Just like food can positively impact your skin, the same concept applies to hair health. In other words, certain foods can support your hair’s luminosity, strength, and thickness (hallelujah.) As someone who has dealt with hair woes over the years (thanks to a pesky hormonal imbalance) I’m the first to admit that hair loss is both remarkably frustrating and equally soul-crushing. It takes a toll on your self-confidence, no doubt. The irony, though, is that hair loss is incredibly common. In fact, it’s estimated that roughly 50% of women will experience noticeable hair loss during their lifetime. The most significant cause of hair loss in women is called female-pattern hair loss (or FPHL), affecting roughly one-third of susceptible women. Postpartum hair loss plays a huge role as well. So, I did a ton of research to discover the best food for hair growth.
But First, What Causes Hair Loss in Women?
In essence, a wide range of conditions can bring on hair loss. From genetic predisposition to pregnancy, thyroid disorders, menopause, and anemia, hair loss is multifaceted.
The most common cause of hair loss? A hereditary condition that happens with age. This condition contributes to the aforementioned FPHL. It usually occurs gradually and in predictable patterns. In terms of temporary hair loss, hormonal changes and medical diagnoses may cause patchy hair loss, scalp infections, and more. Furthermore, an acutely stressful event can lead to the general thinning of hair, several months after a physical or emotional shock. Typically, this type of hair loss is temporary. Finally, some hairstyles and treatments can, unfortunately, cause hair loss. This type of hair loss (like tight hair pulling) is called traction alopecia.
Three Hair Growing Cycles
Throughout our lives, our hair grows in three cycles:
- Anagen phase (growing phase): This can last from two to eight years. This phase generally refers to about 85 to 90% of the hair on your head.
- Catagen phase (transition phase): This qualifies the time that hair follicles shrink. It takes about two to three weeks.
- Telogen phase (resting phase): This takes about two to four months. At the end of this phase, the hair falls out.
For shorter hairs, like eyelashes and eyebrows, they usually have a short anagen phase—about one month. Scalp hair, however, can last up to six years or longer.
How Lifestyle Impacts Hair Loss
In addition to being gentle on your hair (avoid tugging when brushing, use a wide-toothed comb, limit tension with braids, and try to avoid harsh treatments), various lifestyle habits impact hair loss and growth. Beyond genetics and aging, which have influence over hair growth, environmental factors, stress, and nutrition impact hair health and wellness.
Environmental stressors include a range of factors, like exposure to toxins, pollution, and smoking. All of these can be harmful to hair follicles. High pollution environments can lead to itching, dandruff, oily scalp, and more. From using a deep conditioner to wearing a hat outdoors, the more your hair is nourished and protected, the better.
Stress, while unavoidable at times, is another component of hair loss. Acute or chronic stress pushes large groups of hair follicles into a resting phase, which might cause affected hairs to fall out a few months after the stressful event(s). We rounded up the best stress relief products for you, in an effort to keep hair loss at bay.
Finally, nutrition. Consuming adequate protein, drinking plenty of filtered water, and loading up on iron and zinc-rich foods can all contribute to healthy and strong hair. B vitamins are super important too. Think: Dark leafy greens, whole grains, pasture-raised animal protein, and healthy fats—like olives, nuts, seeds, and avocados. These all help prevent deficiencies that can eventually manifest as hair loss.
Eating a balanced diet can help promote hair growth, especially if you think you’re experiencing hair loss due to inadequate nutrition.
12 Foods for Hair Growth
For many of us, our bodies require a diet high in plant-based foods, fiber, antioxidants, omega-3 fatty acids, and high-quality protein for optimal hair growth. In other words, eating the rainbow. Consuming these 12 foods, as part of a nourishing diet, can aid in supporting the hair growth process. A win-win, they also contribute to the building blocks of producing healthy skin and nails.
- Bell Pepper
- Bone Broth
- Cruciferous Veggies
- Greek Yogurt
- Sweet Potato
Right out the gate, healthy fats are essential to hair health. In fact, because our bodies can’t produce omega-3 fatty acids on their own, we need to get them through our diet. Enter: Avocados. This superfood fruit nourishes hair follicles with its vitamins, minerals, and healthy fats. They are rich in vitamin E and antioxidants, helping stimulate strong, shiny, and lustrous hair.
Recipe: Easy Chocolate Avocado Pudding by Making Thyme for Healthy
A wonderful source of vitamin C and fiber, bell peppers trigger hair growth through the improvement of blood circulation in the scalp. As a member of the capsicum family, bell peppers are an excellent source of vitamins A, C, and B6.
Recipe: Lasagna Stuffed Peppers by Naturally Ella
Organic bone broth and collagen (ideally from pasture-raised, grass-fed animals) support hair elasticity and strength. Bone broth also provides the building blocks for connective tissues to hold everything in place. Well-sourced and high quality, bone broth and collagen are beneficial ingredients for hair-building amino acids.
Recipe: Bone Broth Vegetable Soup by Calm Eats
Cruciferous veggies—like broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and cauliflower—are rich in folate, which is necessary to improve weak, thinning, or brittle hair. Cruciferous veggies also aid in the natural production of keratin, due to containing sulfur-rich amino acids. These amino acids are an important subgroup that builds keratin. Keratin, in many ways, is both an external protective and internal structural protein to protect hair and keep it healthy.
Recipe: Cacio E Pepe Brussels Sprouts by Camille Styles
Because our hair is made up of protein, foods like pasture-raised eggs, wild-caught fish, organic chicken, etc. are essential for hair growth and health. Eggs are also an easy source of biotin, an ingredient found in many hair supplements. Furthermore, egg yolks may be useful in moisturizing hair that appears dry.
Recipe: Vegetable Frittata by Clean & Delicious
Like eggs, Greek yogurt is high in protein and essential vitamins and minerals, like zinc. In addition to its protein content, Greek yogurt also has an ingredient that helps with blood flow to the scalp. Vitamin B5 (known as pantothenic acid) has been shown to help against hair thinning and loss. To upgrade your normal Greek yogurt bowl, add in omega-3 fatty acids like chia and ground flaxseed.
Recipe: Vanilla Greek Yogurt Chia Seed Pudding by Little Broken
From the legume family, lentils are rich in hair-strengthening vitamins like iron, zinc, and biotin. Biotin is necessary for keratin production, which is a foundational component of hair, skin, and nails. Lentils and beans are also convenient, healthy sources of protein for plant-based eaters.
Recipe: Lemony Lentil and Chickpea Salad by Cookie + Kate
Oranges, like other citrus fruits, are rich in antioxidants, playing a major role in facilitating hair growth. The antioxidants fight off free radicals, preventing hair damage and boosting hair growth. Oranges also contain fiber, B vitamins, and vitamin E—all further helping repair damaged hair follicles.
Recipe: Tropical Pineapple-Ginger Smoothie by Camille Styles
Nutritious fish—like salmon and mackerel—are rich sources of omega-3 fatty acids. Their compounds aid in hair luminosity and growth, thanks to their healthy fats, protein, and B vitamins. In essence, this oily fish can help restore hair’s shine and are essential to retaining a healthy scalp.
Recipe: Grilled Salmon Tacos with Avocado Salsa by Cooking Classy
An excellent source of iodine, seaweed aids in supporting a healthy thyroid, which in turn is important for overall hair health. Furthermore, eating seaweed helps promote scalp hydration, which improves the condition of dry hair. Last but not least, it increases hair mineralization, which can lead to thicker hair.
Recipe: Miso Ramen Soup by Plant Based Jess
Leafy green vegetables are one of the best food groups for hair growth. Spinach, along with kale and arugula, is rich in antioxidants, which aid in warding off free radicals (these can damage the scalp’s natural collagen supply). Spinach is also high in vitamins A and C, antioxidants that regulate cell turnover and oil production.
Recipe: Summer Strawberry Spinach Salad with Avocado by Ambitious Kitchen
Sweet potatoes are high in beta-carotene, the precursor for vitamin A. Vitamin A is necessary for a healthy scalp and promotes hair growth. As prebiotic, sweet potatoes also support gut health, and studies show that a healthy gut microbiome supports the production of nutrients needed for growing hair. Last but not least, sweet potatoes are also high in vitamin C, an antioxidant that improves skin health.
Recipe: Southwestern Grilled Sweet Potato Salad by Two Peas & Their Pod
Finally, the 5 Best Supplements for Hair Growth
While eating foods that promote hair growth is essential, adding in a daily supplement further supports hair growth goals. When it comes to choosing the most optimal hair growth supplement, you want to look for clinically-backed products that have been tested for efficacy and quality. Keep in mind that most supplements take three to six months in order to build up stores of various vitamins, minerals, and compounds, so be patient!
Before buying a hair growth supplement, though, chat with your doctor or dermatologist. Get tested for any potential nutrient deficiencies as well as make sure you choose a supplement that won’t cause allergies or other adverse effects. Furthermore, read all labels and steer clear of non-natural or chemical ingredients. Ideally, the ingredients are plant-based and come from organic sources.
Shop NourishVita Hair, Lash & Brow Growth Vitamins Supplement
An effective plant-based formula for hair wellness, NourishVita developed this hair supplement with scientifically proven ingredients. This advanced daily supplement regimen contains key nutrients including essential fatty acids, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidant botanicals. A hormone-free product, this supplement contains biotin and vitamin C, along with vitamin A. Vitamin A, specifically, is needed by every cell in order to grow. In other words, vitamin A is key for tissue growth and consequently, hair growth.
Shop Nutrafol Women Hair Growth Supplement
Clinically proven to improve hair growth and strength, this supplement targets multiple root causes of thinning, including stress and nutrition, from within. Nutrafol’s ingredients help support overall wellness for better sleep, energy, mood, and skin health. This supplement is specifically for women, and 79 percent reported feeling more confident in their hair growth after six months of use. Nutrafol has been recognized as a best-in-class hair growth solution.
Shop Natural Wellbeing Hair Essentials
With only the purest quality, ethically sourced ingredients, Natural Wellbeing Hair Essentials honors the time-proven, traditional usage of herbs for health and wellbeing. Integrating the latest scientific research into their professionally developed formulas, this supplement contains ingredients like bamboo extract, milk thistle seed, and saw palmetto berry.
Shop Viviscal Hair Growth Supplement
A trusted option for over 25 years, Viviscal’s award-winning formulation (Harper’s Bazaar Anti-Aging Award 2020) contains key ingredients to support healthy hair growth. This supplement also has a new and improved taste, made with proprietary Aminomar Collagen Complex and other important compounds like Biotin, Zinc, Vitamin C, Iron, and Niacin.
Shop Hair Hero
With hydrolyzed collagen, Hair Hero was created to support hair health by repairing and strengthening damaged hair follicles, naturally. This proprietary blend is designed with the essential vitamins and minerals needed to nourish and replenish your hair to allow for optimal growth. With 5000 mcg of Biotin, Hair Hero hair growth vitamins are packed with fuel to grow thick, healthy hair. This supplement is also completely free of gluten, soy, preservatives, and dairy.