We all want that effortlessly luxe kind of hair — the braid-able equivalent of a great skin glow. There are plenty of products to manage the symptoms of damage and create a temporary polished look, but to get hair truly strong, change has to come from the inside out. Functional medicine pro, Dr. Josh Axe is sharing these scientifically-supported solutions on how to get healthy hair from within, including the best supplements to strengthen and encourage growth…
The appearance of hair plays an important role in physical appearance and self-perception so it can be devastating to experience hair loss — especially when there doesn’t seem to be anything you can do about it. But poor nutrition, including vitamin deficiencies, is a major factor of hair loss. Did you know there are vitamins for hair growth? These natural hair loss remedies work to fix the root of the problem, like regulating your hormone levels or fighting oxidative stress that increases with age.
Fewer than 45 percent of women go through life with a full head of hair, while a majority of men go through some type of hair loss in their lifetimes. The hair care industry knows that consumers have a great desire to look youthful, now more than ever, so it constantly delivers new products that promise to promote hair growth. But before you spend your money on yet another product that may leave you disappointed, try using these vitamins for hair growth (or hair vitamins, as I sometimes call them) first.
The truth is that hair loss is a complex process that involves various genetic, hormonal and environmental mechanisms. Just like our skin, the hair follicle is subject to intrinsic and extrinsic aging. Intrinsic factors include our genetic and epigenetic mechanisms; extrinsic factors include smoking, UV radiation and poor or insufficient nutrition.
Sometimes hair loss is due to a vitamin deficiency. Luckily, a deficiency can be corrected by adding vitamin-rich foods to your diet or using supplementation. Some vitamins have antioxidant properties that help fight the extrinsic factors of hair loss and some vitamins help the body balance hormone levels, another factor that inhibits hair growth.
The Best Supplements for Healthy Hair
Fish Oil | Oils rich in different fatty acid species have been used extensively in both animal and human studies to evaluate the effects on skin and hair health. Omega-3 fats nourish the hair, support hair thickening and reduce inflammation that can lead to hair loss, which is why fish oil benefits hair. It is one of the top six vitamins for hair growth.
A 2015 study published in the Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology evaluated the effects of a six-month supplementation with omega-3, omega-6 and antioxidants on hair loss. In the randomized, comparative study, 120 healthy female subjects with female pattern hair loss participated. The primary endpoint was the change in hair density evaluated on standardized photographs, and the secondary endpoint included changes in active hair follicle percentage and diameter distribution of hair growth.
After six months of treatment, photograph assessment demonstrated a superior improvement in the supplemented group. Hair growth increased compared to the control group, and 89.9 percent of the participants reported a reduction in hair loss, as well as an improvement in hair diameter (86 percent) and hair density (87 percent).
Eat omega-3 foods like salmon, mackerel, tuna, white fish, sardines, egg yolks, walnuts, hemp seeds and natto to reduce inflammation and balance hormones. If you don’t eat enough omega-3 foods, take one to two capsules or one tablespoon of a top-notch fish oil supplement to help reduce inflammation that causes hair disorders. If you already take blood-thinning medications, including aspirin, speak to your health care provider before using fish oil because it may increase bleeding.
Zinc | Oral zinc compounds have been used for decades for treating disorders (such as telogen effluvium and alopecia areata, forms of hair loss) because zinc benefits hair follicle health. Zinc is an essential co-factor for multiple enzymes and is involved with important functional activities in the hair follicle. Zinc is also a potent inhibitor of hair follicle regression and it accelerates hair follicle recovery. Studies suggest that some alopecia areata patients have zinc deficiency, and oral zinc sulfate therapy serves as an effective treatment.
In a 2013 study, researchers evaluated the role of zinc status in each of the four types of hair loss, including alopecia areata, male pattern hair loss, female pattern hair loss and telogen effluvium. In all of the hair loss patients, the mean serum zinc was significantly lower than the control group. The analysis of each group showed that all groups of hair loss had statistically lower zinc concentration, especially the alopecia areata group. The data led to the hypothesis of zinc metabolism disturbances playing a key role in hair loss.
A 2009 study published in Annals of Dermatology evaluated the therapeutic effects of oral zinc supplementation for 12 weeks in 15 alopecia areata patients who had low serum zinc levels. Oral zinc gluconate (50 milligrams) supplementation was given to alopecia areata patients without any other treatment. The serum zinc levels were measured before and after zinc supplementation, and then a four-point scale of hair regrowth was used to evaluate the therapeutic effect.
After the therapy, the serum zinc levels increased significantly, and positive therapeutic effects were observed for nine out of 15 patients (66.7 percent). The researchers concluded that zinc supplementation needs to be given to the alopecia areata patients who have a low serum zinc level, and it could even become an adjuvant therapy for patients who didn’t experience results when using traditional therapeutic methods, which is why zinc is one of the most important vitamins for hair growth.
B-Complex Vitamin (Biotin & B5) | Biotin and pantothenic acid (vitamin B5) have been used as alternative treatments for hair loss. Biotin benefits your hair by rebuilding hair shingles that have been damaged from over-shampooing, exposure to the sun, blow-drying and ironing. Vitamin B5 supports the adrenal glands, which helps stimulate hair growth.
A 2011 study published in the British Journal of Dermatology examined the ability of a leave-on combination including panthenol (the alcohol analog of pantothenic acid) to affect the diameter and behavior of individual terminal scalp hair fibers. The treatment significantly increased the diameter of individual, existing terminal scalp fibers. It also thickened hair fibers and increased the pliability, giving the hairs better ability to withstand force without breaking.
A major sign of a biotin deficiency is hair loss. A deficiency can be caused by smoking, impaired liver function or even pregnancy. Research suggests that a substantial number of women develop a biotin deficiency during normal pregnancy because the rapidly dividing cells of the developing fetus require biotin for synthesis of essential carboxylases and histone biotinylation. Researchers conclude that signifiant alternations in markers of biotin metabolism during pregnancy and breastfeeding suggest that biotin intakes exceed current recommendations in order to meet the demands of these reproductive states.
To reverse hair loss and increase hair strength, take one B-complex vitamin tablet daily or take biotin and vitamin B5 separately. Eating biotin andvitamin B5 foods, such as eggs, beef, chicken, avocado, legumes, nuts and potatoes, also helps you to avoid a deficiency and aid hair growth.
Vitamin C | Experimental evidence suggests that oxidative stress plays a major role in the aging process. Reactive oxygen species or free radicals are highly reactive molecules that can directly damage cellular structural membranes, lipids, proteins and DNA. With age, the production of free radicals increases and the amount of antioxidative enzymes that defend the body decrease, leading to the damage of cellular structures and the aging of hair. By working as an antioxidant, vitamin C fights oxidative stress that contributes to hair graying and hair loss. To fight free radical damage and protect the hair from aging, fill up on vitamin C foods like oranges, red peppers, kale, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, strawberries, grapefruit and kiwi. If you need supplementation, take 500–1,000 milligrams of vitamin C twice daily as an antioxidant.
Iron | Several studies have examined the relationship between iron deficiency and hair loss, and some suggest that iron deficiency may be related to alopecia areata, androgenetic alopecia, telogen effluvium and diffuse hair loss.
Researchers at Tehran University of Medical Sciences in Iran studied the relationship between iron body status and different types of hair loss. They conducted an analytical case-control study to assess whether diffuse telogen hair loss in women between the ages of 15 and 45 is associated with iron deficiency — 30 women with documented telogen hair loss were compared with 30 women without hair loss.
The researchers found that of the nine patients with iron deficiency anemia, eight had telogen hair loss. The mean ferritin (a protein in the body that binds to iron) level was statistically significantly lower in patients with diffuse telogen hair loss than in subjects without hair loss. The study suggests that women with an iron deficiency are at a higher risk of hair loss, and serum ferritin levels below or equal to 30 milligrams/milliliter are strongly associated with telogen hair loss.
To boost hair growth, add iron-rich foods into your diet every day. Eat plenty of spinach, Swiss chard, collard greens, egg yolks, beef steak, navy beans and black beans. Because an iron deficiency may lead to hair loss, ensure that you get your daily recommended amount by eating plenty of iron-rich foods and taking a daily multivitamin.
However, be wary of excessive iron supplementation. It can cause iron overload and should be avoided. Patients who don’t respond to iron replacement therapy should undergo additional testing to identify other underlying causes of iron deficiency and hair loss.
Vitamin D | Hair follicles are highly sensitive to hormones, and vitamin D is a hormone that plays an important role in calcium homeostasis, immune regulation and cell growth differentiation. In the scientific world, it’s well known that alopecia areata is commonly found in patients with vitamin D deficiency, vitamin D-resistant rickets or vitamin D receptor mutation.
Research suggests that insufficient levels of vitamin D have been implicated in a variety of autoimmune diseases, including alopecia areata. A cross-sectional study involving 86 patients with alopecia areata, 44 patients with vitiligo and 58 healthy controls was conducted. Serum 25-hydroxyvitamin vitamin D levels in patients with alopecia areata were significantly lower than those of the patients with vitiligo and the healthy controls. Furthermore, a significant inverse correlation was found between disease severity and serum 25(OH)D levels in patients with alopecia.
Researchers concluded that screening patients with alopecia areata for vitamin D deficiencies seem to be of value for the possibility of supplementing these patients with vitamin D.
Direct sun exposure is the best way to absorb vitamin D, plus you can detox your body with the sun. Sit in the sun for roughly 10–15 minutes to absorb about 10,000 units of natural vitamin D. Topical application of vitamin D might also play a role in the restoration of hair cycle dysfunction in patients with alopecia areata. To increase your vitamin D levels with food sources, eat vitamin D-rich foods like halibut, mackerel, eel, salmon, whitefish, swordfish, maitake mushrooms and portabella mushrooms.
The Best Herbs For Hair Growth
Though not vitamins, two other products can help improve hair growth. Rosemary essential oil used topically can naturally thicken hair, as can aloe vera juice and gel. Using these along with the above vitamins for hair growth, and you’re sure to see fuller, thicker hair.
Rosemary Essential Oil | When applied over the scalp, rosemary oil is believed to increase cellular metabolism that stimulates hair growth. A 2013 study conducted at Kinki University in Japan found that rosemary leaf extract improved hair regrowth in mice that experienced hair regrowth interruption induced by testosterone treatment.
A human study conducted in 2015 investigated the clinical efficacy of rosemary oil in the treatment of androgenetic alopecia. Patients with androgenetic alopecia were treated for six months with either rosemary oil or minoxidil (2 percent), which served as the control group. Minoxidil is a medication used to stimulate hair growth and slow balding. After six months of treatment, both groups experienced a significant increase in hair count. Scalp itching, however, was more frequent in the minoxidil group. The study proves that rosemary oil is just as effective as hair growth medications (with fewer side effects) such as scalp itching.
Aloe Vera Juice and Gel | Aloe vera has nourishing properties and tons of vitamins and minerals that help to keep your hair strong and healthy. Aloe vera benefits have been known for centuries because of aloe vera contains health, beauty, medicinal and skin care properties. It soothes and conditions the scalp, providing the ideal environment for hair growth.
You can apply aloe vera gel directly to the scalp or add it to a gentle and natural shampoo. To take aloe vera internally, drink about a half a cup of aloe vera juice twice daily. The healing properties boost dermatological health. A 2012 study published in Anatomy & Cell Biology found that aloe vera gel reduced inflammation and had notable wound-healing effects when used on rats after a surgical incision. Not only did aloe vera promote rapid wound closure, but it also enhanced hair growth at the sight on the incision.
Aloe vera has also been reported to have a protective effect against radiation damage to the skin, which can lead to hair loss. Following the administration of aloe vera gel, an antioxidant protein called metallothionein is generated in the skin, which scavenges free radicals and prevents UV-induced suppression. Because of aloe vera’s antibacterial and antifungal properties, it also helps eliminate dandruff — perfect for people who want fuller hair and want to know how to get rid of dandruff — and the gel’s enzymes can rid the scalp of dead cells and promote the regeneration of skin tissue around the hair follicles.
The Chalkboard Mag and its materials are not intended to treat, diagnose, cure or prevent any disease. All material on The Chalkboard Mag is provided for educational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified healthcare provider for any questions you have regarding a medical condition, and before undertaking any diet, exercise or other health-related programs.
Interesting. The best herb ever I found to support hair is Fo Ti. Luckily I never had problems with my hair but I wanted to retard greying and this certainly is helping when you take it religiously. And it makes you hair grow faster. I don’t think it makes it thicker but it grows very quickly and healthy. For anyone with hair issues definitely worth giving a try.
Also getting your naturopath or Doctor to run some lab tests – thyroid issues can manifest in hair loss, so checking there is no underlying issues is key.
Z U T R A F O L! Honest review. Take it 4x daily as directed and be patient and consistent. It truly works and my hair worries (loss, thinness, widening part) went away. I had always already taken all these vitamins to no avail. You truly need a formulated supplement. Easier to find now too