“But, hair is just dead skin cells right…so, how can hair be healthy if it’s technically dead? ”
This is a question I’ve heard a few times. Maybe you have too. Perhaps looking at the facts will give us some answers as to what exactly “hair” is made up of and how we can play our part in keeping it healthy.
What is Hair?
To set the record straight, hair is actually made up of a protein called keratin. According to Webmd.com, the anatomy of hair consists of the hair follicle, which “anchors each hair into the skin.” The hair bulb forms the base of the hair follicle. In the hair bulb, living cells divide and grow to build the hair shaft. The hair shaft is the part of the hair we are most familiar with. It’s what we wash, brush, comb, and style.
The blood vessels in our scalp provide nutrients to the cells in the hair bulb. They also secrete hormones that control hair growth and structure at various phases of our lives.
According to the article, hair growth occurs in cycles consisting of three phases:
- Anagen (growth phase): Most hair is growing at any given time. Each hair spends several years in this phase.
- Catagen (transitional phase): Over a few weeks, hair growth slows and the hair follicle shrinks.
- Telogen (resting phase): Over months, hair growth stops and the old hair detaches from the hair follicle. A new hair begins the growth phase, pushing the old hair out.
Why do I say all this? To show there is scientific proof that hair is alive! Like any other part of our body, hair requires adequate nourishment and care to grow. More specifically, hair needs specific vitamins that aid in hair growth and health.
Vitamins and Minerals for Hair Growth
“Everything your body does is fueled by nutrition,” according to an article written by the world-renown Dr. Edward F. Group III, founder of one of the largest natural and organic health resources in the world, the Global Healing Center. Since our hair strands are alive and active, nutrition plays a major role in the maintenance of hair.
Some of the main vitamins and minerals that are critical to hair growth include, Vitamins A, C, Biotin (B7), and Niacin (B3), and the essential minerals Iron, Zinc, and Iodine. “Together, they provide the nutritional foundation for full, thick, shiny looking hair. If you’re short on the essential nutrients that support healthy hair, it won’t look and feel its best,” wrote Dr. Group.
Here is a breakdown of some of the vitamins and the essential role they play in haircare:
- Vitamin D: Adequate vitamin D is important for preventing hair loss, especially in women. In one study, women who experienced female pattern hair loss also had low levels of Vitamin D. Food Sources: tuna, salmon, mackerel, foods fortified with vitamin D (cereals, soy milk, and some dairy products), cheese
- Vitamin A: Vitamin A deficiency accompanies a host of serious health consequences (such as blindness, and even death). Though rare, this deficiency also leads to dry hair, which is one of the first indications that you’re not getting enough Vitamin A. Food Sources: sweet potatoes, carrots, dark leafy greens, winter squashes, luttuce, bell peppers
- Biotin: The relationship between Biotin and hair growth is still unclear but it is known that adequate Biotin is necessary for healthy hair growth. The best way to avoid a Biotin deficiency is to simply get enough in your diet. Food Sources: avocados, bananas, legumes, leafy greens, almonds
- Vitamin C: Vitamin C is an antioxidant, which means it helps mitigate free radical damage. Although many people associate free radical damage as some sort of internal-only process, hair follicle cells are also affected by free radical stress and it can start to show in hair strands, especially as you age. Food Sources: citrus fruits (oranges, lime, lemon, grapefruit), papaya, strawberries, pineapple, kiwifruit, cantaloupe, raspberries
- Vitamin E: Vitamin E is another antioxidant that helps fight damage from free radicals. People who suffer from hair loss generally have fewer antioxidants present in the scalp and, thus, more evidence of oxidative damage in the skin. Food Sources: almonds, spinach, avocado, sweet potato, sunflower seeds, butternut squash
The best way to get these vitamins and minerals are from a well-balanced diet. However, most of us have some sort of deficiency in one or more. Thus, another option is supplements.
It’s hard to say which supplements work best. Everyone’s body, diet, and hair work differently. A supplement that works well for one person may not necessarily work for another.
Along with providing your hair with the right nutrients, it goes without saying a consistent hair routine is needed for healthy, growing hair. Sufficient vitamin intake and regular, shampooing, conditioning, and oiling go hand-in-hand to achieve flourishing locs.
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