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Eating a well-balanced diet that contains all of the 13 essential vitamins can help maintain hair health.
Although there is no evidence to suggest that individual vitamins can encourage the hair to grow faster, deficiencies in specific vitamins can lead to hair loss or thin, brittle hair. Consuming enough of each vitamin in the diet may help keep the hair healthy.
Researchers have carried out studies on how the following nutrients might support hair growth:
- vitamins D
- vitamin E
- B complex vitamins
This article provides some information on how these and other vitamins might promote strong, healthy hair.
Supplementation with vitamin D may not have direct links with hair growth, but having a deficiency may impact hair health.
A 2019 review found evidence to suggest a link between vitamin D deficiency and alopecia areata, which can involve severe hair loss. Many of the studies in the review found low levels of vitamin D in people with alopecia areata. Alopecia areata is an autoimmune condition.
According to the review, some research also suggests that symptoms of alopecia areata may be more severe in people with low levels of vitamin D.
However, the authors of a 2016 study that collected information from 55,929 women in the United States did not find a strong link between total vitamin D intake and hair loss in alopecia areata. There is also little evidence to suggest that vitamin D can lead to hair regrowth.
Some studies have found that low vitamin D levels may be associated with female pattern hair loss, which is the most common type of hair loss in women. However, further studies are necessary to confirm this potential link.
More research is also necessary to confirm the potential benefits of vitamin D for hair growth.
Getting enough vitamin D
The Office of Dietary Supplements recommend that adults get 600 international units (IU), or 15 micrograms (mcg), of vitamin D per day.
However, many experts agree that this daily recommendation is likely too low to reach optimal blood levels, which most experts agree lies between 30 and 60 nanograms per milliliter (ng/ml).
People can find out their vitamin D levels and whether or not they are deficient by asking their doctor for a blood test.
Few foods contain significant amounts of vitamin D, but the following foods are among the best sources:
- fish, such as salmon or swordfish
- egg yolks
- fortified orange juice
- fortified milk
Sun exposure is also essential, as this enables the body to produce vitamin D. People should remember to wear sunscreen, however, as too much sun exposure over time can lead to skin damage.
Vitamin D supplements are available for purchase online, but a person should always check with their doctor before taking any vitamins.
That said, vitamin D supplements are relatively safe, and toxicity is extremely rare.
However, taking vitamin D in very high doses can lead to toxicity that may result in severe complications. An excessively high dose would be over 50,000 IU or when blood levels of vitamin D are greater than 150 ng/ml.
Cases of vitamin D toxicity are typically related to inappropriate dosing. To prevent problems, a person should ask their doctor to test their vitamin D levels and suggest a suitable dosage.
Taking vitamin D with a meal that contains fat will improve the absorption of this vitamin.
B vitamins are essential for metabolism and nervous system function.
B complex vitamins help regulate metabolism and maintain the central nervous system.
Many websites and beauty influencers also claim that popular B vitamins such as B12 can help strengthen and condition the hair. The following sections will look at what the research says.
B complex vitamins
Researchers have looked into the link between B complex vitamins and hair loss, but they have not yet confirmed a link.
The B complex vitamins are:
- B1, or thiamin
- B2, or riboflavin
- B3, or niacin
- B5, or pantothenic acid
- B6, or pyridoxine
- B7, or biotin
- B9, or folate
- B12, or cobalamin
It is best to consume vitamins from the diet. Some food sources of B complex vitamins include:
- whole grains
- vegetables, including dark, leafy greens
- meat, such as beef liver and poultry
- whole eggs
- beans and legumes
B vitamins are water-soluble, which means that the body cannot store them. The body excretes in the urine whatever it does not use. This is why people should consume water-soluble vitamins on a daily basis.
Although dietary sources are best, many people may need a B complex supplement to meet their needs.
Factors that can make supplementation necessary include:
- older age
- the presence of conditions that impact the digestive system
- following a plant-based diet
- the use of certain medications
People with any of these factors are at higher risk of developing a deficiency in certain B vitamins.
Some sources have suggested that vitamin B12 may play a role in hair health. However, several studies mentioned in a 2019 review found no evidence of a link between changes in B12 levels and hair loss or retention.
Although a deficiency in B12 may lead to hair loss, research does not suggest that people who do not have a deficiency can improve their hair growth by using a supplement.
Nevertheless, getting enough vitamin B12 is essential for overall health. Good sources of vitamin B12 include meat, dairy, and other animal foods. Supplements are also available.
Symptoms of a B12 deficiency include anemia and fatigue.
The Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion suggest that adults get 2.4 mcg of vitamin B12 per day. Pregnant people need 2.6 mcg per day, and people who breastfeed need 2.8 mcg per day.
Always check with a doctor before trying supplements, as some can interfere with the effects of medication.
Low levels of vitamin B7, or biotin, can lead to hair loss.
A 2016 study in 541 females found a biotin deficiency in 38% of the participants who were experiencing hair loss.
Although research has shown that supplemental biotin can be beneficial for hair growth in people who are deficient in this vitamin, there is not enough evidence to support the use of biotin supplements for hair growth in people with healthy biotin levels.
Researchers have conducted some studies into vitamin E and tocotrienol. Vitamin E is a nutrient that acts as a powerful antioxidant in the body.
A 2013 study found that people with alopecia areata had significantly lower concentrations of vitamin E in their blood than those without the condition. However, not all the studies confirm these findings, according to a 2019 review.
The results of a 2010 clinical study also found that using tocotrienol supplements improved the hair health of people with alopecia. These supplements also helped prevent hair loss.
A person can incorporate vitamin E into their diet by eating wheat germ, spinach, fish, and almonds.
Some people choose to rub vitamin E oil directly onto their skin or scalp, believing that it will speed up cell regeneration. However, scientific evidence does not yet support this.
Vitamin E is also available in pharmacies and online in capsule form and as a liquid.
However, it is worth noting that over-supplementation with the fat-soluble vitamin E can cause hair loss as well as other adverse side effects.
There have been few studies into the effects of vitamins D, B, and E on hair, and even fewer have looked into the hair growth benefits of other essential vitamins.
The list below looks at some other essential vitamins and how they may affect hair:
- Multivitamins: A multivitamin can supplement dietary sources of all of the essential vitamins. Getting a good supply of vitamins will enhance overall health, and it may also help protect the hair. Multivitamins are available for purchase online.
- Vitamin C: A symptom of vitamin C deficiency is corkscrew hairs. This suggests that vitamin C may help maintain hair health, despite a lack of evidence that it can prevent hair loss. Red peppers, leafy green vegetables, and citrus fruits all provide vitamin C. However, supplements are available for purchase online.
- Vitamin A: Also known as retinol, vitamin A contributes to hair health. It supports the secretion of sebum, which is a substance that prevents hair breakage. Vitamin A supplements are available for purchase online. However, some research has found that taking too much vitamin A can lead to hair loss.
Maintaining a balance of nutrients in the diet and supplementing known nutritional deficiencies are the best ways to support hair health.
Vitamins and other nutrients are important for hair health, but certain home care strategies can also help.
To preserve and improve hair health, people can:
- Cut back on using hair gels, blow-drying the hair, and brushing the hair when it is wet.
- Reduce stress by doing at least 150 minutes of moderate-to-intense exercise per week.
- Drink six to eight glasses of water per day.
- Follow a healthful, nutrient dense diet.
Being mindful of diet, the safety of hair products, and stress levels may all help improve hair strength and appearance.
It is also important to note that constantly pulling back the hair or using certain hair styling techniques can aggravate alopecia.
Several supplements and topical gels may help stop or slow hair loss. Most of these products, including Rogaine, contain the active ingredient minoxidil. Corticosteroids are also common ingredients.
Although a 2019 review found that these products can be beneficial for treating hair loss, there is little evidence to suggest that the hair will continue growing after a person stops using the product.
It is also worth noting that most clinical trials into the effectiveness of hair growth products such as Rogaine and finasteride (Propecia) have used male participants.
It is always best to get nutrients from whole foods. Although many vitamin and mineral supplements can be helpful for certain populations, it is important to purchase these products from reputable companies that have their products tested by independent third parties for quality and purity.
It is always best to talk to a doctor before taking a dietary supplement to ensure necessity and safety.
A range of products are available for purchase online, but there is not enough evidence to confirm that they will work for everyone. People should take care to follow the instructions on the package.
Unhealthy hair may look dull and brittle, instead of flexible and sheen. Hair that begins to fall out in patches or breaks off in chunks can be a symptom of an underlying health condition.
Hormonal and genetic factors play key roles in hair growth, and individual vitamins are unlikely to be more influential than these. They may, however, help those at high risk prevent additional problems due to nutritional deficiencies.
Cutting the hair regularly can also keep it looking healthy by removing split ends and lightening the weight of the hair. This can reduce the impact on the roots, which grow from the scalp. A healthy scalp is key to healthy hair growth.
People with concerns about hair loss can visit a dermatologist to determine the cause of any hair growth problems. The dermatologist will also be able to recommend solutions.