Many cultures around the world view hair as a sign of beauty and health.
Unfortunately, for many people growing healthy hair is a challenge. This has led to an increase in hair supplements on the market.
While hair vitamins and supplements are often advertised as the secret to healthy hair, skeptics argue that they lack scientific evidence to support their use. This may leave you wondering what hair vitamins are and whether they work.
This article discusses hair vitamins, their effectiveness, and whether they’re worth buying.
Hair vitamins are supplements with purported benefits for hair health. For example, popular brands claim that their products can improve hair growth, shine, thickness, and strength.
A multitude of products is on the market, many of which contain similar ingredients, including biotin, vitamins C and E, collagen, folic acid, and omega-3 fatty acids. They may also contain additions like ashwagandha and ginseng, which some people believe can strengthen hair.
Though widely popular, these products are mostly endorsed by paid celebrities and influencers and rarely by health professionals.
Hair vitamins are supplements that contain nutrients promoted to give you healthy hair.
Hair health is determined by a multitude of factors, such as age, genetics, hormone levels, medical conditions, diet, stress, and hair treatments. This makes it difficult to determine the root cause or causes of any issues (1, 2).
Signs of unhealthy hair include noticeable hair loss or thinning, lack of growth, dryness, weakness, brittleness, and dullness (3).
In many cases, improving your diet and lifestyle can support healthy hair. In particular, getting enough of these key nutrients may improve the health and integrity of your hair (4):
In particular, protein is essential for hair growth, as it’s the main building block of hair. Additionally, deficiencies in nutrients like B vitamins, iron, and vitamins C and D have been linked to hair loss, poor hair growth, and weak hair (4, 5, 6).
Increased hair loss and weak, unhealthy hair can also be caused by diets that are extremely low in calories and fat, such as certain weight loss diets, as well as diets that remove entire food groups, such as vegan eating patterns (5, 7, 8, 9).
If you suspect any underlying causes of hair loss or a lack of growth, it’s important to work with a dermatologist or other healthcare professional to identify them.
Nutrients important for healthy hair include protein, B vitamins, vitamins A, C, and D, and minerals like iron, selenium, and zinc. What’s more, diets low in calories or fat are linked to weak, unhealthy hair.
Despite the widespread use of hair vitamins and supplements, there’s little clinical data to support their ability to treat hair conditions.
While certain nutrients have been linked to better hair health, most studies have shown that hair supplements are only effective in people whose hair issues are caused by an existing nutrient deficiency (10).
For example, a 2016 study in 541 women with hair loss found that 38% of them were deficient in biotin. Researchers believed the remaining cases of hair loss were caused by other nutrient deficiencies or conditions like thyroid disorders or female pattern baldness (11).
Similarly, a 2013 study showed that women with hair loss had significantly lower iron levels than women with no hair loss (12).
That said, deficiencies in the nutrients commonly added to hair vitamins — such as biotin and vitamin C — are rare. Plus, taking these nutrients when you don’t have a deficiency likely won’t improve hair growth or appearance (13, 14).
Moreover, due to the risk of adverse side effects from iron supplements, most countries require a prescription for obtaining high doses of this mineral. Thus, iron is usually only added in low doses or not at all (15, 16).
Furthermore, there’s little evidence that hair loss supplements with nutrients like iron, biotin, B vitamins, vitamin C, zinc, selenium, and folic acid improve hair health or growth. Rather, some supplements may even worsen hair loss or cause nutrient toxicity (17).
Instead of taking arbitrary supplements to promote hair growth, try to work with a healthcare professional to determine any underlying causes of hair loss and screen for deficiencies that can be treated through your diet, carefully selected supplements, or both (17).
Despite their widespread use and popularity, only limited scientific evidence supports the use of hair vitamins to increase hair growth, prevent hair loss, or treat other hair conditions.
Rather than purchasing expensive hair vitamins, you’re better off focusing on a healthy diet that includes a variety of colorful vegetables and fruits, whole grains, protein, and healthy fats. This will ensure you get the nutrients your body needs for proper hair growth.
Additionally, be sure to focus on other areas of your health, including getting adequate sleep, managing stress, and exercising regularly. When your body is functioning well, it can better support nonessential functions like growing healthy hair.
If none of these lifestyle modifications help, consult a healthcare professional to help you determine any other potential underlying issues.
For most healthy people, hair vitamins are unnecessary. Instead, focus on eating a nutritious diet, managing your stress levels, exercising regularly, and getting enough sleep. If you suspect other underlying issues, speak with a healthcare professional.
To date, no clinical studies show that hair vitamins and supplements promote hair growth, prevent hair loss, or improve other facets of healthy hair such as dryness, shine, and thickness.
In rare cases in which poor hair health is caused by nutrient deficiencies, taking supplements may improve hair quality. A diet low in calories, fat, or protein is also linked to hair loss, and upping your intake of these may do the trick.
However, for most healthy people, taking hair supplements is unlikely to confer any benefits. Instead, focus on eating a varied diet comprising mostly whole, minimally processed foods to provide your body with the nutrients it needs to produce healthy hair.
Though it may be tempting to buy hair vitamins, you’re better off investing your money and time elsewhere. If you suspect any underlying causes of your hair issues, consider talking to a healthcare professional.
Last medically reviewed on May 3, 2021
This article is based on scientific evidence, written by experts and fact checked by experts.
Our team of licensed nutritionists and dietitians strive to be objective, unbiased, honest and to present both sides of the argument.
This article contains scientific references. The numbers in the parentheses (1, 2, 3) are clickable links to peer-reviewed scientific papers.
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Many cultures around the world view hair as a sign of beauty and health.
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