Getting enough vitamin C is essential for hair health. More than a third of people over the age of 4 don’t have enough vitamin C in their diet . And more than 7% of the US population have a fully-fledged vitamin C deficiency . If you fall into these categories, you could be putting both your hair and your overall health at risk.
What are the benefits of vitamin C for hair and how can you make sure you’re getting enough vitamin C in your diet? Learn more about how Vitamin C benefits your hair and what’s the best way to get more Vitamin C into your diet.
Not only is Vitamin C essential for a healthy diet but it is also essential for healthier hair. Vitamin C, also known as ascorbic acid, helps to promote hair growth by aiding in the absorption of iron and as well as helping with collagen production.
Vitamin C is also the number one nutrient you need to prevent scurvy, a disease caused by severe vitamin C deficiency and characterised by hair loss, fatigue, and swollen bleeding gums. While scurvy is rare these days, some people are still at risk . In fact, some parts of the world are seeing a resurgence of scurvy, thanks to increasingly poor diets, sedentary lifestyles, and inadequate social support .
While severe vitamin C deficiency is rare, everyone can benefit from getting enough of this essential nutrient. Here’s how vitamin C keeps your hair healthy, shiny, and strong.
Vitamin C alone and in combination with other vitamins and minerals present in a healthy diet improves hair growth in more ways than you may think.
Collagen is the most abundant protein in the body. It’s primarily made up of 3 amino acids: proline, glycine, and hydroxyproline. Your body needs these amino acids to create keratin, the protein that gives us healthy hair.
As we get older, our natural collagen supplies decrease . That’s why our hair naturally gets thinner as we age. Vitamin C promotes collagen production in the body, which helps keep our hair stay strong and shiny throughout our lives [6-7].
Find out how collagen helps with hair growth.
Iron is a fundamental nutrient for hair health. Iron deficiency has been linked to multiple types of hair loss, including alopecia areata, androgenetic alopecia in both men and women, and telogen effluvium [8-10]. Therefore, getting enough iron is key for strong, healthy hair growth.
Vitamin C enables your body to absorb iron . So if you have hair loss related to iron deficiency, increasing your vitamin C intake is essential. Even if you have slightly low iron levels, vitamin C can help you boost them to improve the texture of your hair by helping to prevent dry hair and split ends.
Free radicals are highly reactive molecules containing oxygen. They occur naturally in your body, but when they react with other molecules such as DNA, proteins, and carbohydrates, they can cause oxidative stress.
Oxidative stress is a known cause of hair ageing and alopecia . And as you get older, the body produces more free radicals, so your hair becomes thinner and greyer.
Like vitamin E, Vitamin C is an antioxidant that neutralises free radicals, preventing these harmful reactions from taking place . This can ultimately prevent hair loss related to free radical damage, and ensure healthy and thicker hair as you get older.
Dermal papilla cells are found in the base of your hair follicles. They’re vital for hair formation and continuation of the hair growth cycle .
Multiple lab studies have shown that vitamin C can stimulate growth of dermal papilla cells [12-13]. While these studies have yet to be replicated on real patients, it suggests vitamin C may actually affect hair growth more than previously thought.
When you dye or bleach your hair, you’re always advised to conduct a patch test first. This checks to see if you’ll have a reaction to the hair dye chemicals. But one study has found that vitamin C may actually reduce the risk of allergic reactions to hair dye .
By applying topical vitamin C to the skin site before the patch test, researchers reduced allergy symptoms in up to 75% of cases. While this doesn’t directly impact hair health, it’s good news for improving the safety of both hair styling practices and scalp health. Learn more about hair dye and hair loss.
There’s some anecdotal evidence that topical vitamin C application can remove hair dye if you’re not crazy about your new colour. And while some research suggests vitamin C can treat hyperpigmentation of the skin, there’s very limited evidence that it will fix your dyed hair . In fact, it can create patchy white areas known as hypopigmented hair.
Ultimately, there’s no guarantee that vitamin C will have the desired effect and it may even make your hair look worse. The safest way to remove unwanted colour is to let it fade and/or grow out over time.
It’s clear that vitamin C for hair health is essential. So if that’s true, can taking a hair vitamin supplements give you all these benefits? Or do you need to invest in expensive nutrient-infused hair serums?
Unless you have a serious vitamin C deficiency, the answer is: neither. According to our vitamins for hair growth research review, there’s no evidence to suggest that vitamin C supplements help prevent hair loss or boost hair growth [3, 17]. And while some vitamin C serums may have good anecdotal reviews, there’s no evidence to suggest they really work, either. Therefore, the best way to get all the vitamin C benefits for hair is by eating more vitamin C-rich foods.
There are plenty of widely available foods that are packed with vitamin C. Incorporate these nutrient-rich foods into your diet for healthy hair: [3, 18]:
See more hair growth foods to promote hair health.
Getting the right nutritional balance is vital for a healthy diet and even better for hair growth. Learn more about the impact of other nutrients on your hair:
Although Vitamin C has been proven to beneficial to overall skin health  it is not an effective treatment for dandruff. Dandruff, a condition where the scalp become dry, itchy, and flakey or scaling, is normally caused by a fungal infection.
Zinc-based shampoos are usually recommended to fight against dandruff and help soothe the inflamed scalp. To help combat against the negative effects of dandruff, we recommend Piroctone Olamine, a wide spectrum anti-bacterial and anti-fungal agent that has shown to decrease dandruff by 80% after six weeks of treatment.
If you eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, you probably have healthy vitamin C levels so your hair is getting many of the nutrients it needs to stay healthy and strong. But if you have dietary restrictions or medical problems that make it difficult for you to get enough vitamins and minerals, speak to your doctor. They can advise you on the best course of action to increase your vitamin C intake.
If you have normal vitamin C levels but your hair is dry, brittle, or falling out, there’s probably another reason for your hair damage. Take a look at our list of 27 reasons why your hair is falling out.
If your hair loss is sustained or severe, it may be time to speak to a specialist. Get in touch with the trichology team at the Wimpole Clinic to book a free hair loss consultation.
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