Regardless of where you live and how freezing or unseasonably warm it is outside, your hair is likely to struggle with the dry air of the winter months. “This lack of moisture causes dryness on our hair, scalp, and skin,” says Linet K., a celebrity hairstylist based in Los Angeles. “And turning on the heater when you’re inside provides warmth, but doesn’t add moisture to the air, so the air continues to dry out the scalp and skin,” she says. That dryness (and constantly pulling your winter beanies on and off) can also lead to breakage of your strands. Of course, there are products to help with that, but so much of beauty initiates within — that is, the fuel you put into your body can make a huge difference in your hair’s health. We checked in with experts in both beauty and nutrition on the vital nutrients you need to condition your hair and scalp this season. Here’s what you should add to your next meal.
1. Salmon: Your hair needs its dose of omega-3s, the fatty acid found mostly in fish oils, both to look and feel beautiful. “Essential omega-3 fatty acids help to hydrate your scalp and hair for a beautiful shine, and control an irritated, dry, or itchy scalp,” says Paula Simpson, a holistic nutritionist who specializes in hair and skin health. If you’re vegan, don’t worry — you can still get the nutrients from nuts and seed sources, such as walnuts, flaxseeds, and pumpkin seeds, and even fish oil supplements.
2. Sweet Potato: This sounds kind of gross, but your hair needs vitamin A to produce sebum, the oil that is basically the hair’s natural conditioner, explains Kristin Dahl, the founder of Dahl House Nutrition and The Women’s Wellness Collective — too much of it is what makes the hair feel super greasy. And a single baked or roasted sweet potato has more than a day’s worth of vitamin A. You can also pick it up in other winter root veggies, mostly carotenoids like carrots and pumpkin (though PSLs don’t count, unfortunately).
3. Eggs: Of course, eggs are a major source of protein (which hair is literally made of, so it’s a necessary factor in keeping it healthy), but they are also a source of biotin, AKA vitamin B7. Biotin helps the body produce keratin, the protein you need to grow strong, healthy hair and nails, Simpson says. And it’s not just eating the eggs that helps the hair, Linet K. adds. Making an egg yolk hair mask can moisturize the hair and scalp and strengthen your strands. “Beat two to three egg yolks, depending on the length of the hair, and evenly distribute on the scalp and all over the top of the hair, letting it sit for 10-15 minutes. Wash out and shampoo and condition hair as usual,” she says.
4. Citrus Fruits: In addition to helping you ward off a nasty cold this season, vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that helps the body absorb iron, another mineral that helps hair grow, Dahl says. Winter is the prime season for grapefruits, oranges, and limes, but you can also get a hit of vitamin C from broccoli, kiwi, and strawberries.
5. Beans and Whole Grains: The essential minerals zinc, selenium, and copper are probably already staples in your diet, and you don’t even realize it. Zinc, found in plant-based protein sources like kidney beans and chickpeas, and copper, in whole grains like quinoa and brown rice, are especially important for maintaining healthy hair follicles, Simpson says. “Certain beans also contain selenium, which creates an enzyme that can help protect hair from environmental pollutants,” Simpson adds. Essentially, go for that protein and veggie-packed grain bowl at lunchtime, and your hair should be pretty much good to go.
6. Avocado: We probably don’t need to instruct you to eat avocado, but here’s another reason why you can feel good about the choice to order avo toast with your mimosa: Your hair needs the vitamin E (one avocado has 28 percent of the recommended daily value of the vitamin). “Vitamin E is another antioxidant that helps maintain a healthy and hydrated scalp,” Dahl says. Not to mention, avocado is another great base for a hair mask, Linet K. adds, because the fatty acids act as a moisturizing agent for your scalp and roots.
7. Spinach: All the leafy greens — kale, microgreens, spinach, and more — are key for your iron intake, which helps not only your blood but also your hair too. “Iron is essential for red blood cell production, which fuels the scalp with oxygen and nutrients, and that can help prevent the thinning or loss of hair,” Simpson explains.
8. Bone Broth: Protein is one thing your hair really shouldn’t be deficient in, according to Dahl, and sipping on bone broth is a major source of the protein collagen. Along with helping hair grow and preventing pollution to hair follicles with its antioxidant properties, collagen has other potential benefits, like helping you maintain strong bones, smooth skin, and even gut health.
What’s your favorite hair-healthy ingredient above? Tag us in your yummy food creations (and your cute hair pics) on Instagram.
(Photos via Getty)
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