Photo by Brigitte Sire

Eat This for Healthy Hair

Diet and supplements absolutely make a difference to hair health, says top dermatologist and hair-loss expert Dr. Dendy Engelman, MD, a board-certified cosmetic dermatologist and Mohs surgeon at Shafer Clinic in New York City. For our GOOP CLEAN BEAUTY book, we tapped Dr. Engelman to answer our Q’s on breakage and thinning hair, which around 30 million American women deal with at some point in their lives. Thinning hair is sometimes temporary, due to shifting hormones that right themselves, and in other instances thinning hair is a symptom of vitamin deficiencies or larger underlying health issues. (If you’re losing hair for seemingly no reason, you’ll of course want to see a doctor.) But even if you haven’t struggled with major hair damage, Dr. Engelman’s advice—and our accompanying diet for healthy-feeling and great-looking hair (see below)—will lend a welcome boost. (You can read the rest of Dr. Engelman’s Q&A in the book, where you’ll find more tips on clean eats, shiny hair, and glowing skin.)

Dr. Dendy Engelman on Hair Loss and Health


Do you think supplements and/or dietary changes can help with hair loss at all?


They absolutely help with hair loss if it is the result of deficiency. Low levels of iron can lead to hair loss, and the fix may be as simple as adding an iron or vitamin supplement. Also, hair thrives on protein, iron, zinc, and vitamin B12, so consume lean meats, leafy greens, nuts, beans, and fish. Three supplements I like are: Viviscal (fish protein) and Reserveage Keratin Booster with biotin, and a new one called Nutrafol that has been showing great clinical results as well.


As Dr. Engelman pointed out, our diet (as well as supplements) affects how hair looks. Extremely low-calorie diets can cause thinning hair, as can extremely low-protein diets; even when such diets don’t cause hair loss, they often result in dull, brittle hair. Eating the right food supports great-looking and greet-feeling hair in powerful ways.

  1. Protein: Your hair is made primarily of protein, so get plenty of it, from beans and nuts to fish, lean meat, eggs, and yogurt.

  2. Fat: Oily fish, raw nuts and seeds, avocado, flax—and the oils from all of these—help keep your hair soft and touchable. It’s important to note that without fat, many of the nutrients in food (and supplements) don’t get absorbed.

  3. Omegas: Particularly helpful fats are omega-3s, -6s, and -7s. Oily fish and cold-pressed flaxseed oil are excellent sources.

  4. Iron: Iron supports circulation—critical for healthy skin and hair. Beans, eggs, meat, broccoli, and spinach are ways to get more.

  5. Vitamin A: Found in carrots, sweet potatoes, spinach, peaches, cod liver oil, and krill oil, vitamin A encourages the healthy growth of sebum, which keeps your hair soft and healthy—not to mention preventing breakage.

  6. Vitamin C: This antioxidant—in citrus, bell peppers, guavas, kale, kiwis, and cantaloupe—helps you absorb minerals like iron (for circulation) and magnesium.

  7. Vitamin E: The same reason vitamin E is good for your heart—it encourages capillary growth and is anti-inflammatory, among other things—is why it’s so good for your hair. Find it in dark leafy greens, almonds, avocados, sunflower seeds, shellfish, fish, and eggs. (You can also apply vitamin E oil directly onto hair.)

  8. Zinc: Low levels of zinc in the body can directly cause hair loss. Oysters have the most zinc of any food; beans, crab, lobster, chicken, and nuts all have zinc in them, too.

  9. Biotin: This B vitamin—found in yeast, liver, egg yolks, soy, and walnuts, plus hair-growth supplements—supports healthy hair growth like few other compounds.

  10. Vitamin B5: Helps prevent hair loss and encourages healthy hair growth. Greek yogurt, also packed with protein, is a great way to get it.