It’s normal for hair to fall out daily – we lose between 50 to 100 hairs daily and that’s perfectly OK, new hair grow immediately in their place and everyone is happy. But when you start noticing your hairline is slowly starting to recede or that your hair is gradually thinning, you don’t have to take it lying down. There are many natural and simple things you can do to give your mane a good boost and either slow the process down, or stop it altogether. Although genetics and aging are very real, they are not absolutes and can be influenced. If, however, you feel that hair loss has occurred far too abruptly or if you discover some sudden bald patches, do consult a doctor – it may be an autoimmune reaction or another cause best assessed by a professional.
But let’s look at what you can do, and as with most issues we may have with the way we look, the most effective approach is to look at not only what to use externally, but also at what we eat or should be eating. The saying “Beauty comes from within” has a reason!
What to Eat
What happens on the outside comes, to a large degree, from what is going on on the inside, so let’s start with nutrition. Healthy scalp and hair follicles depend on certain vitamins and minerals you can focus on and boost in your diet.
Vitamin D is a very important vitamin. Aside from supporting hair growth, it helps our bodies absorb and store calcium in the bones, supports proper functioning of the immune system (!) and reduces inflammation. Although the body can synthesize it from cholesterol when our skin is exposed to sunlight, winters and our more indoor lifestyles and the fact that vitamin D-rich foods are not so common mean that most people are not getting enough of it.
There are several sub-forms of vitamin D, those most commonly found are D2 and D3. D3 is the more effective one and sadly for vegans, it is found in animal products. D2 is found in mushrooms and as it is less effective in raising vitamin D blood levels, you either have to consume more of it, or supplement. Good news is that there are many foods that have been fortified with vitamin D. All in all, best sources of vitamin D are:
fatty fish (salmon, sardines, tuna, herring…, they’re also a good source of omega-3 fatty acids of which most people don’t get enough)
eggs (namely the yolk. Egg is a good choice because it also contains biotin and selenium, both a good news for your hair)
cheese and butter (grass-fed is best)
cod liver oil
spend some time in the sun whenever possible (this is complicated by the fact that UV filters mean no vitamin D)
supplements (choose D3 rather than D2 supplements)
This vitamin ensures healthy production of sebum (the oily substance secreted by our scalp to keep the skin and hair moisturized) and a good condition of the scalp. It’s vital for good eyesight (if you have problems seeing in the dark, lack of this vitamin might be to blame) and boosts your immune system. Lack of vitamin A can also manifest itself by some types of acne or keratosis pilaris (you’d have small, painless bumps on the backs of your upper arms).
Vitamin A as such (retinol) can be found solely in animal products, mostly:
We can also convert beta-carotene (pro-vitamin A) into vitamin A. Beta-carotene is found in many fruits and vegetables and some leafy greens. Some good sources are:
Sweet potatoes (they contain more beta-carotene than carrots)
However, there is a bad news for some vegans – it is estimated that around 45% of people are not able to convert beta-carotene into vitamin A very well and they then have to consume more beta-carotene-rich foods to reach the desired levels of vitamin A without animal sources.
Supplementation of vitamin A is an option but it’s good to keep in mind that vitamin A builds up in fatty tissues and turns out, you can have too much of this good thing – so going the “good nourishment route” might be a safer option. Make sure you also take in enough vitamin D not to cause imbalance.
Selenium is vital for the proper functioning of your thyroid, it can counter the effects of mercury, it acts as an anti-oxidant and of course, boosts hair growth. As with vitamin A, balance is important with selenium, too little is bad, too much is bad, so if supplementing, stick to the recommended amount.
Because of widespread soil depletion, a lot of people need more selenium than they’re getting. Good natural sources of selenium follow, but it depends on how much selenium there are in the soil where the products come from. If you notice symptoms of selenium deficiency (infertility, hair loss, muscle weakness, brain fog, weakened immune system), consider a supplement.
Brazil nuts (it is recommended to keep your consumption to around 4 nuts per day)
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 acids act against inflammation. That is very helpful in cases where hair loss is triggered by hair follicle inflammation. Omega-3 acids t also improve circulation in the scalp which helps healthy hair growth. There are several studies which support the link between omega-3 fatty acids and a healthy head of hair (for instance here). Beyond luscious head of hair, you might also benefit from an improvement in eye and brain health, reduced risk of heart disease, improved bone and joint condition, and improved sleep. Omega-3 fatty acids have been observed to fight depression and anxiety and various mental disorders, reduce symptoms of ADHD, prevent Alzheimer and even certain types of cancer.
Your best sources of omega-3 fatty acids might be:
Fatty fish (mackerel, salmon, halibut, herring, sardines …)
Cod liver oil
Other sources of omega-3 acids which don’t offer the EPA and DHA (more effective) but only ALA (less effective) fatty acids:
If you decide to go the way of supplements, consult your doctor if you are on some sort of medication, as they may interact with e.g. chemotherapy, blood pressure medication, anticoagulants and even contraceptives. Other than that, supplementation offers a good way to up your omega-3 and D-vitamin intake if you just don’t like fish. If you want to make sure you have a good source of fish oil supplement, try breaking open one of the capsules and smell the oil to see if it hasn’t gone rancid.
Sometimes referred to as vitamin H, this is a vitamin from the B family (B7) which plays a role in energy conversion, it’s very important in pregnancy for the baby’s growth and helps regulate your blood sugar, besides supporting healthy hair, nails and skin.
It is quite common in the foods we normally eat so biotin deficiency is actually quite a rare thing, but take a look at the list of common biotin-rich food and see where you stand:
Almonds and nuts and seeds in general
Liver and organ meats
Salmon (an all-round good choice)
What to Use
Besides eating healthy, you can also support your hair externally. Below are a few recommendations that can provide your hair with what they need to get healthy.
Onion is packed with nutrients, especially sulfur, which make the scalp and hair very happy. It promotes circulation and collagen growth while suppressing infections and there are many reports of people whom onion juice helped boost hair growth and fight graying and hair loss.
To make the juice, you can ether chop up about 4 onions and strain them, or simply put them in a blender and use the paste. You can also mix the paste with coconut oil or even olive oil. Massage it into your scalp, leave between 15 minutes to an hour and wash off well. You should repeat this every other day and keep it up for a few months. A pro tip: if the smell becomes too much, add a bit of lemon juice!
Coconut is an excellent moisturizer and also helps keep proteins locked inside. It is best for dry and damaged hair rather than oily hair. Since excessive dryness of the scalp is often the cause of hair falling out, coconut oil is a good cure and prevention if you tend towards dry skin. It’s best to try it out first with a small amount and see how your head likes it.
You can use it before washing your hair to protect it from damage (as hair is at its most vulnerable when wet), you can use it as a conditioner or even hair mask (for a hair mask, you’d simply leave it on longer – half an hour till overnight and then wash it out).
You can even leave it in your hair and use it as a tangle remover – you’d put it on your hair after you’ve washed and conditioned them and leave it in. But beware of the fact that it is an oil and oils can and do go rancid (and smelly), so keep monitoring the situation with your nose.
Apple Cider Vinegar
OK, both coconut oil and apple cider vinegar are all the rage now and people seem to be using them for anything from short-sightedness to an amputated limb, but they truly are very versatile substances and their effects on hair are demonstrably very good. Apple cider vinegar is very good when you have a rather oily scalp and tend towards clogged pores. It unclogs hair follicles and has an anti-bacterial effect. It also provides vitamins and minerals your skin and hair will enjoy.
To use, mix a few tablespoons with water and put it on your hair after you’ve washed them (and conditioned if that’s what you do). Gently massage in, let it sit for a few minutes and rinse. You can do this a few times a week. Play a little with how much ACV you use for best result – too much might irritate the skin with its acidity, or perhaps you need to be using more – see what works best for you.
As it is an acidic substance, try to keep it out of your eyes, and wash it out gently if you fail in doing so.
Rosemary oil can support cell generation, in this case – hair growth. It was even compared to minoxidil in a 2015 study and matched its results, but without the unpleasant side effects. Another great news for gray hair is that rosemary oil supports pigmentation.
To use, you can either find a hair product which contains rosemary oil, or add a few drops of rosemary essential oil in your regular shampoo, or, for that special home-spa feeling and extra kick, mix some rosemary oil in olive or coconut oil and massage into your hair. Leave on for a few minutes and then rinse.
With its selenium content, anti-microbial properties, and many vitamins and minerals, this is another surprising (if aromatic) remedy that may help boost your hair growth and prevent hair loss and, as added bonus, do away with dandruff. Although it is quite effective, test it first on a smaller scale if you have sensitive skin, garlic does pack quite a punch!
There are many ways to use garlic on your hair (eating it won’t go amiss either), for example you can mix it with honey or coconut oil, put it on your hair and scalp and after about 30 minutes, wash it all off with shampoo.
We hope you will see great results, feel free to let us know of your tried and tested tricks you’d like to share, or things to avoid!
Cover photograph: 123rf.com, artist subbotina