Did you know that hair represents the fastest growing cells in the body? Well, it’s true!
Hair growth is a very frequent biological process, so it makes sense that such a process requires consistent dietary support. Skin aging is often an area of concern for people, but hair aging can be just as prevalent. From genetics, disease, medication, diet, smoking, and UV radiation, several internal and external factors affect hair growth. Nevertheless, supporting hair growth through proper supplements can be a very effective solution.
Today, there are countless supplements on the market designed to promote hair growth. When taking a closer look at their ingredients, you will find a lot of common vitamins which is no coincidence. While these vitamins may be combined in unique concentrations within each supplement, they each still play a pivotal role in hair growth. Here is a further breakdown of the best hair vitamins.
Often overlooked for its functions in the body beyond muscle mass maintenance, protein is essential to supporting hair growth. Hair is made up almost entirely of protein, so it must be consumed regularly in ones diet. Without sufficient protein, protein deficiency can develop which can reduce hair growth and even trigger the loss of existing hair. High sources of protein are eggs, almonds, chicken, oats and quinoa.
Vitamin B7, Vitamin B5, and the B Vitamin Complex
Vitamin B7, better known as biotin, has proven crucial to hair growth for individuals who are deficient in biotin and are experiencing hair loss. Biotin supplementation has been used as a treatment alternative to aid hair loss for years. However, research has yet to determine its effectiveness in promoting hair growth in people who are not deficient in the vitamin.
Vitamin B5, also known as pantothenic acid, supports adrenal gland function which is necessary for keeping hair growth processes active. The B vitamin complex as a whole facilitates red blood cell generation. This, in turn, ensures ample amounts of oxygen and nutrients are delivered to the scalp and hair follicles in support of hair growth. Quality dietary sources of B vitamins include almonds, avocado, eggs, potatoes, whole grains, dark, leafy greens, fish, seafood, and meat.
Perhaps the most common symptom of deficiency in the sunshine vitamin is hair loss. Vitamin D’s contributions to hair growth are not entirely understood by researchers, but vitamin D is believed to help the body grow new hair follicles. Exposing yourself to direct sunlight for at least 30 minutes every day is the best way to optimize your body’s vitamin D level. Nevertheless, several foods provide a good supply of vitamin D such as cod liver oil, fatty fish (i.e. eel, halibut, mackerel, salmon), and mushrooms (maitake and portabella). Topical applications for vitamin D are also available and have proven particularly effective for people living with autoimmune hair loss conditions such as alopecia areata.
Recognized by scientists for decades for its strong antioxidant properties, vitamin C guards the body from free radicals and the oxidative stress they can impose. Oxidative stress damages the body causing it to age and this is especially evident in the hair. Free radicals actually inhibit hair growth resulting in thin, brittle strands. Vitamin C however, helps produce the protein collagen, which is necessary for maintaining hair structure. Studies show that vitamin C even helps support melanin production in the hair which slows the greying process that is very well connected with aging. It also absorbs iron, a mineral that supports hair growth. Rich dietary sources of vitamin C are citrus fruits (i.e. oranges, lemons, limes, grapefruit, kiwi), guavas, peppers, and strawberries.
Fish oil may not come to mind when vitamins are being discussed, but the rich supply of omega-3 fats found in fish oil certainly behave like vitamins. Omega-3 fats are healthy fats that support hair growth by nourishing the follicle enhancing its thickness and fighting inflammation which can contribute to hair loss. If you wish to maximize your intake of fish oil through your diet as opposed to a supplement, then eat these foods: egg yolks, hemp seeds, mackerel, natto, salmon, sardines, tuna, walnuts, and white fish.
Sequestered by vitamin C, iron also supports red blood cells in their transport of oxygen to cells. The body’s cells cannot regenerate without oxygen; thus, iron is a staple mineral for hair growth as well as every other form of cellular regeneration in the body. Anemia, a condition that results from iron deficiency, often produces hair loss, especially in women. Foods that offer a rich supply of iron are beef, clams, collard greens, eggs, lentils, navy beans, black beans, oysters, and spinach.
This vitamin is essential to all forms of cellular growth. As for hair, vitamin A aids the skin’s sebaceous glands in producing an oily substance called sebum. Many people fear sebum for its ability to accumulate and produce acne. However, sebum is natural and very necessary for skin as well as hair health. Consisting of fats, sebum does not dissolve in water and therefore helps hold moisture in the hair follicle and shaft. Excellent dietary sources of vitamin A include carrots, cod liver oil, eggs, kale, milk, pumpkin, spinach, sweet potatoes, and yogurt.
Another potent antioxidant, vitamin E supports hair growth in a similar fashion by fighting oxidative stress introduced by free radicals. Vitamin E supplementation has consistently increased hair growth among individuals experiencing hair loss. Some reliable dietary sources of vitamin E are almonds, avocados, spinach, and sunflower seeds.
Sometimes disregarded and often misunderstood, zinc is as invaluable to overall health as any other nutrient deemed essential for life. Hair cannot grow or repair itself without the presence of zinc. At the same time, zinc assists in keeping the scalp’s sebaceous glands functional and hair follicles from regressing. Hair loss is also an indicator of zinc deficiency whereas zinc supplementation has proven to slow hair loss. However, overdosing on zinc supplements can have the reverse effect and induce hair loss again. Ideal doses of zinc that will promote hair growth can be found in foods like beef, lentils, oysters, pumpkin seeds, spinach, and wheat germ.
While rosemary is technically an herb and not a vitamin, compounds found within the essential oil of rosemary demonstrate some impressive benefits for hair. These benefits include a boost in hair cell metabolism which in turn stimulates hair growth. One study conducted on mice and another performed in humans discovered that rosemary oil significantly restored hair growth following an interruption in hair growth processes by significant hormonal changes. These studies suggest that rosemary oil is just as powerful and effective in reversing hair loss as many pharmaceutical medications.
Aloe Vera Juice
Again, although aloe vera is not a vitamin, it contains an impressive supply of nutrients that strengthen hair, keeps hair healthy, and therefore prevents hair loss. One of these nutrients called metallothionein is an antioxidant protein that fights free radicals thereby preventing hair aging. Often considered for relieving inflammatory skin conditions, aloe vera is ideal for soothing and nourishing the scalp and alleviating dandruff which naturally encourages hair growth. Additionally, researchers found that aloe vera protects the skin from UV radiation which in turn prevents hair loss. These benefits can be obtained from aloe vera a variety of ways: drink 4 ounces of aloe vera juice twice a day, add aloe vera to shampoo and massage it into the scalp, or apply aloe vera gel directly to the scalp.
Overcoming the Stigma of Hair Loss
Even though you now know the best vitamins for hair growth, it can be difficult to accept hair loss psychologically as well as physically. You should know that hair loss is clinically defined as losing more than 50 to 150 hairs each day. Anything within that range or lower is actually normal. Hair loss in excess of that range is still a common occurrence that affects 50 percent of men and 30 percent of women under the age of 50. For men, the underlying cause is usually genetic whereas for women it is nutritional. However, any of the following factors can promote hair loss:
- Autoimmune Disease
- Dramatic Weight Loss
- Hormonal Dysfunction
- Impaired Liver Function
- Physical Trauma
- Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome
- Prescription Medications
- Psoriasis or Seborrheic Dermatitis
- Radiation Therapy
- Thyroid Disorders
It is important to note that it is possible to supplement these vitamins in excess, essentially overdosing the supply that the body needs. While most of the excess will be excreted by the body, over time this process can produce toxic conditions within the body and cause serious illness. This is especially an area of concern for iron intake. Consequently, before committing to any long-term changes in diet or supplementation, you should consult a medical professional to determine what are the best vitamins for hair growth for you and which hair growth methods are best for you.
Axe, J. (2018). Top 6 vitamins for hair growth (#2 is essential). Retrieved from https://draxe.com/vitamins-for-hair-growth/
Finner, A. M. (2013). Nutrition and hair: Deficiencies and supplements. Dermatologic Clinics, 31(1): 167-72. doi: 10.1016/j.det.2012.08.015.
McDonell, K. (2016, August). The 5 best vitamins for hair growth (+3 other nutrients). Retrieved from Healthline at https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/best-vitamins-hair-growth
Panahi, Y., Taghizadeh, M., Marzony, E. T., & Sahebkar, A. (2015). Rosemary oil vs minoxidil 2% for the treatment of androgenetic alopecia: a randomized comparative trial. Skinmed, 13(1): 15-21.
Trost, L. B., Bergfel, W. F., & Calogeras, E. (2006). The diagnosis and treatment of iron deficiency and its potential relationship to hair loss. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, 54(5): 824-44.