Education & Training: North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University
- B.S. Food & Nutritional Sciences (Dietetics)
- M.S. Food & Nutritional Sciences
1. When looking for vitamins as a young adult, I always hear biotin is what grows your hair. Other than biotin vitamins, are there other vitamins to consider for healthy hair growth?
The body needs B-vitamins to make new red blood cells, for protein metabolism and for cell growth and repair – all internal processes needed for hair growth. Biotin (Vitamin B7) contributes to hair growth. Although rare in occurrence, biotin deficiency has been linked to skin rash, seborrheic dermatitis (dry scalp, excessive dandruff) and alopecia (hair loss). Other than tablet form, biotin can be obtained from foods such as milk, eggs, vegetables and organ meats (liver).
Additional vitamins to consider for healthy hair growth are B-complex supplements, Vitamin A and Vitamin C.
These supplements contain eight B vitamins and are well-known for their hair, skin and nail benefits.
- Vitamin B1 (Thiamine)
- Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin)
- Vitamin B3 (Niacin)
- Vitamin B5 (Pantothenic Acid)
- Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine)
- Vitamin B7 (Biotin)
- Vitamin B9 (Folic Acid)
- Vitamin B12 (Cyanocobalamin)
This vitamin is beneficial to the hair and scalp, not just the eyes! Vitamin A supports cell division and growth – the key way that hair is formed and exits the follicle. When a person becomes deficient in vitamin A, hair follicles overproduce and become plugged with keratin which in turn causes dry skin, scaly scalp (follicular hyperkeratosis) and stunted hair growth. In contrary, too much vitamin A can lead to thin, brittle hair.
Sources of vitamin A include red, yellow, and orange-colored foods, dark leafy vegetables, milk, cheese and eggs.
A vitamin needed to maintain healthy hair follicles by way of collagen synthesis. Collagen is a protein that is critical to the structure of bone and blood vessels. Vitamin C deficiency may result in bleeding under the skin, especially around the hair follicles, which could cause dry, flaky scalp and weak/brittle hair.
Sources of vitamin C are citrus fruits, green vegetables and potatoes.
The Institute of Medicine, Food and Nutrition Board has information on Upper Tolerable Intake Levels of the vitamins discussed and many others.
2. I am experiencing shedding and brittle hair and have been told that what I eat will be reflected in the health of my hair. Now that I am trying to practice better eating habits, what are some essential foods I should have in my routine diet to help grow and strengthen my hair?
We are all familiar with the cliche, “You are what you eat!” This is especially true when it comes to our tresses. A high quality diet will result in high quality hair growth. In today’s fast-paced society it seems as though healthy eating and exercise take a backseat to other demands in life.
The best source of nutrients comes from the foods we consume so it’s critical to eat a well-balanced diet consisting of fruits, vegetables, lean meats and whole grains. This diet is necessary for optimal health and the prevention of certain diseases and conditions. It is also necessary because our bodies prioritize areas of nutritional needs. For example, vital organs (brain, heart, stomach, intestines, pancreas, kidneys, liver and lungs) receive the bulk of our nutrients because they are essential for survival, whereas, organs and tissues not necessary for life-or-death functions receive the remainder of our nutrients. If the diet is lacking, the body will quickly divert nutrients to the vital organs first which leaves hair, skin and nails to fend for themselves. Taking a multivitamin to compensate for the nutrients missed in a daily diet is not uncommon.
Shedding and brittle hair could also be the result of dehydration and/or inadequate iron intake. Iron is found in every living cell and is responsible for transporting oxygen from the lungs to all tissues in the body and helping transport carbon dioxide back to the lungs for expiration. Being deficient in iron could lead to dull, dry, brittle and thinning hair. Iron-containing foods include red meat and bakery products with enriched flour such as, white breads, rolls and crackers.
3. Does drinking water really help your hair grow? If so, how?
Water is the largest component of the human body, making up 50% to 70% of the body’s weight. Water has many functions in the body such as, maintaining cell health and reproduction, actively participating in chemical reactions, temperature regulation, helping to remove waste products, and forming saliva and the lubricants found in the knees and other joints, etc. Dehydration negatively impacts the natural growth cycle of our hair because the cells responsible for hair growth will not be able to grow and reproduce.
Diets lacking proper water consumption could lead to dry, brittle, withered hair and shedding. The average adult needs about 8 cups of water and/or other like fluids per day. Water can be found in abundance in fruits and vegetables such as, romaine lettuce, tomatoes, watermelon, asparagus, citrus fruits, watercress and zucchini.
The ultimate take-aways linking nutrition to healthy hair and a healthy scalp are as follows:
- Vitamins and minerals are beneficial to hair growth.
- A high quality, well-balanced diet is critical to growing and maintaining healthy hair.
- Hydration helps the natural growth cycle of hair.
* Always consult with a licensed health professional before starting any supplement regimen. Factors including your medical history and current health condition must be taken into consideration. If you are concerned about the vitamin status in your body, request a blood test to determine your vitamin levels.
Thank you Dacia for sharing your expertise!
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