Many cultures around the world view hair as a sign of beauty and health.
Unfortunately, for many people growing healthy hair is a challenge. This has led to an increase in hair supplements on the market. While advertisers often portray hair vitamins and supplements as the key to healthy hair, skeptics contend that these products lack scientific evidence to substantiate their efficacy.
This may leave you wondering what hair vitamins are and whether they work.
This article discusses hair vitamins, their effectiveness, and whether they’re worth buying.
What are hair vitamins?
Hair vitamins are supplements with purported benefits for hair health. For example, popular brands claim that their products can improve hair growth, shine, thickness, and strength.
A multitude of products is on the market, many of which contain similar ingredients, including biotin, vitamins C and E, collagen, folic acid, and omega-3 fatty acids. They may also contain additions like ashwagandha and ginseng, which some people believe can strengthen hair.
Though widely popular, these products are mostly endorsed by paid celebrities and influencers and rarely by health professionals.
Which nutrients aid hair health?
Hair health is determined by a multitude of factors, such as age, genetics, hormone levels, medical conditions, diet, stress, and hair treatments. This makes it difficult to determine the root cause or causes of any issues.
Signs of unhealthy hair include noticeable hair loss or thinning, lack of growth, dryness, weakness, brittleness, and dullness.
In many cases, improving your diet and lifestyle can support healthy hair. In particular, getting enough of these key nutrients may improve the health and integrity of your hair:
- vitamin A
- vitamin B12
- vitamin C
- vitamin D
- vitamin E
- biotin (B7)
In particular, protein is essential for hair growth, as it’s the main building block of hair. Additionally, deficiencies in nutrients like B vitamins, iron, and vitamins C and D have been linked to hair loss, poor hair growth, and weak hair.
Increased hair loss and weak, unhealthy hair can also be caused by diets that are extremely low in calories and fat, such as certain weight loss diets, as well as diets that remove entire food groups, such as vegan eating patterns.
If you suspect any underlying causes of hair loss or a lack of growth, it’s important to work with a dermatologist or other healthcare professional to identify them.
Hair vitamins and supplements are widely used to treat hair conditions, but there is limited clinical data supporting their effectiveness. Most studies show that hair supplements benefit only those experiencing hair issues due to nutrient deficiencies. For example, 38% of women with hair loss had a biotin deficiency, while others had nutrient deficiencies or conditions like thyroid disorders or female pattern baldness.
That said, deficiencies in the nutrients commonly added to hair vitamins — such as biotin and vitamin C — are rare. Plus, taking these nutrients when you don’t have a deficiency likely won’t improve hair growth or appearance.
Moreover, due to the risk of adverse side effects from iron supplements, most countries require a prescription for obtaining high doses of this mineral.
Furthermore, there’s little evidence that hair loss supplements with nutrients like iron, biotin, B vitamins, vitamin C, zinc, selenium, and folic acid improve hair health or growth. Rather, some supplements may even worsen hair loss or cause nutrient toxicity.
Instead of promoting hair growth with arbitrary supplements, work with a healthcare professional to identify underlying causes of hair loss, screen for deficiencies, and explore treatments through your diet, carefully selected supplements, or both.
Rather than purchasing expensive hair vitamins, you’re better off focusing on a healthy diet that includes a variety of colourful vegetables and fruits, whole grains, protein, and healthy fats. This will ensure you get the nutrients your body needs for proper hair growth.
Additionally, be sure to focus on other areas of your health, including getting adequate sleep, managing stress, and exercising regularly. When your body is functioning well, it can better support nonessential functions like growing healthy hair.
If none of these lifestyle modifications help, consult a healthcare professional to help you determine any other potential underlying issues.
The bottom line
To date, no clinical studies show that hair vitamins and supplements promote hair growth, prevent hair loss, or improve other facets of healthy hair such as dryness, shine, and thickness.
Taking supplements may improve hair quality in rare cases where nutrient deficiencies cause poor hair health. Increasing your intake of calories, fat, or protein, linked to hair loss, could also help address the issue.
However, for most healthy people, taking hair supplements is unlikely to confer any benefits. Instead, focus on eating a varied diet comprising mostly whole, minimally processed foods to provide your body with the nutrients it needs to produce healthy hair.
Though it may be tempting to buy hair vitamins, you’re better off investing your money and time elsewhere. If you suspect any underlying causes of your hair issues, consider talking to a healthcare professional.