When trying to improve the condition of our hair, most of us will turn to topical solutions, from conditioning masks to coconut oil. So. much. coconut. oil. But it’s a bit like stuffing your face with junk food 24/7, then just applying a bit of spot cream when you *shockingly* get breakouts. In short, you won’t solve your surface-level problem without a bit of an internal overhaul.
The same goes for hair, which always looks its best when you take care of it from within. While there are plenty of supplements out there promising thicker, longer, healthier locks, you don’t necessarily need to pop pills to improve your hair. Instead, the getting the right foods in your diet can make all the difference without costing you the earth.
Vitamins are key
It’s no surprise that vitamins play a huge part in achieving healthy hair, which can be found in a vast variety of foods.
“Typically vitamins B, C and zinc are great for hair growth as they are powerful antioxidants. In particular Biotin (Vitamin B7) and Niacin (Vitamin B3) are incredibly beneficial as these two vitamins help slow down hair loss and also promote hair growth,” says Paul Edmonds, official hair stylist for the BAFTAs.
In addition, qualified nutritionist and specialist paediatric dietitian Bahee Van de Bor agrees “your diet needs to be rich in minerals such as iron and zinc for the healthiest hair possible”.
Which foods should I eat?
“Generally speaking, foods such as, tangerines, berries, spinach, fish, eggs, soybeans, wholegrains, brown rice, nuts and shiitake mushrooms are good sources for these vitamins,” says Paul.
Many of us will already consume a handful of these, but it’s not always entirely possible due to our individual dietary requirements.
“If you suffer from iron deficiency anaemia and hair loss, correcting your iron levels will help restore and strengthen your hair,” adds Bahee. “Other than meat, chicken and fish, plant sources of iron include lentils, beans, greens such as spinach, nuts and seeds.”
“Consider adding a variety of beans and nuts to a salad or hummus-based dips with crackers and sliced coloured vegetables, as these contain vitamin A – another vitamin that helps to grow healthy hair.”
All great options if you follow a vegetarian diet, too.
Foods to avoid
“Foods that can restrict the flow of blood and prevent the hair from growing tend to be refined sugars and white carbohydrates. Try to eat them in moderation,” adds Paul. “Whilst some fish are great, such as salmon, others can contain mercury that should be consumed in moderation, such as tuna and mackerel.”
“Alcohol also is a big no-no as it can seriously affect the level of zinc in your body, dehydrate your hair causing it to become brittle over time, as well as causing hair follicles to become thinner and weaker.”
Bahee also notes that consuming too much vitamin A or selenium can cause toxicity, leading to actual hair loss. “You do need to be careful about toxicity if you regularly take a vitamin and mineral supplement,” she says. “If you eat a wide range of plant-proteins, fruit and vegetables, you probably don’t need the supplement.”
But her best advice on how to really make your diet work for you hair? “Always speak to a registered dietitian if you need tailored advice.”