The Independent Pharmacy

What Are Hair Loss Vitamins And How Do They Help

Scott McDougall
Scott McDougallMPharmDirector & Registered Manager

Reviewed on 3 Oct 2023

Hair loss vitamins should be an essential part of any hair growth journey, as they may help you prevent further shedding and lead to fuller, healthier hair. Vitamins E, A, D, biotin, folic acid and niacin are only a few of the important nutrients that could impact your overall hair health. You can often find these vitamins in foods that are easy to include in your daily balanced diet. However, there are also vitamin supplements that could help you hit the daily recommended amount of each vitamin.

Hair loss can be deeply distressing, affecting one's confidence and self-image for both men and women. At The Independent Pharmacy, we understand how challenging this journey can be. As hairs begin to thin and fall out in clumps, it's natural to want to take action right away. Many, in their quest for hope and healing, turn to hair loss vitamins, seeking a gentle, natural solution.

But do these vitamins really live up to their claims?

What Are Hair Loss Vitamins?

Hair loss vitamins refer to vitamin supplements intended to support healthy hair and reduce excessive thinning or shedding. They aim to provide key nutrients that may be lacking in a person's diet to promote optimal hair health and growth.

These speciality supplements often contain a strategic blend of B complex vitamins like biotin and niacin, antioxidants such as vitamin E and vitamin C, and essential minerals including iron, zinc, and selenium. They are formulated to nurture hair follicles, strengthen existing strands, improve blood circulation to the scalp, and stimulate new growth.

People take hair loss vitamins as an easy, non-invasive way to get ahead of deficits that may contribute to less-than-optimal hair health. While not overnight miracles, they may help strengthen locks, reduce hair fall, and improve density when used consistently. They are generally considered safe if taken as directed.

The Science Behind Hair Loss Vitamins

To understand how hair loss vitamins may work, it helps to know how healthy hair grows at the cellular level. Hair follicles, the tiny pockets in our skin where hair grows from, need a steady supply of nutrients to work their best. Essential vitamins, minerals, proteins, and other compounds in the bloodstream get delivered to follicles through tiny blood vessels underneath.

When we don't get enough of the right nutrients from our diet or due to certain health issues, these hair follicles can struggle, leading to hair problems. Hair growth cycles can shorten, and strands thin out as follicles shrink and enter prolonged rest phases.

Hair loss vitamins are designed to give hair follicles the nutrients they need. B complex vitamins like biotin and niacin help produce keratin, a type of protein that our hair is made of. Vitamin C helps the body make collagen, a protein that gives structure to our hair, skin, and nails. Vitamin E and other protective substances called antioxidants combat harmful molecules (free radicals) that can damage the tiny follicles where hair grows. And minerals like iron transport oxygen needed for growth.

While research on the efficacy of supplements for hair growth is still emerging, many vitamin components have shown promise in small studies. When the body has enough essential building blocks, follicles may function optimally to grow thicker, stronger hair.

Biotin (Vitamin B7)

Of all hair vitamins, biotin is one of the most popular and well-researched for hair health. This water-soluble B complex vitamin plays a major role in the production of keratin, a fibrous protein that makes up hair strands, skin cells, and nails. It also supports cell growth and DNA production.

Many people take biotin supplements in hopes of reducing hair thinning and shedding. Recommended daily intakes are 30 mcg for adults per the NIH. Good food sources include egg yolks, nuts, seeds, sweet potatoes, fish, dairy, and leafy greens.

For optimal absorption, look for supplements with biotin in capsule or liquid form rather than tablets. Have realistic expectations when taking biotin for hair loss, as benefits appear gradually over consistent use.

While biotin supplements can improve thickness, strength, and overall growth for some, there is not enough scientific evidence that support its incredible popularity on the market.

To make sure that your treatment for hair loss is safe and right for you, consult a medical professional who can provide you with recommendations based on your situation.

Vitamin E

Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant that helps protect cells from damage by free radicals. In hair health, it is thought to preserve and nourish follicles for optimal growth cycles.

This vitamin that's able to be dissolved in fats and oils may also promote circulation in the scalp. Improved blood flow provides follicles with more oxygen and nutrients to stimulate growth. It’s been used topically for years to enhance hair shine and texture.

The recommended dietary allowance for vitamin E is 15 mg per day for adults. Good sources include plant oils, nuts, seeds, spinach, broccoli, avocado, shrimp, trout, and fortified cereals.

In one study on people with hair loss, taking vitamin E supplements for 8 months increased hair numbers by 34.5% on average. However, combining it with other antioxidants worked even better for thicker, stronger hair.

Look for vitamin E from natural food sources when possible. Some of the supplemental forms of this vitamin to consider are alpha-tocopherol acetate and tocotrienol. Expect gradual but noticeable improvements in hair fullness over 4-6 months of daily supplementation.

Vitamin A

Vitamin A supports overall scalp health and sebum production. Sebum is the oily substance secreted by glands to moisturise hair and keep it conditioned.

This fat-soluble vitamin also aids the growth and development of all cells in the body. The recommended daily amount (often called RDA) of vitamin A for adults is measured in units called 'retinol activity equivalents' or RAE. For women aged 19 and above, it's 700 mcg RAE, and for men, it's 900 mcg RAE.

Good dietary sources of vitamin A include beef liver, milk, cheese, egg yolks, yellow-orange vegetables like carrots and sweet potatoes, and fruits like apricots, cantaloupe and mango.

While vitamin A deficiency can contribute to hair loss, more is not necessarily better. Getting too much-preformed vitamin A from animal sources can actually cause hair loss and lead to vitamin A toxicity. Stick within the recommended daily limits when eating liver or taking supplements.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D helps regulate cell growth and renewal, including hair follicles. Getting enough of this "sunshine vitamin" is important for healthy hair cycles.

Many people don't get enough vitamin D because only a few foods naturally have it. The recommended daily amount (RDA) is 600 IU (15 mcg) daily for adults. Good food sources include fatty fish, fish liver oils, egg yolks, fortified dairy and cereal, and beef liver.

Vitamin D also forms when the skin is exposed to UV rays. However, getting adequate sun can be difficult depending on latitude, skin pigmentation, time of year, and lifestyle. Supplements are often necessary, especially in winter.

Studies link vitamin D deficiency to alopecia areata and female pattern hair loss. Getting enough supports hair follicle health. Over 3-6 months, supplements may boost hair numbers and growth, especially when combined with minerals like zinc.

Try to get between 1000-5000 IU of a specific type of vitamin D, called vitamin D3, every day. This can come from the foods you eat and also from spending time in the sun. Look for supplements derived from lichen rather than lanolin wool grease for vegans. Work with your doctor to determine the right vitamin D dosage for hair and bone health.

Folic Acid (Vitamin B9)

Folic acid, also known as vitamin B9, is crucial for DNA synthesis and new cell generation. Since hair follicles are some of the most rapidly dividing cells in the body, folate is critical for healthy growth and renewal.

Folate deficiency has been linked to premature greying and hair loss. The recommended daily amount (RDA) for adults is 400 mcg DFE (dietary folate equivalent) daily from foods or supplements. Good dietary sources include lentils, spinach, asparagus, broccoli, peas, Brussels sprouts, and citrus fruits.

Because folate benefits overall cell reproduction, getting enough from foods and supplements supports optimal hair structure and renewal. It may prevent thinning associated with nutrient deficiencies.

When looking for folic acid supplements, you might come across complex names like 'calcium L-5-methyltetrahydrofolate' or '5-methyltetrahydrofolate glucosamine salt'. These are just specific types of folic acid. Use folate supplements cautiously and consult your GP if you have an autoimmune disorder or cancer risk.

Niacin (Vitamin B3)

Like other B vitamins, niacin or vitamin B3 is important for converting nutrients into energy. It helps supply hair follicles with the fuel needed to grow strong, healthy strands.

Niacin may also improve circulation to the scalp when taken regularly. Better blood flow ensures hair follicles receive ample oxygen and micronutrients for optimal functioning.

The RDA for niacin is 16 mg NE (niacin equivalent) daily. Food sources include chicken, tuna, salmon, mushrooms, peanuts, avocados, sunflower seeds, and brown rice.

In a research study, people who took 100 mg of niacin every day saw noticeable hair growth improvements after about 3 to 6 months. Participants saw thicker, fuller hair over 3-6 months. However, high doses may cause side effects.

Look for nicotinamide or inositol hexanicotinate forms of niacin. Start with 30-50 mg daily and increase slowly. Time and consistency are key to seeing benefits for hair.

Other Natural Ways to Combat Hair Loss

While vitamins for hair growth can provide nutritional support, hair health depends on many factors. Take a holistic approach by also incorporating other natural methods to boost growth and minimise shedding:

  • Scalp massages stimulate blood flow to hair follicles, bringing nutrients needed for optimal function. Use essential oils like peppermint, rosemary, or tea tree for added benefits.
  • Eat a well-balanced diet of foods rich in proteins, iron, zinc, omega-3s and other compounds vital to hair health. Consider nutritional supplements to fill any nutrient gaps suggested by testing.
  • Herbal remedies like ginseng, aloe vera, and saw palmetto may aid growth. Research is limited but points to anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and hormonal balancing effects.
  • Reduce emotional stress and anxiety, which disrupt normal hair cycles, potentially causing excess shedding. Try yoga, meditation, journaling, or counselling.
  • Avoid harsh hair treatments, tight hairstyles, and overuse of hot tools that can damage follicles and strands. Use gentle, nourishing products.

We recognise that there's no instant remedy, but with patience and consistent care, there's potential to nurture and improve your hair's health over time.

Making an Informed Choice: Selecting the Right Hair Loss Solution

Facing hair loss can feel overwhelming, especially with so many options out there. We're here to help guide you through these choices. Consider factors like your hair type, health conditions, healthy diet, lifestyle and extent of shedding.

Thinning from nutrient deficiency may be helped with targeted hair growth supplements like iron, zinc or biotin. Pattern baldness may require specialised formulas that address DHT levels, which is a hormone often linked to male pattern hair loss.

Look for hair vitamins backed by research showing improved thickness, growth, shine or density. Read reviews and ask your dermatologist for input on quality brands.

We understand the eagerness for results, but it's essential to set gentle expectations for oneself. Hair grows slowly at around 1⁄2 inch per month. Allow at least 3-6 months when taking vitamins or natural remedies for noticeable results. Manage expectations and be patient.

While hair growth supplements can provide nutritional support, work with doctors to diagnose any underlying causes. Hair loss may signal hormonal changes, autoimmune issues or health conditions needing proper treatment.

Potential Risks: Side Effects and Precautions

We care about your well-being. While hair vitamins are generally safe, it's essential to be aware of potential side effects. Always prioritise your health and safety:

  • Getting too much vitamin A from nutritional supplements long-term may lead to headaches, liver damage or even hair loss.
  • High doses of vitamin E could increase bleeding risks, especially when taken with blood thinners.
  • Too much vitamin D can cause vomiting, bone loss, kidney problems and calcium buildup in blood vessels.
  • Check with your doctor before taking biotin, which may interfere with thyroid or diabetes medications and lab test results.
  • Cut back on iron if it upsets your stomach or if you have a condition called hemochromatosis, where the body stores too much iron. Take supplements with food and as directed.

Tell your doctor about all medications and supplements you take to check for interactions. Cease use if any adverse reactions occur and address dosage.

Moderation and balance are key when taking vitamins and nutritional supplements for hair health. Only take very high doses of vitamins if a doctor is guiding you.

People Also Ask

Still have some questions about using vitamins for hair loss? Here are answers to some commonly asked questions.

What is the best vitamin for hair loss?

For thinning hair, biotin is a top choice and well-researched. Vitamin D and vitamin E also show significant promise based on studies. Using these core vitamins in combination provides nutritional support for healthy follicles.

Do vitamins actually help with hair loss?

Research shows certain vitamins do help improve measures of hair health like growth, thickness and density. However, benefits happen gradually over consistent use of 3-6 months. Manage expectations realistically and combine vitamins with other approaches for best results.

What supplements are needed for hair loss?

Look for a multivitamin providing key amounts of biotin, vitamins D and E, plus iron, zinc, omega-3s, silica and amino acids. Many speciality hair formulas include these, along with herbs and compounds that target DHT. Work with your doctor to determine which supplements make sense for your particular hair needs and health status.

What vitamins are good for hair loss NHS?

The UK's National Health Service recommends biotin and iron supplements for addressing hair loss, along with eating more foods rich in vitamin C, zinc and protein. Always consult your GP before taking any supplements to ensure safety and suitability.

Conclusion

We recognise the profound emotional impact of hair loss on one's self-esteem and overall well-being. While no solution is a “quick fix”, hair growth vitamins may provide nutritional support when hair thinning stems from vitamin deficiencies.

Key vitamins show promise for nurturing follicles, reducing shedding, and boosting growth based on emerging research. However, benefits manifest gradually over months of consistent use together with other holistic approaches.

We encourage you to collaborate closely with your healthcare provider. Together, you can uncover any underlying causes and find the best path forward. Rule out medical conditions that may warrant proper hair loss treatment beyond just taking supplements. Expect modest but measurable improvements when using hair growth vitamins properly alongside healthy lifestyle habits.

We know how daunting it can be to choose the right product amidst so many options. Always arm yourself with knowledge and trust your instincts. Look for evidence-based formulas backed by clinical studies showing real benefits for density, growth, strength and shine. While it's beneficial to address hair thinning early, we understand the anticipation for results. Remember, every individual's journey is different, and progress takes time.

We know it's a journey, and we're with you every step of the way. Remember, patience and consistency are your allies in this process. Allow several months before evaluating effectiveness. With smart strategies personalised to your needs, you can help support healthy, vibrant hair.

Sources:

Evaluation of the Safety and Effectiveness of Nutritional Supplements for Treating Hair Loss: A Systematic Review | Complementary and Alternative Medicine | JAMA Dermatology | JAMA Network

Effects of tocotrienol supplementation on hair growth in human volunteers - PubMed (nih.gov)

Vitamins and minerals - B vitamins and folic acid - NHS (www.nhs.uk)

A pilot study evaluating the efficacy of topically applied niacin derivatives for treatment of female pattern alopecia - PubMed (nih.gov)

A proprietary herbal extract against hair loss in androgenetic alopecia and telogen effluvium: a placebo-controlled, single-blind, clinical-instrumental study - PubMed (nih.gov)

Effect of a nutritional supplement on hair loss in women - Le Floc'h - 2015 - Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology - Wiley Online Library

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