If you’ve read anything about hair loss, it was probably targeted towards men, who are often the only ones that hair loss articles and products are geared towards. But the reality is that hair loss affects both men and women, at all stages of life. The causes can be intrinsic, think genetics or hormones, or they can be extrinsic: things like nutritional deficiencies and oxidative stress.
If you’re losing hair due to intrinsic factors, supplements might not be very helpful for you. But the good news is that extrinsic factors (the ones we can address more easily) are much more common than most people realize, and proper supplementation can help. But first thing’s first, let’s break down what we mean when we say extrinsic factors.
We all know that a balanced diet is key for overall health and wellbeing, but it’s also essential for strong, healthy hair. Ideally, your diet should be made up of a balance of protein, healthy fats, fiber, fruits, and veggies like leafy greens, but even the best diets can still have gaps. Finding the right supplements to support your overall health can help you make sure your bases are covered.*
Our bodies are like finely tuned machines with many moving pieces all working together, and keeping everything in balance is critical for overall health.
Our environments are filled with something called free radicals, which are molecules with an uneven number of electrons. Because of this, free radicals are often referred to as unstable. That’s where antioxidants come in: antioxidants can give free radicals a spare electron, which neutralizes them, without becoming unstable themselves.
This process is called oxidation, and it occurs naturally in our bodies. But if we have an imbalance of free radicals and antioxidants, the unstable free radicals can do damage to fatty tissue, lipids and protein, which are the major building blocks of our hair.
So, what’s the best way to support long, healthy hair when it comes to these external factors? Here are six of our favorite vitamins and supplements that can help keep hair thick and full.
If you’ve looked into hair growth vitamins in the past, you’ve probably run across biotin, also called B7, or vitamin H. Biotin helps the body break down protein, which is essential for hair and nail growth.
Biotin deficiency is rare since most people get their biotin%20%5B2%2C12%5D.) naturally through food. Organ meats, eggs, beans, nuts, seeds, and certain veggies provide great sources of biotin in the diet. The recommended dietary allowance is 30 micrograms and increases for women when pregnant or breastfeeding.
We already know the balance between free radicals and antioxidants is important to hair health, since an excess of free radicals can damage hair. Vitamin C has powerful antioxidant properties that can help manage oxidative stress from free radicals. Our bodies also use vitamin C to produce collagen, which is a protein that plays an essential role in hair structure. The recommended dietary allowance for vitamin C is between 75 mg for women and 90 mg for men. Foods like citrus, bell peppers, and broccoli are great sources of vitamin C. Those who are not consuming a diet rich in fruits and veggies may be deficient in vitamin C.
Recent studies have shown a connection between vitamin D deficiency and hair loss, and vitamin D deficiency is a common problem throughout the U.S. Vitamin D deficiency affects an estimated 1 billion people worldwide. Research has shown that incorporating vitamin D into your routine can help promote follicle growth, which is why it’s one of our top vitamins for healthy hair.
Our greatest natural source of vitamin D is sunlight, but it can be hard to get enough just through sun exposure alone — think clouds, buildings, and clothing. Supplementing with vitamin D regularly can help ensure you’re giving your body what it needs to stay healthy.
Our bodies use iron to help red blood cells carry oxygen, and one of the major symptoms of iron deficiency, particularly in women, is hair loss. While iron is an essential part of a healthy diet, we recommend speaking with your doctor before adding an iron supplement to your diet, since it can be problematic if you do not have a deficiency. Excess iron can be toxic to the body.
Zinc is often cited for its immunity-supporting benefits, but it’s also being researched for its potential positive impact on supporting healthy hair. Although the exact role is unclear, zinc is an essential micronutrient that plays a role in managing structure and function of hormones, enzymes, and proteins. Zinc deficiency may contribute to temporary hair loss. After measuring zinc and copper ratios in participants, this study found that there may be a correlation between hair health and zinc status. Maintaining adequate zinc levels among other micronutrients may support healthy hair.
The recommended daily intake of zinc for men is 11 mg and 8mg for women. Even though beef, lamb, and oysters contain the most zinc, those following a mostly plant based diet can still get zinc from foods like pumpkin seeds, legumes, and nuts. The main challenge is that plant based sources contain properties (called phytates) that may make nutrient absorption a bit more challenging in vegans, vegetarians, and those with occasional digestive issues. So if you’re not getting enough through diet alone, supplementing can help.
While most people associate protein with muscle growth and development, it’s also what makes up most of our hair. Protein is a macronutrient, which means that, unlike vitamins and minerals, our bodies require large amounts of it.
If you don’t get much protein through your diet, incorporating a protein powder can help ensure you’re giving your body what it needs to help support strong muscles, hair, and nails. For more information on protein and how it works in the body, check out our article, “Protein Powder 101.”
Keratin is a fibrous protein and it is important for structural support in the body and hair health. Studies have shown that keratin supplementation may support hair growth, fullness and shine. In one study, participants supplementing with 500mg of keratin along with vitamins and minerals noticed a decrease in significant hair loss after 90 days. Care/of keratin comes from wool collected from free-range sheep roaming the grassy plains of New Zealand’s highlands.
There are several food sources of collagen. Did you know that eggshell membrane is one of them? Egg shell membrane is a vegetarian option of supplementation that has collagen, elastin, keratin, and hyaluronic acid. Those ingredients are important for overall hair health. Based on the results from the study, collagen supplementation may help stimulate hair growth. In a pilot study, participants noticed brighter, thicker, and more hydrated hair after supplementing with 300mg of eggshell membrane for 50 days.
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