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We get a lot of clients coming into our store asking for a supplement for their hair. Whether they are balding, experiencing thinning, or their hair is just dry and brittle, it’s no secret that everyone wants tresses Rapunzel herself would covet. 

Today I am going to explore popular supplements and how they work in tandem, how your food choices can help or hinder healthy hair, and then lastly safe products and how you can externally treat your hair. Natural, holistic haircare is something I have been learning about for about seven years – as someone with naturally fine hair, it became a bit of an obsession of mine in my teen years, as I coveted the luscious locks of celebs. From supplements to natural at-home hair masks, to reading I ought to wrap my hair in a T-shirt instead of a towel and sleep on a silk pillowcase to avoid rougher surfaces (I don’t do either), I have been gobbling up all the info I can get my hands on. And there’s constantly more research coming out!

We’ll start with supplements. The three major players currently are biotin, silica (or silicon on some labels, not to be confused with silicone, which I’ll come back to later), and collagen. Lets have a look at the differences between these products, since I get this question pretty often. 

Biotin is a B-vitamin, and it mostly works to help your body use fats and carbohydrates, as well as supporting the amino acids. It is worth noting here that when it comes to haircare, fat is your friend! Basically, as this vitamin supports your system’s metabolic process, it helps the amino acid protein synthesis. Here’s what that means: protein synthesis is how individual cells in your body build their proteins. Keratin is a protein that forms the structure of hair. So in short, you could take a biotin supplement to support the body’s natural development of the protein (keratin) cell’s growth, to support the growth of healthy hair (as well as skin and nails, since those are built with proteins too).

Silica is a mineral, not a vitamin. All forms of life – insects, animals, plants, all life – need silica for strength and structure; this includes your skin and hair. While it can be found in sand and soil, there are also plant sources such as bamboo, which is wildly popular due to its absorbability. The reason a lot of people can experience a silica deficiency is that it is a mineral from the earth, and so like calcium and iron, it needs to be converted into plants before we can consume and absorb it (just like how eating spinach gives you some iron!). Silica affects your blood vessels, and so a silica deficiency can mean that not enough blood is getting to your scalp which, in turn, means that there isn’t enough circulation to help your cells grow strong, healthy hair follicles and hair strands. Blood carries oxygen around the body, and if you're deficient in a mineral that encourages circulation, your body will prioritize your vitals before your hair growth. So if you do have a silica deficiency, know that you will be helping the circulation in your entire body, and will thus be supporting all of your organs, not just your hair.

Collagen is critical to our bodies. It supports our joints, ligaments, eyes, blood vessels, the gut, hair, skin, nails, and even your teeth. It is the structural protein in the various connective tissues in the body. It consists of amino acids – so we’re back to helping the protein synthesis in cells, just from a different side. Our bodies have naturally occurring collagen, but you can also take collagen supplements to help your body with its natural proteins even more. 

Because collagen supports the body’s proteins in general, it is currently enjoying a bit of a limelight. People who come into the store have asked me about anti-aging effects, since it is known to help with skin elasticity (and thus can help stave off wrinkles). This isn’t completely wrong, but be warned that collagen is not necessarily a miracle product either. It simply supports your body’s proteins, which are the building blocks - you wont live forever, but you’ll probably live more comfortably, with better joint health and eye sight. As for haircare, it loops back around to supporting the keratin. 

Now, you are able to purchase collagen either coming from fish (marine) or cow (bovine). The main difference is that marine collagen is thought to be more productive when it comes to skin and hair health, whereas the bovine source is excellent for gut and joints. So research your sources depending on what you’d like to use it for!

Okay, so lets mix it all together. To sum it up, I would say that silica on its own supplements the mineral deficiency (remember it is a mineral, not a protein) and ensures healthy blood flow and thus healthy, functioning cells; collagen will support proteins in the body, and cells use proteins to build healthy skin and nails – so silica supports the building of healthy protein in cells. Bringing biotin back into the shuffle, it is used to metabolize fats and help your cells bind to proteins from amino acids. So the biotin helps the protein work with the cells, using the amino acids to create healthy hair. We did it! That’s a lot of information to take in, so don’t worry if you don’t remember all of the specifics.

Besides supplementation, there are some other ways you can support your hair too. 

I mentioned above that healthy fats equal healthy skin and hair, and that salmon and nuts are great options. Eggs, avocados, sweet potatoes and seeds are also great options for healthy fats and proteins that will give your hair strength, lustre, and shine. To provide some more detail though, omega 3s are particularly good for hair and skin, and the kicker is that they are not produced naturally by the body. They serve to moisturize and promote healthy blood flow, so incorporating them into your diet will really be doing yourself a favour.

An antioxidant-rich diet will also be beneficial for overall health, as well as hair health. "Antioxidant" is basically a fancy word that means it prevents "oxidation", or aging and deteriorating cells. A good way to think of it is when people squeeze lemon juice onto apple slices to stop them browning, they are using an antioxidant to stop oxidation (the browning of the fruit). It's a little weird to think of your body as an aging apple slice, but that's essentially what's happening slowly as we age. Some foods to incorporate for antioxidants are citrus fruits, berries, greens, tea, as well as seafood and nuts (so getting the healthy fats in too – bonus!)

Another side for us to tackle is hair care products. Drugstore shampoos and conditioners generally use sulphates to clean the hair, and silicones to "moisturize". These products are far too intensive however; sulphates can be found in industrial cleaners, and are far, far too harsh to use on your body. Silicones are used in the conditioners, but they don't actually penetrate the hair shaft and heal it; instead, they coat the shaft of the hair and can make the hair feel heavy, so you feel like you need to wash it again - you end up with a cycle of stripping and coating that damages your hair. The labels can be misleading on drugstore products, so looks for anything ending in "ate", or "cone", and be suspicious. Your hair will thank you! 

Oil Masks: For natural deep conditioning treatments you can do at-home oil masks; you can even incorporate a scalp massage for yourself to really work the oil in there and boost scalp circulation (if you're interested in this, research "the inversion method" for hair growth). Different oils have different benefits, so you can certainly make your own cocktail. 

Some popular hair oils are castor oil and coconut oil. I should note that while coconut oil can be used on its own, castor oil is quite thick and needs to be diluted equal parts with another oil, or it will not want to wash out of your hair at all (take my word for it, it’s a nightmare). I use many however, including olive, almond, avocado, castor, coconut, and jojoba oils. I've heard sesame oil is great, but it has a strong scent to it, so proceed with caution. Also, you can expect to shampoo twice and then condition as normal after the oil mask, it will take some washing out. You can leave the mask in for minimum half an hour, or for as long as you like. Some people sleep with them in and wash in the morning, but make sure you put a towel over your pillow if you want to try this. You can also add essential oils (very little! Three drops should do it!), like peppermint or cinnamon cassia. These oils stimulate the circulation in the scalp, and like we talked about earlier, circulation and blood flow are what get your cells to work. 

I hope that this article has provided you with a useful jumping-off point so you can continue to learn more about it on your own!

If you are interested in biotin, silica, collagen, oils for hair masks, sulphate and silicone free products, or even greens for your antioxidants, come to Good Health Mart Hamilton! We are located at 640 Mohawk Road West, in Westcliffe Mall in West Hamilton. Our phone number is (905) 318-8111.

Customer Testimonial: I had a customer who is a hair dresser come in to buy marine collagen powder at Good Health Mart Hamilton, because one of her clients started taking it and between her monthly appointments her hair became stronger, shinier, and thicker! Sounds like a pretty great deal to me! Again, you may not have new hair start to grow, but your own hair might greatly improve in health and quality. Another thing to keep in mind is that if you’re using collagen for hair supplementation, it will not be an overnight fix. You may need to take it for two months before you see a tangible difference.