This Dr. Axe content is medically reviewed or fact checked to ensure factually accurate information.
With strict editorial sourcing guidelines, we only link to academic research institutions, reputable media sites and, when research is available, medically peer-reviewed studies. Note that the numbers in parentheses (1, 2, etc.) are clickable links to these studies.
The information in our articles is NOT intended to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified health care professional and is not intended as medical advice.
This article is based on scientific evidence, written by experts and fact checked by our trained editorial staff. Note that the numbers in parentheses (1, 2, etc.) are clickable links to medically peer-reviewed studies.
Our team includes licensed nutritionists and dietitians, certified health education specialists, as well as certified strength and conditioning specialists, personal trainers and corrective exercise specialists. Our team aims to be not only thorough with its research, but also objective and unbiased.
The information in our articles is NOT intended to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified health care professional and is not intended as medical advice.
How to Stop Hair Loss: Best Foods, Supplements & Tips
December 23, 2022
There’s no doubt about it, we all want a luxurious, full head of hair. Although hair loss is most commonly associated with men, women also suffer from this problem — and sadly hair loss in women is a lot less acceptable in society today.
According to the American Hair Loss Association, women actually make up 40 percent of American hair loss sufferers. Such a common problem among both and women, it’s unsurprising that so many people look for hair loss remedies far and wide.
Have you noticed more hair in your brush lately than you used to see, or is you hair falling out in clumps? Do you look in the mirror and see scalp where you used to see only hair?
Losing anywhere from 50 to 150 hairs per day is considered normal, but when you start losing more than that it becomes problematic, not to mention visibly noticeable. What’s really behind your hair loss, and how can you treat the cause, not just the symptoms, with effective hair loss remedies?
It’s common for hair loss sufferers to turn to hair replacement surgery and topical hair loss products in hopes of regaining their full heads of hair — or at least some of what once was. But is that the best course of action to take with hair loss? When it comes to any problem, the first step is to find the root cause.
Let’s talk about the real causes of hair loss and what you can start doing today to naturally stop and hopefully reverse your hair loss. For starters, there are many foods and vitamins for hair growth that won’t break the bank but can really make a difference. There also are many other natural hair loss remedies like rosemary essential oil that have been shown to work as well as conventional topical products.
Causes of Hair Loss
There are typically four main causes of hair loss:
- Heredity (family history)
- Hormonal changes
- Medical conditions
The medical term for a loss of hair is alopecia, and there are two main types. First, alopecia areata is the diagnosis when the your body’s own immune system attacks the hair follicles, causing your hair to fall out. Androgenetic alopecia is an inherited hair condition in which there is hair thinning and then it eventually falls out. This is the genetic hair loss known as male or female pattern baldness.
Hormones in both men and women are responsible for many body processes. When it comes to hair, hormones play a significant role. Hormones can play a part in the hair pattern found on your head as well as the rest of your body. Hormonal changes and imbalances that affect hair growth can be due to pregnancy, childbirth, menopause as well as thyroid problems. The good news is that hormone-related hair loss is typically temporary, and normal hair growth will return once hormonal balance returns.
If you’re a mother, you probably recall during pregnancy how full your hair was. Many women say that the times when they’re pregnant are the times when their hair looks its best. And then you undoubtedly remember the aftermath of those months of gorgeous hair. All the hair that should’ve fallen out little by little now comes out in huge amounts of hair loss in just a short period of time. This is called telogen effluvium. This occurs in 40 percent to 50 percent of women, and it’s due to the change in hormones during pregnancy. Thankfully, it’s only a temporary hair loss.
The hormones that we speak about when it comes to hair loss are the group of hormones called androgens. The three types of androgen hormones are testosterone, androstenedione and dihydrotestosterone, more commonly known as DHT. All of us have heard of testosterone and probably associate it with the male “macho” hormone. In fact, both men’s and women’s bodies contain all three of these hormones in some amount, and their imbalance can contribute to hair loss in both sexes.
Related: Benefits of Castor Oil for Hair Growth (and More)
Male vs. Female Hair Loss
By the age of 35, 66 percent of American men have some amount of detectable hair loss. A high percentage, right? By the age of 50, about 85 percent of men have significantly thinning hair, according to the American Hair Loss Association.
The cause of hair loss in men is due to the hair follicles’ sensitivity to DHT (5α-Dihydrotestosterone). DHT is a male androgen hormone that causes follicles to shrink, resulting in a shorter life span and decrease hair production. Normally after hairs fall out another hair starts to grow from this same follicle, but if DHT levels are high, hair growth decreases. Male pattern baldness (androgenetic alopecia in men) follows a pattern of a receding hairline that progresses to an “M” shape and then continues to the familiar “U” shape.
Female pattern baldness (androgenetic alopecia in women) is characterized by thinning on the top or the center of the head. Female hair loss is generally due to high levels of stress, hormone imbalance, thyroid conditions or toxic exposure. Women are actually most likely to suffer from hair loss due to hormones. Think pregnancy, menopause, birth control pills and other hormonal changes that women so commonly go through. Having polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is another hormonally related health problem that can contribute to hair loss from the scalp but unwanted hair growth in undesirable places.
Research also shows that there might be a male equivalent of PCOS related to male hair loss. One study found that men with premature male pattern baldness had hormonal profiles similar to women with PCOS and they also had significantly higher insulin resistance. This shows how proper hormone balance in men is also important to health, specifically hair health.
Best Foods for Hair Growth
The good news is that with lifestyle changes to reduce stress, dietary improvements and the use of other natural hair loss remedies, you can begin to stop hair loss.
A whole foods, nutrient-rich diet is crucial to supporting healthy hair growth. There are many foods that help hair growth, but these are some of my personal favorites:
- Organic foods — Choose these foods because they’re free of chemicals. Chemicals can act as endocrine disrupters interfering with hair growth.
- Pumpkin seeds — Pumpkin seeds are one of the top foods high in zinc, which is necessary for healthy hair health. Research has also shown that a zinc deficiency is linked with hypothyroidism and hair loss.
- Wild-caught fish — Wild-caught fish like salmon are high in omega-3 fats, which decrease inflammation while supporting hair growth and hair thickening.
- Green tea — Green tea helps promote detoxification and contains antioxidants that promote hair growth. It also may stop the conversion of testosterone into DHT.
- Super seeds — Chia, flax and hemp seeds are high in fiber and healthy fats that can help aid hair growth.
- Bone Broth — High in protein, collagen and amino acids, bone broth the perfect food for encouraging healthy hair growth.
- Caffeine — Yes, not technically, a food, but caffeine has been show to spur hair growth. According to research, caffeine stimulates hair shafts and helps them grow faster, by damping down the effects of DHT, a substance that infamously slows hair growth.
Foods to Avoid
There are also foods that I recommend eliminating or avoiding as much as possible like:
- Trans fatty acids — Unhealthy fats like trans fatty acids have been shown to increase inflammation and production of DHT, which can cause hair loss. Stay away from hydrogenated oils like corn oil and soybean oil, which are loaded with trans fats.
- Sugar — Sugar plays a role in hormones imbalances, contributes to insulin resistance, increases DHT and causes inflammation, all of which can lead to hair loss.
- Processed foods — Foods that are highly processed are often loaded with unhealthy fats, sugar and sodium so they’re very counterproductive to healthy hair growth.
- Alcohol — Alcohol can increase inflammation and cause liver toxicity, leading to hair loss. Heavy drinking as well as smoking have both been linked to increased risk of hair loss.
- Caffeine — Wait, didn’t I say the opposite above? Yes, in small amounts, organic coffee and tea can be beneficial to hair health, but you don’t want to overdo it because too much caffeine can cause dehydration, hormone imbalances and even production of DHT.
Best Supplements for Hair Growth
- Protein powder from bone broth (1–3 servings daily depending on body weight and individual needs): You can also get your daily dose of bone broth from a protein powder. Bone broth powder is rich in protein, collagen, gelatin, glucosamine, chondroitin and key minerals often missing in the average diet. These vital nutrients support and promote healthy hair growth as well as a wide range of additional health benefits.
- Collagen protein (1 to 3 servings per day): As one ages, the body’s internal collagen production slows down. Consuming more collagen via collagen supplements can support your body’s own collagen production and help with natural hair growth
- Saw palmetto (320 milligram daily): A natural DHT blocker that can greatly improve hair growth.
- Pygeum (100 milligrams 2x daily): Addresses the cause of hair loss by blocking DHT binding sites and improving prostate health.
- Pumpkin seed oil (8 grams or 1 tablespoon daily): Inhibits DHT formation throughout the body and contains fatty acids that support thick hair.
- Fish oil (1,000 milligrams daily): Fish oil helps reduce inflammation and thicken hair.
- Aloe vera juice (1/2 cup 2x daily and shampoo): Aloe vera juice can help naturally thicken hair.
- Ashwagandha (500 milligrams daily): Adaptogen herbs like ashwagandha help your body adapt and deal with stress, balance hormones and reduce cortisol levels (also known as the aging hormone), which all help encourage healthy hair growth.
- Rhodiola (500 milligrams daily): Another awesome adaptogen herb to fend off stress and foster hair growth.
- B-Complex vitamins (1 tablet daily): B vitamins aid in healthy stress management. Biotin or B7 helps thicken your hair naturally and vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid) supports your adrenal glands.
- Zinc (8 milligrams daily for women/11 milligrams daily for men): One of the signs of a zinc deficiency is hair loss. Zinc also boosts your immune system and helps repair your gut.
Essential Oils for Stimulating Hair Growth
Wondering how to regrow hair naturally? You can use essential oils to make some of best topical home hair loss remedies.
- Rosemary is one of the top essential oils when it comes to enhancing hair thickness and growth. Rosemary oil is believed to increase cellular metabolism that stimulate hair growth. Research even shows that rosemary oil appears to work as well as minoxidil, a conventional topical hair loss treatment.
- Spikenard oil is known for promoting the growth of hair and slowing down the graying process of graying. A 2011 animal study found that spikenard oil showed positive effects on hair growth activity. When using spikenard extract, there was a 30 percent reduction in the time it look for the hair to grow back on the tested rats, which makes it promising for human use. (5)
- Lavender, thyme, cedarwood, sage and peppermint are other great options that may help increase scalp circulation. One recommendation to stimulate new hair growth is to combine three to four drops each of peppermint, rosemary and sage in one tablespoon of olive oil (I also recommend coconut oil or jojoba oil). Then you simply massage the mixture gently into the area(s) of concern one to two times each day.
You may also want to my Rosemary, Cedarwood & Sage Hair Thickener, which is an essential oil triple threat against hair loss.
Conventional Hair Loss Treatment
There are several options when it comes to conventional treatment of hair loss, all of which come with significant side effects unless you opt for a wig or hair piece. The most common conventional hair loss remedies include topical minoxidil, oral finasteride, topical or oral hormones and steroids, hair transplants, and hair restoration surgery.
An example of very commonly used and conventional topical treatment is minoxidil. One of the most well-known versions is Rogaine. Conventional hair growth products like Rogaine are available without a prescription and can be used by both men and women. Finasteride is an oral medication for hair loss in men only and requires a prescription. Both minoxidil and finasteride do not get to the root of hair loss and only work to regrow hair as long as you use these medications. Once you stop using them, the hair growth, if any, will stop.
Surgery is another conventional option that’s more costly and invasive. First there is hair transplantation surgery, which takes hair from another area of the scalp where hair is growing well and moves it to a balding or thinning area. This surgery is most commonly performed for male pattern baldness. Only around 5 percent of female hair loss sufferers are said to be good candidates for hair transplant surgery. This is due to the fact that unlike men who tend to lose hair in concentrated areas, women typically experience hair loss all over their scalps.
Hair restoration surgery is another conventional treatment option and can be done in a few manners. One way is to remove bald scalp and bring the hair-producing scalp closer together to reduce the area of balding. Another form of surgery involves putting devices temporarily underneath the scalp to stretch the areas currently producing hair so that decreases the area of balding. There is also scalp flap surgery, which takes a piece of scalp producing hair and surgically puts it where there is balding.
When it comes to conventional treatments for hair loss, there are a lot of possible side effects you should be aware of before using any of these options. Make sure to read warnings carefully and take them into serious consideration because a lot of the side effects are quite serious.
For example, serious side effects of minoxidil products like Rogaine can include unwanted facial/body hair, dizziness, fast/irregular heartbeat, fainting, chest pain, swelling of hands/feet, unusual weight gain, tiredness and difficulty breathing.
Side effects of finasteride may include impotence, loss of interest in sex, trouble having an orgasm, abnormal ejaculation, swelling in your hands or feet, feeling faint, headache, runny nose and skin rash.
With hair transplant surgery, it’s important to know that it does not give you an instantaneous perfect head of hair. It’s common for the hairs to fall out of the grafts right after the transplant, and then they don’t regrow for about three months.
Possible side effects and complications from hair replacement or transplant surgery include pain, temporary numbness or tightness, bleeding, infection, swelling of the face, scarring, poor growth of grafts, and an unnatural appearance of the transplanted hair.
If you’re pregnant, breastfeeding or have any ongoing health concerns, make sure to speak with your doctor before using any conventional or natural hair loss remedies. You should also make sure that your treatment option does not interact with any current medications or supplements. In addition, combining natural and conventional treatments (like minoxidil with essential oils) may cause unwanted side effects.
Hair loss is typically more than just an annoying physical problem. For many people experiencing hair loss, the daily suffering is very real and takes a huge toll on them in many ways. Research has shown that hair loss can cause “dramatic and devastating emotions in patients, which can negatively impact their self-esteem, body image, and/or self-confidence.”
Your hair loss might not make you look like your ideal self, but it’s important to keep things in perspective because going downhill mentally and emotionally over your hair loss will only contribute to, rather than help, your problem. There is no doubt that lowering your stress will help the state of your hair (and your life) so try to reduce the negative self-talk for the sake of your hair health as well as your total body health.
If you’re a woman experiencing hair loss, it’s an especially good idea to have your thyroid health evaluated to see if hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism could be at the root of your hair troubles. Experts concur that the hair on your head is an indicator of your overall health so what you do to improve your overall health can have a direct positive impact on your hair.
I know it can be frustrating to lose your hair, but don’t lose hope. With a healthy diet and lifestyle along with consistent use of natural hair loss remedies and a dose of patience, it’s truly possible for your hair to grow faster and thicker in the near future.