Monday, May 26, 2014

Healthy Diet, Healthy Hair

Years ago my hair was down to my hips and extremely healthy. During college, I chopped 10+ inches and donated it to Locks of Love, anticipating that I would "grow it out, donate it...grow it out, donate it..." Yet, it never grew that long ever again.

In the years that followed, my hair was every color from bleach blonde to auburn, to "box color black." Yes, it was called "black" and came from a box. Scary stuff. It occurred to me that when it was its longest, I had never colored it. So last year, when I reassessed my budget ($100+ for a salon visit?!) and the time it took to blow dry, flat iron, and style my hair (only to put it up and get it all sweaty during my workouts), I decided to take on "Project Grow My Hair Out." While I am not a stylist, have never been to beauty school, and have learned only by experience and my own research, I have provided insight at to what has worked for me and has helped to grow my hair.

Avoid Coloring Your Hair
Hair color penetrates the hair shaft through the cuticle, which is the outermost layer of hair. Hydrogen peroxide, that is present in most hair dyes, opens the cuticle to let color pigments enter the shaft, bringing about a chemical reaction. However, an opened cuticle means that there will be a liberal loss of moisture, causing the hair to become dry and thin.

Avoid Flat Irons, Blow Dryers, and Heat
Continuous use of hot irons and blow dryers will cause the ends of your hair to dry out and become brittle. This will cause the ends of your hair to split, with no way of repair other than being cut off. To reduce the damage to your hair, towel dry until it is just damp, not dripping wet, then blow try after treating it with a heat-protectant product. Better yet, let it air dry. Use a mousse or conditioning oil to help tame frizz and let your natural waves or curls do their thing! I use a texturizing product called Beach Babe by Not Your Mothers (found at Ulta).

Sleep With Your Hair Down

It is best to sleep with your hair down because having it in a ponytail can result in damage and breakage to your hair, caused by the pulling and tautness of the elastic band.

Brush Hair When Dry, Comb Hair When Wet

Wet hair is much more fragile and susceptible to damage than dry hair. Fine toothed combs and brushes forces the hair and stretches it, usually causing it to break off when placed under too much stress. The best way to detangle is with a wide-toothed comb.

Maintain a Healthy Diet

Here is a list of healthy foods that will provide the nutrients you need to grow healthy hair (
1. Salmon

Besides being rich in protein and vitamin D (both are key to strong hair) the omega-3 fatty acids found in this tasty cold-water fish are the true superstar. Your body can't make those fatty acids, which your body needs to grow hair. About 3% of the hair shaft is make up of these fatty acids. Omega-3s are also found in cell membranes in the skin of your scalp, and in the natural oils that keep your scalp and hair hydrated.

2. Walnuts

These are the only type of nut that have a significant amount of omega-3 fatty acids. They're also rich in biotin and vitamin E, which helps protect your cells from DNA damage. Since your hair rarely gets much shielding from the sun, this is especially great. Too little biotin can lead to hair loss. Walnuts also have copper, a mineral that helps keep your natural hair color rich and lustrous.

3. Oysters

Oysters are rich in zinc, a lack of which can lead to hair loss (even in your eyelashes), as well as a dry, flaky scalp. Three ounces has a whopping 493% of your daily value. You can get some zinc through fortified cereals and whole grain breads, but oysters can boast a good level of protein too. Without enough protein, your body can't replace the hairs that you naturally shed every day and what you do make can be dry, brittle, or weak.

4. Sweet Potatoes

Sweet potatoes are a great source of the antioxidant beta carotene, which your body turns into vitamin A. It also helps protect and produce the oils that sustain your scalp, and being low on vitamin A can even leave you with itchy, irksome dandruff. Click here previous blog for my Sweet Potato Fries recipe!

5. Eggs

A great source of protein, eggs are loaded with four key minerals: zinc, selenium, sulfur, and iron. Iron is especially important, because it helps cells carry oxygen to the hair follicles, and too little iron (anemia) is a major cause of hair loss, particularly in women.

6. Spinach

The iron, beta carotene, folate, and vitamin C in spinach help keep hair follicles healthy and scalp oils circulating.

7. Lentils

Tiny but mighty, these legumes are teeming with protein, iron, zinc, and biotin, making it a great staple for vegetarian, vegans, and meat eaters.

8. Greek yogurt

Cruise the dairy aisle for low-fat options such as Greek yogurt, which is high in hair-friendly protein, vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid -- an ingredient you'll often see on hair care product labels), and vitamin D. Emerging research links vitamin D and hair follicle health, but exactly how that works isn't clear.

9. Blueberries

Exotic super fruits may come and go but when it comes to vitamin C, C is critical for circulation to the scalp and supports the tiny blood vessels that feed the follicles. Too little C in your diet can lead to hair breakage.

10. Poultry

This everyday entree is extraordinary when it comes to protein, as well as hair-healthy zinc, iron, and B vitamins to keep strands strong and plentiful. Because hair is nearly all protein, foods rich in protein are literally giving you the building blocks for hair.

Schedule a Trim Every 6-8 Weeks
While I have not followed through with this one as much as I would like, it is very important to keep the split ends to a minimum. If you cannot afford to go to a full service salon this frequently, do what I do and visit Great Clips or Super Cuts for "maintenance" trims and visit the salon every few months for a more stylized cut.


  1. I'm all over anything that gives me even more reason to drink my BCAAs! And have gorgeous hair!