Growing Long Hair On A Vegan Diet: Guide For Gorgeous Hair!

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For anyone that has been reading this blog for a while, you’ll have noticed that I’ve been letting my hair grow long for quite some time now while being on a vegan diet.

In 2012 my hair was just around my neck, but now when straightened out, it’s past waist length. That is a lot of hair growth in just a short period of time. My hair grows very fast, probably because of genetics and the quality of my diet.

Check out the photo below!

hair growth since going vegan
This is me with my long hair after growing it for about 2 years!

Growing long hair can be easy when you give the body what it needs. And then there are supplements that can give things a bit of a boost if you need them.

Sometimes it’s just difficult to get all of the essential nutrients on the diet. For example, zinc is pretty hard to get for a vegan, unless you eat a lot of beans. Even then, you’re likely going to be short.

I’ll go into more detail about the potential causes of poor hair growth later on in this article so you can avoid the common mistakes!

Hair Growth Since Going On A Vegan Diet

Since going vegan, I had expected my hair growth to slow down a lot, but this doesn’t seem to be the case.

Even when I became vegetarian back in 2007, my hair was pretty good and it wasn’t affected in a negative way by my diet.

I’ve always paid close attention to making sure that I all the vitamins and minerals I need in my diet, and if I’m a little short on something, I’ll supplement.

One of the supplements I’ve felt has helped me a lot is called Hair Anew. I recently included it in a review article looking at which are the best supplements for hair growth if you’re a vegan.

Since going vegan, my hair has never been healthier. Perhaps it’s because I’m just caring a lot more for it? Or maybe it’s because my diet contains a large number of fruits, vegetables, and omega 3 fats which helps make it soft and shiny.

The only thing I think I should do a bit more of is keeping cutting off the split ends before they go wild! It’s super difficult when you have hair this long to maintain it in perfect shape.

When you brush your hair, you move the oils down the hair shaft, but they don’t always reach the ends. I have straight hair though, so I guess I’m lucky in that regard. For people who have curls, they can have more trouble with dry ends.

So now if you hear someone say that vegans always have thin hair, you can see it’s just not true. Sure, maybe genetics help a bit, no doubt. But the quality of the diet matters a lot more than people some people think.

But say you’re the unlucky vegan and experience some hair loss after going on the diet. Let’s look at some of the most plausible reasons for it.

 

why a vegan diet can cause hair loss
Losing your hair can be extremely distressing, but it’s not always permanent!

7 Reasons for hair loss on a vegan diet

1. Zinc deficiency can cause hair loss

As I’ve already mentioned above, zinc is an important mineral in the human body and can be severely lacking in some vegan diets.

We don’t need a lot of it to be healthy, but unfortunately, it’s more abundant in animal foods than plant foods.

Zinc deficiency can take a while to develop, so it might not be something you notice right away. But after months or years on the diet, if you’ve started to notice that you have diffuse hair loss, low zinc levels could be the problem.

Zinc is important for many chemical reactions in the body, but it also inhibits the conversion of testosterone into DHT and helps regulate the immune system and fight off infections.

In one study, zinc concentrations in all patients with hair loss were much lower than people who didn’t suffer from hair loss [1].

Another study showed a benefit for 9 out of 15 patients who suffered from alopecia areata when they took zinc supplements. And patients who benefited the most were those who saw a bigger increase in serum zinc levels. In the study, they used 50 mg of zinc gluconate per day.

Tip: Consuming garlic with legumes can increase zinc and iron absorption.

2. Low vitamin B12 may cause hair loss

Vitamin B12 can be reasons for hair loss for some vegans. It should be supplemented by every vegan, but unfortunately, many vegans are not aware of this fact.

One of the consequences of a deficiency in B12 is the production of abnormal red blood cells. These cells are then not able to properly transport oxygen to the hair follicles and this leads to reduced oxygen levels, cellular stress, and hair fall.

Hair follicle cells undergo a high level of cell division and B12 is crucial in the process of cell replication.

Fortunately, in most cases, hair loss will stop once B12 deficiency is corrected

However, you should wait at least 6 months to see improvements. Hair has to go through cycles and it can take a few cycles before it grows back strong and healthy.

Read more on B12 supplements for vegans.

3. Iron deficiency can lead to poor hair growth

Iron deficiency can affect anyone, but vegans might be more likely to develop a deficiency due to not eating meat, which contains the most absorbable form of iron.

Iron deficiency can take quite a while to develop because the body stores it, but a simple blood test can determine if you have it or at risk of developing it.

Blood cells contain iron and deliver oxygen to the cell in our body. So making sure you get plenty of iron-rich foods is super important.

Females may need to supplement more often than males, but both sexes should get a blood test before and after starting a vegan diet and occasionally keep track of their ferritin levels.

If you have an iron deficiency, correcting it will reverse any hair loss that you’ve experienced.

Tip: Taking vitamin C along with foods or supplements which are high in iron may help increase iron absorption.

4. Low intake of lysine could lead to increased hair shedding

L-lysine is responsible for our hair shape and volume. It’s an amino acid that is not often talked about as a cause for persistent hair shedding, but it’s a very important one.

Some studies have shown that supplementing lysine can stop hair loss and improve iron status because of its ability to help iron absorption [3].

Data suggests that increasing both iron and lysine in women over 50 who experience hair loss can reduce hair shedding [4].

Lysine can be an amino acid which is more difficult to get on a vegan diet. And combined with low iron intake, this can lead to poor hair quality and growth.

5. Vitamin D deficiency increases hair shedding

In the winter months, many of us don’t get anywhere near enough vitamin D. We normally get vitamin D from exposure to sunlight, and only a little from our diet.

Depending on where you live and your skin color, it can be more difficult to get enough sun to raise vitamin D levels enough to last you throughout the winter if you live in the northern hemisphere.

It’s been well established that vitamin D is important in stem cell renewal and development of keratinocytes and anagen initiation. One study showed that low levels of vitamin D may lead to significant hair loss in females [5].

Most vitamin D supplements are from sheep’s wool, but there are vegan alternatives that which are sourced from lichen.

Read more about vitamin D3 supplements for vegans.

6. Low-calorie intake and significant weight loss

It’s natural for vegans to spontaneously lower their energy intake when they start the diet and that’s why many end up quite lean. But sudden and significant weight loss can cause a lot of changes in the body and may lead to temporary hair loss in some people.

The good news is that once you’ve stabilized your hair should grow back healthier and stronger than before.

That being said, if you’re on severe calorie restriction, this can have an effect on your thyroid hormones, testosterone, and estrogen, and lead to persistent hair thinning.

If you’re approaching a BMI of less than 18, you should consider increasing your calorie intake.

And once again, hair can take several months to regrow, so patience is important here.

7. Androgenetic alopecia (affects mostly men)

man getting his hair cut

Unfortunately, even if you’re eating a vegan diet, sometimes it’s a losing battle when your genetics aren’t on your side. If you are male and have the typical signs of male pattern baldness, it can be difficult to combat hair loss naturally.

It’s best that you speak with your doctor to confirm this is what you have and then take it from there.

There are also natural supplements which are believed to help by lowering the conversion of testosterone to DHT and blocking DHT from attacking the hair follicles. I’ll talk more about this below!

Should vegans take supplements for their hair?

Some nutrients on a vegan diet can be quite low and therefore it might be wise to supplement where needed.

Check using an application like CRON-O-METER to see if you’re meeting all the required vitamins and minerals.

Consider taking a supplement designed for hair growth. These contain all of the essential micronutrients required for great hair!

A vegan multivitamin supplement would also be perfectly fine as it usually contains everything you need to stay healthy.

Caution about taking supplements high in biotin

Many people who take biotin supplements have reported that they have better hair growth, but taking high doses of biotin (5000 mcg or more) can cause acne breakouts.

If you suffer from breakouts when you’re taking a hair supplement, biotin is likely the culprit. One way to reduce this risk is to take a zinc supplement. In fact, zinc has been shown to be highly effective at reducing acne.

If you want a supplement with only a small amount of biotin or none at all, check out these vitamin supplements.

4 Natural food supplements for androgenetic alopecia

1. Pumpkin Seed Oil

Pumpkin seed oil has been studied in men who were suffering from Androgenetic alopecia. One study showed that men who were given a supplement had a 30% increase in hair growth at 12 weeks and 40% increase in hair growth at 24 weeks.

Men who were taking the placebo did not experience any significant hair growth during the period of the study [5].

2. Saw Palmetto

Saw palmetto is one of the most popular natural hair loss treatments for men. In one study published in 2016,  saw palmetto was effective in increasing the terminal hair length in men suffering from hair loss [6]. However, other studies have shown little to no benefit.

3. Spearmint

Spearmint is a natural anti-androgen and has the ability to reduce total and free testosterone in females and males. Therefore it may be effective in reducing the amount of testosterone that is converted to DHT.

Currently, there are no studies available to support the use of spearmint as a treatment for androgenetic alopecia but it could have some potential for females with high testosterone levels.

4. Soy isoflavones

When you consume soy for a long period of time, your gut bacteria will change and you start being able to convert soy isoflavones to an estrogenic metabolite called equol which is able to bind to DHT and prevent it from attacking hair follicles.


6 Vegan foods for amazing and gorgeous looking hair

Below is a list of vegan foods that you should consume liberally to improve hair growth and make it look super shiny and pretty!

1. Leafy greens

Leafy greens like spinach and kale are packed with minerals that help support hair growth. They provide minerals like copper, potassium, magnesium, and iron. They are also loaded with vitamin A and vitamin C. It’s easy to consume lots of leafy greens every day by using them in a green smoothie!

2. Beans  

Beans are a great source of protein for a vegan. There are many different varieties to choose from and they go well with lots of dishes. Hair is made up of protein and beans are a great way to provide those important amino acids.

3. Oatmeal

Around 100 grams of oatmeal will provide you with up to 500 mg of silica. This mineral will help improve the quality and strength of your hair.

4. Sweet Potatoes

Sweet potatoes are very high in beta carotene. Some of the beta carotene you consume gets converted to Vitamin A by the body and this can help improve skin and follicle health. Vitamin A is essential for every cell in the body and for proper growth and differentiation.

5. Avocado

Eating an Avocado every day or even just a few times a week will make your hair appear shinier because it contains fatty acids such as ALA. When you consume ALA, some of it gets converted to EPA and DHA and this can help keep your hair super silky and shiny!

6. Green Tea

Green tea helps reduce inflammation and can block a DHT which destroys hair follicles by reducing an enzyme known as 5-alpha reductase. If you have oily hair, green tea could help with this problem too.

blonde hair


8 Bonus tips to help you keep your hair healthy while you grow it out

1. Train yourself to wash your hair less frequently

At first this might be difficult because of the oil build up, but eventually, the scalp adapts and starts producing less oil.

Frequent washing can cause your hair to break and become brittle unless it’s very well nourished with conditioner.

2. Try not to tie or pull your hair back into a ponytail

Pulling on the hair can cause the hair to break and cause some stress at the roots. This is a common cause of hair loss and one that’s easily prevented by wearing looser hairstyles.

3. Never brush your hair when it’s wet

Yikes! I see people do this all the time and it’s one of the worst things you can do to your hair.

Wait until your hair has dried a bit first before you brush it. You can also buy a ‘wet brush’ that is very soft and won’t damage the hair so much if you really have to brush it…

4. Start brushing from the bottom and work your way up to the scalp

Hold the hair above the point where you’re brushing and start brushing at the tips of the hair and work your way up to the roots. Take your time and don’t be too aggressive.

5. Try to let your hair dry naturally without heat

If you have to use a hairdryer, use a low heat setting. And if you use any sort of heat styling, use heat protection sprays.

6. Take a vegan hair supplement

It’s very important that you get all the essential nutrients in your diet but sometimes it’s not possible. This is where taking a supplement can make a big difference. Here are some supplements for hair growth (This link goes to my hair website).

7. Use a clarifying shampoo every now and then

Every week or two I recommend that you use a mild anti-residue shampoo as it will take away all the product build up that is causing hair to become dull and limp.

If you’ve ever noticed that your shampoo doesn’t seem to work as well anymore, this is one of the main reasons why. Once you wash out all that stuff, your old shampoo works like magic again!

8. Don’t bleach your hair 

This is one of the worst things you can do to your hair. Bleaching causes the hair to become very prone to drying out and weakens the hair significantly so it becomes prone to breaking.

Conclusion

If you love having long hair and want to grow it out, there is no reason why can’t do that if you’re also a vegan.

But you do have to pay close attention to your diet and make sure that you get all the required nutrients from your food and then supplement where necessary.

A vegan diet can be quite restrictive, so pay close attention to iron, zinc, iodine, vitamin B12, and vitamin D. Many good vegan supplements will have these and so they should cover you if you fall short in your diet.

Sometimes hair loss can occur with weight loss, but this is usually temporary and it grows back.

Reviewed and updated: July 2019.

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22 Comments

  • I lost more than 25 kilos since i started calorie restriction and what noticed about my hairs is a very significative reduction in hair falling. I have always had a good number of hairs on my head 😀 but before calorie restriction they tended to fall very often especially during sleep and shower. Since in full CR it’s very very hard to find even a single hair on my pillow! What I think is that hair loss during weight loss is due to the lack in vitamin and minerals related usually related to weight reduction.

    Bye bye Matt and thanks for your usefull blog!!

    • I guess you could be right. Most people that lose weight just tend to focus on restricting what they eat rather than making sure they’re getting good nutrition. I rarely see hairs fall out either most of the year… If I do, it’s mainly around October. It seems to be a seasonal thing that is fairly common.

      Thank you for visiting!

    • I wouldn’t have too much. I have about 40-50 grams when I eat it. I also have licorice tea as well. It’s best not to have too much every day because it can also increase stress hormones and blood pressure.

  • We are what we eat. If you do not consume enough vitamins on a daily basis, sooner or later your body will ask for them in its own way. Skin, hair and nails are the basic ‘indicators’ of your overall health. Therefore, in case something is wrong with any of these three, you should look for a reason inside. I was very anxious with my hairloss, which used to happen each year in autumn-winter time. I started using external remedies, but in best case they were giving just a temporary effect. Then I have consulted a trichologist. He advised me to revise my nutrition and pointed the products which are especially needed for healthy hair. Besides, he recommended the natural nutritional supplement – Hair Gain Formula by Military Grade – which was supposed to enhance healthy hair growth. I must say, that following his advices during a year, I noticed that my hair became much thicker near the roots, which means that new hair is growing. Moreover, my hairdresser told me that my hair became more shiny and healthy.

    • Absolutely! Your boy tends to put resources where it’s needed most. So if a person is deficient and not getting what they need, the ‘less important’ things will suffer. That means, skin, hair, nails…

  • Thank you for your reply Matt. Having tried licorice, taking into account its rather chewy texture, may I ask how you have it? These days, I just cut a portion of the stick and chew it until soft, and then just spit it out once I’ve had most of it.

    It seems a bit of challenge to fully eat it, not to mentions having as much as 40 g, unless softened. Do you boil it perhaps? Curious to hear how you have it.

    Take care for now, though 🙂

      • Sure, the licorice root. Although, I did end up removing it from this page because high doses can cause issues in some people over time, especially those with high blood pressure.

        Now I just take 1g of licorice root extract supplement per day.

        It’s definitely important to monitor blood pressure and potassium levels if taking a higher dose of licorice root supplement or sticks.

  • looking for a way to make your hair grow longer and look nice like indian physical hair here is an opportunity for you to make it now, no need of buying too much cosmetic for hair just contact dr.idedia to request the hair growth herb which he perpared for me too which is making my hair looking nice,strong and beautiful just with his traditional herbs, no more hair creams or cosmetic which take too much time to work here is a solution for you with the help of dr.idedia through his email contact; dr.idediatraditionalhealinghome@gmail.com thanks for listening to my advice.

  • I become vegan bexause i grew anemic so if i eat to much of something that i an alurgic to causes me throw up what could this mean i only eat veggies burgers tofu and fish but not often lectos intalurent

  • In how many days should I wash my hair…….
    I had a long and thick hair since I was of 12 years but I’m 15 years only and there is a lot of hairfall and I’m taking stress because of that can u give me some tips…..

    • I recommend twice a week if you can do that. It really varies though! Some people have such oily hair that they need to wash it every other day at least. Stress certainly don’t help. You need to learn how to react less negatively to stressful things. I found Magnesium and L-theanine quite helpful, as they regulate our mood. Fortunately, even if you’ve lost hair, once the stressor has gone, you will regain all of your hair back.

      Excuse the late reply. I hope that your stress has gone and your hair is better.

      Thanks for the comment Athira 🙂

  • While many animal foods are promoted as beauty foods, I always say turn to plants instead whenever possible. Vegan foods are practically bursting with nutrients to make your hair, skin, and nails look fantastic, not to mention your mind and body. Plus, eating these vegan foods that make your hair long and gorgeous.

  • I need to learn the vegan foods to cook and to gain good nutrition and protein please can you help as I have stopped eating chicken red meat eggs vows milk yogurt thing is I don’t know what nutrition meal is good please help

    • Various types of beans and peas are good sources of protein. If you combine it with wholegrain bread, you’ll get a complete protein source. This is usually adequate to provide enough of the essential amino acids for growing your hair. Sorry about the delay in responding! I’m sure you’ve figured it out by now 😉

  • Hi. I have naturally thick and layered curly/wavy hair, and it is my first time going vegan. what tips would you recommend?

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