Do you want hydrated, voluminous hair?
Read on! Today, we’re going to discuss nutrients that can help you maintain healthy hair from the inside out.
Vitamin A is a necessary micronutrient that plays a role in many bodily functions, such as boosting your immune system. Vitamin A also plays a role in hair health. Don’t get too excited, though: The evidence might surprise you.
Nutrition, in general, is essential for healthy hair.1 Hair and skin health are external signs of your internal environment. Too little of any nutrient and your hair and skin suffer.
While this is true of vitamin A, most people eat enough vitamin A through their normal diet. Supplementing with an excess of vitamin A, however, can actually cause hair loss.2 Yes, you read that right.
Likely, you won’t eat too much vitamin A from your everyday diet. Where you can get into trouble is over-the-counter multivitamins and supplements. If you take a multivitamin, check to see how much vitamin A you’re getting. Anything more than twice the recommended daily dose is probably too much.
Of the B vitamins, folate3 is the only one that has definitively been associated with hair health. Folate deficiency is somewhat rare in the U.S. as many foods are fortified with folate or folic acid (another form of folate). However, evidence suggests that a lack of folate can contribute to hair loss.
Symptoms of folate deficiency are often much more severe than simply hair loss. Most notably is its role in osteoporosis.4 Still, folate supplementation can help keep hair healthy.
Interestingly, many hair, skin, and nail supplements include biotin, also called vitamin B7. While there is weak evidence to suggest biotin may improve hair growth, biotin deficiency is extremely rare. 5 The good news is biotin in excess is non-toxic—it doesn’t cause any health problems. So, supplement to your heart’s content!
Vitamin D is very important in preventing baldness and keeping hair healthy. In the U.S., most people consume enough vitamin D through a regular diet. Many foods, including most dairy products, are fortified with vitamin D.
However, some genetic diseases can cause problems with vitamin D absorption.6 Individuals with such a problem often develop rickets and have issues with their bones. In addition, they can suffer complete alopecia or a total loss of body and scalp hair. 7
Note, this is a rare disease. Yet, it does underscore the importance of vitamin D in hair growth. If you have a problem with vitamin D deficiency, your doctor can help you. And even if you don’t, make sure you eat enough vitamin D or get enough—but not too much—exposure to the sun.
Iron is an essential mineral and one of the most common nutritional deficiencies. Severe iron deficiency can cause anemia, but even mild iron deficiency may contribute to hair loss.2
There is some conflicting evidence about iron’s role in hair loss, thinning, and premature graying. Some studies suggest iron plays a part, and others refute this.
Despite the controversy, why not check that you have adequate iron in your diet? Look at any vitamins or supplements you take, but don’t overdo it. If you’re confused, talk to your doctor; they can help you.
Maintaining Healthy Hair, Naturally
As with most aspects of health, proper diet is essential. In some cases (e.g., vitamin D), a single nutrient deficiency can cause health problems, including hair loss. In most cases, however, it will be a combination of factors. You should always strive for a balanced diet with plenty of whole foods.
Stress can also contribute to hair loss as can smoking and drinking excessive amounts of alcohol. Remember, our skin and our hair are an outward reflection of our general health. Anything bad for your health will manifest first in your hair, skin, and nails. Take care of yourself and you’ll look good and feel good!
- Trüeb RM. Effect of ultraviolet radiation, smoking and nutrition on hair. Curr Probl Dermatol. 2015;47:107-120. DOI: 10.1159/000369411.
- Almohanna HM, Ahmed AA, Tsatalis JP, Tost A. The role of vitamins and minerals in hair loss: A review. Dermatol Ther (Heidelb). 2019;9(1):51-70. DOI: 10.1007/s13555-018-0278-6.
- Institute of Medicine, Food and Nutrition Board. Dietary reference intakes for thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B6, folate, vitamin B12, pantothenic acid, biotin, and choline. Washington, DC: National Academy Press; 1998.
- Salari P, Abdollahi M, Heshmat R, et al. Effect of folic acid on bone metabolism: A randomized double blind clinical trial in postmenopausal osteoporotic women. Daru. 2014;22(1):62. DOI: 10.1186/s40199-014-0062-9.
- Boccaletti V, Zendri E, Giordano G, Gnetti L, De Panfilis G. Familial uncombable hair syndrome: Ultrastructural hair study and response to biotin. Pediatr Dermatol. 2007;24(3):E14-6. DOI: 10.1111/j.1525-1470.2007.00385.x.
- Vitamin D deficiency rickets. National Organization for Rare Disorders. https://rarediseases.org/rare-diseases/rickets-vitamin-d-deficiency. Accessed 10/14/2020.
- Forghani N, Lum C, Krishnan S, et al. Two new unrelated cases of hereditary 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D-resistant rickets with alopecia resulting from the same novel nonsense mutation in the vitamin D receptor gene. J Pedatr Endocrinol Metab. 2010;23(8):843-850. DOI: 10.1515/jpem.2010.136.