You want hair so healthy that it shines. But can anything other than good genes turn you into a walking shampoo ad?
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Yes, says dermatologist Shilpi Khetarpal, MD, with the help of some vitamins for hair growth like vitamin A and biotin and omega-3 fatty acids.
From coloring and heat damage to aging and health problems, there’s a whole host of reasons you may want to boost your hair growth.
Dr. Khetarpal explains which vitamins to target and what kind of results you can expect.
Vitamins and supplements to help with hair growth
A well-balanced diet is the first key to top-notch tresses. But you may still need extra help to kick-start your hair restoration.
“Your primary care doctor or dermatologist can help you safely determine which hair growth shampoos and supplements would be the most appropriate,” Dr. Khetarpal says.
Here are six to consider for a full head of luxurious locks.
A multivitamin can help bridge your nutrition gap. Dr. Khetarpal recommends 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, with B vitamins helping in the creation of red blood cells. And vitamin D may help make new ones.
You can find B vitamins in foods like seafood, whole grain and dark leafy greens. As for zinc, the mineral is in foods like beef, lentils, oysters and spinach.
And if you eat fatty fish, mushrooms and fortified juices, milk and cereals, you’ll get a natural dose of vitamin D.
2. Vitamin A
What’s the fastest-growing tissue in your body? You guessed it — your hair. And vitamin A is essential for your cells to grow, which, in turn, helps your hair grow.
Your skin glands also benefit from vitamin A, using it to produce sebum. The sebum (oil) keeps your scalp moisturized and keeps hair healthy.
But don’t overdo it with vitamin A, as too much can cause hair loss.
The recommended dietary allowance (RDA) of vitamin A is 700 micrograms for women and 900 micrograms for men.
You can also find vitamin A naturally in foods like milk, eggs, yogurt, sweet potatoes, carrots, spinach, pumpkin and kale.
3. Vitamin C
You may already know that vitamin C is a powerhouse when it comes to your skin.
But when it comes to your hair, it helps fight free radicals, which can age your hair and block any growth.
And if you eat strawberries, peppers or citrus fruits, you’ll get a natural dose of vitamin C.
Iron is used by red blood cells to carry oxygen. But iron is also important for hair growth and health.
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,” advises Dr. Khetarpal.
Foods that contain iron include red meat, dark leafy greens and legumes like lentils, tofu and beans.
5. Omega-3 fatty acids
Omega-3 naturally occurs in foods such as shellfish and flaxseed, but you can also find it in supplements like fish oil.
It’s critical to cell health and is thought to make your scalp and hair healthier.
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.
Dr. Khetarpal recommends taking 3 to 5 milligrams daily.
You can also get biotin from your diet by eating foods like egg yolks, whole grains, fish, seeds, nuts, sweet potatoes, broccoli, cauliflower and meat.
Other hair growth remedies
Dr. Khetarpal also suggests considering the following to help with your hair growth goals.
Zinc pyrithione is the active ingredient in some over-the-counter anti-dandruff shampoos. And these shampoos have a hidden perk.
“They’ve been shown to grow hair, too,” says Dr. Khetarpal. “This is because we all have some yeast that lives on the scalp. If that yeast grows too much, microscopic inflammation causes our hair to shed. You can use these hair growth shampoos to improve scalp and hair health, even if you don’t have dandruff or flaking.”
Minoxidil (Rogaine®) is a foam or solution you apply directly to your scalp. While it can be an effective way to regrow hair on your head, it may work a little too well.
“It has a field effect — if you put it in one area, you might notice hair growth on your face,” Dr. Khetarpal cautions. “It also should not be used by women who are pregnant or breastfeeding.”
What to expect
First, let’s start with why your hair might be damaged. Coloring, blow-drying and over washing can all harm your hair, but there are also other landmines to watch out for:
- Inadequate nutrition. Hair — like anything that grows — needs the right nutrients and conditions to thrive. And it starts with what you eat (as noted above).
- Health problems. Certain medical conditions, like thyroid issues and anemia, can negatively affect hair health and growth.
- Genetics. Between 60% and 70% of the population carries the gene for male and female pattern hair loss.
- Age. “At any given time, we have hairs growing, resting and shedding,” explains Dr. Khetarpal. “But as we enter our 30s, the percentage of hairs actively growing goes down.”
- Major life events. All hair (healthy or not) has a relatively short life cycle. “It’s normal to shed anywhere between 100 and 200 strands a day,” Dr. Khetarpal notes. “But some life events cause periods of increased shedding, including major surgery and having a baby. In fact, up to half of your hair can shift from a growing to a shedding phase postpartum.”
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 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. Those are the hair follicles that can be woken up with nutritional supplementation and medical treatments,” she says. “Hair that has become too thin and fine can no longer penetrate and exit the surface of the scalp. You have to be reasonable with your expectations.”