Expert Advice on Taking Vitamins and Supplements for Hair Growth

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Iron, biotin and omega-3 fatty acids can help, but patients need to be realistic about results, advises Cleveland Clinic dermatologist

CLEVELAND, Ohio: A well-balanced diet is important for hair health, but in cases of hair loss, individuals may also benefit from taking vitamins and supplements such as biotin, vitamin A and omega-3 fatty acids, says an expert from leading global health system, Cleveland Clinic.

“All hair, whether it is healthy or not, has a relatively short life cycle,” says Cleveland Clinic dermatologist Shilpi Khetarpal, MD. “It’s normal to shed anywhere between 100 and 200 strands a day.”

Dr. Khetarpal says there are multiple reasons why people experience greater hair loss, as well as damage to the hair. “Coloring, blow-drying and over-washing can all harm your hair, but there are also other landmines. These include inadequate nutrition; certain medical conditions such as thyroid issues and anemia; as well as the impact of genetics, age and life events such as having major surgery or having a baby,” she says.

Here, Dr. Khertarpal discusses six vitamins and supplements that could help address the issue of hair loss or damage, as well as the type of results one could expect.

1. Multivitamins

Dr. Khetarpal says a multivitamin can help bridge a nutritional gap, and she recommends finding one with B vitamins, zinc and at least 2,000 international units of vitamin D. Both B vitamins and zinc play a role in hair follicle health, she explains. B vitamins also help in the creation of red blood cells, while vitamin D may help create new red blood cells.

Dr. Khetarpal adds that B vitamins are present in foods such as seafood, whole grains and dark leafy greens, while zinc is found in beef, lentils, oysters and spinach, and vitamin D is present in fatty fish, mushrooms and fortified juices, milk and cereals, among others.

2. Vitamin A

“Vitamin A is essential for your cells to grow, which, in turn, helps your hair grow,” says Dr. Khetarpal. “Your skin glands also benefit from vitamin A, using it to produce sebum (oil), which keeps your scalp moisturized and keeps hair healthy.”

She cautions, however, that too much vitamin A can actually cause hair loss, so only a moderate amount should be taken. The recommended daily allowance (RDA) of vitamin A is 700 micrograms for women and 900 micrograms for men.

Dr. Khetarpal adds that vitamin A is found naturally in foods such as milk, eggs, yogurt, sweet potatoes, carrots, spinach, pumpkin and kale.

3. Vitamin C

Vitamin C is well-known for its skin benefits, but it is beneficial for hair as well, according to Dr. Khetarpal.  “It helps fight free radicals, which can age your hair and block any growth. Vitamin C is also vital in creating collagen, the protein used to make keratin, which is what hair is mostly made of,” she says.

Strawberries, peppers or citrus fruits are good sources of vitamin C, according to the dermatologist.

4. Iron

“Iron is used by red blood cells to carry oxygen, but iron is also important for hair growth and health,” says Dr. Khetarpal. “Lack of iron also leads to anemia, which can cause hair loss. If you eat red meat fewer than two or three times a week, consider an iron supplement.”

Foods that contain iron include red meat, dark leafy greens and legumes like lentils, tofu and beans.

5. Omega-3 fatty acids

Omega-3 fatty acids are critical to cell health and are thought to make the scalp and hair healthier, says Dr. Khetarpal. Omega-3 naturally occurs in foods such as shellfish and flaxseed, but it can also be found in supplements such as fish oil.

6. Biotin

“Taking biotin for hair growth may be just what the stylist ordered. And since it’s a water-soluble B vitamin, any excess will leave your body through urine,” says Dr. Khetarpal, who advises taking  3 to 5 milligrams daily.

Biotin can also be obtained through diet by eating foods such as egg yolks, whole grains, fish, seeds, nuts, sweet potatoes, broccoli, cauliflower and meat.

Realistic results

Dr. Khetarpal says that the success of using a supplement or product depends more on the duration of hair loss than anything else. “People who’ve been losing hair for only two or three years are more likely to see noticeable results than those who have been losing it for 10 or 20 years. You may be able to restore your hair to what it was like five years ago, but not much beyond that,” she says.

“If individuals are worried about hair loss or not sure where to start, I recommend they visit a primary care doctor or dermatologist who can help safely determine which hair growth shampoos and supplements and treatments would be the most appropriate,” Dr. Khetarpal concludes.

About Cleveland Clinic

Cleveland Clinic is a nonprofit multispecialty academic medical center that integrates clinical and hospital care with research and education. Located in Cleveland, Ohio, it was founded in 1921 by four renowned physicians with a vision of providing outstanding patient care based upon the principles of cooperation, compassion and innovation. Cleveland Clinic has pioneered many medical breakthroughs, including coronary artery bypass surgery and the first face transplant in the United States. U.S. News & World Report consistently names Cleveland Clinic as one of the nation’s best hospitals in its annual “America’s Best Hospitals” survey. Among Cleveland Clinic’s 72,500 employees worldwide are more than 5,050 salaried physicians and researchers, and 17,800 registered nurses and advanced practice providers, representing 140 medical specialties and subspecialties. Cleveland Clinic is a 6,500-bed health system that includes a 173-acre main campus near downtown Cleveland, 22 hospitals, more than 220 outpatient facilities, including locations in northeast Ohio; southeast Florida; Las Vegas, Nevada; Toronto, Canada; Abu Dhabi, UAE; and London, England. In 2021, there were 10.2 million total outpatient visits, 304,000 hospital admissions and observations, and 259,000 surgical cases throughout Cleveland Clinic’s health system. Patients came for treatment from every state and 185 countries.