Hair loss is common among all genders, and finding the right solution often comes down to pharmaceuticals or covering up your head. We talked with some hair loss experts and have done our own research to determine the best foods to reduce hair loss and support healthy hair growth. Take a look at the responses and recommendations below.
The Importance of Food for Hair Growth
The Role of Nutrient Deficiencies
While further study is still necessary to understand the best food for hair growth and the link between hair loss and diet, there is an understanding that a deficiency in certain nutrients can have a profound impact on hair growth. According to Dr. Anna Cabeca, a triple-board certified and Emory University-trained physician and best-selling author, a lack of nutrients such as protein, zinc, and iron can contribute to hair loss.
1. Red Meat (Iron)
Dr. Yelena Deshko of the Timeless Health Clinic agrees and says that iron deficiency is a common contributor to hair loss, particularly in young women. However, Dr. Deshko recommends actually getting tested for an iron deficiency before making changes to your diet. Taking iron supplements can cause side effects such as constipation.
2. Carrots (Beta-Carotene/Vitamin A)
Beta-carotene is a nutrient that can be converted into vitamin A, which cells (even hair cells) need for growth. According to Kathy Sadowski, beta-carotene also acts as a powerful antioxidant to neutralize free radicals capable of causing cellular damage.
However, Sadowski also warns against taking too much beta-carotene. High levels of vitamin A can be unsafe to pregnant women, cause temporary skin yellowing, and potentially even contribute to hair loss.
3. Nuts and Eggs (Zinc/Biotin)
Biotin is one of the main building block proteins that makes up hair, skin, and nails, which is often why it is so commonly included in hair growth promoting supplements. According to Dr. Deshko, biotin deficiencies can contribute to hair loss, and preliminary studies show that supplementing with biotin may improve hair growth. Kathy Sadowski, a registered aromatherapist at Wellness Aromas, recommends peanuts, almonds, walnuts, eggs, and sesame seeds as good sources of biotin. Sadowski also says that biotin levels can be naturally hampered by taking antibiotics, consuming alcohol, and eating processed foods.
Sadowski also suggests the importance of zinc, a mineral that plays an important role in tissue growth and repair. Zinc deficiency may potentially contribute to hair loss, though more research is necessary. Vinay Amin, CEO of Eu Natural, also recommends zinc in promoting hair health and preventing hair loss.
Sadowski also recommends not going overboard as “excessive zinc intake can affect healthy blood cell production.”
4. Citrus Fruits (Vitamin C)
Sadowski also recommends vitamin C, which is best known for its effects on the immune system, but it may also aid in the production of collagen. Dr. Lam suggests that combining vitamin C and iron may help to increase blood circulation to the scalp and “provide your hair with great nutrients needed for full, beautiful hair.”
Vitamin C is readily available in fruits and vegetables, particularly citrus fruits and green, leafy vegetables. Sadi Khan of RunRepeat suggests Indian gooseberry oil as a rich source of vitamin C.
5. Seafood (Vitamin E)
“Vitamin E is a crucial nutrient for your hair, skin, and nails,” says Dr. Lam. Vitamin E may also be massaged into the scalp to enrich hair follicles and prevent plaque formation.
6. Seaweed (Iodine)
The thyroid produces hormones that control your metabolism. However, thyroid issues, including both hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism, can contribute to thinning hair and hair loss, according to Dr. Lam, who suggests consulting your doctor if you believe you have thyroid issues.
Dr. Cabeca also suggests selenium and iodine to support a healthy thyroid. “Eat two Brazil nuts nightly (which provide approximately 200 micrograms of selenium),” says Dr. Cabeca. Sushi and seaweed provide natural sources of iodine.
Dr. Yelena Deshko of the Timeless Health Clinic suggests that diets low in protein can contribute to poor hair health. “A strand of hair is composed of mostly protein, which means your hair needs protein to grow,” says Dr. Deshko, “Protein requirements vary widely from person to person and can increase if you're pregnant or on an exercise program, so consult with your naturopathic doctor to determine the optimal levels for you.” Along with lean sources of protein, you can supplement your protein through whey protein isolate and plant-based protein shakes.
Collagen is a specific type protein found in skin and cartilage. It is one of the most abundant proteins in the human body. Consuming collagen may be helpful for hair growth because it provides your body with amino acids which your body can use to make other proteins like hair. While no studies have been performed on the effects of collagen on hair growth, one study found that 2.5g of collagen peptides daily improved nail growth and reduced brittle nails.1
9. Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acids are an essential fatty acid and a necessary component for nearly all cell membranes in the body. A lack of omega-3 fatty acids can contribute to hair loss, according to Dr. Cabeca.
Omega-3 fatty acids may also play an active role in hair growth outside of a deficiency as a powerful anti-inflammatory that may help to open up hair follicles according to Dr. Lam. Dr. Deshko echoes similar sentiments, suggesting that omega-3s can decrease inflammation and reduce a dry, flaky scalp.
Omega-3 fatty acids are most commonly found in fatty fish, like salmon, mackerel, and tuna, as well as fish oil supplements. Vegetarians may consider supplementing with flaxseed oil.
10. Green Tea
Green tea has been studied for its wide range of potential health benefits. Dr. Cabeca says that green tea is a rich source of catechins, a compound known to inhibit the enzyme responsible for converting testosterone into dihydrotestosterone (DHT). DHT is known to contribute to androgenic alopecia by shrinking hair follicles and lengthening hair’s resting period while shortening the active hair growth period. Along with potentially preventing DHT buildup, Dr. Cabeca suggests that green tea extract may help to strengthen damaged hair.
11. He Shou Wu (Fo-ti)
Also known as Fo-ti, He Shou Wu has been studied for its effects on hair. Adrienne Urban, owner of Whole New Mom, states that He Shou Wu has been shown to assist hair growth with both internal and topical use, though some studies show that internal use may contribute more benefits.
Ginseng is a root that has been studied for a wide range of potential health benefits. Studies in both humans and animals show ginseng’s potential to promote hair growth. Urban cites a study that suggests that ginseng may be more effective than finasteride, a drug prescribed for androgenic alopecia.
13. Saw Palmetto
Saw palmetto is the fruit of a small palm tree and is well-known for its effects on DHT. As a dietary supplement it can be particularly beneficial because saw palmetto helps to block DHT and promote hair regrowth. Lisa Richards, a nutritionist and author of The Candida Diet, recommends saw palmetto for its ability to inhibit the conversion of testosterone into DHT. As mentioned, excess DHT is one of the primary contributors to androgenic alopecia. By regulating its levels with saw palmetto, you may be able to reduce hair loss and support healthy hair growth.
Sourced from a seed, fenugreek contains high levels of protein and nicotinic acid. According to Richards, nicotinic acid and protein can both contribute to hair loss prevention while also moisturizing the hair and scalp and reducing dandruff. Khan also suggests that fenugreek seed extract has natural anti-fungal properties that help to prevent dandruff and infections, while the high lecithin content allows for stronger, more lustrous hair.
Hair loss can be difficult to deal with, but according to the experts we talked to, there are a wide range of natural ways to potentially encourage healthy hair growth. Consult your doctor if you believe you are suffering from a nutritional deficiency or otherwise have questions about your hair loss.
Read next: 10 Vitamins and Minerals Deficiencies that Cause Hair Loss