There are only two times in my life that I've given serious thought, energy and concern to having healthy hair. The first was back in 2005 when I was dealing with symptoms of Crohn's Disease and my hair began falling out, and the second was three months postpartum, again as my hair began falling out by the handful. Both times it grew back healthier than before, and I carried on not thinking about it.
I am not one to spend a lot of time styling my wavy hair. I don't colour it and haven't in over ten years, I stopped straightening it a few years ago, and recently put my blow dryer away, likely for good. And though this may come as no surprise, it is the one area of health that gets better the less attention you give it. The less you do to and with your hair, the healthier it will be. Of course, how you live will come into play. Your diet has a huge effect on your hair, just as it does on your skin, teeth, nails, and every other part of you. And just like the rest of our body, the more chemicals we use, the more damage we cause.
Though beauty care isn't a topic I dive into that often, mainly because I don't use a lot of products and am not so into makeup and whatnot, I thought this was a topic worth addressing.
Ready to dive into the mane event? Get it? :)
Factors Affecting Healthy Hair
- Nutrient deficiencies
- Autoimmune diseases
- Excess styling (heat, products, hair dyes, perms, etc.)
- Salt water (sorry my sweet beach babies)
- Chlorine (both tap water and pool water!)
Top 4 Foods for Healthy Hair
As I mentioned above, diet plays a vital role in the look, feel, and strength of all our body parts - hair included. Transitioning to a whole and healthy way of eating may cause a transition period where things get worse before they get better, but ultimately, with commitment, everything lands in a shinier place than when you started.
Collagen is very rich in amino acids. Some evidence indicates that hair thinning and loss can be due to nutrient deficiencies, including a lack of amino acids. Collagen may be able to step in and provide those important proteins for hair growth. Collagen can be found as a protein supplement that you add to smoothies and elixirs (I elect for Great Lakes brand), and it's also found in abundance in your homemade bone broths. Click here to learn more about collagen and how to use it in your diet.
Coconut oil is one of my most beloved fats, and there are at least nine different ways to use it. Let's not forget that our hair grows from our skin, and coconut oil has amazing moisturizing properties. It penetrates our skin and the hair shaft, it helps your hair grow healthy and strong and can even keep your scalp lice-free. It is an excellent conditioner, prevents hair damage and helps reduce protein loss in undamaged and damaged hair.
Seaweeds are mineral rich, and many minerals are co-factors in the production of enzymes and antioxidants that boost our health. It's also a fantastic source of iodine, a mineral that is very important for our thyroid gland. An imbalance of thyroid hormones can lead to hair loss, thinning hair or other hair changes. (You can discover more hormone-balancing foods here.) Some evidence indicates that specific types of seaweed can even help prevent hair loss, stimulate hair growth, inhibit dandruff, and reduce inflammation.
Seaweed Types: Irish moss, nori, wakame, kelp, dulse, kombu, hijiki, arame
Protein (All clean sources)
Nutritious sources of protein are essential to healing and repair. Our hair is made up of protein, and that means getting enough of it will help keep your hair healthy and strong. Protein-deficient diets are linked to hair thinning and hair loss.
Clean Food Sources Include: Organic nuts, seeds, beans, legumes, wild fish, free-run poultry, eggs, pastured meat, sprouted/fermented tofu and tempeh, bone broth
Top 6 Nutrients for Healthy Hair
Iron deficiency is linked to hair loss in both men and women. Scientists aren't entirely clear of the mechanism behind this, but they suspect some genes in the hair follicle are regulated by iron. Since iron is also responsible for circulating oxygen to through our body and to our tissues, I would imagine a lack of it may compromise healthy hair - not to mention the fatigue that may prevent us from having the energy to cook meals, potentially leading to further nutrient deficiencies.
B Vitamins support healthy hair by providing it with thickness and shine, as well as encouraging hair growth. Pay particular attention to Vitamin B6, B3, B5 and biotin, as these are especially helpful. Biotin can help strengthen hair and reduce hair loss, while B5 supports our adrenal glands - this improves our ability to cope with stress.
Food Sources: Dark leafy greens, gluten-free whole grains, sweet potatoes, legumes, fish, liver, eggs
Zinc can help prevent hair follicles from regressing, encourage hair follicle recovery and stimulate hair growth, while zinc deficiency can lead to hair loss. It plays an important role in the immune system as well, and a compromised immune system or autoimmune conditions can impact how healthy our hair is.
Food Sources: Pumpkin seeds, quinoa, lentils, turkey, sesame seeds, cashews, beef, mushrooms, asparagus, spinach
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acids are highly anti-inflammatory, which is vital for supporting and preventing many conditions that can lead to hair loss. They can help thicken hair and prevent hair loss, as well as stimulate hair growth and nourish our skin. Fats also help to stabilize blood sugar levels, which in turn help balances hormone levels.
Antioxidants (Vitamin A, E, C, Selenium)
Vitamins A and E nourish the skin and hair; Vitamin E can stimulate hair growth and encourage circulation in the scalp and hair follicles, while Vitamin A can promote hair follicle stem cells. Selenium and Vitamin C can prevent oxidative damage to our hair and may prevent hair ageing.
Food Sources: sweet potatoes, carrots, squash, dark leafy greens, almonds, sunflower seeds, avocado, berries, bell peppers, broccoli, citrus fruits, cauliflower, Brazil nuts, sardines, mushrooms, asparagus
Silicon is the third most abundant trace element in the human body. It can help make hair stronger and shinier, as well as stimulate hair growth. Hair with more silicon is less likely to fall out and will be brighter.
Food Sources: Carrots, green beans, brown rice, bananas, raisins (sulphite free), iceberg lettuce
5 Herbs + Supplements for Healthy Hair
Green Tea Extract
The compounds in green tea are rich in antioxidants, which helps to enhance hair growth, reduce hair loss, and inhibit inflammation. You can take this in supplement form, or by drinking it. Work with your natural health care practitioner for a specific dosage and protocol.
Saw palmetto is derived from a palm-like plant and it is commonly used for various men's health issues. With respect to hair, saw palmetto blocks the enzyme that converts testosterone into dihydrotestosterone (DHT), and DHT can lead to hair loss in both women and men. It can be taken orally or topically - work with your natural health care practitioner for a specific dosage and protocol.
Nettle, or stinging nettle, is plant that can be found around the world. They have hard, spiky bristles that can sting you in the wild if you're not careful, however, once it is cooked or dried it no longer has this effect. Nettle can prevent hair loss, prevent and address dandruff, improve the quality of dry hair and stimulate the scalp. It is best when used topically in natural hair care products.
This is derived from the leaves of the ginkgo tree and is well-known for increasing blood flow and circulation. Ginkgo can help boost circulation to the scalp and encourages hair growth. It can be taken orally or topically - work with your natural health care practitioner for a specific dosage and protocol.
MSM is an organic sulfur compound that is commonly used to address pain (particularly in the joints), aches, digestive discomfort, and more. Sulfur is found in our hair, skin and nails. The sulfur-containing amino acids in MSM help to provide the building blocks of hair protein that create strong, healthy and shiny hair. This is best taken as a powder, or crystals (it's easily added to smoothies and elixirs) - work with your natural health care practitioner for a specific dosage and protocol.
5 Essential Oils and Best Carrier Oil for Thick Healthy Hair
Note: if you are going to be using essential oils on your hair, ensure they are top quality.
Jojoba looks and feels like an oil, but it's technically a wax. It is very moisturizing to the scalp and has anti-inflammatory properties. It's great to use alongside essential oils as a carrier to help deliver the constituents to your hair and scalp.
When used topically, peppermint essential oil can help stimulate hair growth, increase hair follicle numbers and increase thickness.
Animal studies indicate that topical use of lavender essential oil can help promote hair growth and boost the production of hair follicles. As lavender is soothing to the nervous system, applying it to our hair can help calm us down and reduce stress, which is a cause of hair loss. And it smells great!
Studies of rosemary oil show that it can actually be slightly more effective than traditional hair loss medication at promoting hair growth after 6 months. It also contains compounds that fight inflammation, fungus and bacteria, which can help nourish the scalp if needed.
Chamomile has been used to lighten hair and can help to moisturize the scalp, as well as soften your hair. It has anti-inflammatory properties, and like lavender, it can help soothe us and reduce stress.
Sage can help balance the oils in the scalp to promote the healthy hair.
Yield: ½ cup
- ½ cup honey
- 2 Tbsp melted coconut oil
- 10 drops peppermint essential oil
- 5 drops rosemary essential oil
- 5 drops lavender essential oil
- Mix all ingredients together and store in a glass jar
- Apply 2-3 Tbsp of the mixture to wet hair. Let it sit for 15 minutes.
- Rinse out, shampoo and style as normal.