June 4th, 2017 Written by a Staff Member of Hair Loss in Women
If you aren’t seriously vitamin deficient (deficiencies are rare in the United States) then supplementation may not help regrow your hair. However, if you’re slightly deficient, you may see a difference in the thickness and quality of your hair. If you suspect that you are vitamin, mineral, or trace mineral deficient, you need to find out where you’re deficient through a blood test (except magnesium, which isn’t measured accurately in a blood test).
And remember that diet and supplementation doesn’t change your genetics, how you treat your hair, and reactions to medications that you’re taking.
The best way to make sure that you aren’t deficient is through your diet, as opposed to supplementation. But you’ll have a hard time getting all of the vitamins, minerals, and trace minerals through your diet, so taking supplements is a good option. One of your best options is a high quality, highly assimilable multivitamin.
Modern soil isn’t as rich in essential vitamins and minerals as it was 100 years ago. This means even if you eat a really clean diet, you may still suffer from a vitamin or mineral deficiency.
If you clean up your diet, and your hair doesn’t regrow or improve in quality, you will still have taken a great step towards greater health. Your skin, energy levels, and overall health will improve.
B6, B12, and Folic Acid
Vegetarians and vegans are often lacking in vitamins B6, B12, and folic acid, which are also important for healthy hair. You can get B6 from sunflower seeds, pistachios, fish, turkey, chicken, dried fruit such as prunes, apricots, and raisins; lean beef, avocado, bananas, and spinach. B12 you can get mostly from animal sources: meat, fish, eggs, and dairy. The top sources of folic acid are dark leafy greens, asparagus, broccoli, citrus fruits, beans, seeds, avocados, seeds, and nuts.
Biotin (Vitamin B7)
Biotin is one of the most popular supplements for regrowing hair. But does it really work?
Also known as vitamin H, vitamin B7, or coenzyme R, biotin contributes to the strength of your hair and nails. It’s essential for cells to metabolize protein, fat, and carbohydrates, and regulate blood sugar levels. If your metabolism is poor, then your hair follicles will not have the nourishment they need, leading to hair loss and unhealthy hair. A study done at Harvard concluded that biotin is one of the essential nutrients for hair strength, texture, and appearance.
If you’re biotin deficient, then supplementing or eating biotin rich foods should help your hair. Biotin deficiency isn’t common, as the bacteria in your intestines produce more than what you require daily. But there are people who tend to have lower levels: alcoholics, people suffering from metabolic disorders, athletes, epileptics, the elderly, and people who have had gastric bypass surgery, pregnant women (studies have shown that around 50% are biotin deficient), and nursing mothers. Because biotin is found in eggs, liver, salmon, and sardines, vegans are also at risk for biotin deficiency. People that consume raw eggs for a long period of time also develop a biotin deficiency because of avidin, a protein found in uncooked egg whites.
Symptoms of biotin deficiency are hair loss, red rashes on your skin, scaly skin, depression, lack of focus, numbness and tingling in extremities, and conjunctivitis (pink eye).
Biotin is water-soluble, so it’s not stored in your body. There are no reports of people reaching toxic levels of biotin in their bodies.
There isn’t sufficient evidence of biotin’s effects on women dealing with hair loss, but because of its importance in normal hair health, and because there haven’t been any cases overdosing, it’s worth adding to your hair regrowth regimen. Many people swear by the use of biotin.
Additionally, there’s no research showing the effectiveness of biotin in shampoos and other hair products. It seems to be more effective when taken as a supplement.
Low Iron (Anemia)
If your diet is low in iron rich foods, or if you have heavy periods, you may see it in thinning hair. Common symptoms of anemia are fatigue, headaches, lack of focus, poor sleep, cold hands and feet. To find out if you’re iron deficient, your doctor can give you a blood test.
You can supplement iron, but the best way to get iron in your diet is to eat iron rich foods as a regular part of your diet. Sources include beef, pork, fish, leafy greens, and beans, especially in combination with vitamin C, which enhances the absorption of iron.
As with vitamin D, a large percentage of adults in the US are deficient in magnesium. Blood tests usually won’t reveal the deficiency, as only 1% of the magnesium in your body is in your blood. The top dietary sources are:
- Black Beans
- Pumpkin Seeds
- Cooked Spinach
- Rice Bran
- Dried Coriander
- Flax Seed
- Brazil Nuts
- Sunflower Seeds
- Dark Chocolate
Magnesium can also be good for relieving muscular tension, such as back or neck pain.
Saw palmetto is a palm plant native to North America that produces small berries. Native Americans have used these berries medicinally for centuries. Saw palmetto is now used for treating an enlarged prostate, bladder infections, and normalizing sex drive.
For hair loss, researcher believe saw palmetto is an androgen blocker (similar to finasteride), meaning that it blocks dihydrotestosterone (DHT) from attacking hair follicles, causing hair miniaturization in women (making hair thinner). So it functions similarly to Aldactone, which also blocks 5-alpha-reductase, the enzyme that converts the small amount of testosterone in a woman’s body to DHT.
There isn’t a lot of research about the effectiveness of saw palmetto, but it seems to be mildly effective – even minoxidil includes saw palmetto in their formula. That’s if your female hair loss is due to androgenic or androgenetic alopecia, where androgens are the cause of your hair loss.
Side effects of saw palmetto are mild, if they ever occur. It’s not recommended for women to take while pregnant, and you shouldn’t take it up to two weeks before surgery, as it may slow blood clotting.
Saw palmetto isn’t necessarily fast. Users generally report benefits after two to twelve months of regular use.
One of the best things about this supplement is that it can be used with other forms of treatment as part of a comprehensive women’s hair loss treatment program. It’s also relatively inexpensive (you’ll probably end up spending less than $20 per month for a high quality brand.)
Vitamin E helps prevent hair loss and is an important part of hair regrowth. Some even apply it topically, though it seems to be less effective than getting it through your diet or supplementation. Sources include spinach, nuts, avocados, olive oil, shrimp, broccoli, pumpkin, and squash.
One of our favorite companies, Biotics, has a highly absorbable supplement available on Amazon:
Vitamin D Deficiency (Hypovitaminosis D)
Approximately 50% of adult Americans are deficient in the “sunshine vitamin,” vitamin D. Your chances are higher if you live in a colder climate with less sun exposure, and if you have darker skin (melanin reduces the skin’s ability to make vitamin D in response to sunlight exposure). You could also have low vitamin D levels because of your body’s inability to absorb enough vitamin D because of your intestines made shorter by surgery, gastric bypass, and intestinal diseases, as well as chronic kidney disease, and liver failure.
If you’re vegan, your chances of vitamin D deficiency are also higher, because most of the natural sources are animal-based, including fish and fish oils, egg yolks, cheese, fortified milk, and beef liver.
People with a body mass index of 30 or greater often have low blood levels of vitamin D.
It is difficult to get enough vitamin D from your diet. Vitamin D is mainly a natural product of the body synthesizing sun light. However, increased sun exposure can be dangerous for your skin. The best way to make sure that you aren’t deficient is through your diet, as opposed to supplementation. The recommended daily allowance is 600 IUs if you’re under 70 years old, and 700 for those over 70.
Silica is essential for hair, skin, nails, teeth, gums, as well as your bones, joints, and cartilage. Some studies have shown that it can counteract the effects of aluminum on the body, which supports neurological health.
Zinc, Selenium, Copper, and Hormone Imbalance
People normally think of biotin when they think of supplements for hair regrowth, but zinc, selenium, and copper are also important for hair growth. Zinc and other trace elements such as copper and selenium are vital for the synthesis of thyroid hormones, and deficiency of these can result in hypothyroidism. Additionally, thyroid hormones are essential for the absorption of zinc, and hypothyroidism can create a zinc deficiency.
Supplement Combinations For Hair Regrowth
The Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology published a study in January of 2015 that was done by a team of researchers in the US, France, and Italy, and found that supplementing omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, plus antioxidants, improved the participants hair thickness and prevented further hair loss.
A group of 120 women with mild hair loss took the following combination daily for 6 months:
- Fish oil: 460 mg
- Blackcurrant seed oil: 460 mg
- Vitamin E: 5 mg
- Vitamin C: 30 mg
- Lycopene: 1 mg
62% of the participants increased their hair density, and 90% had a decrease in hair loss. Overall, 92% of the women who took the supplements were happy with the results. None of the women in the study were nutritionally deficient.
Blackcurrant oil can lower blood pressure, so if you have issues with low pressure, do not take it without your doctor’s consent and supervision.
Have you had any success with supplements for regrowing your hair? Is there a supplement that you’d like us to research and possibly write about? Please share your thoughts below in the comments section.