Does protein help hair growth? Get answers here.
Whether you’re dealing with rapid hair loss or just want thicker hair, you might wonder if there’s anything you can do to increase hair growth. Perhaps in researching how to grow healthy hair, you’ve come across protein for hair growth as a possible treatment.
You probably learned in science class that protein is the building block of life — or you constantly hear that protein intake is crucial for building muscle, among other key bodily functions.
So if protein helps your muscles grow, does protein help hair growth? On the other hand, can too much protein be damaging to your hair?
Experiencing hair loss may have you adding the latest protein for hair growth treatment to your shopping cart. But knowing what protein is and what it does to your hair can help you achieve your goal of healthy hair. Knowledge is power, after all.
We’ll explore whether protein helps or hurts hair growth and answer the overall question: What does protein do to your hair?
Is protein for hair growth the solution you’re searching for? Maybe. We know this probably isn’t the answer you’re looking for — but let us explain why.
Different types of hair loss have different causes.
The most common type, androgenetic alopecia — also known as male pattern baldness — is the result of genetic and hormonal factors. This hair loss can also happen to women, in which case it’s referred to as female pattern hair loss.
If your hairline’s receding in an ‘M’ shape or you notice thinning hair, you most likely have male pattern baldness. If you’re genetically prone to hair loss, the chances of your thinning hair being caused by a protein deficiency are relatively slim.
So upping your protein intake won’t completely reverse the loss of hair, but does protein help hair growth? Or conversely, could you experience protein deficiency hair loss? Keep reading to learn how protein works for hair growth.
You are what you eat, and what you eat can play a role in hair growth. The hair growth cycle is a three-phase process where hair follicles produce new hairs that grow to their full length over several years.
But what does protein do to your hair, and how is it related to growth?
More research is needed to fully understand the connection between key nutrients and hair growth, but it’s a good idea to ensure you’re getting enough protein for many reasons beyond hair health.
The hair you see on your head is the hair shaft, and underneath the skin are the hair follicles from which the hair grows. The hair shaft is almost entirely protein and made up of several different proteins.
Essential amino acids. Nine essential amino acids that can’t be produced internally by your body need to be consumed via food or dietary supplements.
These essential amino acids include histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan and valine.
Nonessential amino acids. Also known as dispensable amino acids, these can be produced inside your body. They include alanine, arginine, asparagine, aspartic acid, cysteine, glutamic acid, glutamine, glycine, proline, serine and tyrosine.
Conditional amino acids. These usually aren’t essential but can become so when you’re sick or stressed.
Amino acids are crucial for your body and all its proteins — including those that make up your hair.
A review of research from 2017 suggests that a deficiency in essential nutrients like protein can impact both the structure of your hair and its growth. A protein deficiency might also cause telogen effluvium.
If your diet is low in complete proteins — proteins that contain all nine essential amino acids — you may experience hair loss.
While a protein for hair growth treatment won’t magically make your hair grow thick and lustrous, there are steps you can take to encourage growth and prevent breakage.
Eating a well-balanced diet with adequate protein intake is important for maintaining hair health and encouraging healthy hair growth. When your diet doesn’t contain enough protein, your hair can go into a resting state, leading to thinning, shedding and noticeable hair loss.
Fortunately, many foods are rich in protein. How much protein you need each day can vary based on your daily activity level, age and overall health, but the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) recommends 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight.
It should be noted that while the effects of dietary supplements have been studied, these protein supplements were made with a variety of nutrients. So it’s unclear whether protein supplementation played a role in hair growth or loss.
Fish proteins are not only a good source of protein, but fatty fish like salmon and mackerel also provide you with omega-3 fatty acids beneficial for heart health and possibly hair health.
Omega-3 fatty acids, a common oil found in fatty fish, are important for several bodily functions, including possibly promoting hair growth. A study from 2018 found that mackerel oil extract lengthened hair fibers and promoted growth.
However, this study was conducted on mice, and there aren’t many studies on the effects in humans.
Salmon, mackerel, tuna, herring and sardines are examples of fatty fish that are natural sources of omega-3 fatty acids.
Nuts can be great for growing healthy hair. Specifically, almonds are a good source of protein and healthy fats and also contain essential vitamins for hair health, like vitamin E.
Pistachios, brazil nuts and other types of nuts are also high in protein, with 100 grams of raw pistachios containing around 20 grams of protein.
While dark leafy greens are always recommended as part of a healthy diet, did you know they’re an essential part of protein metabolism?
Folic acid — a B vitamin found in leafy greens like spinach, broccoli and asparagus — helps break down the amino acid homocysteine, which can have harmful effects on the body if levels are too high.
So while those dark leafy greens aren’t the highest sources of protein, they assist the building blocks of protein and provide many other wonderful nutrients for your hair and body.
It’s no surprise that meat is a good source of protein. Lean cuts of beef provide you with not only protein but also significant amounts of iron, another essential nutrient for hair growth.
For example, 100 grams of beef tenderloin with the excess fat trimmed away has around 27 grams of protein. This amount of beef also has almost half the Recommended Dietary Allowance of iron levels for men.
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You can always have too much of a good thing. If you’re eating a diet high in protein-rich foods, you may experience some unpleasant side effects, such as bad breath or constipation, along with more adverse effects, like an increased risk of heart disease.
However, there’s not a lot of research into the effects on hair after consuming a lot of high-protein foods.
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Does protein help hair growth? We know protein helps us grow our muscles, but this essential nutrient is also associated with hair growth as well as hair loss.
Those with low levels of protein may notice an increase in hair shedding or thinner hair overall.
Protein restriction could lead to hair loss. But if you’re losing hair, other factors could be at work, according to the American Academy of Dermatology.
So before loading up on protein, you should consult with a medical professional to rule out any other possible causes like medical conditions, stress or genetics.
Protein (and the amino acids that make up protein) are important for growing strong, healthy hair simply because hair is made up of protein.
The hair shaft that grows out of the hair follicles needs essential vitamins and minerals to keep growing and not go into the resting phase.
Plenty of foods are good sources of protein — eggs, fatty fish and nuts, to name just a few. Our guide on what to eat for hair growth also provides more food sources for growing healthy hair.
An increased-protein diet won’t magically cure your male pattern baldness. But making sure you’re getting enough protein can help you have healthier hair.
Along with eating a hair-friendly, protein diet, your results may improve if you use medications like finasteride or minoxidil, both of which we provide as part of our hair loss treatments for men. Explore your options from Hims today.
Kate Hagerty is a board-certified Family Nurse Practitioner with over a decade of healthcare experience. She has worked in critical care, community health, and as a retail health provider.