab. This leafy green’s high iron content is only one of the reasons we dubbed it one of the 8 Superfoods You Should Eat Everyday.
Ginger is one of our go-to natural remedies for those days we’re feeling under the weather, but this spicy root has other healing powers, too. “Fresh ginger roots are rich sources of certain minerals like magnesium, phosphorus, vitamins and potassium,” explains Gaurang Gupta, MBBS, DDVL, cosmetologist and hair transplant surgery specialist. “These elements give a healthy and strong hair with a natural shine.”
If you’re one to frequently switch up your shampoos based on whether the suds smell floral or fruity, you’re likely contributing to weak strands. “Do not change your shampoo regularly,” Gupta warns. Sulfate-free shampoos are your best bet, as they’re not as harsh as regular bottles, which can strip your hair of its natural oils.
“Omega-3’s reduce inflammation, which is often a cause of hair shedding. For more omega-3’s, eat up some salmon!” Dr. Tawwab suggests. While the American Heart Association recommends consuming two 3.5-ounce servings a week, you can get your omega-3s from other superfoods like navy beans, flaxseed oil, and chia seeds.
You may have heard that slathering on some of these best foods to put on your face can help unmask a glowy complexion; so it only makes sense that concocting a hair mask is also a smart move. That’s why Dr. Gupta asserts that a “Honey and coconut oil mix makes the hair more shiny,” thanks to these natural ingredients’ superb moisturizing powers.
Starting a crash diet won’t just wreck your metabolism and contribute to weight gain; it can also wreak havoc on your hairline. “Be careful of those crash diets that can void your body of vitamin-enriched foods and proteins necessary for healthy hair.” Alex Roher MD, anesthesiologist says. Instead, opt for whole, unprocessed foods as often as possible.
“Dietary deficiencies, poor health and medical imbalance (such as thyroid disorders) are a common cause of hair loss and breakage. Hair follicles derive nutrition from the individual’s blood. Thus an overall improvement in nutrition and health are required,” Sonam Yadav, MBBS, aesthetic physician says.
Dandruff doesn’t only look unsightly, it can minimize the fullness of your mane, as well.“The scalp must be kept clean and treatment of scalp skin disorders like dandruff, which impairs circulation, help improve hair quality as well,” Yadav explains. In fact, rubbing your scalp with lemon juice to fight those flakes is just one of the 20 Amazing Things You Can Do With A Lemon!
To keep your locks long and resilient, Tracy Evans, MD recommends taking a biotin supplement. “Though most supplements are not completely FDA regulated . . . ask your doctor which brand they recommend locally,” she adds.
Dr. Yadav also backs up biotin’s hair-strengthening claims as well suggests adding other B vitamins to your diet such as vitamins B1, B2, B5, B6. Lean meats, leafy greens, and dairy products are all wonderful sources.
“Intake of a balanced diet with adequate protein and good fats (eggs, nuts, seeds, fish, coconut oil) help in the synthesis of keratin (the main protein forming hair),” explains Dr. Yadav.
“One of the best things you can do for your hair is eat nutrient rich foods. Doing so can keep your hair thick, increase growth, increase shine, and decrease the likelihood of greying,” Dr. Tawwab states.
“It is important to have a balanced diet, your hair and skin reflect what you eat. That means an equal amount of protein, green vegetables, and fruits,” says Dr. Evans.
Dermatologist Valerie D. Callender, MD, strongly emphasizes “drinking plenty lot of water” in addition to supplementing your diet with salmon and green leafy veggies to help maintain a full head of hair.
“Diet is an important adjunct to haircare. What you eat will ultimately affect your hair. A diet high in colorful foods (deep leafy greens and antioxidants like various berries) and foods rich in omega oils (like salmon) is beneficial to hair health,” Rosemarie Ingleton, MD, dermatologist explains.
To maintain healthy hair, vitamin D is essential, Dr. Yadav states. Not only can this fat-soluble vitamin help your hair grow, it can ward off many cancers and help you lose weight fast! Wondering which foods to add to your grocery list? Jot down these 5 Best Foods for Body-Boosting Vitamin D.
Brazil nuts are high in selenium, a nutrient Dr. Yadav recommends for maintaining healthy strands. In fact, just one ounce of the South American-derived nut provides 774 percent of your daily recommended amount of the nutrient. Other solid sources of selenium include sardines, halibut, and turkey.
Suffering from hay-like strands that just beg for moisture? Forget the pricy deep conditioning treatments at your salon and opt for an affordable OTC remedy. “To treat dry hair, try including a dietary supplement like Vitafusion Gorgeous Hair, Skin and Nails in your daily regimen,” says Dr. Ingleton.
“I recommend Nutrafol, two pills twice daily—contains nutraceutical ingredients that are essential for hair growth,” Dr. Callender says.
For women of color, “Daily moisturizing of the hair is key. Dermatologists recommend olive oil, argan oil,” as well as a leave-in conditioner, Dr. Callender says. “Apply a deep conditioner to the hair after washing for 20-30 minutes before washing out.” And to prevent breakage, “Protect the hair at night with a satin bonnet or sleep on a satin pillowcase,” she adds.
If curling your hair before a night out is non-negotiable, it may be the reason why your ponytail refuses to grow past shoulder-length. “Avoid over processing hair, using hot tools too close to the scalp, and pulling too tight on the hairs. It is best to let the hair be natural a few times a week to reduce tension on follicles. If the follicle is constantly damaged by heat/tension/chemicals, it can cause permanent hair loss in the form of tractional or ‘hot-comb’ alopecia,” explains Dr. Evans.
Just as you would nourish your body with the wholesome stuff, you should also take the same proactive measures when it comes to your hair. “Avoid chemical overload by using products with natural, organic ingredients designed for your hair’s type and texture, like coconut, carrot seed oils, shea, and cocoa butters, proteins and orange, lemon, and lavender essential oils,” Ingleton says, “But, watch the expiration date as natural products don’t always have a long shelf life.”
Dr. Gupta and Dr. Yadav both suggest taking vitamin A for optimal hair growth. Because this vitamin is fat-soluble (and therefore is stored in the liver), women mustn’t exceed 700 mcg and men shouldn’t go over the 900 mcg limit in order to avoid toxicity.
This may seem counterintuitive, but brushing your hair (when it’s dry!) can actually help strengthen it. Gupta recommends combing your strands twice a day to replenish hair growth.
Dr. Yadav recommends taking a zinc supplement to help maintain healthy hair. A diet that’s deficient in zinc (think seafood, cheese, poultry) can contribute to hair loss and lackluster locks.
“Vitamin C helps your body absorb other nutrients, such as iron,” says Dr. Tawwab. “For this, try tangerines.” Not a fan of the tangy citrus fruit? These 7 Best Vitamin C-Rich Foods have more of the sniffle-stopping nutrient than an orange! What’s more, these picks can even help you de-stress so that your body can fight belly fat for good.
It’s no secret that dairy products are chock-full-of bone-building calcium, a nutrient that can also help replenish your tresses. We always recommend getting your daily dose of vitamins and nutrients from your diet, but if you’re vegan or lactose intolerant, don’t fret; these 20 Best Calcium-Rich Foods That Aren’t Dairy can help you crush your quota.
You might not have heard of fenugreek, but if you’ve ever sat down to Indian cuisine, you’ve likely experienced these seeds in a garam masala dish. And according to Dr. Gupta, these subtly sweet and nutty seeds can help replenish hair growth. Speaking of, don’t forget to stock up on these 17 Best Foods To Stop Hair Loss.