Medically reviewed by Katelyn Hagerty, FNP
Written by Our Editorial Team
Last updated 8/18/2021
If you want a head of hair that looks healthy and strong, you may have to work for it.
It makes sense, right? After all, if you want washboard abs, you can’t eat a bunch of junk food and sit on the couch all day — you need to create habits that get you that six-pack.
Well, the same theory applies to your luscious locks. So, what healthy hair habits should you focus on?
Eating holistically is good for you in a number of ways. People with healthy eating habits live longer and are less at risk for things like heart disease and type 2 diabetes. But a well balanced diet can also help your hair.
Studies have shown that not getting enough iron and zinc through your diet is potentially bad for the health of your hair. What’s more, the studies found that, depending on what’s causing loss of hair, people who bump up their dietary intake of these vitamins and nutrients may see an improvement in hair growth.
So, what should you eat? Here’s a list of foods high in zinc:
And here’s a list of foods rich in iron:
Kidney and white beans
Fact: smoking is detrimental to your health. It can cause cancer and other diseases and affects nearly every organ in your body.
Need more convincing? The smoke created by cigarettes is a pollutant that can cause hair damage and has been found to damage the DNA of your hair follicles.
What you put on your hair matters, too. In fact, there are shampoos that may thicken hair and even stimulate hair growth, or products that are specifically designed to work with your hair type.
When it comes to hair products, avoid things that promise long-lasting hold (like hair sprays and gels) as much as possible. They can cause breakage and hair damage — especially when applied to wet hair that’s then brushed with a wide-toothed comb.
Hot tools can also cause hair damage, especially on real curly hair. So, if you want your hair to be in the best shape, avoid drying your hair with a blowdryer every single day. If you do incorporate a lot of heat styling in your hair routine, consider adding a heat protectant to the mix.
Far as ingredients go, some studies have demonstrated that saw palmetto may encourage hair regrowth.
For instance, one 2012 study found that while saw palmetto wasn’t nearly as effective as finasteride in treating hair loss, 38 percent of the men in a study group saw an increase in hair growth. Not too shabby, eh?
Hims has a thickening shampoo that’s made with saw palmetto, which is a natural ingredient that has been found to potentially reduce hair loss. There are also deep conditioners that utilize saw palmetto that you may want to look into.
We’ve also talked more about saw palmetto and hair loss in our guide, Does Saw Palmetto Prevent Hair Loss?
You may like the look of a man bun, but think twice about making it your go-to style.
Tight hairstyles like a ponytail or bun may also cause hair shaft damage that can sometimes lead to hair loss.
The term for this type of hair loss is traction alopecia. The constant pulling causes permanent damage to the follicle, thus resulting in hair loss.
If you do have longer hair and like to wear it off your face, consider a headband or, at least, keep the elastic as loose as possible.
Not only can the sun damage your skin, but it can also harm your hair. Exposure to UV radiation in the sun can cause strands to lose proteins and weaken over time.
If you spend lots of time outside, it can really do a number on the quality of your hair. So, it’s a good idea to wear a hat or find another way to cover it up.
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Chew on this: the B vitamin biotin may encourage healthy hair and growth. In people with existing biotin deficiencies, research has found that biotin supplementation may help bring hair health back around.
There are certain foods that naturally contain biotin, like eggs and bananas. You can also take a supplement.
And we all know melatonin is a useful sleep aid, but did you know there’s research out there to suggest that, when applied topically, melatonin may assist in hair health?
A research review in the International Journal of Trichology looked at the connection between topical melatonin and hair growth and found that it may work to treat androgenetic alopecia (commonly called male pattern baldness).
Finasteride is a prescription oral medication that’s often used to treat male pattern baldness. It prevents your body from converting testosterone into DHT, which is the hormone believed by many to be responsible for hair loss.
Experts don’t fully understand how minoxidil works, but it’s believed to stimulate hair follicles into entering the anagen (growth) phase.
Each medication works on their own, but they can be even more effective when used together.
Whereas 80.5 percent saw an improvement using just finasteride and 59 percent who saw an improvement using only minoxidil.
If having strong, healthier hair is your goal, you’re best off incorporating holistic habits into your hair care routine.
By consistently doing things that promote hair strength and growth, you’ll have a much better chance of ensuring your hair strands are in top shape.
For a customized plan of action to keep your hair healthy and strong or to address thinning hair, speak with a healthcare professional.