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.
The 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 re-grow 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
What is vitamin B6 good for?
Vitamin B6 is used by the body daily to help with major functions such as movement, memory, energy expenditure and blood flow. A vitamin B6 deficiency can show up in many different symptoms, some only temporary but others more serious.
Vitamin B6 also helps the body maintain a healthy nervous system, create hemoglobin which carries oxygen in red blood cells throughout the body, provide energy from the food that we eat, balance blood sugar levels, act as a natural pain treatment in the body, boost mood, and also create antibodies that our immune system uses to protect us.
You can get B6 from:
- sunflower seeds
- Dried fruit such as prunes, apricots, and raisins
- Lean beef
What is vitamin B12 good for?
Vitamin B12 is vital for your body to create red blood cells, neurological function, and DNA synthesis. A mild deficiency usually shows no symptoms. Some symptoms of a B12 deficiency can include weakness, tiredness, or lightheadedness. Heart palpitations or shortness of breath, pale skin, constipation, diarrhea, loss of appetite, nerve problems like numbness or tingling, muscle weakness and problems walking, vision loss and mental problems like depression, memory loss, or behavioral changes.
B12 you can get mostly from animal sources: meat, fish, eggs, and dairy.
What is folic acid good for?
Folic acid is responsible for cell repair in the body. A deficiency of folic acid can cause anemia, fatigue, gray hair, tongue swelling, growth problems.
The top sources of folic acid are:
- Dark leafy greens
- Citrus fruits
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.
The top sources of biotin are:
Since biotin is mostly found in animal products, 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 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.
What is Iron good for?
Iron is essential in creating red blood cells.
An iron deficiency is also more commonly known as 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.
- Leafy greens
*Vitamin C enhances the absorption of iron.
What is magnesium good for?
Magnesium is responsible for biochemical reactions in the body which includes protein synthesis, muscle and nerve function, blood glucose control, and blood pressure regulation. Magnesium is also required for energy production, oxidative phosphorylation, and glycolysis.
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.
What is Saw Palmetto good for?
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.)
What is Vitamin E good for?
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 (Hypovitaminosis D)
What is Vitamin D good for?
Vitamin D is responsible for strong bone development and maintenance, neuromuscular and immune function, and reduction of inflammation.
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.
Most people actually acquire the majority of their vitamin D from sun exposure. It is difficult to get enough vitamin D from your diet. However, increased sun exposure can be dangerous for your skin. The recommended amount of vitamin D can be achieved by exposing both your arms and legs in the sun for about 20-30 minutes a day, two to three times a week.
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.
What is silica good for?
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.
Silica is mainly found in water, coffee, and some vegetables.
Zinc, Selenium, Copper, and Hormone Imbalance
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.
Zinc is found in:
- raw oysters (Pacific)
- beef, lean chuck roast, braised
- baked beans, canned
- crab, King Alaskan, cooked
- ground beef, lean
- lobster, cooked
- pork loin, lean, cooked
- wild rice, cooked
- peas, green, cooked
- yogurt, plain
- peanuts, dry roasted
Selenium is found in:
- Nuts, like Brazil nuts and walnuts
- Much fresh and saltwater fish, like tuna, cod, red snapper, and herring
- Beef and poultry
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 participant’s 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.