Are you suffering from hair loss and have no clue if they will ever regrow? Loosing around 100 hairs a day is perfectly normal but if anything above this number is a reason to worry. You would be surprised to know that there are several essential vitamins for hair growth and they are vitamin C, vitamin D, and vitamin E. Also, you compliment it with food items in your daily diet plan to prevent hair loss and improve hair growth.
Our hair, like the rest of our body, needs adequate nutrition to grow which is provided by a vast array of nutrients like iron, zinc, etc. Also, you can take food and herbs such as aloe vera juice, fish oils, rosemary essential oil, etc.
Family history and poor nutrition form the most common causes of alopecia (hair loss) in males and females respectively. Several medications are available currently to treat hair loss, but due to noticeable side effects, natural therapies are favored.
- Recommended read: 13 Natural Hair Loss Cure Options Which You Can Do at Home
Moving ahead in this article, you will come to know various vitamins for hair growth, food items, and herbs in detail. Also, we will let you know the cause of reduced hair growth and conventional treatment options.
Causes of reduced hair growth
Hair growth is affected by a number of factors like nutritional status, age, genetics and environmental factors. Research shows that almost 50% of men suffer from hair loss by the time they are 50 while 30% of women face these problems at 50.
Genetics play a significant role in retarding hair growth in males while poor nutrition is the primary cause of hair fall in females. (1) Some common causes of hair fall are as follows –
- Poor nutrition
- Family history
- Hormonal changes (lead to male and female pattern of baldness)
- Thyroid disorders
- Certain medications
- Autoimmune conditions (causes alopecia areata)
- PCOD (polycystic ovarian disease)
7 essential vitamins for hair growth
1. Vitamin B complex
Vitamins B5 (pantothenic acid) and B7 (biotin) are important vitamins for hair growth. They maintain the strength and shine of our hair strands.
These micronutrients also repair any damage to our hair caused by sun and dust exposure, over-shampooing, blow-drying, and hot ironing. Conventional medicines and cosmetic products aimed at increasing scalp hair density and minimizing mid-fiber breakage.
A new treatment method containing a concoction of substances including pantothenol (a reduced version of pantothenic acid) has shown significant improvement in increasing hair fiber thickness and hence. It can be used to treat hair thinning which is a commonly seen pattern of hair loss in a female. (2)
Pregnancy is one of the significant causes of biotin deficiency in addition to smoking and impaired liver function. During pregnancy and breastfeeding, the baby needs high amounts of biotin for the functioning of important enzymes like carboxylase. This is also required for growth and development.
Hence, the intake of biotin in your diet during this essential period of motherhood is increased as compared to your usual recommended daily allowance of 300 micrograms. (3)
Food items rich in biotin and pantothenic acid are of beef, chicken, avocado, nuts, beans, and potatoes. Vitamin B complex supplements are also available in tablet form.
2. Vitamin C
As we grow old, free radicals and reactive oxygen species get accumulated and harm various tissues in our body by damaging protein, lipid, and DNA. This forms the basis of many problems that come with old age like hair graying and hair loss, skin wrinkling, vision and hearing impairment, etc.
Vitamin C has the maximum anti-oxidant action among all vitamins, and hence, it reduces the number of free radicals in the scalp. Undoubtedly, vitamin C is one the most important vitamins for hair growth.
A daily intake of adequate vitamin C will delay the appearance of those dreaded silver strands and at the same time, prevent hair fall. (4)
A large variety of food items rich in vitamin C are available- oranges, lemons, avocados, Brussels, kale, red peppers, broccoli, strawberries, and kiwi. Since vitamin C increases absorption of iron, it is also available as tablets in combination with iron.
Zinc is a co-factor for a majority of enzymes involved in essential body functions including hair follicle growth and maintenance. Zinc also inhibits the regression of hair follicles and helps in their rapid regeneration following injury.
Lower serum zinc values have an association with all the four varieties of hair loss – alopecia areata, male pattern baldness, female pattern baldness and telogen effluvium.
A 2013 study published in the Annals of Dermatology showed the relationship between zinc deficiency and hair loss. Alopecia areata and telogen effluvium showed more dependence on serum zinc levels as compared to the other types of alopecia. (5)
Another clinical study in which 50 milligrams of zinc gluconate was given orally to alopecia areata patients with low serum zinc levels was published in 2009.
Nine out of fifteen patients showed a positive therapeutic effect after their zinc stores were restored. This study also established the role of zinc supplementation as adjuvant therapy for alopecia areata patients who are resistant to traditional therapeutic methods. (6)
Some rich sources of zinc which you can add in your diet are oysters, red meat, chicken, lobsters, crabs, nuts, and beans.
Iron is an essential mineral in our body which participates in oxygen transport and several critical bodily reactions. Iron deficiency is one the most common causes of anemia, especially in women.
It will not only cause fatigue and pallor but, will also lead to different types of hair loss like alopecia areata, androgenetic alopecia, and telogen effluvium. (7)
A case-control study was conducted in Iran to establish an association between diffuse telogen hair loss and low serum ferritin (a protein which stores iron) levels in women aged 15-45 years. Eight out of nine women with iron deficiency anemia suffered from diffuse telogen hair loss.
The study suggested that serum ferritin levels less than or equal to 30 milligrams per milliliter can lead to alopecia in the long run. (8)
You can get adequate iron from iron-rich foods such as spinach, egg yolk, beef steak, jaggery (a healthier version of white sugar) and black beans.
However, you must be careful of iron toxicity which comes with a huge baggage of adverse effects of its own such as nausea, vomiting, cramps, liver damage and diabetes.
5. Vitamin D
Vitamin D, a hormone produced by our body, regulates calcium levels, increases bone strength, enhances immunity and helps in cell growth and differentiation. Its deficiency leads to various problems like rickets in children, osteomalacia (a condition with frequent fractures), and alopecia areata.
Alopecia areata is an auto-immune inflammatory condition affecting hair roots which results in an early hair loss. A cross-sectional study involving healthy volunteers, patients of alopecia areata, and those suffering from vitiligo was published in the British Journal of Dermatology.
The serum levels of vitamin D (25-hydroxycholecalciferol) was found to be the lowest in the patients of alopecia areata as compared to those suffering from vitiligo and healthy volunteers.
The severity of hair loss was inversely proportional to the amount of vitamin D. Researchers also found that treatment of alopecia with vitamin D supplements became easier with the screening of patients for their vitamin D levels. (9)
Direct sun exposure for 10-15 minutes will provide about 10,000 units of vitamin D. Some other sourced of vitamin D are cod liver oil, salmon, eel, mackerel, swordfish, some kinds of mushrooms and fortifies foods.
6. Vitamin E
Vitamin E is an excellent anti-oxidant and it is one of best vitamins for hair growth. It can get rid of harmful free radicals and reactive oxygen species (ROS). One of the many causes of Alopecia (hair loss) is oxidative stress in the scalp.
A study involving 38 volunteers suffering from hair loss revealed that those who were given vitamin E supplementation showed a 34.5% increase in hair growth while the other group which received placebo showed only a 0.1% increase. (10)
Good sources of vitamin E are avocados, spinach, almonds and sunflower seeds.
Other food products which enhance hair growth
1. Fish oil
Fish oil is an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids needed for increasing hair growth. Mackerel, tuna, salmon, white fish, and sardines are an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids and must be included in your diet for healthy hair.
A study published in the Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology evaluated the effect of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids along with anti-oxidants on hair loss.
After six months of supplementing the diet of 120 healthy females with these substances, it was found that 89.9% of females showed reduced hair loss. There was an improvement in the hair diameter of 86% subjects and increased hair density of 87% women. (11)
2. Rosemary essential oil
Rosemary oil increases cell growth and metabolism and hence, keeps your hair follicles young and healthy. A 2015 study comparing the efficacy of rosemary oil with minoxidil (a conventional medication for hair loss) was published.
After six months of treatment, it was revealed that rosemary oil was equally effective for hair growth as minoxidil. The use of essential oil had no side effects. However, minoxidil use has shown scalp itching and dryness. (12)
Aloe vera has multifaceted uses in skin care, wound healing, hair growth, and beauty products. It soothes the skin of the scalp and provides conditioning for healthy hair growth.
It also has anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant actions which reduce the harmful free radicals in the scalp. Its antimicrobial activity makes it useful as an anti-dandruff medication.
A study involving laboratory rats published in Anatomy and Cell Biology showed that aloe vera application on surgical wounds reduced inflammation at the site of incision, promoted wound healing and improved hair growth in the affected area. (13)
Conventional treatment of hair loss
Although our hair doesn’t have any significant role in maintaining our health, its aesthetic value makes it an important target for medicine and cosmetic companies. A vast array of drugs is currently available for the different types of hair loss.
- Finasteride (Propecia) – It’s a 5-alpha-reductase inhibitor which reduces the conversion of testosterone to 5-alpha-dihydrotestosterone. It’s used in male pattern baldness.
- Minoxidil (Rogaine) – It increases the blood supply to your scalp and hence, keeps the hair follicles healthy.
- Spironolactone (Aldactone) – it’s a diuretic, and one of its off-label uses is to prevent hair fall.
- Cimetidine (Tagamet) – It’s mainly used for stomach problems although it has some use in alopecia as well.
Points to take home on vitamins for hair growth
Loss of hair from our head causes a loss of self-confidence and self-esteem because of its immense aesthetic value. The most prevalent cause of diminished hair growth is poor nutrition.
Biotin and pantothenic acid improve the strength and shine of our hair strands while vitamins C, E and A provide anti-oxidant action.
Vitamin D, zinc and iron supplements promote young and healthy hair follicles. Rosemary oil, fish oil, and aloe vera are some other natural therapies favored over the conventional anti-hair fall drugs currently available in the market.
Above discussed vitamins for hair growth and proper diet will go a long way in preventing much-feared hair loss.