A quick Amazon search for “hair vitamins” returns over 8,000 results. That’s thousands of gummies, pills, chewables, and powders all promising shinier, longer, or thicker hair. With a staggering number of brands to choose from (at relatively affordable prices), it leaves us wondering: do these supplements actually work?
As the hair enthusiasts that we are, we decided to do a little digging to find out.
Why are hair vitamins so popular?
You’ve probably seen them on your Instagram feed, in the drugstore aisle, or on your friend’s bathroom counter. Hair vitamins are popping up everywhere because people want solutions to those frustrating, never-ending hair problems like frizz, dullness, thinning strands, or excessive hair shedding.
Hair vitamins promise healthier hair — and something a little less tangible. A positive perception of your hair can actually improve how you feel about yourself — but that’s probably not news to you. The “good hair day effect” is universal. In 2018, InStyle magazine surveyed 1,463 American women of all races, regions, and life stages about, you guessed it, their hair:
- 81 percent of women reported that they feel the most confident when their hair looks great.
- 72 percent say feeling good about their hair is empowering.
With numbers like that, the buzz over hair vitamins should come at no surprise. The supplements promise a unique advantage in the journey to beautiful hair: healthier hair under the surface, nourished from the inside out.
What’s inside these gummies, pills, and powders?
Depending on the brand and formula, hair vitamins may promise thicker hair, promoted hair growth, or shinier, more manageable locks (although it’s important to remember that the FDA is not required to review dietary supplement products for effectiveness before they are marketed). Most of these supplements are varying concoctions of proven vitamins, minerals, and other herbal ingredients that have traditional or scientific links to hair health. For instance, lots of hair supplements contain these key ingredients:
- Biotin: This is a biggie in the hair vitamin market. Biotin supports the core keratin structure of hair, strengthening each strand. It also benefits the health of your scalp and hair follicles by aiding productions of fatty acids which in turn help nourish hair. A lack of fatty acids in the diet could lead to dry skin, brittle hair strands, dandruff, or even eczema.
- Vitamin B-12: You may think of this vitamin as an energy-booster, but B-12 also promotes healthy hair growth by helping produce more oxygen-rich red blood cells, which nourish hair follicles.
- Folic Acid (Vitamin B-9): This B vitamin helps prevent premature graying, in addition to keeping red blood cell counts stabilized to nourish hair.
- Vitamin A: Every cell in the body needs Vitamin A for growth (including hair). The vitamin also helps produce sebum, the oily substance that moisturizes the scalp and helps keep hair shiny.
- Vitamin C: Vitamin C is vital for your body to develop collagen, a substance with the amino acids needed to create keratin for hair growth. In fact, several studies link Vitamin C to improved hair growth because this antioxidant also protects the scalp from free-radicals, which can contribute to hair loss over time.
- Vitamin D: Low levels of vitamin D are linked to alopecia. Research also shows that vitamin D may help create new follicles — the tiny pores in the scalp where new hair can grow.
- MSM: MSM, or methylsulfonylmethane, is a mineral found naturally in seafood, milk, grains, and green veggies. Its natural sulfur compounds are essential for collagen and keratin production as well as cysteine bonds which help hair strands hold their shape.
These are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to hair vitamin ingredients. Other formulas may include Saw Palmetto extract, Fo-Ti root (an herb used in ancient Chinese medicine), PABA (a type of folic acid used to promote better hair color), collagen, coconut oil, and more.
Do these supplements actually help?
The short answer: maybe.
If hair loss, thinning, or other issues are caused in part or in whole by nutritional deficiencies, hair vitamins really may help improve your hair health. For women with a biotin deficiency, for instance, balancing biotin levels in the body could lead to promoted hair growth. Yet even hair vitamin manufacturers acknowledge that results don’t happen overnight. That’s because hair growth (no matter if it’s aided by vitamins or not) takes time; typically, two to three months of daily doses are needed to see visible improvement. Large patches of hair loss or hair loss accompanied by other physical symptoms could be a sign of a larger health issue and should be treated by a doctor.
Could hair vitamins be worth trying out? Absolutely.
But the best way to support healthy hair is a holistic approach to better care. When possible, skip heat styling; avoid styles like tight ponytails or braids that will cause excessive breakage; use natural, gentle products on hair (like junk-free shampoos, conditioners, and styling products); eat a balanced diet; and try to find ways to alleviate stress in your daily life. And if you do try a hair vitamin you love? Let us know!