HAIR GROWTH VITAMINS
Do you feel hair envy watching women in hair commercials flip their long, strong, shiny locks? For those of us who struggle with hair that’s thin and grows slowly, especially as we age, the struggle is real. But are new and different hair care products the fix? Or does this beauty battle require a nutritional solution?
While both genetics and hair styling play a role in how your hair looks, nutrition is an oft-overlooked yet critical factor for hair health and appearance. If you’re not eating the foods that contain the essential vitamins for hair thickness and growth, you’ll want to take a supplement to fill in the gaps.
WHAT IS HAIR?
Hair is mostly made of a protein called keratin, which is also found in skin, nails, and teeth. Keratin is comprised of amino acids and cysteine disulfide, a substance that forms a stiff structure, and together, they help determine hair’s appearance. The thickness of keratin determines its rigidity; extremely thin layers are very flexible, and thick layers are strong and firm.
There are three types of hair: lanugo, the hair that grows on fetuses, vellus, the short, hard-to-see hair known as “peach fuzz,” and terminal hair, the hair found on the head and body.
With terminal hair, each individual hair is called a follicle and is anchored at the base, or bulb, under the skin. The bulb supports the root and sebaceous gland, and cells divide and grow to form the shaft, the part that’s visible to us.
The innermost layer of the hair is called the medulla, a honeycomb-like structure of loose cells. The cortex, a tougher keratin layer surrounds it, and the final layer, called the cuticle, contains cells that make hair shiny. Melanin, the color-giving compound in our bodies, is found in both the cortex and the cuticle.
Many different things can affect hair’s appearance, no matter what type of hair you have, including poor nutrition, harsh shampoos and conditioners, dyes, and heat styling.
FACTORS THAT AFFECT HAIR GROWTH & THICKNESS
Hair growth happens in a three-phase cycle:
Anagen (growth phase): Most hair is constantly growing and continues to grow over two to six years or longer.
Catagen (transitional phase): Over four to six weeks, HAIR GROWTH slows, and the follicle becomes smaller.
Telogen (resting phase): Over about three months, hair stops growing and the old hair detaches from the follicle and is replaced by new hair. As a new hair starts growing, the old hair gets pushed out and falls out.
Most people have about 100,000 hairs on their head. About 90-95% are in the anagen phase, and the 100-150 hairs we lose daily are in the telogen phase.
Hair growth rates vary from person to person. On average, hair grows about a quarter to half inch per month, but some major factors that affect hair growth include:
- Genetics or family history of hair loss
- Lack of nutrition
- Hormonal changes, including pregnancy
- Certain medications
- Trauma or injury to follicles
- Illness or disease
And while hair growth can’t be induced overnight, you can provide your body the hair growth supplements it needs to create new hair, including ample protein, hair growth vitamins, and essential minerals.
FACTORS THAT INFLUENCE HAIR THICKNESS
Thick hair tends to be stronger hair. In general, the size and shape of your hair follicles determine the thinness or thickness of your hair – larger follicles produce thick hair, and smaller follicles produce thin hair. The number of hair follicles you have also affect the appearance of thickness, as the more follicles you have on your scalp, the thicker and fuller looking your hair, and fewer follicles means thinner or finer looking hair.
Other factors that affect hair thickness include:
- Hormonal changes, like pregnancy and menopause
- Heat styling
Poor nutrition is a major cause of hair loss and thinning, so making sure you eat a balanced diet is key for thicker, stronger hair. Protein is also important because in addition to helping hair grow, it protects it from chemical, environmental, and heat damage.
VITAMINS FOR HAIR
So what exactly counts as the “right nutrition” for strong, healthy hair? Here are the absolute best vitamins for hair:
A water-soluble B vitamin, biotin prevents brittle hair and hair loss. Biotin-rich foods include liver, egg yolks, Swiss chard, carrots, strawberries, raspberries, almonds, and walnuts. Biotin is one of the best vitamins for hair.
Pantothenic Acid (B5)
Pantothenic acid is another hair growth vitamin because it strengthens hair follicles and cells, contributes to their nourishment, and helps promote hair growth. You’ve probably seen a similar-sounding derivative of this vitamin, “panthenol,” in hair care products, but that’s used mainly to attract moisture to hair. Get the real thing from foods like lean meats, liver, sunflower seeds, salmon, avocados, corn and legumes.
Sebum conditions the scalp and hair, helping to protect hair from damage and giving it some shine, and to make sebum, our body needs vitamin A. For this reason, Vitamin A is included as key vitamins for hair. Vitamin A can be found in liver, fish, dairy products, eggs, leafy green vegetables, orange and yellow fruits and vegetables like cantaloupes or squash, and tomatoes.
In order for your body to absorb iron, you need vitamin C. It’s also an antioxidant and helps produce collagen, which strengthens the capillaries that bring blood to the hair follicle. Vitamin C can be found in hair growth supplements. Fruits are an excellent source of vitamin C, especially berries, citrus fruits, and tropical fruits like papayas, kiwi, and guava. Also high in vitamin C are vegetables like broccoli and sweet potatoes.
A potent antioxidant, vitamin E helps protect hair from sun damage. Good sources of vitamin E are like leafy greens like spinach, kale, Swiss chard, mustard greens, and broccoli, nuts like sunflower seeds and almonds, and avocados. Vitamin E is one of the best vitamins for hair.
Vitamin D receptors have been shown to produce new hair follicles and restore hair growth while vitamin D has also been shown to stimulate new and old hair follicles. A deficiency in this critical vitamin has also been linked to hair loss and stunted hair growth. You can get vitamin D from fish liver oils, the skin of cold water fish like salmon, mackerel, herring, and sardines, fortified foods such as orange juice, milk, cereal, and yogurt, as well as smaller amounts in liver, egg yolks, and dark green, leafy vegetables. Vitamin D is one of the best vitamins for hair growth and thickness.
HAIR GROWTH SUPPLEMENTS
You should also supplement your diet with these hair growth supplements:
Since hair is made of a protein called keratin, to have strong, healthy hair, you need to eat good quality protein. Being deficient in protein can result in dry, brittle, weak hair prone to breakage. Choose lean sources like chicken, turkey, fish, low or nonfat dairy, and eggs, and don’t forget vegetarian protein sources like legumes (beans) and nuts. If you’re not getting sufficient protein from your diet, supplement with hair growth supplements like collagen and whey protein.
The hair follicle receives its nutrients from our bloodstream, but when iron levels are low (like with anemia), the hair growth cycle is affected and may result in hair loss. While red meat is high in iron, you can also get iron from healthier sources like chicken, fish, and lentils, as well as leafy greens like kale, broccoli, and spinach. If you’re iron-deficient, supplement with an iron-only formula and look for heme-iron (animal based) which is less constipating than non-heme iron (plant based).
Too little zinc can lead to a dry, flaky scalp and hair loss. Good sources of zinc include lean meats, low or nonfat dairy products, and nuts and legumes like cashews, almonds, lentils, chickpeas, and kidney beans. hair growth supplements like a multi-vitamin for hair or a HSN (hair, skin & nail) formula or are often formulated with zinc.
MULTIVITAMIN FOR HAIR
The reality is most of us aren’t eating a well-balanced diet, so we often miss out on getting the necessary amounts of vitamins for hair. But a premium-quality multi-vitamin and mineral should provide sufficient hair growth vitamins along with hair growth minerals too. Show some love to your locks and give them what they need to grow long, strong, and lustrous!