8 Secrets for Naturally Thick, Healthy Hair
Is your hair feeling a bit limp and lacklustre? Dry and damaged? Or do you struggle to grow it past your shoulders?
While genetics do play a large part in the natural thickness, density and texture of our hair, that’s not all there is to it. In fact, there are plenty of things we can do both internally and externally to promote our very best hair possible.
So on that note, we’re here to talk proven + natural strategies that you can start using today for naturally thick and healthy hair. Bonus: many of these tips come at very little (or zero) cost! So let’s jump in!
#1 – Consume Enough Protein
How much protein do you eat in a day? For many women, getting adequate protein isn’t front-of-mind when it comes to their health + wellbeing. On top of that, many of us tend to avoid meats – red meat in particular. Men don’t seem to have this aversion! As a result, it can be all too easy for us women to consume too little protein.
But here’s the thing… when it comes to thick and naturally healthy hair, consuming adequate protein is absolutely essential. As our hair (and nails) are predominantly made of protein, we must supply our body with the raw materials!
Protein is a somewhat broad term, so let’s get specific with amino acids. Amino acids are the smaller building blocks of protein, and there are 22 in total. 9 of these are “essential amino acids” – meaning that they must be consumed in the diet.
Protein from animal sources is easy to digest and contains all 9 essential amino acids, which is why it’s considered the best and most complete source of protein. Beef, lamb, fish, shellfish, chicken and eggs are all great protein sources. However, it’s important to buy quality (e.g. grass fed, organic, pastured, wild) and always shop for ethically raised animal products (e.g. free range, sow stall free).
Supplementing with a high quality protein powder is also a great way to help meet your daily protein requirements. If tolerated, grass fed whey is well absorbed and rich in protein, however there are many fantastic dairy free options on the market. For example, hydrolysed beef protein, egg white protein, fermented brown rice and pea proteins are just a few to choose from! A serve of protein powder per day in your smoothie will give your protein levels a boost (around 30g protein, depending on your product). It’ll also help keep you satiated and reduce cravings throughout the day!
The optimal level of protein varies depending on activity level and stress, among other factors. However as a general rule, between 20 – 30% of calories from protein is a good place to start. To put that into grams, for a 2,000 calorie diet this would look like 100 – 150g of protein per day.
#2 – Supplement with Collagen
If you’re looking for the secret to thick, healthy hair as well as beautiful skin and nails… look no further than a good collagen supplement!
You may have seen many topical products touting the benefits of added collagen, however to really get the benefits we need to supplement with collagen internally. Collagen is the most abundant form of protein in our bodies, and is made up of amino acids including glycine, proline, hydroxyproline and arginine (1). These amino acids – in particular arginine – are key to building thick and strong strands. Think: shiny, strong hair that’s more resistant to damage.
Now, it’s entirely possible to up your collagen intake without supplements. In nature, we find collagen in the connective tissues and ligaments of animals – which is one of the many benefits of eating “nose to tail”. However, unless you’re regularly consuming bone broth and gelatinous cuts of meat, you may want to consider supplementing.
And FYI – the benefits of collagen in the diet go beyond healthy hair, skin and nails. The amino acids rich in collagen are found in lower levels in muscle meats, and by supplementing we bring our consumption of amino acids into their natural balance. Importantly, the anti-inflammatory amino acid glycine offsets some of the potentially negative consequences of too much methionine from exclusively eating muscle meats.
How To Supplement with Collagen
There are a couple of ways to supplement with collagen: gelatin powder and hydrolysed collagen powder. The key difference is that gelatin powder is a cooked and powdered form of collagen, and it dissolves well into hot liquids like broths, soups and stews.
Hydrolysed collagen or “collagen hydrolysate” is a more processed product which has broken down the collagen into its smallest amino acid components. This additional processing makes collagen hydrolysate easier to digest for some and able to dissolve in cold liquids like smoothies. We also recommend collagen hydrolysate in teas, as it dissolves completely and doesn’t affect flavour.
#3 – Increase B Vitamins + Vitamin C
Want to grow long, strong hair? Then be sure you’re getting enough B Vitamins + Vitamin C!
Let’s start with B Vitamins, which have long been known to boost healthy hair. There are a total of eight B Vitamins: B1 or thiamine, B2 or riboflavin, B3 or niacin, B5 or pantothenic acid, B6 or pyridoxine, B7 or biotin, B9 or folic acid, and B12 or cobalamin. All are important for maintaining good health (and a good head of hair!), however you’ll want to be sure to get enough B5 and biotin to stimulate faster + stronger hair growth.
B Vitamins are naturally found in plant and animal sources – particularly those rich in protein, however do note that B12 is only available from animal sources.
Some of the best Vitamin B rich foods you can regularly add in your diet include liver, selfish, red meat, eggs, salmon and avocados. Supplementation of B Vitamins is also an option (and a non-negotiable for vegetarians and vegans!), in which case you’ll want to look for a good quality Vitamin B Complex and – in the case of B12 – a sublingual methylcobalamin.
It’s also worth noting here that beyond what we eat, a healthy gut microbiome actually manufactures many of our B Vitamins internally. Think of it as your internal pharmacy! And so, if you’re neither vegetarian or vegan and you’re having trouble with B Vitamin levels, you may also want to investigate + work on your gut health.
Vitamin C is an essential antioxidant with many roles in the body, one of which is enabling the production of collagen in our bodies. And as we know, collagen is essential to healthy hair, skin and nails.
Vitamin C also facilitates the absorption of iron, which is a key mineral required for hair growth. In fact, too little iron can result in increased hair loss and thinning of the hair. So it’s safe to say we want to get plenty of Vitamin C!
It’s relatively easy to obtain adequate levels of Vitamin C from fruit and vegetables. Some of the best sources you’ll want to include in your diet include oranges, red capsicum, brussels sprouts, kale and broccoli.
#4 – Consume Plenty of Healthy Fats
Healthy fats nourish our bodies in so many ways, so it’s no surprise that they also have significant benefits for our hair! In particular, we want to talk Omega-3 fats EPA and DHA. These fats nourish the hair from the root, support hair thickening and reduce inflammation in the body that can contribute to hair loss.
Interestingly, studies have also shown improved hair diameter and density from increased consumption of healthy fats (2). So if that’s not enough to start eating more fatty cold water fish like salmon, mackerel and sardines… we don’t know what is!
And in terms of supplements, as we’ve mentioned before our favourite way to boost Omega-3 fats is with cod liver oil. Not only is it a rich source of EPA and DHA, cod liver oil is rich in Vitamin D and pre-formed Vitamin A (i.e. the active form of Vitamin A).
#5 – Don’t Wash Every Day + Eliminate SLS
It’s no secret that Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) is a harsh ingredient that’s best avoided in our personal care products. SLS is a surfactant that gives conventional shampoos their lush, foamy effect that leaves hair feeling super fresh and clean.
But unfortunately that nice, squeaky-clean scalp feeling means we’ve completely stripped our hair of its natural oils. Over time, continual washing with SLS leads to dry and brittle hair that doesn’t stand up to heat tools and the elements. So if you haven’t gone SLS-free yet, now’s the time!
If you’re not yet convinced – we urge you to give an SLS-free shampoo a try for just a few weeks. You may be surprised at how much stronger your hair feels. In fact, you may be able to skip the heat protectants and other treatments you’ve been relying on!
#6 – Brush Through Natural Oils
When your hair gets greasy on a Sunday afternoon, what do you do with it?
Put it in a bun? Wear a hat? We say, brush those oils through!
Like it or not, our bodies produce sebum to naturally moisturise and protect our skin and hair. And in nature’s wisdom, this natural oil provides the hair with key nutrients, fatty acids and the correct pH to control microbial activity. So think of it as nature’s super-conditioner!
To get the benefits, take a natural bristle brush and work the oils through from root to tip. Then put it up in a plait or bun for a few hours (or as long as you can handle it) before washing. That’s all there is to it!
#7 – Air Dry Whenever Possible!
Of all the heat tools out there, the hairdryer has to be the biggest culprit for dryness and damage. Particularly when used on very wet hair.
This is because the “flash drying” effect of the hairdryer not only strips hair of its surface moisture, but the hydration bound to each strand. As a result, the hair cuticle becomes very dry and brittle in no time!
For this reason, for strong healthy hair we recommend air drying naturally whenever possible. This is easier for some hair textures than others, so if you can’t do 100% air dried, try aiming for 80% and finishing with the hairdryer. Your hair will thank you with far less split ends and breakage!
#8 – Natural Leave In Treatment
The ends of our hair are most vulnerable to dryness and damage, and can really benefit from a good leave-in treatment.
While there are many many products on the market, around here we believe simple (and natural) is best!
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However, you needn’t spend much for a good natural leave-in treatment! Plain oils such as jojoba, olive and coconut oil also work very well. Just be sure to use no more than a couple of drops, depending on your hair texture.