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You are what you eat, as they say. So a healthy diet can also help maintain healthy hair. “Nutritional deficiency has long been considered to be one of the major causes of hair loss,” explains Dr Earim Chaudry. Not getting all those vital nutrients affects both hair structure and hair growth.
While making sure your diet is rich in vitamins for your hair may help give you a natural boost, if you’re suffering from male pattern baldness (MPB), no amount of vitamin-rich foods alone are going to reverse the hair loss. MPB is mainly caused by a combination of hormones and genetics, so if you’re losing your locks, tried-and-tested medicinal treatments like Finasteride and Minoxidil are the only way to fully combat the issue.
Eating well is one of the simplest things you can do to improve your health. Even with the stresses of modern life, a balanced diet containing all the essential vitamins and nutrients can make you feel – and look – a million dollars!
Hair loss in the form of male pattern baldness (MPB) is a problem that many millions of men face worldwide – and it’s a tough one to tackle. MPB is caused by your levels of a specific hormone, DHT, and your sensitivity towards it – which is genetic. DHT is a male sex hormone derived from testosterone and the enzyme, 5α Reductase. It shrinks the follicles on your scalp to stop them producing healthy hairs.
Finasteride is the only approved treatment to inhibit DHT, and thereby stopping (even reversing) the effects of MPB. Minoxidil is also effective as a topical treatment, and it works as a vasodilator, dilating your scalp’s blood vessels and allowing for blood to flow in the region. A combination of these two treatments is highly effective, and simply taking vitamins alone cannot compete with the results.
Having said that, getting your five a day and making sure you eat a balanced and nutritional diet is never going to hurt. Staying healthy will also help your hair loss treatment work to its full potential.
So, what should you be looking out for to keep your mane looking fresh? Here’s our round up of what vitamins are most important for your hairdo.
What Vitamins are Good for Hair?
Vitamins that are good for your hair are generally good for a raft of bodily functions, so you really can’t go wrong with making sure your diet is hair-healthy.
Hair, nails and skin are often grouped together to benefit from the same vitamins, so you may find that your skin looks healthier and nails are stronger and grow faster when you focus on boosting your diet in these compounds. Win, win, win!
B Vitamins (there’s a few)
In general, B vitamins help create red blood cells throughout the body. So they’re pretty important.
When it comes to hair growth, increasing red blood cell count in the scalp boosts oxygen levels, which in turn facilitates healthy follicles and hair growth. Minoxidil, one of the two approved medicinal treatments for hair loss, works in a similar way by boosting blood flow to the scalp through widening blood vessels. Whether you’re using Minoxidil or not, it won’t hurt to include B vitamins in your diet.
A vitamin B deficiency can also cause anemia, which in turn can make you feel tired and sluggish – definitely not what you need when you’re trying to give yourself a boost.
Foods that are high in vitamin B12 are meat or dairy products – so it can be common for long-term vegans and vegetarians to have a slight deficiency. If that’s you, a supplement could be the way to go to make sure you’re getting the goods. Foods high in B vitamins are pork, poultry, shellfish especially crab, cheese, eggs, tofu, avocado, cabbage, nuts and seeds, and wholegrains.
Vitamin H (Biotin)
Finasteride & Minoxidil
This powerful combo promotes hair growth by blocking DHT – a hormone linked to hair loss – and by increasing blood flow around your follicles.
Vitamin H, also known as biotin, “increases protein synthesis and DNA concentration in hair follicles,” explains Dr Earim Chaudry. “People taking supplements can often see a real improvement in the condition of hair, skin and nails.”
You may recognise biotin as an ingredient in many hair thickening shampoos and hair loss supplements, so you would think that’d be a decent sign that it improves hair growth. A word to the wise, though. There’s currently no clinical trials that have demonstrated that biotin supplementation can heal hair loss when there’s no existing deficiency.
Deficiency of biotin in humans is rare. If it does occur, it can lead to skin rashes, loss of hair and cholesterol problems. Despite the inconclusive evidence, many men take a Biotin supplement (also known as vitamin B5) to help with the hair’s building block protein (keratin) needed for thick, shampoo-ad looking hair.
The upshot? If you’re already getting enough biotin in your diet, you’re halfway there when it comes to maintaining a full thatch. To make sure you’re getting enough, eat cooked eggs (especially yolks), sardines, nuts (almonds, peanuts, pecans, walnuts) and nut butters, soybeans, legumes (beans, black eyed peas), whole grains, cauliflower, bananas, and mushrooms.
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Which Vitamins Help Hair Growth?
While vitamins and supplements can play a part in healthy hair maintenance and growth, it has not been proven that they aid or reverse the effects of hair loss. Rather than using vitamins for hair loss, an approved medical treatment like Finasteride or Minoxidil is key if you have a MPB diagnosis.
However, the role some vitamins play in our bodies can facilitate improved hair growth. Just don’t expect overnight miracles!
A collection of compounds including retinol, retinal, retinoic acid, and provitamin A carotenoids make Vitamin A really important in the hair growth world.
A study has shown that the vitamin plays a key role in the process that activates follicle stem cells, encouraging healthy hair growth. “The role of vitamin A in the activation process of hair follicle stem cells is very complex,” Dr Chaudry states. “Adequate amounts of retinoic acid (a metabolite of vitamin A) are needed to attain the optimal function of hair follicles.” It also can increase scalp oil production which helps hair look more healthy and lustrous.
However, too much Vitamin A can actually cause hair loss – and limiting Vitamin A intake can delay the onset of balding, so you need to have the right daily intake. The recommended daily amount of Vitamin A for men is 900 mg. Eating a healthy and varied diet provides enough without needing supplements.
To get your daily dose, eating sweet potatoes, squash, carrots, apricots, spinach, kale, cabbage, and broccoli can help. Cod Liver Oil supplements also contain a great dose of Vit A, and can have a whole range of benefits including maintaining a healthy immune system – and keeping joints healthy, too.
Known as the sunshine vitamin, Vitamin D is a really important one when it comes to hair growth. If you live in Northern Europe, it’s likely you won’t naturally get enough Vitamin D from October-March thanks to our famously grey winter weather. You could make the decision to relocate to warmer climes to take advantage of that extra sunshine, but if you need a less drastic option, you could also look to supplements to boost your intake.
Vitamin D can create new hair follicles, making hair appear thicker. It also plays a part in hair follicle cycling; a regenerating system that regulates hair growth via a complex interaction between hormones, neuropeptides and immune cells, which can improve the rate at which your hair grows.
Vitamin D deficiency has been linked with the onset of alopecia, so it’s a really important one to keep on top of. The NHS advises taking 10 mcg (400 iu) daily if you’re suffering from a deficiency. It’s been proposed that an optimum concentration of the vitamin is essential to delay the aging process – including slowing down hair loss – so you really can’t go wrong. You can count us in.
To boost your Vitamin D intake and get your follicles firing, eat plenty of fatty fish such as tuna, mackerel and salmon and foods fortified with vitamin D – like some dairy products, orange juice, and cereals. You can also include beef liver, cheese, and egg yolks in your diet to get the best outcome.
Tocotrienols and tocopherols belong to the vitamin E family and are powerful antioxidants, hence they’re used in skincare products. They can protect hair against stresses like dryness and breakages.
There’s only a small amount of scientific evidence that directly links an increase in Vitamin E to preventing or healing hair loss, but investigations have shown a connection between oxidative stress and hair loss or alopecia. In another small study, patients given a vitamin E supplement over an 8 month period reported a 34.5% increase in hair growth compared with a placebo group. Sounds pretty impressive, so it could be worth a try.
If you’re already suffering from thinning hair, the last thing you need is avoidable breakages, so keep your vitamin E levels up by munching on vegetable oils (corn, soybean), wheat germ, almonds, hazelnuts, sunflower seeds, whole grain cereals and green leafy vegetables. Yum.
And The Star Nutrients…
Along with these all important hair growth vitamins, there are, of course, a bunch of other nutrients that can give your hair a healthy boost.
Zinc plays an important role in keeping oil glands around the follicles healthy and producing sebum as they should. Zinc is also important in hair tissue growth and repair; keeping the hair on your head in it’s best condition, looking shiny and helping protect from breakages. What we all want, right?! To up your rations of Zinc, eat plenty of chicken, red meat, lobster, and oysters. Could be worse!
One cause of hair loss is anemia due to iron-deficiency; iron helps red blood cells oxygenate cells around the body. While taking iron supplements without a diagnosed deficiency can be dangerous, you can make sure you’re getting enough naturally, by eating lean beef, fish, poultry, spinach, broccoli and tofu.
The right amino acids are important, too – such as L-Lysine which studies believe may play an important role in iron and zinc uptake. Lysine-rich foods include lentils, tempeh, black beans, quinoa, pistachios and pumpkin seeds.
The key take away? While keeping your diet healthy and varied in all of these hair growth vitamins and nutrients is important, the only approved hair loss treatments are medicinal – Finasteride and Minoxidil.
There’s no harm in giving your diet a health kick, and making sure your diet is full of vitamins for hair growth will mean any approved treatment can work to its full potential. You may have to broaden your culinary horizons, but there’s really nothing to lose.