7 Silent Signs Your Hair Is Desperate for Certain Nutrients

Updated: Jul. 29, 2022

Much like our fluctuating moods, our hair has good days and bad days. But if you've noticed changes in your locks that seem abnormal or constant, it's time to dig deeper.

Nutrition for healthy hair

If you’re running low on key vitamins, your health—and especially your hair—could suffer. In fact, different hair issues such as shedding and dry scalp could thanks to specific nutrients you’re missing. Here’s what you need to know to keep your locks healthy.

hair brushes with hair shot from above
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Your hair is shedding like crazy

Ever take a shower and find yourself amazed at the amount of hair in the drain? While it’s normal for healthy hair to lose a few strands post-wash (up to 100 a day), excessive shedding could indicate something else is going on. (Post-pregnancy is a common time to shed hair, and that’s normal).

Paradi Mirmirani, MD, dermatologist and regional director of hair disorders at Kaiser Permanente in Vallejo, California explains nutritional deficiencies could be at play, as well as other underlying medical issues, so a visit to your doc is recommended. “In addition to being testing for thyroid disease and anemia, your physician may check for certain vitamin and/or mineral deficiencies, including a vitamin D deficiency,” she adds. (Worried about hair loss? Here are seven things you need to know.)

woman looking at the ends of her hair
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Your hair is dry

For hair that remains dry year-round, the solution may be healthy fats, says Megan Faletra, MS, MPH, RDN, a global health consultant, and dietitian. These are vital to your diet because they promote healthy skin and a healthy scalp, which gives life to your strands. “Think about supporting the health of your hair by supporting your skin and scalp with an abundance of healthy fats such as avocado, olive oil, and salmon into your diet.” (Try these 13 DIY solutions for super dry hair.)

rear view of man touching his hair
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Your hair looks dull

Blame it on missing your touch-up appointment with your colorist or poor weather that encourages hat hair, but you might glance in the mirror and see hair that you wish was shinier. Kaleigh McMordie, MCN, RDN, LD, explains dull-looking hair that lacks vibrancy could be an indication you need more healthy fats to add shine and body. “Omega-3 fatty acids and monounsaturated fats are important for overall health, but dull hair could be a sign you aren’t getting enough. Load up on salmon, avocado, flaxseeds, chia seeds, and nuts,” she suggests.

combing through hair close up
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Your hair is brittle

When your hair dries post-shower while you’re running around checking off to-do list items, you shouldn’t tuck a strand behind your ear and hear a crunch. Though everyone’s locks need a little moisture from time to time, a super brittle texture could be a sign of a zinc and/or an iron deficiency, according to Tania Dempsey, MD from Armonk Integrative Medicine. “Zinc and iron are important for keratin production so not having enough of these can lead to changes in the structure of hair,” she explains. “Zinc can be taken alone or with a mineral formula including iron. You can add foods that are high in zinc like beef, pumpkin seeds, and lentils to your diet, too.” (Try these 19 DIY masks for healthy hair.)

woman with dry itchy scalp
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Your scalp is dry

Find yourself resisting the temptation to scratch an itch in the middle of an important meeting because your scalp is so dry? Or, does it flake when you reach for a quick scratch? These are all signs you’re in need for omega 3s and omegas 6s, according to Dr. Dempsey. As she explains, these essential fatty acids are important for the health of the follicles and they bring moisture to your hair and scalp. To up your intake of these, eat more flaxseeds, sunflower seeds, fish, or take fish oil supplements.

rear view of woman with hair in a bun
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Your hair is super thin

If your hair happens to fall on the thinner side, you might not notice when it gets even scanter. But when your hair becomes thin throughout, McMordie says it could be an indication you’re in need of extra protein. “Hair cells, just like every other cell in the body, are made up of amino acids, which are the broken down form of protein, so if you aren’t getting enough, you may start to lose more hair than normal,” she explains. To ensure your hair is full and bountiful, she recommends consuming adequate protein by consuming fish, eggs, poultry, beef, and dairy. And if you’re vegetarian or vegan, nuts, beans, and whole grains are also good sources of protein.

young woman with gray hairs
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Your hair is graying prematurely

Even if your parents didn’t find that pivotal first gray strand until they were near their 40s, you can start the aging process earlier or later. Genetics might play a part, but in some rare cases, McMordie says the loss of pigment in hair at a young age can indicate a copper deficiency. Though it’s a trace mineral that doesn’t require much consumption, she suggests adding more mushrooms, sesame seeds, and seaweeds to fight back against the process. A supplement that’s specifically formulated for your hair is also a smart idea. Next, check out these tricks for healthy, long hair.