What do hair vitamins do?
Let's face it, whether we all want thicker hair, shinier hair, and fuller hair. However, many of us experience thinning hair and excessive hair loss which can take a toll on our self-confidence.
For this reason, hair vitamins are one of the most popular supplements that are sought after. Hair vitamins describe nutrients that are supportive of hair growth and quality.
Though hair loss can be due to a number of different factors, vitamin deficiencies represent a major and common cause for hair loss, nutritional status is absolutely essential for healthy hair growth.
Sometimes this takes more than just diet and will require a targeted hair supplement of some sort.
Are hair growth vitamins safe?
Most hair supplements on the market contain natural ingredients in safe amounts that should not cause problems. They typically contain nutrients that are lacking in those experiencing hair issues but sometimes they may contain additional ingredients such as herbs that support hair growth.
As always it is advisable to consult your healthcare provider before supplementing if you have any concerns, are pregnant or have any pre-existing conditions.
Do hair growth vitamins really work?
Hair growth vitamins will provide a variety of nutrients which means it's important to read the nutritional label to verify what is included. Hair loss can be attributed to many factors including nutrient deficiencies, inflammation, chronic stress, and hormonal imbalances.
This is why not every supplement will be suitable for each individual and investigating your root cause is recommended. For best results always address diet and lifestyle at the same time in order to supply your body with the foundations it needs to grow healthy beautiful hair.
Though supplementation will be highly bio-individual there are many hair growth supplements designed to promote healthy hair among the general population. These will typically include the following nutrients and ingredients:
Biotin is a common vitamin included in hair formulas because deficiency is linked to hair loss.
Low biotin levels have also been associated with brittle nails, hair loss, and even poor skin health (1).
Though biotin supplements aren't guaranteed to combat hair loss, if you are deficient they can make a difference in your hair health by stimulating keratin production and hair follicle growth. If you are not deficient it is likely not the cause for your hair troubles (2).
Your hair requires a lot of this mineral and deficiency is one of the leading causes of hair loss (3).
When your body is lacking sufficient iron it can't produce the hemoglobin necessary in your blood. Hemoglobin is responsible for carrying oxygen which will help to promote blood flow to the scalp as well as the growth and repair of your cells, including those involved in hair growth.
As low iron can be a cause for excessive hair loss, including iron-rich foods is likely a good place to start. Foods rich in iron may include leafy greens, organ meats, legumes, fish, poultry, liver, raisins, cherries, eggs, and blackstrap molasses.
Always be cautious with iron supplementation as you do not want to reach iron overload (4). For this reason, we suggest testing your iron levels with your doctor to properly determine what kind of supplementation would be necessary for you.
3. Vitamin C
Vitamin C helps to improve iron absorption which can significantly affect hair growth (5). But vitamin C also provides other benefits to promote stronger hair.
Oxidative stress is known to play an important role in accelerated aging by damaging cells and tissues. Without sufficient antioxidants, our body's defense mechanisms decrease and symptoms such as accelerated hair loss and graying of hair can occur (6).
As a potent antioxidant, vitamin C helps to fight against oxidative stress and protect the hair follicle from damage and aging. Load up on brightly colored fruits and vegetables such as kiwi, bell peppers, broccoli, citrus fruits, strawberries, and brussels sprouts to up your dose of vitamin C or look for a whole food vitamin C supplement as daily antioxidant support.
4. Vitamin D
Vitamin D is critical for optimal thyroid health, immune function, hormone balance, calcium regulation, and the replacement of old cells with new cells. All of these processes influence the growth and quality of our hair.
Low levels of vitamin D have been associated with various autoimmune conditions including alopecia areata, a type of inflammatory hair loss (7). Vitamin D deficiency has also been linked to telogen effluvium (excessive hair shedding) and female pattern hair loss (8)(9).
Deficiency is quite common which is why staying on top of your vitamin D levels is not only important for healthy hair but also for overall health and wellbeing.
Zinc plays an important role in many body functions, including hair health. Its supporting effects on hair wellness may be due to its ability to speed up damaged hair follicle growth, reduce inflammation, and support hair follicle recovery.
Insufficient levels of zinc may play a key role in hair loss (10).
As your body cannot make zinc on its own it's important to include zinc-rich sources of food in your diet, which may include red meat, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, black beans, beef, bison, lamb, turkey, and oysters.
If you do suffer from hair loss it is recommended to test your zinc levels to assess if supplementation is needed.
Zinc is also naturally anti-androgenic, helping to address hair loss caused by androgens, also known as androgenetic alopecia. This form of hair loss is said to be caused specifically by the hormone dihydrotestosterone (DHT), a particularly potent androgen.
Our hair requires silica in order to stay strong and healthy. Silica is a trace element that is involved in delivering essential nutrients to the hair scalp and follicles and supporting optimal collagen production. Higher silicon content in the hair has been associated with lower rates of hair loss (11).
When deprived, our hair follicles can become weak and result in hair thinning and hair breakage.
Silica is poorly retained in the body which is why supplementation is the best way to improve your levels of silica. Horsetail is a silica-rich plant that promotes the synthesis of structural proteins that include keratin and collagen, which improve hair strength.
Collagen is the most abundant protein found in the human body and makes up our connective tissue. Signs that you might be low in collagen include hair loss or dry, dull, or brittle hair.
When supplementing with collagen many people notice a difference in the rate of their hair growth. Collagen supplies amino acids required for keratin production, the protein which our hair is primarily made of.
Many report improvements in hair thinning with the use of collagen, likely due to the fact that collagen helps to strengthen connective tissue and improve the elasticity of the dermis, where our skin meets the root of the hair follicle (12)(13).
If you are vegan there are also plant-based supplements that support the endogenous production of collagen in the body.
These essential fatty acids are extensively used to support hair, skin, and nail health. And for good reason! These healthy fats are deeply nourishing to the hair helping to improve hair quality and reduce the likelihood of breakage or thinning.
Omega-3 fats are highly anti-inflammatory helping to reduce oxidative damage and research also suggests they may provide a boost in hair growth as well (14)(15). Get your omega 3 fats from wild salmon, mackerel, sardines, anchovies, flaxseeds, walnuts, and chia seeds or you can supplement with a quality fish oil or vegan omega 3.
Are there side effects to hair vitamins?
Getting too much of anything isn't a good thing either. As with any supplement, there is always the possible risk of getting too much of a certain vitamin or mineral.
If you are already taking vitamins or minerals verify with your health care practitioner if your hair vitamin will be suitable for you in order to avoid potential toxicity levels.
If you do experience any side effects stop the supplement immediately and consult your doctor.
How to Choose the Best Supplement for Hair Growth
Our options for hair growth supplements are growing, which is great news but it can also be daunting for the consumer. When choosing a hair supplement, it's important to look for several things in order to assess whether it is a quality product or not:
- Active forms of the vitamins (such as vitamin D3, 5-methyltetrahydrofolate (5-MTHF), methylcobalamin...)
- Whole food sourcing, closest to nature as possible
- Contains key ingredients for hair: iron, B vitamins, vitamin D3, zinc...
- Soft gel and capsule over tablets, for superior absorption
- Free of fillers, colors, GMOs, hydrogenated oils, artificial ingredients, and additives
- Third-party certification to ensure quality control (Consumer Lab, NSF International, Informed Choice, ISURA, USP)
- Regulated (Look for an NPN number indicated on the bottle in Canada)
About the Author
Laurence Annez is a Certified Nutritional Practitioner and Health Coach, specializing in PCOS and women's hormones. She also holds a degree in Creative Writing and has extensive experience writing on health and wellness topics. Laurence's mission is to inspire and motivate individuals to take control of their own health and reach their ultimate health goals.