Having to accept that your hair density is no longer what it used to be can be quite a challenge for anyone. However, you are definitely not alone in this struggle. Almost all men and half of all women will experience hair loss or thinning at a certain point in their lives. The good news is that there are things you can do about it.
Among the first suggestions you are likely to come across is to try taking some vitamins, as deficiencies have been known to cause hair thinning. But do hair vitamins work? Which ones and what are the best ways to get them? Would you be better off taking them as pills or directly from your diet?
Here is everything you need to know about which vitamin deficiency causes hair loss and what supplements you should be taking in order to help restore your hair to its former glory.
Understanding vitamins for hair growth
You may have heard that vitamin A is very good for keeping your skin supple and moisturized, but it can also do wonders for your hair. Wondering why?
A natural cell growth promoter
It is one of the best natural cell growth promoters, making every tissue you’ve got regenerate faster, especially your hair. And its work does not stop at that: your body also uses it to secrete sebum, a fatty substance that keeps your scalp soft and hydrated and acts like a natural protective layer for your hair. While you may have heard that producing too much sebum can give your locks a dreaded greasy look, having too little of it will make them dry and brittle and thus easier to break off or fall out.
Overdosing on Vitamin A can lead to hair loss
While Vitamin A is excellent for your health and beauty when taken in daily recommended doses, exceeding those doses can have the opposite effect. Overdosing on Retinol, one of its main components, can lead to hair loss, among other disturbing side effects, such as vomiting, nausea, headaches and dry skin. This is why it is safer to get your Vitamin A from the many foods which contain it naturally, making it almost impossible to get too much of it.
Foods that contain Vitamin A
Vegetables with an orange tint, such as carrots, pumpkins or sweet potatoes, contain good amounts of beta-carotene, the second main component of this vitamin, which is safe to consume in any quantity (and also helps improve your vision). Leafy greens are also a good option, as are cod liver oil, eggs and fortified breakfast cereal.
Biotin (Vitamin B7) and B5
Most B vitamins are very good for your health, stimulating the production of blood cells and making your hair and nails look healthy and beautiful. However, B7 (popularly known as Biotin) and B5 are some of the best vitamins available for hair growth, especially when their effect is combined.
Biotin repairs hair damage
That is because biotin works to repair damage your hair may have suffered from overexposure to the elements or aggressive styling products, while B5 plays an important role in helping your adrenal glands secrete the hormones your follicles need in order to grow thick and dense locks.
Foods that contain Biotin
While there are many supplements out there, it is usually best to obtain your B vitamins for hair growth naturally, from your diet. And you are in luck, as they can be found in a variety of delicious foods, such as whole grains, nuts, meat, fish, seafood, dairy, eggs, beans, as well as leafy greens such as spinach. That means that even if you are a vegetarian, you should have plenty of options to feast on.
This vitamin helps you absorb iron better, leading to improved circulation to your scalp. This makes your hair grow longer, faster and healthier. As a bonus, it also gives your immune system a boost, keeping diseases away.
Foods that contain Vitamin C
All the healthiest, tastiest fruit, such as oranges, lemons, limes, tangerines, strawberries, blackcurrants, papaya or cantaloupes are excellent sources of Vitamin C. So you may want to treat yourself to a big bowl of fruit salad. However, vegetables such as bell peppers, potatoes and brussels sprouts work very well also.
Many health organizations advise everyone to take 10 daily micrograms a day, especially during the colder seasons, in order to keep their muscles and bones healthy. However, it is less commonly known that this vitamin also stimulates your follicles to produce new hair.
Foods that contain Vitamin D
Unlike other vitamins for hair growth, Vitamin D is difficult to obtain from diet alone. You can get small amounts from fatty fish, red meat, liver or egg yolks, but likely not the recommended dosage. That is why, in this case, supplements are the way to go. They are inexpensive, widely available and very good for your overall health.
Your body has no way of producing zinc on its own, but needs it to ensure that the sebum glands surrounding your hair follicles are working in good order. It also helps repair damaged hair and stimulates its growth.
Similarly to Vitamin A, there is some evidence that exceeding the daily recommended dosage of zinc can actually lead to greater hair loss. That is why you may want to obtain it naturally, from meat (chicken, beef), eggs, pumpkin seeds, oysters, nuts, beans, lentils,or chickpeas.
While not a vitamin per se, Omega 3 (also known as fish oil) provides your hair with much needed protein, which nourishes it and helps it grow. Furthermore, it is known to improve scalp circulation and prevent the inflammation of hair follicles, which keeps your locks healthier and in place.
As its name reveals, your best dietary source of Omega 3 is fatty fish, especially salmon, mackerel or herring. However, no need to worry if you’re not a fan of fish dishes, you can also get it from odorless, well-tolerated supplements. And by getting the daily recommended dosage of Omega 3, you’re not only helping your hair, but also making your heart healthier.
Which vitamin deficiency causes hair loss?
Most of the vitamins and nutrients listed above work best for stimulating your hair growth when you are experiencing a deficiency of the respective substances. That is because these vitamin deficiencies are actually what often causes or exacerbates the hair loss, as follows:
It has been found in over 38% of women struggling with hair loss. Getting insufficient B vitamins can lead to dermatitis and to your hair falling out at faster rates than it can grow back.
Vitamin C deficiency
It can not only make your hair break off and fall out easily. It can also become malformed, changing its shape and texture to what is known as “corkscrew-shaped hair”.
Vitamin D deficiency
It makes it very different for new hair growth to take place. This is why it has been found to play a significant role in alopecia areata, an autoimmune condition which makes your hair fall out in patches.
It can occur for a number of reasons, such as malnutrition, disease or pregnancy. It is also one of the known causes of certain types of alopecia (baldness), which are easily resolved by supplementing zinc intake.
Omega 3 deficiency
It can make your hair texture and shape change and become deteriorated. Moreover, it can even lead to hair loss in the long run, which can be prevented by increasing the intake of this nutrient.
Hair growth supplements: DOs, DONTs and what to expect
Now that we have established which vitamin deficiency causes hair loss, the temptation will be great to supplement the lacking nutrients. However, in order to regain your healthy, luxurious hair, there are a few guidelines you should always follow:
- Consult a nutritionist to identify your nutritional deficiencies, as they may be more numerous or different from what you are suspecting.
- Try to get your vitamins first and foremost from dietary options, as it’s the healthiest, most natural alternative
- Support vitamin supplementation with other ways to stimulate hair growth (such as hair growth stimulating medication as prescribed)
- Take before and after photos to be able to tell, after a few weeks or months of supplementation, if there has been a positive change to your hair growth.
- Consult a dermatologist or a trichologist (scalp and hair specialist) if you feel removing the vitamin deficiency has not solved your hair loss problem.
- Self-diagnose vitamin or nutrient deficiency. Supplementation will not be effective if there is no deficiency and in some cases, it can do more harm than good.
- Exceed the daily recommended dosage of vitamins and nutrients. Some of them, such as Vitamin A or Zinc, can actually cause hair loss (among other unwanted side effects) if overdosed on.
- Take vitamin or nutrient supplements if you are unsure of their origin, dose or contents (e.g. if the instructions on the bottle are written in a language you don’t know).
- Rely solely on dietary options for every type of vitamin or nutrient you need. Some of them, such as Vitamin D, would require the intake of very large amounts of food to ensure the daily recommended dosage.
- Despair if your hair loss is not improving simply by resolving your vitamin deficiencies. There are many other effective treatments available for you to try, ranging from medication and stimulation therapies to state of the art hair transplants.
What to expect from hair growth supplements?
- Manage your expectations, as vitamin deficiencies are not resolved over night. It might take a while before you see new hair growth after starting supplementation.
- Vitamins for hair growth should make your hair look and and feel better, but the size of the result depends on the causes of your hair loss and on whether you were deficient in the respective nutrients to start with.
- While they might be exactly what you needed, vitamins for hair growth might only be part of your journey to achieving beautiful locks and you might need to support this process with other hair growth promoting methods.
Final Verdict: Do hair vitamins work?
It is difficult to say for sure if hair vitamins will work for you, as every person is different and hair loss can have a multitude of causes. Research shows that they can provide excellent results if your hair loss was caused by an actual vitamin deficiency and even some improvement if it was not. However, one thing for sure: if you don’t exceed the recommended daily dosage, there is absolutely no harm in trying. That is because hair vitamins do not only help your hair, but many other parts of your body as well. So even if they alone don’t cure your hair loss, taking them will make you healthier and support any alternative hair treatment that you will opt for.