We are back with Anabel Kingsley, Philip Kingsley Trichological Clinic to help us answer more questions around hair loss and scalp problems. Because this is such a big topic with everyone, and how powerful an effect it can have on people’s self-esteem, this will be an ongoing conversation with our expert Anabel Kingsley.
Are there foods or nutritional programs that you have seen help with hair and scalp issues?
The effect of diet on hair growth is profound and should not be underestimated. Nutritional deficiencies are a very common cause of hair loss. As hair is, at least physically, a dispensable non-essential tissue – it is the last part of you to receive the vitamins, minerals, trace elements and energy you ingest, and the first to be withheld from. This means that even the smallest inadequacy can impact hair health.
When hair loss is solely or in part due to a nutritional inadequacy, changes to diet, alongside relevant supplements, can make a world of difference.
As a rule of thumb, what is good for your body is great for your hair.
Eating a balanced, varied diet will really benefit your strands. However, as your hair’s nutritional requirements are high and unique, it can be difficult to meet its needs through diet alone. This is why daily nutritional supplements can be very helpful.
There are a few nutrients of note that you should focus on:
Protein: Think of amino acids (proteins) as the building blocks of your hair. Keratin, a type of protein, is what your hair is made of! Examples: eggs, oily fish, lean meat, low-fat cottage cheese, quinoa, nuts, and seitan.
Complex Carbohydrates: While proteins are the building blocks of your hair, complex carbs are your hair’s ‘builders’; they provide the energy your body needs to produce rapidly growing hair cells (which are, in fact, the second-fastest-growing cells your body makes).
Examples: Brown rice & pasta, oatmeal, whole wheat toast, couscous.
Iron: Ferritin (stored iron) is needed by your body to produce the protein your hair is made of. The best dietary sourced of iron are red meats, such as steak.
Zinc: Zinc deficiency can cause hair loss, and it may also contribute to anemia – which can further exacerbate hair shedding. Zinc is found most abundantly in shellfish, such as oysters, crab, and clams.
Vitamin D: This plays an instrumental role in regulating your hair growth cycle. Every single hair follicle contains a Vitamin D receptor hormone. You can only obtain 10% of Vitamin D from the foods you eat – the rest must be synthesized from sun exposure or by taking a Vitamin D3 supplement.
Vitamin B12: is needed by your body to make red blood cells and also methionine – a hair essential protein. It is only found in animal products, such as red meat, chicken and eggs. If you are a vegan or vegetarian, you must take a Vitamin B12 supplement or eat fortified foods.
At Philip Kingsley, we make three nutritional supplements that can be mixed and matched to meet your individual needs. These are:
Tricho Complex – and all-round multi-vitamin and mineral supplement containing Iron, Vitamin C (helps with iron absorption), L-lysine (helps with iron storage), Methionine, Vitamin D3, and Vitamin B12.
Biotin Boost – A great supplement for vegans and vegetarians, containing Biotin, Zinc and Vitamin B12
PK4 Soy Protein Boost – a pure protein supplement containing all essential amino acids (proteins your body cannot make on its own)
Do supplements work best in combination with other therapies?
Sometimes tweaks to diet and taking relevant nutritional supplements are enough to fix a hair loss issue – that is, if the hair loss issue is solely down to diet. However, often it is not and there are a few factors at play.
The best way to treat any form of hair loss is to optimize all possible variables that can impact hair growth. While diet is one of them, scalp care, stimulating scalp drops and/or tonics, managing stress levels and making changes to hairstyling techniques and products are also important.
How do we diagnose what foods would be best?
Have a yearly blood test. These tests will unequivocally tell you what you need to be eating more of, which nutritional supplements you should be taking – and at what doses. However, it is important to realize that the blood reference ranges for hair are narrower than for general health, as hair is non-essential tissue. At our Clinics in New York and London, we analyze blood tests specifically from a hair health standpoint. Blood tests also do not always show if you have an energy (calorie) deficit – this being more a case of common sense and listening to your body.
You can also gauge what foods to eat to a certain extent by looking at your general diet. If you are skipping breakfast or eat less than a palm-sized protein of protein at breakfast and lunch, you should make adjustments.
Are there foods that can cause hair and scalp issues that we should generally avoid?
If you are prone to dandruff or seborrhoeic eczema (dandruff’s ‘big brother’) certain foods can trigger either of these conditions or make them worse. These include full-fat dairy products, like cheese and cream, very sugary or spicy foods and members of the Nightshade family (like peppers, tomatoes, and eggplant). White wine and champagne can also aggravate your scalp.
Excessive amounts of Vitamin A can cause hair loss. It is pretty hard to get too much Vitamin A through your diet – but do read what is in the supplements you are taking.
What has been your experience with the ability of the hair to recover once someone has started a nutritional program?
Embarking on a hair-healthy nutritional program can have such a positive impact on hair growth. I have seen women who have experienced hair loss solely due to nutritional inadequacies, and their hair has fully recovered once their diet has been improved. This is not the exception – while nutritional related hair shedding can be startling, the hair follicle is not changed or damaged, so there is no reason why hair shouldn’t grow back as healthy as before. However, if you are experiencing genetically related hair loss alongside nutritional related hair loss, only half of the issue will be fixed. i.e. the correct nutritional program will help to offset any detrimental changes to the hair from a nutrient standpoint, but it will not fix hair loss related to genes. For this, you need daily topical products.
Do you have any questions around hair and scalp issues you would like us to investigate? Please email us: firstname.lastname@example.org
Anabel has written hundreds of articles for international magazines and websites ranging from Good Housekeeping and The Huffington Post to InStyle and Women’s Health. What she doesn’t know about hair probably isn’t worth knowing! She started her career at Philip Kingsley in 2006, moving to New York to manage the New York Trichological Clinic for 3 years. In 2009 she returned to London to become part of the Philip Kingsley New Product Development Team. Anabel has grown up among trichologists, and is qualified and practices herself. She is an Associate Member of The Institute of Trichologists, graduating with a distinction, as well as receiving ‘The Award of Excellence.’ She has a vast interest and knowledge of the hair and scalp, with a particular interest in nutrition.