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It’s no secret that what we put into our bodies is just as important as what we apply to them when it comes to our beauty routines. We know we should be eating a balanced diet full of protein and good fats and leafy greens and whatever else it is that makes up the recipe of perfect skin or perfect hair, but we don’t.

Because in reality it’s all just a bit too much fuss. Wouldn’t you rather just eat all the carbs and sugar you want and then reverse the damage with a miracle-claiming serum? When it comes to our diets, there are simply too many things to consider and not enough hours in the day to figure it all out.

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So, we carry on applying product after product in a bid to make up for the lack of nutrients we’re feeding our bodies. But the truth is, there’s only so much that topical beauty products can do, and that is at its most evident when it comes to growing our hair. Because while strands themselves can be slathered in nourishing products and reap the benefits, when it comes to hair’s innate health and ability to grow, we have to deal with the scalp.

And in order to provide our hair with the best growing environment possible, we need to take a closer look at our diets. Why? Because when the body isn’t receiving sufficient levels of the nutrients it needs, the hair is often one of the first things to suffer (the same applies for other animals and their coats).

In short, nutritional deficiencies can cause a whole bunch of problems for our hair, especially when it comes to hair loss and breakage (although, if you’re experiencing significant hair loss, be sure to check in with your GP.)

So if you’re struggling to grow your hair to the length you’d ideally like, these are the vitamins that experts say you should have on your nutritional radar and supplement your diet with…

Vitamin B (Biotin)

Probably the most well-known hair growth ingredient around, Biotin (which is a form of vitamin B) is thought to be one of the most effective nutrients to aid hair growth thanks to its ability to reduce inflammation and stimulate keratin production. However, as with most vitamins on this list, upping your biotin intake will only help promote hair growth if you are already deficient.

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Hair restoration surgeon and hair loss expert, Dr Bessam Farjo explains: “The hair follicle, skin and nails all benefit from biotin. However, the most benefit you get is if you were deficient in the first place. Therefore, hair loss due to bad nutrition is the most likely to respond to biotin supplementation.” Foods rich in biotin include eggs, fish, meat, seeds, nuts, sweet potato, broccoli and cauliflower. “Sometimes systemic conditions that can affect your gastrointestinal or digestive function can result in lack of absorption of biotin, lead to a deficiency,” add Dr Farjo.

Vitamin D

While there isn’t a whole load of research to suggest that vitamin D can help hair growth, there are studies that suggest many of those that experience hair loss are deficient.

If you’re not getting adequate levels of vitamin D, your hair’s ability to grow healthily might be limited. While the most effective way to boost vitamin D levels are through direct sunlight (roughly 15 minutes in midday sun, with SPF on, of course), you can also supplement vitamin D intake through eating oily fish, red meat and egg yolks.

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Proteins (Cysteine and Glycine)

They might not technically be vitamins, but when it comes to hair growth it’s really important to flag the role of proteins. “It is possible to get all of the protein your body needs by eating a balanced diet,” says Dr Farjo. “However, it today’s fast world, it probably does no harm to take certain supplements to be sure, especially if you believe you’re not eating a good balance.”

When we eat proteins, our bodies convert them into amino acids so that they can be useful to different parts of the body. “Two particular amino acids vital to keratin formation (this is what hairs are made of) are cysteine and glycine. Cyesteine is crucial in forming disulfide bonds, giving strength to the hair shaft, and glycine contributes to collagen formation and hair strength,” says Dr Farjo. Cysteine can be found in broccoli, Brussel sprouts, milk and yogurt, while glycine can be found in dairy products, spinach, beans, cabbage and bananas.

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Vitamin C and Iron

Again, there are few studies that prove significant correlation between vitamin C and hair growth, however sufficient levels of vitamin C are necessary to aid iron absorption – and iron is an important nutrient for hair growth. Our bodies require iron to produce red blood cells (which carry oxygen around the body). When the body is deficient in anything as integral to its function as red blood cells, it ensures the most important organs get their share first, meaning our hair follicles often fall by the wayside.

Good sources of iron include red meat, nuts and beans, while oranges and citrus fruits are rich in vitamin C.

Zinc

Also a crucial component in helping our bodies process protein and fats (the building blocks for healthy hair growth), the powers of zinc are not to be overlooked. Keep zinc levels topped up every day through eating foods such as beef, lamb, crab, peanuts, wheat germ, milk and cheese.

Your A-Z guide to the most important vitamins for better skin