The state of our hair reflects our health and the nutrients we get. Like any other part of our body, our hair needs nutrients to grow. The more we water our hair with good food, water, vitamins, etc. the more it will flourish. We can gain nutrients from the things we eat and drink to fuel our bodies and hair.
Our hair is always growing. Studies have shown that on average hair grows 1/2 inch per month for a total of 6 inches per hair. Some of us will fall below the average while others will soar above. The rate at which our hair grows along with its thickness, and rate of hair loss are affected by age, genetics, hormones, and nutrition. There are hair nourishing vitamins that when included in our diet can accelerate hair growth/prevent hair loss. The vitamins we need are: Vitamins A, B, B3, B6, B7, B12, C, D, E, Folic Acid, Iron, and Zinc. Below are descriptions of these vitamins and their impact on our hair’s health and growth.
All cells needs Vitamin A for growth. Vitamin A helps skin glands make an oily substance called sebum. Sebum’s oily nature helps to protect the scalp and hair from the environment. It also moisturizes the scalp and can coat hair strands leading to healthy hair.
Vitamin A and beta-carotene (which is converted to Vitamin A in the body) can be found in carrots, sweet potato, spinach, black eyed peas, broccoli, milk, eggs, yogurt, oily fish, beef liver, and cod liver oil.
The daily recommended dose of Vitamin A for for women (aged 19-64) is 700mcg (2,333 IU) and men (aged 19-64) is 900mcg (3,000 IU). These dosages may change if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.
It is important to get Vitamin A, however too much of it can be dangerous and has been linked to hair loss. The upper limit of Vitamin A is 3,000mcg or 10,000 IU.
The Vitamin B complex contains 8 water soluble vitamins that aid in cell metabolism (the chemical changes that take place in a cell in order to maintain life). Our bodies use B vitamins to convert the food we eat to energy we need.
Biotin is probably the most known hair vitamin. Biotin (Vitamin B7) is used in many hair supplements. It is a water soluble vitamin that can help grow hair, skin, and nails. This vitamin is known to increase hair growth and strength. Biotin deficiency has been linked with hair loss.
Sources of Biotin include walnuts, peanuts, cereal, milk, and egg yolks.
Niacin (B3) and Cobalamin (B12) improve blood circulation- they brings oxygen and other nutrients to the hair follicle. Poor blood circulation is a cause of hair thinning and hair loss. By improving circulation to the scalp, these B Vitamins help grow hair faster and thicker.
Sources of Niacin include chicken breast, liver, tuna, turkey, salmon, pork, ground beef, and peanuts. Sources of Cobalamin are animal products including fish, meat, poultry, eggs, milk, and milk products.
Pyridoxine (B6) balances the production of sebum. This allows our hair follicles to grow without becoming excessively oily, allowing us to go longer between wash days.
Sources of Pyridoxine include: chickpeas, bananas, tofu, avocados, brown rice, carrots, fish and hazelnuts.
The daily recommended doses for B Vitamins: Biotin(B7) – 30mcg for adult men and women Niacin(B3) – 14mg for adult women, 16mg for adult men Cobalamin(B12) – 2.4mcg for men and women Pyridoxine(B6) – 1.3mg for adults under 50, dosage may slightly increase with age.
Vitamin C can act as a source of antioxidants for our hair. This property protects hair from free radicals present in the environment. Free radicals from the sun cause structural damage to proteins in the hair leading to split ends and breakage.
Vitamin C is also used in making collagen, a building block for hair, skin, and nails.
Citrus fruits, tomatoes, potatoes, green and red peppers, broccoli, strawberries, and kiwi are all great sources of Vitamin C.
The daily recommended dose of Vitamin C for for women (over 19) is 75mg and 90mg for men (over 19). These dosages may change if you are pregnant or breastfeeding. The upper limit of Vitamin C is 2,000mg.
Vitamin D plays a role in stimulating old and new hair follicles, potentially leading to hair growth. Hair loss and alopecia areata have been linked with Vitamin D deficiencies.
African Americans are very likely to have Vitamin D deficiencies. Studies have shown that about 76% African Americans have a Vitamin D deficiency. This is particularly true for those of darker complexions.
Most people get majority of their Vitamin D through sun exposure. Not spending enough time in sun or wearing excessive sunscreen can lead to lower levels. Other sources of Vitamin D include salmon, mackerel, fatty fish, fish liver oils, and vitamin D fortified milk, cereals, and orange juice.
The daily recommended dose of Vitamin D is 15mcg for adults. If you have a Vitamin D deficiency, your doctor may recommend an increased dose.
Vitamin E also acts as an antioxidant for the hair. It protects hair from damaging free radicals cause by oxidation.
In a study, participants taking tocotrienol, a Vitamin E compound, experienced 34.5% increase in hair length over 8 months. Those given the placebo experienced a 0.1% decrease in hair length.
Vitamin E is available in capsule form as a liquid, like wheat germ oil. Kale, spinach, and almonds are other sources. Vitamin E oil can also be directly applied to one’s scalp and hair.
The daily recommended dose of Vitamin E for adult men and women is 15mg (22 IU from natural sources and 33 IU from synthetic sources). The upper limit of Vitamin E is 1,000mg (1,500 IU from natural sources and 2,200 IU from synthetic sources).
Natural Vitamin E supplements will be labeled with a “d-alpha-” prefix while synthetic supplements are labeled with “dl- ” prefixes.
Folic Acid (Vitamin B9)
Folic Acid is responsible for healthy cell growth as well as keeping red blood cells healthy. Red blood cells carry oxygen and other nutrients to the scalp and follicles leading to hair growth.
Folic Acid is usually included in Vitamin B supplements. It can also be found in multivitamins and sold separately. Beans, broccoli, green leafy vegetables and nuts are sources of folic acid.
The daily recommended dose of Folic Acid for adult men and women is 400mcg. The upper limit of Folic Acid is 1,000mcg. Taking more than 1,000mcg daily can be unsafe and hide signs of Vitamin B12 deficiency, leading to possible nerve damage.
Iron also works to bring oxygen to cells using red blood cells. This makes iron very important for hair growth and scalp health. Iron is also needed in producing collagen.
The most common deficiency in the world is iron deficiency. Iron deficiency, anemia, is common in women with hair loss.
Spinach, peas, lean protein, and canned tuna are sources of iron. Foods high in Vitamin C allow our bodies to absorb iron more efficiently.
The daily recommended dose for Iron in adult women is 18mg and 8mg for adult men. The upper limit of Iron is 45mg.
Zinc is an element essential in cell reproduction, production and maintenance of hormone levels, protein synthesis, and absorption of vitamins and minerals.
Alopecia areata has been linked to zinc deficiency. Hair regrowth is seen with zinc supplementation.
Zinc is an essential trace element for the body, meaning our bodies don’t produce zinc. We must get zinc from our diets.
Foods rich in zinc include whole grains, milk, oysters, red meat, baked beans, and nuts. Vitamin A and Vitamin D deficiencies can also cause a zinc deficiency.
The daily recommended dose for Zinc in adult women is 8mg and 11mg for adult men. The upper limit of Zinc is 40mg. Increased levels of DHT (Dihydro testosterone) is associated with excessive zinc intake. DHT shrinks fair follicles, making it nearly impossible for hair to grow and thrive.
How Should You Incorporate all of these Vitamins Daily?
It is possible to gain the benefits from these vitamins and minerals from the food we ingest daily. But, it could be difficult and impossible for some (Vitamin D if you don’t live in a sunny and warm climate and Zinc). Multivitamins incorporate all of these vitamins and more for daily use. Supplements will really help for those who are already deficient.
Too much of anything can be bad. Make sure to stick to the daily recommended doses. Try talking to your doctor about getting your levels checked in your blood to determine the correct dosing for you. Remember we are what we eat. Nourish your body with good foods, supplements when needed and water! Your hair will thank you.
See you next Sunday!