I’ve been trying to grow out my hair for ages, but it never seems to make it past a certain length before it starts breaking off. What gives? I’ve read that taking prenatal vitamins can help, but is there anything else I can do to speed up hair growth? —Courtney W.
After becoming victim to a very poorly executed “Rachel” haircut in late 2010, I became frantically obsessed with figuring out how to make my locks grow back—and fast. Here’s what I learned: Prenatal vitamins won’t do much for you (unless you’re a fetus), using horse shampoo does not make your ponytail grow in strong and shiny, and sadly, there is very little research available that proves that biotin will give you Giselle-worthy tresses.
Fortunately, since that infamous chop my mane has grown back stronger and faster than ever, thanks to a couple of super easy dietary changes. Adding these four foods (plus trying one really simple at-home spa treatment) can totally transform the way your hair looks, feels, and grows!
Superpower: Contains hormone-stabilizing iodine
Sometimes hair loss, or failure to grow, is caused by hormone dysfunction. When our hormones get out of whack, the side effects can range from annoying (brittle nails) to catastrophic (hair falling out). A deficiency of the micronutrient iodine can cause the thyroid gland—where many of our hormones are produced—to go totally haywire. It stops creating the hormones necessary for the growth of healthy nails, bones, teeth, and of course, hair. But supplementing with iodine can help—it’s even been proven to regrow follicles in patients with alopecia. Seaweed, or nori, is naturally high in the dietary iodine, which is easier for our bodies to absorb than the iodine found in fortified table salt.
Omega-3 fatty acids
Superpower: Makes the scalp healthy and tresses shiny
OK, sure. If you take a prenatal vitamin, you might notice your hair grows in a little stronger. But there’s no need to take those huge, expensive pills targeted to new moms on your quest for better hair. Most of the additional nutrients in them won’t do much to boost growth—except the extra omega-3 fatty acids.
Save yourself money by supplementing with straight omega-3s (in the form of fish oil capsules or vegan omega-3 vitamins) instead; the fatty acid is so good for nourishing skin, and can prevent scalp conditions like dandruff and psoriasis that inhibit follicle growth. Plus, adding more healthy fats into your diet will help hair retain moisture, making it look shiny and smooth.
Superpower: Zinc and iron, which stimulate new growth
Chia seeds are a pantry staple for so many reasons: They’re low in calories but high in protein, fiber, omega-3 fatty acids, and vitamins. Turns out they’re also loaded with zinc and iron—which, in addition to iodine, are the two most important micronutrients to add to your diet if you’re trying to get voluminous, Tresemme-commercial locks.
Zinc is a trace element that’s essential for DNA and RNA growth, hormone regulation, and protein synthesis. Studies have shown that supplementing with zinc actually reverses hair loss and thinning because it promotes the growth of hair from follicles that may have gone dormant over time—which equals more hair, and extra volume! And zinc and iron both encourage the structural proteins in hair to remain strong, which keeps it from breaking and falling out. Throw the tiny seeds into a smoothie, your morning oatmeal, or make an easy chia porridge for a healthy snack.
Superpower: Strand-strengthening collagen protein
The real secret to growing longer ponytail? Upping your collagen intake. A bowl of bone broth packs in tons of it! Scientifically proven to increase blood circulation and help wounds heal more quickly, collagen can make hair grow in faster and stronger.
Almond oil scalp massage
Superpower: Boosts circulation and moisturizes hair
All you need is a tablespoon of almond oil and a few drops of your favorite essential oil to knead your way to longer hair. Giving yourself a scalp massage on the reg (like what your stylist does when she shampoos you at the salon) helps improve circulation—just like collagen!—and encourages hair to grow faster. Plus, almond oil is super emollient, so it will hydrate all the way from your roots to your ends!