I was born with naturally fine, curly hair. Hairdressers always told me to be grateful I had “body” from the curls because my hair looked and felt thicker.
During my vegan days, my hair was incredibly thin. It was limp, broken, and all around unhealthy. It took a few years, but my hair has come back thicker and shinier and more awesome than ever.
This is how I got healthier hair, and this is how you can strengthen the strands you have and encourage faster and healthier growth.
Best Foods & Supplements for Hair
Protein. Omega 3s. Zinc. B vitamins (Biotin in particular). These are all present in a healthy diet, yet you would be surprised how little of these nutrients people (especially women) consume daily.
Wild-Caught Fish: Omega-3 fatty acids, of which salmon is an excellent source, are important to a healthy scalp. Salmon (I only choose wild Alaskan salmon) is also a great source of protein. A tip for those who don’t like or have easy access to wild fish: try a high-quality fish oil supplement like Nordic Naturals Ultimate Omega, Carlson Cod Liver Oil, or Green Pastures Cod Liver Oil Capsules. Vegetable oils like flax or vegetable oil blends are incomplete, as they do not contain DHA and they have low levels of EPA – both important omega 3 fatty acids present in fish and krill oils. Be aware that vegetable oil manufacturers or proponents may state that ALA (present in veggie oils) will convert to EPA, but what they may not mention is that less than 5% of ALA gets converted to EPA¹. I want you to be informed so you get the most nutrition for your dollar and are taking the appropriate supplement for your body’s needs (and your hair).
Eggs: A good source of protein, which helps prevent dry, weak and brittle hair. I chose organic, omega 3 fortified eggs from cage-free hens for the most beta carotene, biotin, choline.
Leafy Greens: I’ve been yammering about this since the inception of Epic Beauty Guide in 2009. Unless you have an issue with oxalates, leafy greens are your best buddies. They pack an incredible array of nutrients (including vitamins A and C), but to access them, you need to steam, sauté, or high-speed blend (I use a Vitamix – I’ve used the same one since 2007 and I love that beast) to break the cell walls. Our bodies do not make cellulase, which is the enzyme that breaks down cellulose, which is what makes up a plant’s cell wall (and that cell wall holds in all those luscious vittles). My favorite greens are kale, spinach, collards, Swiss chard, mixed baby greens, romaine, and cabbage. Juiced, steamed, or blasted into a smoothie – however it happens, I make sure to eat them daily.
Legumes: These are a good source of protein which helps promote hair growth, as well as iron, biotin and zinc. The only legume I can tolerate is lentils, so I enjoy them in homemade soups.
Nuts & Seeds: Specific varieties of nuts contain vitamins and minerals that can help promote the health of your scalp. Brazil nuts are a good source of selenium (limit yourself to two nuts per day, since they are very high in omega 6, which is inflammatory). Walnuts provide the omega-3 fatty acid alpha-linolenic acid and zinc, which helps minimize hair shredding. Cashews, almonds and pecans are also great for the hair. Pumpkin seeds are one of my favorites because I find them really tasty and they are high in zinc and sulfur. Nuts and seeds are very dense in fat and calories, and you can easily and quickly overdo it and gain unwanted pounds and pimples as a result. Soak nuts and seeds for 6–8 hours in a bowl of clean water, then strain away the water and enjoy your snack.
Sweet Potatoes: I’m a huge fan of these because they are a delicious source of carbohydrates and beta-carotene, which is important for a healthy scalp and thus makes for shiny, healthy hair. As a bonus, beta-carotene also helps reduce acne.
Zinc: I took 30 mg of zine a few times per week, which decreases shedding and aids in hair growth.
MSM: One of my favorite supplements for all-around hair and skin health, this sulfur compound has no known toxicity and is incredible for hair growth and shine, smooth skin, and scar reduction.
Hair Products for Hair Growth and Thickness
Nourishment needs to come from the outside too. I used quality hair care products specifically formulated with ingredients that penetrate the scalp and deliver nutrients straight to the follicle.
MillCreek Botanicals Biotene H-24: This shampoo is sulfate-free and paraben-free, rich in biotin, keratin, protein, nettle, and other nutrients that encourage healthy, fast growing, thick hair.
Rahua Conditioner: I alternated between Rahua’s highly moisturizing conditioner and a protein/strengthening conditioner. The reason is if you keep using protein and strengthening treatments, the hair becomes dry and can snap or break easier, so it’s important to provide moisture while strengthening. I used this one as a normal conditioner, leaving it in for 2–3 minutes and once a week would leave it in for 10–15 minutes as a deep conditioner.
Aveda Damage Remedy Intensive Restructuring Treatment: While not entirely natural, this is one of the few strengthening protein treatments I can use that leaves my hair soft and feeling thicker and denser. It has prevented breakage on my fine strands, and I’m forever in love with this deep conditioner. I use this every 2 weeks and leave it in for 10–15 minutes.
BioRegenerative Sciences Advanced Hair Treatment: My trichologist prescribed this and gave me specific instructions on when and how to use it, so ask yours about it and their recommended usage.
Phylia de M. Connect Leave-In Treatment: This 100% organic spray leave-in is like fertilizer for the scalp. It contains humic-free fulvic acid, aloe, and tannic acids to stop excess shedding and thinning. It’s also sulfate-free and paraben-free. My hair grew over 1 1/2 inches (nearly 4 cm) in a month when it normally grows maybe 3/4 or 1 inch (about 2 to 2 1/2 cm).
One Love Organics Healthy Locks Dry Shampoo Powder: Styling with a natural dry shampoo has been great for me on the second or third day between washings. I love this one because it contains silica, which enhances hair growth and strength, and healthy oil-absorbing clay and starch that increases the width of each hair strand (increasing thickness).
DIY Scalp Clarifying Recipe: This is super simple to do and a great way to remove excess sebum and dead skin from the scalp (just like you would for your face). Fill a mason jar or tall glass 1/4 of the way with organic, unfiltered apple cider vinegar (ACV). You may add a squeeze of fresh lemon if you are not sensitive and/or do not go in the sun (lemon can make your skin/scalp sensitize to the sun) or a few drops of essential oil for a nice touch of scent. Fill the rest of the glass (3/4) up with water. Before or after shampooing (your pick), pour the cider vinegar/water mix slowly over your scalp, gently massaging in with one hand and pouring with the other. Let that sit for full minute or two while you shave or wash your body, etc. Then rinse out. You may shampoo and condition after rinsing. Alternatively, if you’d rather buy something ready-made, John Masters Organics Herbal Cider Hair Clarifier is easy to use and works great.
Other Treatments: I have heard about using coconut oil, castor oil, etc. and they simply don’t work for my hair type. Everyone’s hair and scalp – like the skin on your face – is unique and requires different treatment. My scalp tends to be normal/oily and my hair is fine and curly, thus it tends to be dry and weighed down rather easily. Using those oils by themselves on my hair and scalp is a nightmare. The only two oil blends I like using on my hair as a hot oil treatment once a month is Skin Apotheke Organic Ayurvedic Amla Hair Oil or La Bella Figura Bohemia Verde Hair Elixir.
I researched and found a licensed trichologist – a doctor who specializes in hair loss, hair growth, hair restoration, etc. Just like how you go to your dermatologist or dentist for skin and teeth, you go to a trichologist for hair. The consultation was roughly $80 USD and it was well worth it to have my hair, scalp, and blood evaluated so I knew exactly what was happening and the exact treatment to follow. I was told my hair and scalp were healthy, but that too many of my follicles were going dormant at once (usually they go dormant in cycles, so the hair never appears thinner, despite there always being a cycle of active and inactive follicles). He prescribed two topical sprays (mentioned above) and I took the rest of the treatment into my own hands following his guidelines and the knowledge I had about nutrition.
How Long Did It Take?
It only took me about 3 or 4 months to start seeing results from my changes in nutrition and supplementation. A year later, when I took it a step further by being consistent with my hair care and began using topical sprays (like Phylia and BioRegenerative Sciences), it took less than 2 months to see a HUGE difference. My hair was stronger and thickening up right from the root. If I pull a hair out, I can stretch it in my hands without it breaking, and you can visibly see how much thicker the strands are – it’s awesome! When I go to my hairstylist every month, I never ask her “how does my hair look” – her mouth just drops open every time with how much it’s grown and how much thicker it has gotten.
Enjoy and be consistent, and your hair will look and feel amazing in no time.