Are you struggling to maintain strong, healthy-looking hair? What many people don’t realize is that hair growth has a great deal to do with diet. The growth of hair is a complex metabolic process requiring multiple nutrients, vitamins, and enzymes. If any of these nutrients or vitamins are missing, your hair won’t be able to grow to its full potential. So what vitamin deficiency causes hair loss?
Here is a list of the top 10 vitamins and minerals for healthy hair growth.
What Vitamins are Good for Hair Growth?
1. Vitamin C
Vitamin C is necessary for the development and repair of all tissues throughout your body. It helps with the production of collagen, an essential protein to make healthy skin and strong hair. Vitamin C is also needed for healing wounds and maintaining healthy teeth and bones.1
Vitamin C deficiency causes dry, breaking hair, rough skin, and bleeding gums.2 Along with other nutrients, vitamin C helps support hair growth by assisting with collagen production and supporting the absorption of non-heme iron3 (iron from plant sources).
Because Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin, your body cannot store excess amounts of it so it must be replenished through your diet. Good sources of vitamin C include dark leafy greens, green and red bell peppers, potatoes, broccoli, brussels sprouts, spinach, and citrus fruits.
2. B-Complex Vitamins
There are 8 B-complex vitamins (B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B7, B9 and B12) that support a number of body functions such as the production of healthy cells (B1), warding off damage caused by free radicals (B2), and monitoring and supporting brain function and mood (B9).
B-complex deficiency may cause dizziness and fatigue as well as hair loss and weak, brittle hair. B vitamins, particularly biotin (B7), support hair growth by strengthening the keratin structure of the hair shaft, the part of the hair structure that is visible. Hair loss and dry skin are both signs of biotin deficiency. The daily dosage for biotin ranges from 30 micrograms and more. Dairy products, eggs, nuts and meat contain large amounts of biotin. Biotin supplements typically supply 5,000 mcg per dose.
Vitamin B-5 (Pantothenic Acid)
Although biotin is probably the best known of the B-complex vitamins for hair growth, there’s also B5, or pantothenic acid. Many hair growth products contain vitamin B5 because it can improve hair growth. Scientist studying mice on a purified diet noticed that a lack of inositol and pantothenic acid caused mice to become hairless.14 You’ll find vitamin B5 in chicken, eggs, dairy products, nuts, beef, and potatoes.
Vitamin B-6 (Pyridoxal-5-phosphate)
Hair growth is a complicated metabolic process involving thousands of chemical reactions. Vitamin B-6, or pyridoxal-5-phosphate is involved in 100 or so reactions involving protein, lipids, and glucose metabolism.14 Your hair is actually a product of protein synthesis. Beautiful hair gets its shine from lipids or oils produced by the scalp. Because of Vitamin B-6’s role in protein and lipid metabolism it is a great vitamin to take for hair loss. Good Vitamin B-6 sources include cheese, fish, poultry, spinach, and whole grain cereals.
Circulation is extremely important to hair growth. The over-the-counter hair loss treatment minoxidil works by increasing blood flow to the scalp. Blood is made up of oxygen-carrying red blood cells and Vitamin B-12 is essential to producing enough red blood cells. You can find vitamin B-12 in beef liver, clams, dairy products, eggs, and fortified cereals.
Vitamin B-9 (Folate)
Folate, or folic acid, is another B-vitamin that plays a central role in the synthesis of DNA, RNA, and proteins. All of these are involved in the production of hair. Many cereal and grain products include folate, and it’s also found in legumes, leafy greens, and fruits.
3. Vitamin E
Vitamin E is a fat-soluble vitamin and a potent antioxidant that helps prevent damage to cells and tissues caused by free radicals. Free radicals are highly reactive and can damage DNA, RNA, as well as proteins. Vitamin E is also involved in the synthesis of blood cells which are important for circulation and the supply of oxygen to tissues throughout the body.4
Although vitamin E deficiency is rare, deficiency can lead to nerve and muscle damage as well as vision problems. This vitamin helps support hair growth by supporting circulation in the scalp and reducing free radical damage to hair follicles.
4. Vitamin A
As well as helping with the development and maintenance of healthy skin, teeth, and bones, vitamin A produces pigments in the retinas of your eyes and helps with vision, particularly in low light. It also helps with wound healing and strengthens your immune system.
Vitamin A deficiency is rare but when it happens you can expect to have symptoms such as dry eyes, poor night vision, skin problems, and diarrhea.5
Vitamin A is another powerful antioxidant. In one study patients with alopecia areata were found to have lower blood levels of vitamin A and other antioxidants.17 Vitamin A supplementation could support hair growth by helping to maintain high levels of antioxidants. Keep in mind that while you need some Vitamin A to support hair growth, too much of this vitamin may cause the hair problems you are trying to avoid. Too much Vitamin A over-stimulates hair follicles, causing hair to reach the end of its growth cycle prematurely. When this happens, hair becomes thinner because your body is unable to create new hair growth fast enough.6
In your diet, you’ll find vitamin A in many orange fruits and vegetables, including carrots, pumpkins, sweet potatoes, and squash.
DrFormulas’ HairOmega line of hair vitamins contain the perfect amount of Vitamin A to support skin health and hair growth, between 100-200% of the Daily Value.
5. Vitamin D
While the main role of vitamin D is to maintain healthy levels of calcium and phosphorous in the blood, vitamin D also strengthens hair follicles. Research shows that vitamin D has important roles in hair growth.7 Symptoms of vitamin D deficiency include depression, fatigue, insomnia, muscle weakness, and hair loss.
You probably don’t need vitamin D supplementation if you spend a lot of time in the sun. Since vitamin D aids hair growth, if you aren’t outside much or it’s during the dark days of winter, consider taking a vitamin D supplement. Dairy products, salmon, and eggs are good sources of vitamin D. The two most important forms of this vitamin are D2, which is obtained from plant foods, and D3, which is made by animals and by the skin when exposed to sunlight. Most supplements contain vitamin D3.
This is a vital mineral which the body needs for the production of red blood cells.8 It is mainly found in hemoglobin – a protein in red blood cells – where it assists in transferring oxygen from your lungs to tissues and organs throughout your body.
Iron deficiency is the most common form of nutritional deficiency. It causes anemia, a condition that inhibits red blood cells from delivering oxygen throughout the body. Symptoms include fatigue, pale skin, shortness of breath, brittle nails, cold hands and feet, and hair loss.9 In extreme cases, those suffering from iron deficiency may develop pica, or a craving for non-food items such as dirt.
Iron supports hair growth by promoting healthy circulation and transporting oxygen and other essential nutrients to hair follicles.
Iron deficiency hair loss most often affects women. Women who regularly experience heavy periods are especially at risk for iron deficiency.16 Fortunately, a simple blood test performed by your doctor can detect iron levels. If your iron levels are low, the doctor may recommend an iron supplement. It is not wise to take iron supplements if they are not necessary, so don’t purchase over-the-counter iron supplements unless you have had a blood test and your doctor recommends a specific type of supplement.
Foods rich in iron include salmon, dried fruit, pork, spinach, and peas, and these are ways to boost iron without supplementation. You may also want to consume iron-fortified cereals. Vitamin C allows your body to absorb iron more effectively, so make sure to include lots of foods containing this antioxidant in your diet.
Magnesium participates in more than 300 biochemical reactions in the body including growth of hair. It helps support a healthy immune system, as well as maintenance of normal muscle and nerve functions. It also keeps your heart strong, regulates blood glucose levels, and helps with the production of protein and energy.10 Because of magnesium’s role in metabolism and metabolic reactions having ample magnesium supports hair growth .
Signs of magnesium deficiency include nausea, weakness, fatigue, vomiting, irregular heart rhythms, muscle contractions, and hair loss.
8. Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acids are essential fatty acids. Although they are necessary for good health, the body does not make them, so they must be obtained through one’s diet from fatty fish such as sardines, salmon, and mackerel, eggs, walnuts, flaxseed, or supplements.
In supplement form, they are available in fish, flaxseed, or borage oils. Omega-3 fatty acids not only keep hair thick and full, but helps your skin look radiant. Because omega-3 fatty acids fight inflammation, they can help prevent hair loss, fight acne, lower your risk of heart disease, and are important for healthy brain functions. Omega-3 fatty acids primarily support hair growth by reducing inflammation.
Zinc is a trace mineral that helps support cellular replication and the production of proteins, thereby supporting hair growth.
Selenium is an essential nutrient that is not made in the body but can be found in foods like spinach, eggs, chicken, and yellowfin tuna. Selenium contributes to the health of your joints, eyes, reproductive system, and immune system. It is also required as a cofactor in certain enzymes for hair growth.
Selenium also has antioxidant properties, which means it helps reverse some of the damage to cells and tissues caused by free radicals. In combination with zinc, selenium supports healthy hair growth by maintaining healthy hormone levels, metabolism, and the production of hair.
Your body only needs a trace of selenium, as too much can cause brittle nails, hair loss, skin rashes, fatigue, and irritability.
What Vitamins are Good for Hair Growth and Thickness?
Vitamins that contain the aforementioned ingredients will help support healthy hair growth. However, if you are having pattern hair loss or more specifically androgenetic alopecia or female pattern hair loss, you may also need to use a DHT Blocker along with your hair vitamins.
Here's our article on how to tell the difference between different kinds of hair loss.