We all want healthy, vibrant hair that’s shiny and strong. Unfortunately, though, all sorts of everyday habits—from using hot tools like straighteners and curling irons and sitting out in the direct sunlight, to smoking and missing certain nutrients in the foods we eat—can contribute to dry, brittle strands, according to naturopath Rachel Eva Dew, N.D., co-founder of ModiHealth.
Hair growth begins at the scalp, so how you care for your hair in the long term makes the biggest difference. “As your hair grows and is pushed outwards from the scalp it passes through an oil-producing gland that gives your hair moisture,” explains Dew. “Once the hair grows beyond the scalp, the strand of hair is considered dead, which is why what we do every day and how we treat the hair is so critically important.”
Despite the endless selection of so-called miracle hair products out there these days, a natural approach is ultimately the best way to nourish the healthiest hair you can imagine. From inside-out to outside-in, here are experts’ best tips for making your hair stronger.
1. Quit smoking
When it comes to the worst habits for hair health, smoking is at the top of the list, according to Toronto-based naturopathic doctor Olivia Rose, N.D. “Smoking is one of the worst things for your hair because it constricts blood vessels that help nourish the scalp by bringing nutrients such as vitamins and protein to the follicles to encourage growth,” she explains. Basically, it starves your scalp of the nutrients needed to produce healthy, strong hairs. (Friendly reminder that it’s also harmful to pretty much every single other organ in your body, too, and can lead to heart disease and cancer.)
2. Shower with cooler water
Sure, a warm or hot shower might be more relaxing, but it’s actually cold water that helps keep your hair strong, according to New York City-based master hair colorist Stephanie Brown. “Showering with cooler water (below 80 degrees Fahrenheit) and doing a cold rinse at the end closes the cuticle of your hair, making it less susceptible to breakage,” she says. It. This also makes your actual hair strands look smoother and shinier.
3. Fill your plate with colorful vegetables
Of course, one of the most important factors in making your hair stronger is your diet. “Beets, dark leafy greens like spinach and kale, sweet potatoes, and berries are all filled with trace minerals that play a role in cellular turnover,” says naturopath Ashley Margeson, N.D. “If there are not enough trace minerals, the follicle cells don’t divide properly, which means the hair falls out faster.”
Margeson recommends filling half of your plate with colorful veggies at every meal. For bonus points, include two different colors to make sure you’re getting a variety, since different colored vegetables contain different nutrients.
4. Eat ample protein
Another nutrient that has a notable impact on your hair: protein. Hair follicles consist mostly of protein (somewhere between 65 to 95 percent, according to research). For this reason, it’s important that you consume enough of this macronutrient if you want to maintain healthy hair, explains The Vitamin Shoppe nutritionist Rebekah Blakely, R.D.N.
“Hair is predominantly a fiber of protein that requires certain minerals and amino acids to keep it healthy,” echoes Rose. “Having a diet that is rich in protein like meat, eggs, nuts and seeds, fish and seafood, and plant-based proteins is important, as protein breaks down into amino acids, which become the building blocks to healthy hair.” If your diet lacks protein, you may experience slower hair growth and even hair loss, she warns.
“Protein needs vary depending on your weight and activity level, but the minimum recommended intake is 0.8 grams per kilogram of bodyweight—about 56 grams per day for the average man and 46 grams per day for the average woman,” she says.
5. Take a Daily multivitamin
Multivitamins contain many of the nutrients needed for hair health, including B vitamins, iron, zinc, vitamin C, vitamin D, vitamin E, and selenium, explains Blakely. Each of these different nutrients plays some role in hair health, with “B vitamins, in particular, playing a role in the production of red blood cells, which are responsible for carrying oxygen throughout the body, including to our scalp and hair follicles,” she says. “Riboflavin, biotin, folate, and vitamin B12 deficiencies have all been associated with hair loss.”
While you’d ideally get all of the good stuff you need from your diet, a multivitamin is an easy way to ensure you don’t miss out.
Any multivitamin will do, but Blakely particularly likes the Vthrive The Vitamin Shoppe brand Bioactive One Daily Multi, which is high-potency and non-GMO.
6. Eat more fatty fish
Fatty fish, such as salmon and tuna, are a good source of omega-3 fats, which help to nourish hair follicles and ultimately make your hair stronger by promoting healthy circulation and overall balance and well-being, according to The Vitamin Shoppe nutritionist Brittany Michels, R.D.N.
She recommends aiming for three weekly servings of omega-3-rich seafood and/or supplementing with an omega-3 supplement. If you choose to supplement, look for a product that offers at least 1,200 milligrams of EPA and DHA combined—and take it daily.
7. Get your downward dog on
According to Margeson, there’s no better way to get blood flow to your head—and send more nutrients to your scalp to support healthy hair—than to hang out upside down for a bit. Yep, yoga can totally support you in your quest to make your hair stronger.
However, the boosted blood flow isn’t its only perk for your locks. “The nature of yoga is good for decreasing stress, as well,” Margeson says.” Significant amounts of stress change the timeline of the normal hair-loss cycle and push the hair follicles into their resting phase.” Within a few months, the affected hairs may fall out.
Maintaining a regular yoga practice—and one that’s chock-full of downward dogs—can help you both manage hair-wrecking stress and keep that blood flowing to your scalp.