Your hair needs minerals to thrive – but what are they? Aside from knowing that protein is great for the hair and that we should probably do a better job of taking our vitamins, what is it exactly, that we might be lacking? We reached out to hair mineral authority, Nutrafol to find out the minerals our hair needs to grow and be stronger. Tess Marshall, the brand’s in-house naturopathic doctor and Director of Product Development & Science Marketing fielded our questions, and then some.
“While there are many minerals necessary for whole body health, some key minerals that hair needs to grow are iron, selenium, iodine, and zinc,” explains Tess. Her must-haves include iron, selenium and iodine, with the reason for each outlined below.
Iron deficiency is correlated with hair loss, specifically telogen effluvium, a condition in which an excessive amount of hair fall is experienced. This nutritional deficiency is common in menstruating females and it may be wise to make sure iron levels, including ferritin (iron storage in the body) is at a high enough level to maintain hair growth.
Healthy health relies on selenium for many reasons. The first is that selenium is involved in hair formation. Hair goes through many biochemical processes that use proteins, vitamins, and minerals to make the hair we see on our head. Selenium is an antioxidant mineral that is required for our bodies to clear toxins that can inhibit hair growth, and it’s needed for our bodies to activate thyroid hormones. Imbalances in thyroid hormones result in changes and loss of hair. Unfortunately, there is a fine line with selenium and too much can actually cause the hair to fall out.
Thyroid hormones are needed for healthy hair growth. Alterations in thyroid hormone change hair quality and lead to hair thinning. Iodine is an essential mineral needed to make thyroid hormone.
Zinc is involved with many processes that make hair. If we do not have enough zinc, the hair can be dry. It is also involved in testosterone metabolism, so without zinc, more DHT can be produced, which will cause hair follicles to shrink. It also helps regulate oil production in our sebaceous glands in the scalp. It’s a clinical fact that hair loss from thyroid conditions were found to improve more when zinc was coupled with thyroid hormone replacement than just thyroid hormone replacement alone.
These minerals have very important functions in the body, overall. For instance, notes Tess, “iron brings oxygen to the tissues for energy production, which is why with iron deficiency most people experience fatigue.” The same function is applied to hair follicles – if there is less energy available for hair follicles to use, then growth mechanisms are impaired. Similarly, “Zinc is an essential mineral for hundreds of biochemical pathways in our body, she continues. “It plays a role in metabolism, cell division, and our immune system.”
The minerals your hair and body so desperately crave can mostly be consumed through food. Iron is primarily found in red meat, dark poultry meat, dark leafy greens and beans. Interestingly, Tess points out that many nutrients found in plants like phytates and polyphenols, inhibit our body from absorbing iron, which is why iron deficiency can be a concern for vegans and vegetarians. The best source of selenium is Brazil nuts and Tess recommends 4 a day, which would be equivalent to 200mcg. Liver, fish and eggs are other good sources, though she cautions exceeding 400mcg over 24 hours. Iodized salt is a key source of iodine, however, there have been more cases of iodine deficiency now than in the past because of a consumer shift to using sea salt. For zinc, eat oysters, shellfish, beef and leafy greens.
How to Tell If You’re Lacking a Mineral
“Detecting low minerals can be difficult,” says Tess. There are some labs that offer micronutrient testing panels, but otherwise, dietary problems may be better blamed on gut health than actual diet. “Someone can be eating a healthy diet, filled with minerals healthy for hair, but if they have gut or microbiome issues, absorbing these nutrients may be compromised. Poor gut health is influenced by stress, medications, chemicals, and processed foods,” she adds.
Ultimately, hair follicles are considered non vital organs in the body. “All of the nutrition we get from our diet is geared towards our vital organs like brain, heart, muscles, liver before our hair,” says Tess. This is why taking a supplement can help provide added nutrients that the hair may not be getting. “Personalized nutrition is becoming more popular, and typically there is not a one sized fits all approach, which is why one supplement may not work for everyone.” Nutrafol is a good choice because they offer different core formulations depending on gender and life stage. The brand also offers targeted boosters for those who need a more precise approach, looking at gut health, metabolism, stress, and environmental toxicity as barriers to growth. “In most cases, people may need additional vitamins and nutrients that are targeted to their specific make up,” Tess concludes.
Optimal Health and Hair Growth
Tess recommends eating a diet that’s high in vegetables and low in processed foods, with healthy sourced proteins like grass fed meat or wild caught fish, not only for hair growth but for general wellness. And when thinking about health in general, it’s important to remember your gut. “Adding a probiotic into a plan promotes a balanced microbiome, which helps us absorb nutrients needed for hair growth, “ says Tess, who recommends Nutrafol’s Hairbiotic, which is formulated with 7 specific probiotic strains and an innovative prebiotic – one of the strains is even found to promote hair quality,” she says.