Can I use vitamins to promote hair growth?
Much has been written about the benefits of vitamins D and B for hair growth. We've evaluated the claims, so read on for more.
Vitamin D keeps the bones and skin healthy and, in recent years, it's also been linked to hair growth. A 2012 study in the journal Stem Cells Translational Medicine suggests that the vitamin can help create new follicles - little pores where new hair can grow. This may improve the thickness of your hair or reduce the amount of hair loss you have.
Vitamin D, along with other recently discovered chemicals, may also help "wake up" follicles that have become dormant, according to researchers at Harvard. Balding occurs when your follicles are constantly dormant. But even with awakened follicles, hair is not always produced.
Getting enough vitamin D daily may help, but there's little evidence yet that it can bring hair back.
The National Institutes of Health's Office of Dietary Supplements recommends adults get 600 international units, or 15 micrograms (mcg), of vitamin D daily. Not everyone does, and statistics show that over 1 billion people worldwide are deficient.
Natural ways to get more vitamin D include eating or drinking the following:
- fish, such as salmon or swordfish
- fortified orange juice
- low-fat fortified milk
Going outside can also help, as the body produces vitamin D through direct contact with the sun. It's still important to wear sunscreen to help protect your skin.
If you choose to supplement with vitamin D, be careful. Vitamin D is fat-soluble and can build up in fat tissue at dangerous levels if you get too much. Ingesting too much can lead to too much calcium in the blood, leading to fatigue or kidney problems. If you do take a supplement, be sure to take it with a meal that has fat so it will be absorbed.
B-complex vitamins are important for regulating metabolism and maintaining the central nervous system. But they're also essential for healthy skin and hair. Some dietitians claim that the more popular B vitamins - such as B-12 - can help strengthen and condition hair.
You should always try to get your vitamins from food first. You can find the B-vitamin complex in a variety of sources, including:
- whole grains
- vegetables such as cauliflower, carrots, and dark leafy greens
- meat such as beef liver and poultry
Vitamin B-12 is found in animal-sourced foods such as meat and dairy. If you're worried you may be deficient, you can take a supplement. B-12 deficiency usually affects older adults, vegans, and vegetarians.
An adult should have 2.4 mcg a day. B-12 is relatively safe, without a real cut-off limit. Check with your doctor before you try supplements.
All of the B vitamins are water soluble and are excreted in urine. They must be taken in daily.
Much has been written by beauty and health experts on the benefits of biotin for hair. However, the evidence is very weak. Biotin may cause problems with the skin and release of insulin if you ingest too much.
In the United States, the recommended amount is 25 mcg. It's very rare for an adult to be deficient in biotin. The same is true for niacin, although high levels of it can be very toxic. An adult should aim for 14-18 milligrams (mg).
Vitamin E has long been recognized for its ability to improve your skin and hair health. Potent antioxidants called tocotrienols are found in vitamin E, and those tocotrienols contribute to a healthier scalp.
A 2010 clinical study 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. It's easy to incorporate vitamin E into your diet by eating wheat germ, spinach, kale, and even almonds. Some people choose to rub vitamin E oil directly onto their skin or scalp in the belief that it will speed cell regeneration if topically applied.
Other essential vitamins
When compared to vitamins D, B, and E, there are few clinical trials that look into the hair growth benefits of other essential vitamins. But people who are experiencing hair loss would do well to look into a multivitamin as well as a diet that includes all of the essential vitamins.
Getting enough vitamins through green leafy vegetables, dairy, and citrus fruits will promote cell regeneration. Cell regeneration will give your hair a healthier appearance.
Vitamin A, sometimes known as retinol, is a particularly valuable hair-loss fighter because it helps you secrete sebum, a substance that prevents hair breakage.
Other hair loss remedies
Vitamins are important for the health of your hair. But lifestyle changes can help just as much:
- Cut back on using gels, blow-drying, and brushing your hair when it's wet.
- Lower your stress by exercising at least 30 minutes per day.
- Drink 6-8 glasses of water per day.
Being mindful of the foods and drinks you consume, the products you use, and the way you manage stress can all help improve the well-being of your hair. Hair loss conditions (alopecia) can be aggravated by constantly pulling back your hair or certain hairstyling techniques.
Over-the-counter (OTC) supplements
There are several kinds of supplements and topical gels you can buy from the pharmacy to stop hair loss. Most of these products, like Rogaine, contain the active ingredient minoxidil. Corticosteroids are also common ingredients.
While some clinical trials demonstrate that these treatments are beneficial for stopping hair loss, there's little evidence that your hair will keep growing after you stop using the product.
It is always best to get nutrients from whole foods. Supplements are not monitored by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and could possibly be contaminated or in the incorrect dose. Choose supplements from a reliable source.
Unhealthy hair can usually be identified simply by looking at it. Instead of exhibiting flexibility and sheen, unhealthy hair appears dull and brittle. 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 indicated by hair loss.
Most hair loss is influenced heavily by two factors: hormones and genetics. Hair thinning that begins in the center of the scalp is most often genetic.
If you have concerns, a dermatologist can help you determine what is causing your hair to stop growing and recommend solutions.
"There's an old wives' tale that if you cut your hair, it will grow faster. Cutting your hair won't make your hair grow faster. But cutting your hair regularly will help your hair look healthy by removing split ends and lightening the weight of the hair. Hair grows from the roots, and a healthy scalp is more important to hair growth than what happens at the far end of the hair shaft."
Debra Rose Wilson, PhD, MSN, RN, IBCLC, AHN-BC, CHT