Hair Growth & Diet: Are They Linked?
Updated: May 21
Well well well, it's about time we talked about my growth secrets, huh? Well for one, it was never a secret that my hair grows like a weed, but maybe the secrets are within my diet?
I am a vegetarian and maintain a healthy diet. However, being a vegetarian isn't the reason behind my hair growth!
It's all in the greens, fatty acids, vitamins, and minerals I consume on a daily basis.
Hair growth can be affected by environment, diet, products, and genetics.
For example, minerals in your water can contain high solutes of a given mineral, effecting your hair growth and development or a lot of sun exposure can damage your hair as well (Jung, Herrling, Blume, Sacher, & Teichmuller, 2006).
Hair growth is associated with eating a balanced diet. As the saying goes, you are what you eat. And, according to today's research, this is true. Hair follicles can determine a lot about an individual, such as their specific diet (Basha et al., 2018; Ellegard et al., 2019).
Let's Talk About Food: What I Eat
First, remember that we all vary in what nutrients our body needs (as far as specific level intakes, etc).
What may work for me, may not work for you, and genetics also play a part in hair growth and development.
We all know how much I love flaxseed oil, well guess what, it's high in omega-3s which help lubricate the hair follicle, shaft, and moisturize hair.
(You can read more about specific foods that can enhance hair growth here: Gardner, 2018).
Yellow and red onions
Red and white cabbage
I've been a vegetarian for 3.5 years, so before then, I ate a lot of fish and chicken and rarely ate red meat.
To make sure I'm getting all the minerals I need, I take a multi-vitamin.
I buy the certified vegan, organic, gluten-free, tested by NSF, and verified non-GMO Garden of Life My Kind Organics multi-vitamins.
My other diet go-to's are eggs, sweet potatoes, almonds, sunflower seeds, beans (mostly, navy, black-eyed peas, black beans), soy and tofu.
(Please consult with a doctor before changing your diet or adding vitamin supplements to your diet).
Healthy Hair Habits
While we discovered diet can enhance or disrupt hair growth, because it can contribute to the vitamins, omega-fatty acids, and minerals, so do simple hair care habits!
When I was a kid, cornrows and braids were my best friends and they always promoted growth! Twists or braids are great protective styles that can let the hair relax and grow.
I stopped straightening my hair every day. I do not use heat (not even blow-drying) more than 2-3 times a year (sometimes 4 if I'm pushing it).
And I always leave about 2-3 months of no-heat in between those times I do straighten or use a blow-dryer.
I always comb my hair using conditioner (with my Denman brush), gently, starting from the ends and working my way up. After the knots are out, I start from the scalp and work my way down. (This can prevent breakage.)
I do not dye my hair or use any products to alter the color of my hair.
As of the very end of 2016, I started looking into castor oil. Most hair-care sites, blogs, etc., suggest that cold-pressed organic is the best way to go.
Personally, I like sticking with the same brand. Both of these babes gave me great results (peep the pic).
I found out my hair LOVES a routine.
I wash it usually every Friday or Sunday in the winter. In the summer, I wash it usually on Mondays or Tuesdays and Fridays.
I wash 1-2 times a week during the winter and 2-4 times during the summer.
I stay clear of thick oils, as they can make my scalp feel clogged and heavy.
If I use growth oils (e.g. rosemary, vitamin E, tea tree, castor oil, I use it minimally and massage it throughout my scalp).
I always cover my hair at night (or during my relaxed days, I put my hair up in a loose bun)
I never scratch my scalp when shampooing, only massage lightly.
Overall, I treat my hair like I treat my face.
I don't put just anything in it.
I always research a product, read the ingredients, and pay attention to how my hair and scalp reacts to any new products I try. Because if my hair loves it, then I do too!
Now, these are things I am known to do with my hair and I have no evidence it can lead to hair growth.
I ALWAYS play with my hair. Relaxed and curly, I always run my fingers around the ends of my hair and style it frequently.
I always restyle my hair after about 2-3 days.
I never leave my hair in one style for more than a week (if I do leave it in for more than a week, my hair's in twists).
I only trim my ends when they look frayed and uneven.
I do not cut my hair or get it trimmed professionally. (The last time I got a haircut was in '09 HA.)
I use soft bristle boar brushes or rubber bristled brushes. I rarely use a comb when "combing" my hair. Instead, I use a wide-toothed rubber brush.
(Please NOTE: I am not a professional and these recommendations are based on my personal experience only.)
Basha, W. A., Lamb, A. L., Zaki, M. E., Kandeel, W. A., Fares, N. H., & Chamberlain, A. T. (2018). Dietary seasonal variations in the Medieval Nubian population of Kulubnarti as indicated by the stable isotope composition of hair. Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports, 18, 161-168.
Ellegård, L., Alstad, T., Rütting, T., Johansson, P. H., Lindqvist, H. M., & Winkvist, A. (2019). Distinguishing vegan-, vegetarian-, and omnivorous diets by hair isotopic analysis. Clinical Nutrition, 38(6), 2949-2951.
Gardner, S. (2018). Diet and healthy hair. Retrieved from https://www.webmd.com/skin-problems-and-treatments/hair-loss/men-hair-loss-17/eat-right-healthy-hair
(HLHC) Hair Loss Health Center. (n.d.). Hair loss. Retrieved from https://www.webmd.com/skin-problems-and-treatments/hair-loss/default.htm
Harvard Health Publishing. (2020). The right plant-based diet for you. Retrieved from https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/the-right-plant-based-diet-for-you
Hoffman, M. (2010). Hair (human anatomy): Image, parts, follicle, growth, problems, and more. Retrieved from https://www.webmd.com/skin-problems-and-treatments/picture-of-the-hair#1
Jung, K., Herrling, T., Blume, G., Sacher, M., & Teichmuller, D. (2006). Detection of uv induced free radicals in hair and their prevention by hair care products. Retrieved from http://www.gematria-test-lab.com/pdf/detection.pdf