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Vitamin C For Hair: All The Benefits For Hair Health
Dr. Michael May (FRCS)
Medically reviewed by
Dr. Michael May (FRCS)
Updated on September 20, 2022

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 [1]. And more than 7% of the US population have a fully-fledged vitamin C deficiency [2]. If you fall into these categories, you could be putting your hair — and your overall health — at risk.

So what are the benefits of vitamin C for hair? And how can you make sure you’re getting enough vitamin C in your diet? In this article, you’ll learn:

  • how vitamin C benefits your hair
  • what happens if you don’t get enough vitamin C
  • the best way to get more vitamin C in your body.

Is vitamin C good for your hair?

Yes — vitamin C is essential for hair growth. It plays an important role in the absorption and production of many hair growth substances, such as iron and collagen.

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 [3]. In fact, some parts of the world are seeing a resurgence of scurvy, thanks to increasingly poor diets, sedentary lifestyles, and inadequate social support [4].

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 strong, shiny, and healthy.

How does vitamin C benefit your hair?

Collagen production

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 production decreases [5]. That’s why our hair naturally gets thinner as we age. Vitamin C promotes collagen production in the body, which helps our hair stay strong and shiny throughout our lives [6-7].

Iron absorption

Iron is a fundamental nutrient for hair health. Multiple types of hair loss have been linked with iron deficiency, including alopecia areata, androgenetic alopecia in both men and women, and telogen effluvium [8-10]. So getting enough iron is key for strong, healthy hair growth.

Vitamin C enables your body to absorb iron [3]. 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.

Protection against free radicals

Free radicals are highly reactive molecules that occur naturally in your body. When they react with other molecules — such as DNA, proteins, and carbohydrates — they can damage them and cause oxidative stress.

Oxidative stress is a known cause of hair ageing and alopecia [14]. And as you get older, your body is less able to get rid of damaging free radicals, so your hair becomes thinner and greyer.

Like vitamin E for hair, Vitamin C is an antioxidant that neutralises free radicals, preventing these harmful reactions from taking place [14]. This can ultimately prevent free radical-related hair loss, and ensure your hair stays healthy as you get older.

Dermal papilla cell stimulation

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 [11].

Multiple lab studies have shown that vitamin C (also known as ascorbic acid) 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 have a more direct impact on hair growth than previously thought.

Reduction of allergic reactions to hair dye

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 [15].

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 hair styling practices. Learn more about hair dye and hair loss.

Can you use vitamin C to remove hair dye?

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 [16]. 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 make your hair look worse. The safest way to remove unwanted colour is to let it fade and/or grow out over time.

What’s the best way to take vitamin C for hair growth?

It’s clear that vitamin C for hair health is essential. So can taking a vitamin C supplement 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. So the best way to get all the vitamin C benefits for hair is by eating more vitamin C-rich foods.

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]:

  • Citrus fruits (such as oranges, lemons, and satsumas)
  • Potatoes
  • Tomatoes
  • Sweet peppers
  • Cabbage
  • Broccoli
  • Strawberries
  • Grapefruit
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Cauliflower.

See more hair growth foods to promote hair health.

Other vitamins for hair growth

Getting the right nutritional balance is vital for great hair growth. Learn more about the impact of other nutrients on your hair:

Are you getting enough vitamin C for your hair?

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 and brittle, or your hair won’t grow, 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.

Vitamin C For Hair: All The Benefits For Hair Health, Wimpole Clinic

Sources:

  1. Micronutrient Inadequacies in the US Population: an Overview
  2. Serum vitamin C and the prevalence of vitamin C deficiency in the United States: 2003-2004 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES)
  3. The Role of Vitamins and Minerals in Hair Loss: A Review
  4. Scurvy in the Modern World: Extinct or Not?
  5. Hair follicle aging is driven by transepidermal elimination of stem cells via COL17A1 proteolysis
  6. The Roles of Vitamin C in Skin Health
  7. Efficacy of Vitamin C Supplementation on Collagen Synthesis and Oxidative Stress After Musculoskeletal Injuries: A Systematic Review
  8. Comparison of zn, cu, and fe content in hair and serum in alopecia areata patients with normal group
  9. Decreased serum ferritin is associated with alopecia in women
  10. Serum ferritin and vitamin d in female hair loss: do they play a role?
  11. Role of hair papilla cells on induction and regeneration processes of hair follicles
  12. l-Ascorbic acid 2-phosphate promotes elongation of hair shafts via the secretion of insulin-like growth factor-1 from dermal papilla cells through phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase
  13. The growth promoting effect of ascorbic acid 2-phosphate, a long-acting Vitamin C derivative
  14. Oxidative Stress in Ageing of Hair
  15. Influence of vitamin C on the elicitation of allergic contact dermatitis to p-phenylenediamine
  16. Vitamin C in dermatology
  17. Clinical efficacy of popular oral hair growth supplement ingredients
  18. Vitamin C | National Institutes Of Health
Dr. Michael May (FRCS)
Medically reviewed by Dr. Michael May (FRCS)Updated on September 20, 2022
The Wimpole Clinic offers FUE Hair, Beard & Eyebrow Transplants & Trichology.
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Dr. Michael May (FRCS)
Medically reviewed by
Dr. Michael May (FRCS)
Updated on September 20, 2022

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