How often do you find yourself complaining about having a bad hair day? If your answer is “more than I’d like,” you’re not alone. A 2020 poll of 2,000 Americans found that the average person endures 96 bad hair days a year. That translates to about eight days a month when your hair just isn’t behaving as you’d like.

What’s more, the survey, conducted by One Poll, on behalf of Hairmax, reported that about 1/3 of respondents called in sick to work because of a hair problem (granted that was when we all were expected to be in the office every day) and half of those polled shared that they’d actually cancelled a date because they couldn’t get their hair in its right frame of mind.

From dull to greasy to limp, most of us can relate to a bad hair day, or to bad hair in general. Then there’s thinning hair, excessive hair loss, and having no hair to complain about. Let’s face it: when it comes to hair that’s been blessed, we can’t all be Jennifer Aniston or Patrick Dempsey.

BLOG: What Types of Fish Contain Omega-3?

Even if you haven’t won the genetic lottery for great hair, there are some things you can do to improve your hair locks’ lot in life. For example, eating a healthy diet with a proper balance of protein, healthy fats, fruits and vegetables and a limited amount of added sugars, processed foods and saturated fats, will likely make you healthier overall, and might also work to help your hair live its best life.

In today’s blog, we’re focusing on one nutrient in particular—omega-3 fatty acids—and why your hair might benefit from getting enough of them.

 

Six Hair Issues That People Worry About

  1. Hair Loss—we’re starting with the big one. This scientific review advises that there are many reasons why hair loss occurs including genetic factors, vitamin and mineral deficiencies, poor diet, skin problems, hormonal imbalances, childbirth, chemotherapy, and more. Not surprisingly, the review article shares that hair loss affects your quality of life.

 

  1. Hair Thinning—akin to hair loss, it’s not unusual as we get older to notice our hairlines are receding and our hair strands lose their thickness. Stress is also a factor. And we don’t have to tell you that a proper diet can help ease stress reduction.

 

  1. Dry Hair—it could be that you’re washing your hair too many times a week or that you’re blow-drying your hair too often and on a heat-setting that’s too high. Another factor might be that you’re just not drinking enough water to keep your body hydrated.

 

  1. Dull Hair—if your locks are lackluster (say that five times fast!), deficient in shine and sheen, it might be that you’re not getting enough of the “good” fats in your life. Try adding more fatty fish such as salmon to your diet or an omega-3 fatty acid supplement like fish oil.

 

  1. Oily Scalp/Greasy Hair—just like with dry hair, this problem could also mean you’re over-shampooing. Although it seems counter-intuitive at first, hear us out. If you’re shampooing too much, you may also be washing out your scalp’s natural oils, leading to a dry and itchy scalp. This, in turn, signals your scalp that it needs more oil, causing your body to go heavy on the sebum production, sebum being the natural oil that your scalp makes to moisturize your skin, scalp and hair. Too much sebum can leave your scalp oily and your hair feeling greasy.

 

  1. Weak Hair—split ends and easy hair breakage are signs that your hair is weak, it lacks the willpower to be strong. It may not be your hair’s fault but it is something that could make you feel sad.

 

How Can Omega-3s Help?

Omega-3 fatty acids are part of the group of polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs), a category acknowledged as being important components of a healthy diet along with monounsaturated fats.

There are three main components of omega-3 fatty acids: eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). EPA and DHA are the most researched of the omega-3s category and generally considered the ones demonstrating the most benefits. ALA is a plant-based omega-3 that is not only appropriate for vegetarians and vegans but also has important health benefits of its own.

BLOG: What is Omega-3 ALA Good For?

When it comes to research studies on omega-3s and hair benefits, specifically, according to this article, scientists should be encouraged to do more research in this area. However, the article also noted some positive studies.

For example, this study from 2015 included 120 healthy females in a 6-month randomized, comparative study with the primary endpoint being the change in hair density as evaluated on standardized photographs.

Secondary endpoints looked at changes during two of the three cycles of hair growth during telogen (the resting cycle) and anagen (the growth phase). In addition, overall changes in hair density and diameter were also measured by a scientific instrument known as a trichometer that accurately measures hair growth, loss and breakage on the scalp, and by self-assessment from the subjects.

Here’s some of what the researchers found following the six months of treatment with omega-3, omega-6 and antioxidant supplements. The photograph assessment demonstrated a superior improvement in the treatment group. A large majority of the supplemented subjects self-reported a reduction in hair loss (89.9%) as well as an improvement in hair-diameter (86.1%) and hair density (87.3%).

The authors concluded that the 6-month supplements treatment acted efficiently against hair loss by improving hair density and reducing the telogen percentage and the proportion of miniaturized anagen hair. They added that objectively measured improvements were confirmed by the subjects’ perception of efficacy.

Perhaps with all the other areas of research on omega-3s, scientists haven’t gotten around to studying omega-3s for hair. Granted, there is some research, but not a lot. But there still very well may be a reasonable assumption that omega-3s can help your hair be healthier. Keep reading.

Omega-3s are generally cited for their benefits in these four areas: heart health, brain health, eye health, and reducing inflammation. (Not to mention that DHA and EPA are important for pregnant woman, not only for themselves but as a means to the healthy growth and development of the fetus.)

BLOG: Best Plant Sources of Omega-3

Knowing that science supports the fact that omega-3 fatty acids fight inflammation and that inflammation is associated with a variety of scalp conditions that can damage the hair follicles, result in hair loss, and lead to duller hair resulting from dermatologic scalp conditions such as seborrheic dermatitis and psoriasis, it seems like omega-3s have an intuitive connection to hair benefits.

Here’s what some experts have to say on the topic of hair and omega-3 fatty acids.

In this article, Wendy Bazilian, RD, author of The SuperFoods Rx Diet, says that “when it comes to healthy hair, your overall diet is critically important.” She warns that for those who are cutting fat from their diet in an effort to lose weight, your hair may react by becoming lackluster and weak. The article notes that “not only does dietary fat contribute to the health of your hair, it also helps your body absorb key fat-soluble nutrients, like vitamin D,” for which a lack of has been linked with hair loss in women.

Bazilian’s suggestion? “Focus on eating foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids and monounsaturated fats,” she says.

And this piece from WebMD advises that “a healthy diet can help your hair stay strong and shiny. What you eat can also keep you from losing your locks. If you’re not getting certain nutrients from food, you might see the effects in your hair.”

The article goes on to say that “essential fatty acids, especially omega-3s, play a key role in the health of your skin, hair and nails.” Further the authors advise that you should eat some foods rich in omega-3 every day.

 

Ways to Get More Omega-3s in Your Diet

Let’s put it this way: ensuring you have enough omega-3 fatty acids in your diet is, by most accounts, a good thing. And it’s really not that hard to do.

Start by knowing your numbers. You can take a simple, convenient, at-home test, such as the tests we offer here at OmegaQuant, to determine the percentage of omega-3 EPA and DHA in your blood. This will give you a baseline number to determine whether you need to add more omega-3s.

Your results are shown as a percentage of EPA and DHA in your red blood cells. Ideally, based on the Omega-3 Index, your levels should be in the 8-12% range. Anything less than 8%—which is unfortunately where most of us land—is reason to consider adding omega-3s to your diet.

BLOG: What are the Symptoms of Lack of Omega-3

Because your body doesn’t make its own omega-3 fatty acids, here are three ways to add omega-3s and raise your Omega-3 Index level to the desirable range, if it’s not already there. And if it is, you’re doing something right, so keep doing what you’re doing. We also recommend regular testing to be sure that once you’re in the right range, you stay there, and also so that you don’t add too much to put you above the 12% level.

  1. Conventional food—fatty fish and fatty fish oil are the sources richest of omega-3 EPA and DHA. If you’re a fan of salmon, mackerel, sardines, anchovies, tuna and other seafood, it shouldn’t be hard for you to get enough omega-3s into your diet. The American Heart Association recommends eating one to two servings of seafood per week (preferably from oily fish). If you’re not a fish eater, there are other ways to get omega-3s through plant sources, but if you’re not getting EPA and DHA, you should be aware that the Omega-3 Index doesn’t test for omega-3s from ALA sources. And while your body will convert ALA into EPA and DHA, it is not an efficient conversion. Read more here.

 

  1. Fortified food—from dairy products (milk, butter and more) to breakfast cereals, juices, eggs, baked goods (cookies, bread) and meats (beef, chicken, lamb), food companies have been fortifying these products with omega-3s. You should check the packaging and the labels to see what type of omega-3s (e.g., EPA and DHA?) and how much you’re getting per serving size.

 

  1. Dietary supplements—there are numerous options for getting omega-3s from a wide variety of supplement products on the market. The label and/or packaging should tell you whether you’re getting fish oil EPA/DHA, cod liver oil (a type of fish oil from less fatty fish), algal oil (the only direct source of EPA and DHA for vegetarians or vegans), and whether you’re getting omega-3s (versus omega-6s, omega-7s or omega-9s, or a combination), or an alternative source of omega-3 (such as krill oil or ahiflower).

 

Be sure to do your research when determining what brand of supplements to purchase and from which retail location. Read more here.

It’s up to you, perhaps with an assist from your dermatologist or even hair stylist, as to whether or not omega-3s might improve your hair’s health. We think it’s worth a try, not only for the potential hair health benefits, but for all the other benefits that omega-3 fatty acids can confer.

 

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This test is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, prevent or mitigate any disease. This site does not offer medical advice, and nothing contained herein is intended to establish a doctor/patient relationship. OmegaQuant, LLC is regulated under the Clinical Laboratory improvement Amendments of 1988 (CLIA) and is qualified to perform high complexity clinical testing. The performance characteristics of this test were determined by OmegaQuant, LLC. It has not been cleared or approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

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