When we were just kids chewing on cherry-flavored Flintstones vitamins, we had no idea what a big deal it was for our hair. (All we knew is that the edible versions of our favorite stone-age characters would somehow make us big and strong). Now that we're older and wiser, we've switched Pebbles out for biotin and prenatal vitamins in hopes of growing healthier, stronger and shinier hair. But is it really working?
According to Dr. Melissa Piliang, a dermatologist at the Cleveland Clinic, we shouldn't be too quick to assume that vitamins are the be-all and end-all for hair loss, brittleness and dullness. "One of the biggest misconceptions is that vitamins will help with these problems, but in fact, they may be linked to internal issues stemming from the thyroid or chronic anemia," she explained.
"Daily multivitamins or prenatal supplements help to fill gaps found in our diets," said Dr. Piliang. "We tend to restrict carbohydrates or fats for weight lost or replace them with juices, but vitamins contain important nutrients like biotin, zinc and B-complex that help to enhance the health of our hair."
With this in mind, Dr. Piliang recommends a handful of vitamins and minerals for hair that can be taken on a daily basis. Read on to find out how each of these nutrients impact hair health, as well as alternative sources that you can incorporate into your diet.
- Iron: Women of child-bearing ages or those who don't eat a lot of red meat tend to be deficient in iron. Even those who aren't anemic can also have low iron levels. Iron carries oxygen to hair and promotes growth. However, it is very important to discuss with your physician about how much iron (or any mineral) you should take every day. Iron-rich foods include, egg yolks, lentils, spinach and chicken.
- Vitamin D: This is important for hair follicle cycling, especially for individuals who live in northern parts of the United States where sunlight is limited. A supplement is also prescribed as a treatment for atopic dermatitis like eczema. Salmon, mushroom, beef liver and grains are great alternative sources of vitamin D.
- Zinc: Heavy exercisers and sweaters tend to lose significant amounts of zinc. To regain this hair growth mineral, consume 15-30mg daily or munch on high-zinc foods like lamb, turkey, pumpkin seeds and chocolate.
- B-complex Vitamins: Biotin, niacin and cobalamin are among the most popular B-complex vitamins that help restore shine and thickness to strands. Load up on whole grains, eggs, avocados and legumes, as they are some of the best food sources for B-complex vitamins.
What vitamins do you take to improve the health of your hair?
Meanwhile, whip up these yummy beauty recipes:
Shiny, Healthy Hair: Carrots
"Carrots have a high amount of beta-carotene, the precursor for vitamin A, among the common vegetables," says Snyder. "Vitamin A is necessary for shiny, well-moisturized head of hair, as well as promoting a healthy scalp, which is essential for healthy hair growth."
Shiny, Healthy Hair
"Your hair’s healthy growth depends on the overall health of your body and the nutrients you’re putting into it," says Snyder. "When there are limited nutrients to go around, your hair will inevitably suffer, because your hair isn’t an organ the body deems necessary for survival, you’ll be left with dull, brittle, hair."
Shiny, Healthy Hair: Pumpkin Seeds
Extra credit: "Try beauty foods like pumpkin seeds, which are an excellent source of zinc, sulfur and vitamin A," notes Snyder. "These three compounds, taken together, are particularly helpful in building strong hair. They also contain B vitamins, which include biotin, an essential nutrient for strengthening hair, helping prevent thin and brittle hair, and increasing hair growth."
"Your nails indicate how mineralized your body is," says Snyder. "Weak or ridged nails indicate mineral deficiencies. In ancient Eastern philosophy, some cultures believe that lack of a white half moon in each nail bed indicates low circulation and vitality in the body."
Stronger Nails: Leafy Greens
"Be sure to eat beauty foods high in silica, which include leafy green vegetables, as well as a wide range of plant foods high in minerals and vitamins to grow strong, healthy nails," says Snyder.
Stronger Nails: Whole Grains
Extra credit: Whole grains (preferably gluten-free), like millet, are also an excellent option, advises Snyder.
"Eat lots of potassium," says Snyder. "Potassium is integral in balancing pH levels, maintaining proper fluid levels and the balancing of other minerals, like sodium -- which in excess amounts can dry out your skin or make it look puffy. Potassium-rich foods are important for good health because healthy levels of potassium encourage responsible waste elimination from the body and the assimilation of glucose for muscle energy."
Hangover Cure: Coconut Water
"Drink coconut water, it is one of the best natural hydrators," says Snyder. "Dehydration can make the skin look dried out, withered and leathery, and may lead to signs of premature aging. The key nutrients contained in coconut water include lauric acid, iron, potassium, magnesium and calcium."
Get Rid Of Dull Winter Skin
"Dull skin may indicate congestion by way of a blocked, toxin-filled colon and/or gallbladder," says Snyder. "This usually means someone is consuming a lot of dairy or cooked animal or vegetable oils, or has a good diet, but is not cleansing as efficiently as they should be to keep up with the toxicity that their diet is kicking up."
Get Rid Of Dull Winter Skin: Spinach, Romaine, Celery, Apples & Bananas
"To reverse this, add more fiber to your diet with the <a href="http://www.kimberlysnyder.net">Glowing Green Smoothie</a> (which includes spinach, romaine, celery, apples and bananas)," says Snyder. "Cut out or minimize dairy consumption, as dairy is extremely acid forming and cook with vegetable broth or bake instead of always cooking with oils (even olive oil), as oil is dense and too much can congest your system. You can get enough good fats in your diet from small amounts of avocados and other whole plant foods, but oils are always processed as they are not found naturally in nature."
Get Rid Of Dull Winter Skin: Pineapple
"Pineapple is excellent in promoting efficient digestion, which is what soft beautiful skin is dependent on," says Snyder. "Pineapple is also high in vitamin C, which helps in the formation of collagen, a protein that helps grow new skin and blood vessels."
Get Rid Of Dull Winter Skin: Flax Seeds
"Flaxseeds offer vital omega-2 fatty acids that supply the right ratio of essential fatty acids to your body, ensuring peak functioning," says Snyder. "Omega-3 fatty acids also help prevent inflammation, which can lead to dry damaged skin."
Prevent Breakouts And Acne
"The liver filters toxins and pushes the waste to the colon," says Snyder. "But when these organs become overloaded with waste and toxins (from food), the toxins have to be pushed out through the skin, another eliminative organ, creating those ugly pimples called acne."
Prevent Breakouts And Acne: Coconut Yogurt
"Try beauty foods like coconut yogurt, which contains beneficial bacteria (probiotics), and can help keep your system clean," says Snyder. "It is dairy-free, as dairy is difficult for many to digest and has been to shown to be a potential problematic trigger for acne. "
Prevent Breakouts And Acne: Apple Cider Vinegar
Extra Credit: "Raw apple cider vinegar is a strong digestive aid, helping to cure constipation and stimulating stomach acid, which aids in digestion and can help flush out toxins," says Snyder.
Prevent Acne And Breakouts: Onions
Extra Credit: "Onions contain flavonoids that stimulate the production of glutathione, which is the most important antioxidant the liver uses for detoxification," says Snyder.
Get Rid Of Undereye Circles: Celery
"The balanced levels of potassium and sodium can flush out excess bodily fluids, which can help reduce puffiness throughout the whole body and the delicate under-eye area," says Snyder. "A potent detoxifier, celery can help make the skin around the eyes (and the skin in general) look healthier."
Get Rid Of Undereye Circles: Bananas
"Lack of beauty sleep is a big contributor to dark under-eye circles, and bananas are rich in vitamin B6, which helps ward off irritability and insomnia, as well as magnesium, which promotes better sleep patterns," says Snyder.
Want more HuffPost Style beauty content? Check us out on Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Pinterest and Instagram at @HuffPostBeauty. (For everything else check out our main HuffPost Style Twitter, Tumblr, Pinterest and Instagram @HuffPostStyle.)
Do you have a beauty story idea or tip? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. (PR pitches sent to this address will be ignored.)