Mythbusters: Are These Foods Really Good For Your Hair?

Julia Bainbridge
Food Editor
January 18, 2014

Photo credit: Jen Fox

You know how your mother told you that, at college, in the ’70s, she used to soak her hair in beer before dates? “It lends the most incredible shine,” she said, bestowing you with a piece of prized woman-knows-all information in an intense bathside moment. You had just asked her if you could shave your legs for the first time, and even though you were 10, you thought, “That’s bunk, Mom.”

But was it? And what about all those other wives’ tale kitchen remedies for damaged hair? Let’s take a walk through them, shall we?

Beer: Okay, maybe Mom wasn’t wrong! The ingredient that makes beer actually work? “The carbohydrates,” says Sunnie Brook Jones, Head & Shoulders’ Celebrity Stylist. “[They] beef up the hair and make it look thicker and fuller. One of my musician clients, one of the guys from Mumford and Sons, pours beer on his head over the sink every time before he goes on stage because he has thin hair. The beer gives it a thicker appearance, but it smells terrible!” If you like smelling frat-tastic, though, Beautylish has a DIY recipe to try.

Mayonnaise: First off: gross. But mayonnaise does contain moisturizing properties, according to Woman’s Day, so if that’s your product of choice, go for it. Massage a palm-sized amount into damp hair, leave on for half an hour, and wash with a gentle shampoo. Jones, though, would pick something else: “Avocado is much better for your hair than mayonnaise, which has corn syrup and all of these other additives that counteract the good stuff,” she says. “Avocado has a hight amount of fatty acids, which smooth down the cuticle of the hair, and you can mix it with honey or coconut oil, which is really great for the hair shaft.” Plus, “it’s an easier application that smells pretty.” 

Peanut butter: It has been said that washing your hair with peanut butter makes it grow faster, but no one we talked to was able to back this up. “I think that’s horrifying,” said Jones. What we do know is that you’ll get greasy locks.

Olive oil: “Oils of many sorts can help trap moisture in the hair for a short amount of time,” says Jeff Chastain of soon-to-open New York salon the Jeff Chastain Parlor. So while washing your hair with olive oil like that steamy scene in “The English Patient” certainly won’t give you that squeaky-clean feeling, combing a few drops into wet locks can help. Jones says it’s important for the hair to be semi-damp, in this case; if the hair is too dry or too wet, it won’t absorb the oil’s nutrients. “I encourage people to use a fine-mist spray bottle of olive oil with a little bit of water mixed in. You’ll have much more control.” Or add a bit of olive oil to your usual leave-in conditioner. That’ll bulk it up, giving you a more intense conditioning treatment. 

Eggs: Sure, eggs are packed with protein, but does that translate into shiny hair? “Proteins actually ingested make hair stronger, but part of it is that our bodies break them down into useful components during digestion, and they grow into the hair over time,” says Chastain. While eatingeggs’ proteins helps with hair growth, coating your hair with egg helps the appearance and manageability of your existing hair. (The stuff hanging off of your head, that you want to look better NOW.) “Eggs contain biotin, which is a B vitamin that helps strengthen the hair,” says Dr. Sejal K. Shah, a dermatologist who specializes in hair regrowth. “People see improved appearance because you’re coating the hair shaft rather than aiming for regrowth, which is when you’d take biotin orally.”

Apple cider vinegar: “This is great as a cleansing agent,” says Jones. “It adds crazy amount of shine” because the acid “closes down the hair cuticle, creating a smooth surface.” Again, spritz it on, let it sit for a bit, and rinse it with cold water afterwards.

Yogurt: Bonus round! We hadn’t heard of this one until Shah brought it to our attention. “I have an aunt in India who puts yogurt, which has proteins, in her hair. She smells like yogurt all the time.” Somehow more palatable than mayonnaise, say we.

You know, Mom? You’re alright.

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