Following a well-balanced diet that contains all of the 13 essential vitamins can help maintain hair health. Essential vitamins include vitamin A, C, D, E, and K, as well as the B-complex group. However, no evidence supports the idea of individual vitamins encouraging the hair to grow faster.
Researchers have carried out a range of studies on how vitamins D and E could support hair growth, along with the B-complex vitamins.
In this article, we provide information on the vitamins that best promote strong, healthy hair.
In many of the studies and surveys within the review, people with alopecia areata had lower levels of vitamin D in the blood.
However, in a 2016 study on survey data from the Nurses' Health Study, which collected information from 55,929 women in the United States, researchers did not find a strong correlation between total vitamin D intake and hair loss. There is also little evidence to suggest that vitamin D can lead to hair regrowth.
Therefore, more research is necessary to confirm the potential benefits of vitamin D for hair growth.
Although vitamin D may not have direct links with hair growth, it may prevent the effects of low vitamin D levels.
The Office of Dietary Supplements recommend that adults get 600 international units, or 15 micrograms (mcg), of vitamin D daily. However, many people fall below this requirement. In fact, statistics show that over 1 billion people worldwide have a vitamin D deficiency.
Some natural ways to get more vitamin D include consuming:
- fish, such as salmon or swordfish
- fortified orange juice
- low fat fortified milk
Sun exposure can also help. The human body produces vitamin D as a result of coming into direct contact with sunlight. Wearing sunscreen for skin protection remains vital, however.
When supplementing with vitamin D, people should take caution. Vitamin D is fat-soluble and can build up in fat tissue at dangerous levels. Ingesting vitamin D in excess can lead to too much calcium in the blood, which can cause fatigue and kidney problems.
People who take a supplement should do so with a meal that contains fat. This will absorb some of the vitamin D.
B-complex vitamins are important for regulating metabolism and maintaining the central nervous system. Some dietitians claim that popular B vitamins such as B-12 can help strengthen and condition the hair.
However, research does not seem to have found a correlation between many B-complex vitamins and hair loss.
The B-complex vitamins are:
- B-1, or thiamin
- B-2, or riboflavin
- B-3, or niacin
- B-5, or pantothenic acid
- B-6, or pyridoxine
- B-7, or biotin
- B-9, or folate
- B-12, or cobalamin
It is best to consume vitamins from the diet. Some food sources of complex B-vitamins include:
- whole grains
- vegetables, such as cauliflower, carrots, and dark leafy greens
- meat, such as beef liver and poultry
All B-vitamins are water-soluble and leave the body in the urine. It is necessary to consume them daily.
People can obtain vitamin B-12 from animal foods such as meat and dairy. Those concerned that they may be deficient can take a supplement. B-12 deficiency usually develops in older adults and people who follow a vegan or vegetarian diet.
The Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion advise an Adequate Intake of around 2.4 mcg per day. Check with a doctor before trying supplements, as some can interfere with the effects of medication.
Biotin deficiencies, in particular, can lead to hair loss. In one 2019 review, researchers looked at 18 studies in people with a biotin deficiency. In eight of these studies, supplementing biotin improved hair loss symptoms.
However, the effectiveness of B-vitamins in promoting hair growth remains unclear. More research will be necessary.
Most studies in a 2019 review found that people with alopecia areata had significantly lower concentrations of vitamin E in their blood than those without the condition.
However, the review also found that other studies contradict these findings.
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.
Vitamin E is available in capsule form and as a liquid. A person can incorporate vitamin E into their diet by eating wheat germ, spinach, kale, 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, science does not yet support this.
There have been few studies into the effects of vitamins D, B, and E on hair, and even fewer that have looked into the hair growth benefits of other essential vitamins.
However, people experiencing hair loss should consider a multivitamin supplement and diet that includes all of the essential vitamins.
Getting enough vitamins from foods such as leafy green vegetables, dairy, and citrus fruits may promote cell regeneration. Cell regeneration will give the hair a healthier appearance.
Vitamin A, or retinol, is a particularly valuable vitamin for hair health. It supports the secretion of sebum, which is a substance that prevents hair breakage. That said, a 2017 review found that taking too much vitamin A can lead to hair loss.
Maintaining a good 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 making certain lifestyle changes can also help.
To preserve and improve hair health, people can try the following:
Cut back on using hair gels, blow drying the hair, and brushing the hair when it is wet.
Reduce stress by engaging in at least 150 minutes of moderate-to-intense exercise per week, as per the American Heart Association's (AHA) recommendations. https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/fitness/fitness-basics/aha-recs-for-physical-activity-in-adults
· Drink six to eight glasses of water per day.
Being mindful of diet, the safety of hair products, and stress levels can all help improve hair strength and appearance. Constantly pulling back the hair or using certain hair styling techniques can aggravate alopecia.
Several supplements and topical gels can 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 treatments 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 almost all of the 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. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) do not monitor supplements, which means that they could contain contamination or an incorrect dose. People should therefore choose supplements from a reliable source.
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 sign of an underlying health condition. Psoriasis, dermatitis, and skin cancer can all be causes of hair loss.
Male and female pattern baldness, alopecia areata, stress, and certain medical treatments can also cause the hair to fall out.
Two factors tend to influence most cases of hair loss: hormones and genetics. Individual vitamins are unlikely to override these in terms of influence. They can, however, reduce deficiency in those who already have a high risk.
It is important to remember that cutting the hair regularly can keep it looking healthy. This removes split ends and lightens the weight of the hair, thereby reducing the impact on the roots, which grow from the scalp. A healthy scalp is key to healthy hair growth.
Those with concerns about hair loss can visit a dermatologist to determine what is causing their hair growth problems. The dermatologist will be able to recommend solutions.
Will taking care of my skin also support hair growth?
Taking care of the skin will not directly support hair growth, but it does stand to reason that individuals who are conscientious enough to care for their skin will also extend that same care to their hair.
Finding and using the right products can make for healthier hair and “encourage” hair growth. Few studies really show support for supplementation with the direct result in the increase of hair growth.Cynthia Cobb, APRN Answers represent the opinions of our medical experts. All content is strictly informational and should not be considered medical advice.