Health experts agree that eating a well-balanced diet that contains the 13 essential vitamins can help maintain the health of your hair. Essential vitamins include A, D, E, K, C, and the B-complex group: thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid, biotic, vitamin B-6, vitamin B-12, and folate.
Much has been written about the benefits of vitamins D and B for hair growth. We’ve evaluated the claims, so read on for more.
Vitamin D keeps the bones and skin healthy, and in recent years, it’s also been linked to hair growth. A 2012 study in the journal Stem Cells Translational Medicine suggests that the vitamin can help create new follicles — little pores where new hair can grow.
Vitamin D, along with other recently discovered chemicals, may also help wake up follicles that have become dormant, according to researchers at Harvard. Balding occurs when your follicles are constantly dormant. But, even with awakened follicles, hair is not always produced.
Treatment products like Rogaine and Propetia can help with future hair loss, and getting enough vitamin D daily may also, but there is little evidence yet that it can bring hair back.
The Office of Dietary Supplements recommends adults to get 600 international units, or 15 micrograms, of vitamin D daily. Not everyone does, and statistics show that over a billion people worldwide are deficient.
Natural ways to get more vitamin D include eating fish (salmon, swordfish), mushroom, grains, and drinking some fortified orange juice and low-fat fortified milk. Going outside can also help, as the body produces vitamin D through direct contact with the sun.
If you choose to supplement, be careful. Vitamin D is fat-soluble and can build up in fat tissue at dangerous levels if you get too much. Over ingestion can cause there to be too much calcium in the blood, leading to fatigue or kidney problems. If you do take a supplement be sure to take it with a meal that has fat so it will be absorbed.
B complex vitamins are important for regulating metabolism and maintaining the central nervous system. But they’re also essential for healthy skin and hair, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. Some dietitians claim that the more popular B vitamins — such as B-12 (also called cobalamin), biotin, and niacin — can help strengthen and condition hair.
You should always try to get your vitamins from food first. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has published its daily recommended intake (DRI) for the B vitamins.
You can find the B-vitamin complex in whole grains, cauliflower, carrots, dark-leafy greens, beef liver, poultry, eggs, soybeans, nuts, avocados, and legumes.
Vitamin B-12 is found in animal-sourced foods such as meat and dairy. If you’re worried you may be deficient — usually older people, vegans, and vegetarians have this issue — you can take a supplement. An adult should have 2.4 micrograms a day. B-12 is relatively safe, without a real cut-off limit. Check with your doctor before you try supplements.
Much has been written by beauty and health experts on the benefits of biotin for hair; however, the evidence is very weak. Biotin may cause problems with the skin and release of insulin if you ingest too much. The recommended amount is 30 micrograms. The University of Maryland Medical Center reports that it is very rare for an adult to be deficient in biotin. The same is true for niacin, although high levels of it can be very toxic. 16-17 milligrams is good for an adult.
We’ve gone over the vitamins that may be important for the health of your hair. But lifestyle changes can help just as much. Try:
- cutting back on gels, blow-drying, and brushing hair when wet
- lowering your stress by exercising at least 30 minutes a day
- drinking enough water, 6-8 glasses a day
Being mindful of the foods and drinks you consume, the products you use, and the way you manage stress, can all help improve the well-being of your hair.