“Rapunzel, Rapunzel, let your hair down.” You know how the story goes. Poor Rapunzel is stuck in a tower, locked away from the world. But her hair is so thick and strong that a prince can use it as a rope to climb up and rescue her! If only fairy tales were reality. Or maybe she just took a bunch of hair vitamins.
Let’s face it, many of us are prone to thin hair or hair loss. And the hair we do have? It’s often dull, dry, damaged, thinning, and susceptible to breakage. If only we could be more like Rapunzel …
Well, we can get close.
Shampoo and conditioner go a long way in maintaining hair health. But getting the right nutrients in your diet is also key. It goes a long way toward helping to prevent hair loss. It may also help encourage hair growth, and promote thickness and shine.
Here are eight vitamins or nutrients that may help make your hair look like a storybook legend:
Biotin is a member of the B-complex vitamin family, and it’s invaluable to hair health and hair growth.
When ingested through foods or supplements, biotin reacts with enzymes. These biotin-enzyme reactions help produce amino acids. And amino acids? They are the building blocks of protein.1 And hair is largely made up of a protein called “keratin.”
So, biotin is integral to the hair growth process. And when plenty of biotin is present, it helps keep hair thick and shiny, and reduces the chances of breakage. Biotin may even help keep your hair in your head. Studies have linked hair loss with low levels of biotin.2
Good sources of biotin…
Eggs, salmon, avocado, cheese, raspberries, and walnuts.
2. Vitamin A
Vitamin A is a well-known antioxidant. Antioxidants fight oxidative stress and help prevent free radical damage. As we age, free radicals increase. Their damaging influence can contribute to the appearance of aging hair. With free radical damage, you may notice changes like hair graying and hair loss.3
Vitamin A is also vital for sebum (oil) production. The idea of walking around with an oily head of hair doesn’t sound all that great. But keep in mind, a healthy amount of oil actually gives hair moisture and sheen.
Good sources of vitamin A…
Milk, carrots, squash, spinach, leafy greens, and sweet potatoes.
3. Vitamin C
Vitamin C is another powerful antioxidant.4 It helps the body combat signs of free radical damage and hair aging.5
This all-around great vitamin also helps the body absorb minerals like iron. These minerals are integral to helping reduce hair loss.
Good sources of vitamin C…
Citrus, bell peppers, guava, kale, kiwi, brussels sprouts, and strawberries.
Iron deficiency is associated with at least two types of hair loss:
1. Androgenetic, or “pattern hair loss,” which is the kind of hair loss that many people experience as they get older. 7
2. Telogen effluvium, a condition in which the normal hair life cycle is disrupted. This type of hair loss is often preceded by psychological or emotional stress. This causes the hair to enter the resting phase early. It results in hair shedding and diffuse hair loss.8
It isn’t completely clear why hair loss is often associated with low iron levels. But some things are clear …
For example, iron is essential for red blood cell production. And red blood cells are necessary to carry nutrients and oxygen around to the body—first to the vital organs and to non-vital body parts, such as hair and nails. 9
However, if you’re low in iron, those red blood cells may not make it to the hair follicles at all. So, for the best chances of growth, make sure you’re getting enough iron.
Good sources of iron…
Beans, eggs, meat, broccoli, spinach, leafy greens, dried apricots, and raisins.
5. Vitamin E
Vitamin E is an antioxidant.10 When taken orally, it may help fight off oxidative stress on the scalp, which can lead to hair loss.11
Vitamin E is also essential to the production of red blood cells, which are necessary to transport oxygen and nutrients to hair follicles. 12
Good sources of vitamin E…
Leafy greens, almonds, avocados, sunflower seeds, shellfish, eggs, and broccoli.
Tip: Vitamin E also comes in oil form, and it can be applied directly to the scalp.
6. Vitamin B5
Vitamin B5 is also known as pantothenic acid. It helps your body metabolize carbohydrates, fat, and proteins. And remember: Protein is integral to hair growth, since hair is largely made up of the keratin protein.
Vitamin B5 is also necessary for the production of red blood cells. And a healthy supply of red blood cells feeds hair follicles.
B5 also works to moisturize the skin.13 And when the skin of your scalp is well-moisturized, it helps make hair shiny and strong.
Good sources of vitamin B5…
Greek yogurt, eggs, avocados, and legumes.
Zinc is a trace element in the body that’s fundamental for hair follicle health. Put simply, zinc can prolong the active growth phase of the hair life cycle. Zinc also stimulates recovery after hair is naturally shed.14
Studies show people experiencing hair loss may have lower concentrations of serum zinc in their bodies than normal. This suggests that there may be a correlation between zinc deficiency and hair loss.15
In fact, zinc, when supplemented in a healthy diet, is a remarkable booster of new hair growth.16
Good sources of zinc
Oysters, kidney beans, lobster, chicken, nuts, and shrimp.
8. Omega-3 and Omega-6 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids are key players when it comes to growing a full, healthy head of hair. These essential acids work to help ease inflammation that may irritate the scalp. They’re also effective at soothing and hydrating the scalp and hair.17-18 To top it all off? Omega fatty acids also help support healthy blood flow throughout the body. All these things add up to stronger, shinier hair.
A 2015 study pointed to some remarkable findings about omega fatty acids. They can help nurture a healthy environment for hair growth. In the study, women with pattern hair loss supplemented their diets with omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. After six months, their hair was thicker in diameter and more dense on the scalp. To top it all off, the women reported a significant reduction in the rate of hair loss.20
Good sources of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids…
Walnuts, spinach, salmon, chia seeds, and eggs.
Eating Your Way to Fairy Tale Hair
Are you struggling with hair that is prone to falling out? Or have your locks lost their luster? Know that there are steps you can take to help combat these problems.
Besides using good products, one of the best places to start is with your diet. Eating foods that contain nutrients essential to hair health may help transform your hair from the inside out. So, the next time you make a run to the market, take this list with you and start stocking up. Pretty soon your tresses may be the envy of all the kingdom.
For more hair health tips, keep reading: