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 you have a vitamin deficiency then you may experience hair loss and your hair won’t be able to grow to its full potential. So what vitamin deficiencies cause hair loss?
What Vitamin Deficiency Causes Hair Loss and Breakage?
Which vitamins are the best for hair? To find out it is important to know which deficiencies cause poor hair growth. Based on our research, here is a list of the top 11 vitamins and minerals for healthy hair growth.
1. Vitamin C Deficiency Hair Loss
Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant and integral vitamin to the immune system. It plays a role in collagen production and the absorption of iron. A deficiency in this vitamin may contribute to hair loss or brittle, weak hair.3 Vitamin C deficiency is known to cause scurvy, an ancient disease that resulted in poor gum health and other connective tissue problems.
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 Deficiency Hair Loss
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.
Vitamin B-12 Deficiency Hair Loss
Vitamin B12 is involved in the synthesis of DNA and the production of red blood cells. Blood is made up of oxygen-carrying red blood cells and Vitamin B-12 is essential to producing enough red blood cells. Having enough circulation ensures good hair growth.
Studies have found that low serum vitamin B12 levels is a common trait in those with forms of hair loss, particularly telogen effluvium.21
You can find vitamin B-12 in beef liver, clams, dairy products, eggs, and fortified cereals.
Vitamin B-9 (Folate) Deficiency Hair Loss
Folate, also known as vitamin B9 or folic acid, plays a central role in the synthesis of DNA, RNA, and proteins. All of these processes 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.
Folate, like iron, is involved with producing red blood cells and therefore helps maintain healthy skin, nails, and hair. Folate deficiency can contribute to anemia and impairs the proper transport of oxygen and nutrients to hair cells.20
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.
Vitamin E comes in eight naturally occurring forms, though alpha-tocopherol is the only usable form recognized to meet human needs. Concentrations of vitamin E in the blood are regulated by the liver, which takes up vitamin E after its various forms have been absorbed by the small intestine.
Vitamin E is naturally found in numerous foods. Alpha-tocopherol is found in nuts, seeds, vegetable oils, and green leafy vegetables. Many breakfast cereals are also fortified with alpha-tocopherol. In the average American diet, vitamin E most commonly comes in the form of gamma-tocopherol, which is found in canola, soybeans, corn, and related vegetable oils.
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. This is because vitamin A is an essential component of the protein rhodopsin, which is responsible for absorbing light in retinal receptors. Vitamin A 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
Vitamin A is available in two forms in the human diet. Preformed vitamin A, comprising retinol and retinyl ester, comes from animal sources of food, including fish, dairy products, and meat, particularly liver. Provitamin A carotenoids, including alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, and beta-cryptoxanthin, are compounds that are converted into vitamin A in the body. Provitamin A carotenoids comprise plant pigments and are most often found in orange-colored fruits and vegetables, including carrots, sweet potatoes, pumpkins, and squash. Both preformed vitamin A and provitamin A carotenoids must still be converted into active forms of vitamin A (retinal and retinoic acid).24
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 Deficiency Hair Loss
While the main role of vitamin D is to maintain healthy levels of calcium and phosphorous in the blood, research shows that vitamin D has important roles in hair growth.7 Vitamin D plays an important role in maintaining immune health. Immune systems can sometimes attack the body’s own hair follicles, causing poor growth and hair loss. Some of these autoimmune conditions include alopecia areata and alopecia totalis. Supplementation with vitamin D can help blunt inflammatory responses that impair hair growth.
Vitamin D is synthesized endogenously when your skin is exposed to UV rays from the sun. This means that 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 investing in a sun lamp or taking a vitamin D supplement.
Vitamin D is not found in many foods naturally, though beef liver, salmon, and eggs are good sources of vitamin D. Most of the vitamin D in the average American diet comes from fortified foods, including milk, breakfast cereals, and some brands of yogurt, orange juice, and margarine. 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.
Iron is an essential mineral that mainly plays a role in the production of hemoglobin, a substance in red blood cells that allows them to carry oxygen throughout the body, 8 including cells that contribute to hair growth.
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 deficiencies can result in a variety of symptoms, including extreme fatigue, poor appetite, and brittle nails. Without iron, hair cells may lack the necessary oxygen and nutrients to properly grow, potentially resulting in hair loss or brittle hair.18
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.
Dietary iron comes in heme and nonheme forms. Meat, seafood, and poultry contain both heme and nonheme, while plant sources and fortified foods generally only contain nonheme iron. Heme iron has a higher bioavailability than nonheme iron, and sources of heme iron can increase the absorption of nonheme iron.
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, particularly nonheme iron, more effectively, so make sure to include lots of foods containing this antioxidant in your diet in order to ensure optimal absorption and bioavailability of iron.
7. Magnesium Deficiency Hair Loss
Magnesium is necessary for the division, growth, and function of cells. Magnesium participates in more than 300 biochemical reactions in the body including growth of hair. Many enzymes require magnesium to function, particularly those involved with transferring energy and nucleic acid synthesis. Magnesium is also necessary for the structural development of bones, as well as synthesis of DNA, RNA, and glutathione (a vital antioxidant).
Because of magnesium’s role in metabolism and metabolic reactions having ample magnesium supports hair growth. Low magnesium may contribute to hair loss or weakening particularly in women going through menopause.24
Magnesium also helps support a healthy immune system, 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
Signs of magnesium deficiency include nausea, weakness, fatigue, vomiting, irregular heart rhythms, muscle contractions, and hair loss.
Thankfully, magnesium is easily found in plant and animal sources. In general, any foods containing dietary fiber also provide magnesium. This includes green leafy vegetables, nuts, legumes, seeds, and whole grains. Magnesium is also commonly added to breakfast cereals and fortified foods. However, some forms of food processing can significantly deplete the magnesium content in foods. For example, refined grains often undergo a process that removes the germ and bran, which are rich in magnesium and other nutrients.
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.
Symptoms of omega-3 fatty acid deficiency include poor memory, fatigue, dry skin, poor circulation, and mood swings.11
9. Zinc Deficiency Hair Loss
Zinc is an essential mineral that is involved in various parts of cellular metabolism, protein synthesis, and general immune function.
Zinc deficiency can cause hair loss, diarrhea, and eye and skin conditions.12
Having enough zinc supports cellular replication and the hair growth. Studies suggest that those experiencing some forms of hair loss have low zinc levels, and supplementing with zinc may contribute to hair growth.13
10. Selenium Deficiency Hair Loss
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.
11. Copper Deficiency Hair Loss
Copper is necessary for the proper metabolism and absorption of iron, both of which work together to help the body form red blood cells. Copper is also necessary to immune function and healthy bones, nerves, and blood vessels. Low copper levels may prevent proper creation of red blood cells, preventing a supply of nutrients to hair cells. Copper is also essential to the production of melanin, the compound responsible for providing skin, eyes, and hair with their color, so a copper deficiency may potentially contribute to premature greying hair.22
What are the best vitamins for hair loss?
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.