A deep conditioner will help make your locks silky, but if you really want longer and stronger strands, then you'll want to add some vitamins for hair growth to your daily menu.
“Vitamins are critical to the function of all cells in the body, including those responsible for generating hair," Suzanne Dixon, R.D., a registered dietitian with The Mesothelioma Center in Orlando, Florida tells Landcruisers. "The part of hair we see isn't composed of living cells, otherwise we couldn't cut it! This means the key to healthy hair lies with healthy hair follicles."
The cells that create hair experience some of the most rapid turnover of all the cells in the body, which is why you must constantly rebook that haircut. And any nutritional deficiencies affect these hair-producing cells very rapidly, which in turn shows up in hair loss, Dixon explains, as follicles stop producing hair or create dry, lackluster, or broken strands.
So what’s the nutritional secret? Turns out, it’s the same as the secret to stronger abs and arms.
“Protein is often called the building block of life because protein is made of amino acids. While muscle is 80 percent made of protein, our hair is entirely made of a protein called keratin,” Stephanie Gray, D.N.P., M.S., A.R.N.P., a doctorally-prepared functional medicine nurse practitioner and owner of Integrative Health and Hormone Clinic in Hiawatha, Iowa tells Landcruisers.
If other parts of the body aren’t supplied with enough protein, they’ll steal it from your strands.
“Keratin is formed from amino acids, and the body will rob from the hair if it needs protein (amino acids) for other functions since you don’t need hair to live," Gray explains. "It’s more important that your body have energy than grow hair, so if you need amino acids for energy hair may be what suffers. This is why you don’t want to be nutritionally deficient in protein."
Beyond pumping up the protein in your diet, consider your nutrient consumption. The following vitamins for hair growth have been proven to help support the body’s optimal use of protein.
RDA for adult women: 18 mg
Best food sources: Fortified breakfast cereal, oysters, white beans, dark chocolate, beef liver.
Korean researchers found that proper iron levels can help combat hair loss in women.
“Iron is required for the formation of red blood cells which carry oxygen and nutrients to the hair to help it grow," Gray says. "I commonly check my patient's iron and ferritin, or iron storage, levels. If not optimal they need to supplement.”
Red meat is a stellar source, but you can hit the ideal iron levels even if you’re on a vegan diet. The key lies in pairing vegetarian protein sources with vitamin C so they’re absorbed easier by the body. Try bell peppers with beans or lentils with broccoli.
RDA for adult women: 30 mcg
Best food sources: Beef liver, eggs, salmon, pork, ground beef.
Biotin, also known as vitamin B7, “is critical for creating the building blocks of hair,” Dixon says. “If you don't have enough biotin, your body can't build healthy keratin protein.”
Low biotin levels have been shown to lead to hair loss, cradle cap in newborns, and dermatitis, Gray adds.
RDA for adult women: 1.1 g
Best food sources: Flaxseed oil, chia seeds, English walnuts, salmon, herring.
Fish oil isn’t just good for your heart, brain, and skin.
“Essential fatty acids like fish oil are commonly found in hair support supplements," Gray says. "Just as it can lubricate the skin, it can also help to minimize dry nails by lubricating them.”
RDA for adult women: 150 mcg
Best food sources: Cod liver oil, swordfish, salmon, canned tuna, fortified orange juice.
Deficient in vitamin D? It can impact more than your bone health.
“A 2019 review of available research on the connection between micronutrients and hair growth concluded evidence is good that supplementing vitamin D can improve hair loss issues if vitamin D levels are low,” Dixon says.
Vitamin D regulates gene expression in nearly every cell in the body, including hair follicles, and it’s crucial to promote normal cycles of cell growth and replication. “Not getting enough vitamin D can lead to cells in hair follicles not being replaced properly," Dixon says. "This, in turn, may lead to hair thinning and hair loss over time."
It may be tough to tell if you’re shy in this vitamin, so if you're concerned about your D levels, ask your doctor to order a blood test.
RDA for adult women: 75 mg
Best food sources: Red sweet pepper, orange juice, oranges, grapefruit juice, kiwifruit.
Vitamin C plays a crucial role in protein metabolism, according to the National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements. A new review in the journal Dermatological Therapy confirmed that vitamin C deficiency has been tied to hair loss — and sufficient vitamin C consumption boost intestinal absorption of protein.
Just remember that none of these vitamins for hair growth are going to be a surefire fix.
“If you're not deficient, supplementing or eating a lot of nutrients is not going to improve hair health,” Dixon says. “And if you're abusing your hair with a lot of heavy-duty heat styling, such as extra-hot hair dryers, flat irons or curling irons, all the vitamins in the world won't fix your hair damage.”