The hair supplement industry is expected to boom over the next 10 years, reaching a predicted value of $2.86 billion. But while mineral supplements and vitamins for hair growth are an increasingly popular choice of hair loss remedy, there’s actually very little evidence that they work.
Hair supplement research is limited. Existing studies are based on small sample sizes, and the results are often contradictory or inconclusive. So how can you tell if vitamins are really a good way to tackle hair loss?
In this article, we’ve analysed more than 30 research studies into the relationship between hair and nutritional supplements to establish whether vitamin supplements can actually help with hair loss. There are clear links between hair loss and certain vitamin deficiencies — but despite the popularity of hair supplements, research shows that the effect of vitamins on hair growth and hair loss prevention is limited.
The rising popularity of vitamins for hair growth
Hair loss is a common condition that affects millions of people worldwide. Pattern hair loss alone affects up to half of all women and 80% of men, and is responsible for almost two-thirds of hair clinic referrals [1, 2].
Most hair loss — especially related to androgenetic alopecia — is caused by genetics and age . But there’s increasing evidence that lifestyle factors including diet and stress also play a part [3-4].
As a result, many people believe micronutrients like vitamins and minerals can impact hair growth. This is reflected in the value of the hair supplement market, which is currently valued at $960.8 million — and predicted to reach $2.86 billion within the next 10 years . Precedence Research expects the entire dietary vitamin industry to grow to $317.04 billion by 2030.
Image source: precedenceresearch.com
Despite this, research into the effectiveness of vitamins for hair growth is very limited. Hair supplement research has an average study size of approximately 101 participants — a tiny proportion of the millions of people who experience alopecia. And because supplements aren’t pharmaceutical products, they’re not subject to the kind of strict regulations that most medicines are. So many of the claims about supplement effectiveness may be untrue, or at least unproven.
Not only that, soaring demand for supplements in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic has led to more counterfeit supplements being produced and sold . Hair loss is a common side effect of Covid, creating further demand for hair restoration treatments. So there’s no guarantee that you’re even getting the nutrition you need from these supplements.
So do vitamins for hair growth actually work — or are there more effective ways to treat hair loss? We’ve analysed more than 30 studies on vitamins and hair growth to see whether vitamin supplements can actually help with hair loss.
Is there a link between diet and hair loss?
Food is an essential part of maintaining and improving your general health. Eating a balanced, nutritionally-rich diet can help you live longer and feel healthier .
But your diet can impact your hair health, too. Low-carb diets can impact hair loss, while foods like chili oil have been linked to hair health. Some research has even found a connection between athletic supplements like whey protein and hair loss. And other specific foods may contribute to hair loss.
Sudden or significant dietary changes can disrupt the hair growth cycle. That’s why eating disorders like anorexia and extreme low-calorie diets are often linked with hair shedding . The exact mechanism that causes hair loss when you stop or reduce food intake is still being established — but nutritional deficiencies are likely to play a big part.
What is a nutritional deficiency?
Nutritional deficiencies occur when a person has extremely low levels of vitamins and/or minerals that trigger observable clinical symptoms. For example, a vitamin D deficiency may cause bone pain and even fractures, while a vitamin A deficiency can lead to night blindness and other vision problems [9-10].
Nutritional deficiencies are often confused with nutritional inadequacies. Those with nutritional inadequacies have low levels of vitamins and minerals, but they still have enough stores to prevent significant symptoms like those described above.
This table shows the percentage of the US population over the age of 4 to have micronutrient inadequacies, especially vitamins and minerals commonly associated with hair loss :
|Micronutrient||% < EAR (Estimated Average Requirement)|
In the US (and most Western countries), nutritional deficiencies are rare — but inadequacies are extremely common.
Many studies into vitamins and hair loss don’t compare micronutrient levels in deficient or inadequate patients with healthy patients. Vitamin inadequacies are widespread in people both with and without hair loss, so it’s essential to know how these groups compare to discover the true relationship between vitamins and hair loss.
By analysing data that compares inadequate/deficient groups with healthy patients, we can reveal the real hair-related risks of low vitamin levels.
Vitamin deficiency and hair loss: research analysis
We’ve analysed data from 21 studies to establish whether each of these hypothetical hair growth vitamins actually impacts hair loss.
Here are the key findings:
- 4 major types of hair loss may be linked with vitamin deficiency: male pattern baldness, female pattern baldness, telogen effluvium, and alopecia areata
- Low levels of vitamins A and D — as well as zinc, iron, folate, and vitamin E — may have a significant impact on development of alopecia areata
- Iron and zinc may contribute to development of pattern hair loss in all genders — but while female pattern hair loss is also associated with low levels of vitamin D, male pattern baldness is more closely linked with lack of biotin
- The association between vitamins and hair growth is chronically understudied, leading to lack of accurate information about the effects of hair growth supplements
- While there does seem to be a connection between vitamin deficiency and hair loss, there’s little evidence that vitamin supplements can actually help hair regrow.
We’ve analysed each hair loss condition in greater detail to establish the impact of low micronutrient levels in the development of each major hair loss condition.
Vitamins and alopecia areata
Vitamin deficiencies that may contribute to alopecia areata include:
- Vitamin D
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin E
|Micronutrient||Micronutrient levels below required level (%)
— alopecia areata
|Vitamin A||-53% |
|Vitamin D||-52% to -42% [13-15]|
|Biotin (B7)||No data available|
|Zinc||-13% to 0% [16-18]|
|Iron||-58% to 0% [18-20]|
|Vitamin B12||0% [20-21]|
|Folate||-41% to 0% [20-22]|
|Vitamin E||-45% to 0% [12, 23]|
Alopecia areata is an autoimmune hair loss condition that’s notoriously difficult to treat, thanks to its high rate of spontaneous recovery and the disputed cause of the condition . But it’s the most widely researched condition in relation to the effect of micronutrients, perhaps because the cause is still unclear (especially compared with conditions like pattern baldness).
Vitamin deficiency may play a significant role in the development of alopecia areata. Multiple studies indicate a link between vitamin D deficiency and development of alopecia areata. Immune cells in autoimmune diseases are known to respond well to vitamin D treatment, so it’s unsurprising that a lack of vitamin D may cause or worsen an autoimmune condition like alopecia areata .
That said, it’s important to note the small sample sizes involved in this research. These vitamin D studies investigated deficiency levels in 60, 90, and 144 patients respectively, so these conclusions can’t necessarily be applied to all or even most alopecia areata sufferers.
Lack of vitamin A, iron, vitamin E, folate, and zinc may also contribute to alopecia areata development. But alopecia areata also appears in people with normal levels of these micronutrients — so while micronutrient deficiency may be a contributing factor, it’s unlikely to be the sole cause of this condition.
Vitamins and telogen effluvium
Vitamin deficiencies that may contribute to telogen effluvium hair loss include:
- Vitamin D
|Micronutrient||Micronutrient levels below required level (%)
— telogen effluvium
|Vitamin A||No data available|
|Vitamin D||-76% to +56% [26-27]|
|Biotin (B7)||0% |
|Zinc||-14% to 0% [16, 29]|
|Iron||-79% to -45% [26-27, 29-30]|
|Vitamin B12||No data available|
|Folate||No data available|
|Vitamin E||No data available|
|Selenium||No data available|
Telogen effluvium is a type of diffuse hair loss that spreads across the scalp. This type of hair loss is usually caused by stress, emotional shock or trauma — but research suggests nutritional deficiency may also play a role.
Iron deficiency is the most widely studied micronutrient in relation to telogen effluvium. It seems to have substantial links to this type of hair loss, with multiple studies revealing low iron levels in telogen effluvium patients (though each study has a relatively small sample size, ranging from 60 to 120). This is particularly the case in female patients, who are generally more likely to experience iron deficiency . Find out more about the impact of iron on hair texture.
Interestingly, one study found that vitamin D levels were higher in telogen effluvium patients. This may be due to the high sun exposure of the study participants, who were based in Turkey. Excessive sun exposure can cause hair shedding, while also stimulating vitamin D production in the body.
Vitamins and pattern hair loss
Vitamin deficiencies that may contribute to female pattern hair loss include:
- Vitamin D
Vitamin deficiencies that may contribute to male pattern hair loss include:
|Micronutrient||Micronutrient levels below required level (%)
— female pattern hair loss
|Micronutrient levels below required level (%)
— male pattern hair loss
|Vitamin A||No data available||No data available|
|Vitamin D||-75% to -22% [26, 32-33]||No data available|
|Biotin (B7)||No data available||-36% |
|Zinc||-19% ||-25% to -10% [16, 34]|
|Iron||-45% ||-37% |
|Vitamin B12||No data available||No data available|
|Folate||No data available||No data available|
|Vitamin E||No data available||No data available|
|Selenium||No data available||No data available|
Genetics and age are the main causes of both female and male pattern hair loss . Perhaps because of this, the impact of nutritional deficiencies has been studied less extensively than in other hair loss conditions. The study samples are also small, with participant numbers ranging from 90 to 342. Despite this, some studies have found statistically significant links between hair loss and low levels of certain vitamins and minerals.
Female pattern hair loss is most conclusively linked with vitamin D deficiency. This doesn’t appear to also affect male pattern baldness — so vitamin D may impact hair growth mechanisms that are unrelated to androgens (male sex hormones that react with genes to cause hair loss) . While vitamin D doesn’t cause female pattern hair loss, it may cause it to worsen or develop more quickly.
Zinc and iron deficiencies appear to have ties with both male and female pattern hair loss, though the evidence is far from conclusive . Biotin may also play a part in the development of male pattern baldness.
How conclusive is this vitamin deficiency and hair loss data?
This data is taken from 21 extensive research studies from major publications. We’ve compared and analysed results from multiple studies to establish clear connections between vitamins and hair loss where they arise.
But this field is understudied, especially when it comes to case-controlled research. Because vitamin and mineral supplements aren’t required to undergo the rigorous testing of other medicines, fewer researchers focus on the impact of micronutrient supplements, particularly on cosmetic conditions like hair loss.
Each of the study populations is also very limited in size, with the number of participants ranging from 30 to 342. The average number of participants across all studies is 101. By comparison, 1 in 2 women and 4 out of 5 men experience pattern hair loss alone — so the findings of these small-scale studies can’t be extrapolated to all alopecia patients [1, 2].
Certain hair loss conditions (alopecia areata, telogen effluvium) have also been studied in far more depth than others (pattern hair loss), making their data somewhat more reliable.
It’s also important to be wary of extrapolating data across regions. Factors like climate and wealth may impact participants’ micronutrient levels. For example, studies conducted in warm, sunny countries may report higher vitamin D levels that don’t necessarily apply to people in other climates.
While there are many conclusions that can be drawn from this data, it’s essential to bear the context of these studies in mind. What works for one patient or hair loss condition may not be appropriate for another.
Which vitamins are best (and worst) for hair growth?
There are clear links between hair loss and low levels of some micronutrients — particularly vitamin D and iron. It’s easy to conclude that compensating for these deficits could be a cheap, fast way to reduce hair loss, or even promote regrowth.
But would this work in reality?
Most cases of hair loss have more than one cause. Vitamin deficiency may be a contributing factor, but it’s unlikely to be the only or even the main cause of hair loss. So compensating for low vitamin levels probably won’t reduce hair loss altogether.
Hair loss is also a delayed reaction to a trigger. So even if increasing vitamin intake can prevent or slow hair loss, it may be too late to treat the condition with supplements by the time you notice or decide to act on your hair loss.
It’s also important to note that these results are independent of the research into vitamin deficiencies and hair loss. Participants in these studies may not have a vitamin deficiency or even inadequacy, so there’s not necessarily a link between vitamin supplementation and vitamin deficiency. These studies also don’t account for the hair loss type, so what works for one hair loss patient may not work for another.
But there may be real-world circumstances in which vitamin supplements can improve hair loss. We’ve analysed the results of 9 further studies to see if and how vitamin supplements might actually promote hair growth.
|Supplement||Hair count change (%)||Patients reporting hair count improvements (%)|
|Vitamin E||+15.2% to +34.5% ||100% of 21 patients |
|Zinc||0% to +2% [37-39]||67% of 15 patients |
|Niacin (B3)||Some improvements with topical applications ||69% of 44 patients |
|Iron||Some improvements in deficient patients, when iron combined with lysine [41-42]||No published evidence|
|Biotin (B7)||Some improvements in deficient patients only ||100% of 18 cases *|
|Vitamin A||-5.5% ||No published evidence|
|Vitamin C||No published evidence||No published evidence|
|Vitamin D||No published evidence||No published evidence|
|Selenium||No published evidence||No published evidence|
|Folate||No published evidence||No published evidence|
*Only in patients with clinical biotin deficiency. In people with normal biotin levels, there is no effect on hair loss or regrowth.
Despite the apparent link between vitamin deficiencies and hair loss, it’s clear that hair regrowth isn’t quite as easy as popping a multivitamin every day. With the exception of vitamin E, supplement-related hair growth improvements are small, and backed by very few studies.
But there are some signs that vitamin supplements can support hair regrowth under certain conditions. So which vitamin and mineral supplements are worth trying as a hair loss solution?
Which vitamins for hair growth actually reduce hair loss?
Can taking vitamin E supplements reduce hair loss?
Only one supplement — vitamin E — has any significant association with hair regrowth. While this was only established in one study, the results are more promising than any other type of supplement.
Be aware that excessive vitamin E intake can have serious side effects, including blood thinning, blood clots, and even strokes [45-46]. As a result, it’s best to consult your doctor before taking additional doses of vitamin E — particularly if you have underlying health conditions.
Can taking zinc supplements reduce hair loss?
While the hair count change was low for hair loss patients taking a zinc supplement, there was a significant hair thickness change of +5% . So despite the limited hair regrowth, patients did see some visible cosmetic improvements.
Another study also found that statistically insignificant improvements were seen in more than two-thirds of patients . So while zinc supplements probably can’t treat hair loss, it may make hair appear thicker.
Can taking vitamin B and niacin supplements reduce hair loss?
A majority (69%) of hair loss patients saw noticeable improvements in their hair count after using a topical solution containing niacin (vitamin B3) once a day for 6 months . There’s no evidence to suggest that oral supplements can improve hair loss, but a topical solution may help.
Can taking iron supplements reduce hair loss?
Iron is one of the more widely studied supplements, but researchers disagree on the impact these supplements can have on hair loss. It’s generally accepted that iron supplements on their own have limited benefits for hair regrowth. However, one study found that it could decrease hair shedding if taken in conjunction with lysine tablets. Lysine improves the intestines’ ability to absorb iron.
Both studies we analysed researched female participants who had low iron stores, so these results can’t be applied to those with normal iron levels. Iron supplements probably have only limited effectiveness at treating hair loss, despite its apparent links to female and male pattern baldness [19, 26].
Can taking biotin supplements reduce hair loss?
While biotin has never been assessed independently for its effectiveness as a hair loss supplement, research suggests supplements may be useful if a patient has a) a biotin deficiency and b) an underlying health condition .
Biotin supplements are unlikely to promote hair growth if you don’t have a biotin deficiency or an underlying condition.
Can taking vitamin A supplements reduce hair loss?
Research shows that taking too many vitamin A supplements can actually make hair loss worse . In fact, hair loss is a known side effect for some patients who take vitamin A derivatives like retinoids to treat acne and other skin conditions .
You shouldn’t take vitamin A supplements to treat hair loss. If you see hair loss as a result of vitamin A or retinoid tablets, speak to your doctor or a trichologist about how to manage this.
Can taking vitamin D supplements reduce hair loss?
Despite vitamin D playing a bigger role in hair loss than perhaps any other micronutrient, there have been no major published studies into the effect of vitamin D supplements on hair regrowth.
While it’s unclear if vitamin D supplements will improve hair loss, many people in the UK have insufficient levels of vitamin D (thanks to the lack of year-round sunlight). The NHS recommends most people in the UK consider taking a daily vitamin D supplement in autumn and winter to promote your general health .
Can taking vitamin C supplements reduce hair loss?
There’s currently no evidence to suggest that vitamin C supplements can reduce hair loss or improve regrowth [49-50].
Can taking multivitamin tablets reduce hair loss?
It’s very unlikely that taking multivitamin tablets will improve your hair loss. While taking daily multivitamins can ensure you have optimum levels of all required micronutrients, there’s not enough evidence to support a link between vitamin and mineral inadequacies and supplement-based hair regrowth.
Vitamin infusion therapy can be beneficial in patients who have severely depleted vitamin and mineral stores, such as those experiencing anorexia .
Should you take vitamin supplements for hair loss?
The vitamins for hair growth market is expected to explode over the next few years, as more people turn to organic, chemical-free measures to tackle their hair loss .
But many researchers agree that vitamin and mineral supplements aren’t the best way for most healthy people to get their recommended vitamin intake [52-53]. Eating a balanced diet is a far better way to ensure you’re getting the haircare nutrients you need.
However, if you have a known micronutrient deficiency or inadequacy, supplementing your diet with vitamin tablets can help you reach a healthy level. This will benefit your general health as well as your hair. However, be mindful that certain vitamins (like vitamin A) can make hair loss worse if taken in excess.
While low levels of micronutrients may contribute to worsening hair loss, there’s very little evidence to suggest that vitamins work for hair growth or reduce hair loss. Because vitamin deficiency is rarely the sole cause of hair loss, on their own, it’s unlikely that vitamin supplements will do much to restore your hair.
That said, they may be helpful in combination with other hair restoration methods, such as medication, topical solutions, low-laser light therapy, and hair transplants. Each of these methods are far more established and effective at tackling all types of hair loss.
Alternative hair loss solutions
The first thing to do is find out the underlying cause of your hair loss. Different types of hair loss are best treated in different ways, so until you know what’s causing your hair to fall out, it’s difficult to know how to tackle it.
It’s always best to get a professional to diagnose your hair loss. Many hair loss clinics offer a free hair and scalp exam as part of your initial consultation, so a trichologist can examine your follicles at a microscopic level. When they know what’s causing your hair loss, they can create a tailored treatment plan, rather than relying on one-size-fits-all remedies like supplements.
Here are some of the most popular hair restoration products or therapies, and which types of hair loss they’re proven to help.
|Treatment||Alopecia areata||Telogen effluvium||Female pattern hair loss||Male pattern hair loss|
|Minoxidil (topical solution)||X||X||X||X|
|Finasteride (oral medication)||X|
|Dutasteride (oral medication)||X|
|JAK inhibitors (oral medication)||X|
|Low-level laser therapy (laser application)||X||X||X|
|Hair transplant (surgical intervention)||X||X|
Find out more about different types of hair loss treatments:
- Olumiant, a JAK inhibitor
- FUE hair transplant
- FUT hair transplant
- Other alternative hair loss treatments
Book a hair loss consultation with Wimpole Clinic on Harley Street
Get the right treatment for your hair loss with the Wimpole Clinic. Our experienced trichologists and surgeons have more than 40 years’ experience diagnosing and treating all kinds of hair loss conditions, so you’re in good hands.
Book a free consultation at our Harley Street clinic to find the best treatment for your hair loss.
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- Evaluation of biophysical skin parameters and assessment of hair growth in patients with acne treated with isotretinoin
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- Effects of random allocation to vitamin E supplementation on the occurrence of venous thromboembolism: report from the Women’s Health Study
- Comparing the frequency of isotretinoin-induced hair loss at <0.5-mg/kg/d versus ≥0.5-mg/kg/d dosing in acne patients: A systematic review
- Vitamin D | NHS
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- Stop Wasting Money on Vitamin and Mineral Supplements
- The balance between food and dietary supplements in the general population
- Administration of capsaicin and isoflavone promotes hair growth by increasing insulin-like growth factor-I production in mice and in humans with alopecia
- Effect of Cinnamomum osmophloeum Kanehira Leaf Aqueous Extract on Dermal Papilla Cell Proliferation and Hair Growth
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