What’s Your Hair Health?
When it comes to optimal hair health, you are what you eat. After all, the scalp is home to around 100,000 hair follicles that need the right nutrients in the right amounts to thrive. Ahead, we share which vitamins you may want to add to your diet if you aren’t already consuming them.
Hair health can be subjective, whether it’s silky-smooth locks or bouncy, curly tresses. That said, many of us can probably agree healthy hair is free of frizz, split ends, and brittleness. But how do you go about achieving that?
Spoiler alert: it’s not only topical hair products you need to invest in. The other contributing factor to healthier hair lies in your diet. If you want your mane to look and feel its best, find out which vitamins (and other micronutrients) are known to be good for hair — and which ones still need more scientific data to solidify their hair-beneficial effects.
1. Vitamin A
Vitamin A is one of the essential nutrients that everyone needs so that hair grows strong and healthy. If you need scientific proof, mouse and rat models show that this antioxidant stimulates the hair follicle stem cells. Still, you don’t want to overdo it with vitamin A as consuming too much is linked to hair loss. Remember, moderation is key.
2. Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin)
Vitamin B2 (aka riboflavin) is another hair vitamin you’ll want to take notes on. Because this antioxidant is needed for cell development, fat metabolism, and energy production, low levels of riboflavin are known to trigger hair loss. It’s recommended to eat more riboflavin-rich foods like spinach and fatty fish (such as salmon and mackerel) or consider a B vitamin supplement that contains vitamin B2.
3. Vitamin B7 (Biotin)
Because vitamin B7 (biotin) deficiency is linked to hair loss, make sure to get enough of this micronutrient in your meals. A 2017 systematic review in the Journal of Skin Appendage Disorders highlighted that supplementing with biotin may help with poor hair growth and brittle nails. Still, the review consisted of only 18 case reports solely focused on individuals with biotin deficiency and hair loss. As such, more studies are needed to confirm the general efficacy of biotin as a vitamin for healthy individuals.
4. Vitamin B9 (Folate or Folic Acid)
Vitamin B9 exists in two forms: folate (natural) and folic acid (synthetic). Whichever form it takes, the jury is still out on whether vitamin B9 makes any difference to your mane.
Some research shows there’s no difference in zinc, vitamin B9, and vitamin B12 levels in people with or without hair loss. Yet, other data points to folate deficiency in women with hair loss conditions like female pattern baldness.
While science still needs time to make up its mind on this vitamin for hair health, you want to consume enough vitamin B9 daily for overall well-being.
5. Vitamin C
You’ve probably heard that vitamin C is vital to healthy hair growth, given how it cracks down on free radical damage.
One study even showed that a hair growth supplement containing vitamin C significantly boosted hair regrowth in women with thinning hair over time. However, it should be noted that said supplement also consisted of other ingredients such as horsetail-derived silica. For that reason, the improvements in hair volume cannot be solely credited to vitamin C alone, although it won’t hurt to get enough of this antioxidant in your diet.
6. Vitamin D
Vitamin D deficiency is linked to various hair loss conditions like female pattern baldness and alopecia areata (an autoimmune condition). Even if you don’t have one of these conditions, it’s wise to meet your daily vitamin D intake. In vitro studies have discovered that vitamin D levels increase in the keratinocytes (cells that produce the hair protein keratin) during the growth phase of the hair cycle.
7. Vitamin E
If you’re currently experiencing thinning hair, vitamin E may be worth a try as it tackles free radical damage and oxidative stress.
A small-scale2010 study discovered that taking 100 milligrams of vitamin E supplements every day for eight months boosted hair growth by 34.5% compared to the placebo group. While large-scale clinical trials are needed, vitamin E supplementation seems like a potentially promising hair loss treatment.
According to science, collagen may be worth a try in the name of healthier hair. After all, collagen is chock full of hair-healthy amino acids that may aid in keratin production.
To illustrate collagen’s potential effect on tresses, a small study of women with thinning hair took a nutraceutical supplement that contained collagen (among other active ingredients). The test subjects saw a rise in hair volume, thickness, and overall quality, suggesting that collagen may be what your locks need to thrive.
9. Essential Fatty Acids
Did you know essential fatty acids like omega-3 fats are vital to optimal hair health? These fatty acids help regulate androgen synthesis, a male sex hormone linked to hair loss. And yes, the female body produces androgen, just in smaller quantities than our male counterparts. One way to get more healthy fats in your diet is to consume whole foods like fatty fish and avocados. Alternatively, some people prefer supplements such as cod liver oil and fish oil soft gels.
As iron deficiency (with or without anemia) is commonly associated with thinned-out tresses, this is one micronutrient you don’t want to miss out on.
But how does iron benefit your mane? Well, this essential mineral is indispensable to hemoglobin production, the protein that allows red blood cells to carry oxygen to the hair follicles.
That said, a 2010 medical review offers mixed perspectives. There’s some research suggesting hair thinning as a result of iron deficiency benefited from iron supplementation, while other studies suggested otherwise. This might be another case of YMMV (your mileage may vary) when it comes to iron for hair health.
Not getting enough selenium in your diet has been attributed to increased hair shedding. Case in point: A small study involving six babies explained that after correcting for selenium deficiency, their symptoms improved. While more scientific data is needed to reaffirm this finding for adults, consuming enough selenium-rich foods helps to maintain a healthy thyroid and other vital functions.