A receding hairline, the appearance of bald patches (alopecia), or thinning hair can be a disturbing experience for any person, and knowing how to fight hair loss can be a challenge.
Over the last few years, various vitamins and supplements have been promoted to boost hair growth and help hair grow back. For example, biotin, vitamin D, B-complex vitamins, and omega-3 are all said to combat hair loss and help hair regrow.
Because we all take pride in our hair, it is worth finding out if these supplements and vitamins can help to grow hair and prevent hair loss, and if they can be used as a natural treatment for alopecia.
The key to having healthy, shiny, great looking hair is actually more to do with your diet than using expensive hair care products. Dermatologist Dr. Amy McMichael says that proper nutrients and vitamins are needed to have healthy hair that is growing appropriately.1
The vitamins your hair needs are A, D, E, K, C, and the B-complex group like biotin (also known as vitamin B7,vitamin H, coenzyme R) and niacin (vitamin B3). You also need to consume minerals such as iron,magnesium, and zinc for healthy, strong and shiny hair.
Before we look at the various vitamins and supplements that can help boost hair growth, let’s look at the reasons why a person can start to lose hair in the first place.
What Causes Hair Loss?
There are many reasons why hair can start thinning and bald patches appear. One common reason is avitamin and mineral deficiency. Dr. Carolyn Jacob, medical director of Chicago Cosmetic Surgery and Dermatology, says that any vitamin deficiency will cause hair loss.2 Also, protein, iron, selenium, copper, and magnesium are all needed for healthy hair to grow and to prevent hair loss.
Of course, it is always best to eat a well-balanced diet to get the proper amount of vitamins and minerals that your body needs.
There can be other reasons for hair loss like stress, hormone imbalances, extreme weight loss, heredity and cancer treatment, as well as other causes which you can read about in my article discussing the 10 common causes of hair loss.
How Vitamins and Supplements Fight Hair Loss
Taking vitamins and supplements can help to make up for any deficiency that is causing hair loss. Although taking supplements for hair loss is a controversial subject, many studies do show a connection between vitamin supplements and hair growth.
The Best Supplements and Vitamins to Fight Hair Loss and Help Hair Grow
Biotin is a very popular supplement for hair growth. Biotin (vitamin B7) is part of the B-complex group of vitamins and is a coenzyme which is needed for the body to produce keratin. Keratin is the protein which hair and nails are made from and it is essential for healthy, strong hair.
Scientists from the University of California reported on studies into using biotin to fight hair loss. A biotin deficiency was identified as one of the causes of alopecia and hair loss in children. When the patients were given a biotin supplement of 10 mg a day, their symptoms improved and their hair started to grow normally again.3
Other studies also found a link between biotin deficiency and hair loss. For example: a recent study form 2016 in Japan found that babies who were fed with baby formula low in biotin levels exhibited alopecia related to biotin deficiency. A study from 2015 found that in humans, biotin deficiency is relatively rare but can cause dermatitis and alopecia. Another study from 2010 found a link between marginal biotin levels and diffuse hair loss.
Biotin is a popular ingredient in many hair-growth supplements on the market today. You can also buybiotin pills to make up for a biotin deficiency and to help hair grow better. The Mayo Clinic recommends taking between 30 and 100 micrograms (mcg) of biotin daily for adults.4
There are many foods which are rich in biotin and can be included in a well-balanced diet for healthy hair. For example, nuts, tomatoes, eggs, salmon, whole grains, and cereals are all excellent sources of biotin.5
Zinc has also been reported to help fight hair loss that is caused by a zinc deficiency. Zinc is needed in the body for cells to grow properly and it helps the body to break down carbohydrates. According to theNational Institute for Healthin the U.S., some of the symptoms of a zinc deficiency are hair loss, poor appetite, frequent infections, and skin sores.6
One study published in 2010 found that zinc supplements can help hair to grow back if the hair loss is due to a zinc deficiency.
Research published in the Journal of Cosmetology & Trichology found that many people with alopecia also have a zinc deficiency. It found that zinc helps to inhibit an enzyme that is associated with hair loss. That is why zinc has become a routine supplement to combat hair loss naturally.7
Natural sources of zinc can be found in shellfish, beef, lamb, legumes, seeds and nuts.
Biotin and zinc are often combined as a supplement for hair loss. The University of Maryland reports that an oral combination of biotin and zinc can be used to combat hair loss in both adults and children.9
It is essential that the body has enough vitamin D for healthy skin and bones. Recently vitamin D has been linked to hair growth because it can help hair follicles to become more active and even stimulate the growth of new hair follicles.
A study in Japan found that vitamin D can boost the capacity of certain skin cells to form hair. It was found that when an active form of vitamin D was administered to hairless rats, hair grew thicker and lasted longer.8
Another study found that vitamin D can help to ‘awaken’ follicles which can cause hair to start growing again.1o
Vitamin D deficiency can cause several diseases, so it is important that you get enough of this vitamin. Our body can make its own vitamin D from sunlight. You can also get vitamin D from supplements, and a very small amount comes from a few foods you eat.
According to the Office of Dietary Supplements, one of the best sources of vitamin D is oily fish like salmon, tuna, and mackerel.11 Talk to your doctor if you’re concerned about the level of vitamin D you get from the sun and your diet. Your doctor can advise if you need to take a vitamin D supplement.
Apart from biotin being effective as a hair-growth supplement, other B vitamins can help reduce hair loss. TheUniversity of Maryland says that B-complex vitamins are essential to maintaining healthy hair, skin, eyes and liver.12
Natural sources of B vitamins are dark leafy vegetables, poultry, beef liver, nuts, beans, and avocados.
Niacin (Vitamin B3)
One B vitamin that has proved to be very effective in fighting hair loss is niacin (vitamin B3). Niacin is used by the body to improve circulation, reduce inflammation, and is connected with a person’s hormones.
One study published in the Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology found that a topical application of niacin derivatives was able to make hair thicker when applied over a 6-month period.13
Saw palmetto is a plant that produces berries, and it was found that saw palmetto supplements can help fight hair loss. Saw palmetto contains an ingredient which inhibits the body’s production of a chemical associated with testosterone-related hair loss. When testosterone is converted into dihydrotestosterone (DHT), it shrinks the hair follicles, resulting in shorter and finer hair until, eventually, hair growth stops altogether.
Research carried out 2002 looked at how saw palmetto supplements could help combat hair loss in men. One group was given saw palmetto oral supplements twice a day for a few months. At the end of the trial, it was found that 60% of men experience hair growth and their condition had improved.14
If you want to find out more about using saw palmetto for hair growth, please read my article on how to use saw palmetto to stop hair loss and promote hair growth. You will also find there about other natural ingredients that can help to reduce the occurrence of baldness.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
It is known that omega-3 fatty acids are essential for a healthy body to function properly. However, researchers have now found a connection between omega-3 and hair growth.
For example, a study published in 2015 found that omega-3 supplements can help stimulate hair growth and reverse hair thinning. In the study, women were given supplements containing omega-3, omega-6, and antioxidants. After a 6-month period almost 90% had seen visible improvements in the thickness of their hair and had a reduction in hair loss.15
Coenzyme Q10 (Co Q10) can help to restore hair growth and reduce hair thinning that is associated with aging. The aging process affects the amount of keratin in the hair and this loss of keratin can cause hair to start thinning and bald patches can appear. Using a shampoo enriched with Co Q10 to wash your hair can help to reverse the effects of aging on your hair.
For example, a study showed that one group of people who washed their hair with a shampoo enriched with Co Q10 had more keratin in the hair than the group who used a placebo. It concluded that Co Q10 is an ideal ingredient for the needs of mature hair.16
WebMD reports that there is some evidence that Co Q10 supplements can help reverse hair loss in people who take the anticoagulant drug warfarin.17
Foods with largest content of coenzyme Q10 include:
- Fish (sardine, salmon, mackerel, tuna)
- Oils (olive and grape seed oil)
- Red meat (especially organ meat – heart, liver and kidney)
- Some nuts (pistachios, sesame seeds)
- Certain fruits and vegetables (apples, berries, spinach, oranges, cauliflower, broccoli, strawberries and black currents).
As the CoQ10 is fat-soluble, you should consume it with a meal that contains fat.