“If you’re not putting the right fuel in, your hair may not be getting the nutrition that it needs to thrive,” he said. “But for some, a few simple changes in their diet can have a dramatic effect on their hair’s appearance and health. And in many cases, if the diet deficiencies are addressed, hair loss stops or reverses.”
Varona discussed the most important nutrients for healthy hair and the foods that supply them.
Essential fatty acids. These are vital for healthy skin, hair, and nails. “Omega-3 fatty acids nourish and protect hair, help in regrowth, and add a silky shine,” Varona said. “Fatty fish like salmon has lots of omega-3; and walnuts, chia seeds, flax seeds, and soybeans are also a good source of this healthy hair nutrient.”
B vitamins. B vitamins are essential for hair growth, provide extra support for healthy hair, and help maintain integrity. “They help create red blood cells, which carry oxygen and nutrients to the scalp and hair follicles,” he said. “Many vegetarians and vegans have a deficiency of vitamins B6, B12, and folic acid, important nutrients for healthy hair. You can find B6 in bananas and potatoes, B12 in meat and dairy products, and folic acid in citrus fruits and tomatoes.”
Protein. Hair is composed of a protein called keratin. “If you’re short on protein, your hair won’t thrive,” Varona said. “Animal products like meat, fish, and eggs are a good source of protein. You can also get protein from plants, including beans, lentils, nuts, and grains.”
Vitamin D. “Vitamin D keeps the skin, bones, and hair healthy,” according to Varona. “Some studies have linked vitamin D deficiency to hair loss. You can find vitamin D in fatty fish, liver, egg yolks, and in fortified foods like milk.”
Iron. Severe iron deficiency, also called anemia, causes hair loss in some patients. “It is especially common in women with heavy menstrual periods and is easily mistaken for female pattern baldness,” Varona noted. “Meats including chicken, fish, and red meats are good sources of easily absorbable iron. Plant sources of iron include beans and lentils, dark leafy greens, and potatoes. Many breads and cereals are also enriched with iron.”
Trace minerals. These include iron, chromium, copper, zinc, iodine, manganese, and selenium. “A daily multivitamin can be helpful to ensure you’re getting those vitamins and minerals that your body, and your hair, need most,” Varona said.
“A healthy, well-rounded diet often contains all the foods and nutrients needed for beautiful, healthy hair,” he added. “A simple blood test can check for nutritional deficiencies, and if they are found, a change in diet or supplementation may improve your hair and stop hair loss.”
Chris Varona, DO, is a leading hair restoration specialist and the owner of Varona Hair Restoration in Newport Beach, CA (www.varonahairrestoration.com). One of the few hair surgeons who perform FUE graft extractions manually himself, Varona focuses on follicular unit extraction (FUE surgery) and also performs follicular unit transplantation (FUT). He has performed over 5,000 cases.