Dull, damaged hair and breakage can be easy to blame on outside factors like products and hot tools—but the truth is, our hair can also reflect our body’s nutritional deficiencies. “When it comes to overall hair health, your diet and daily vitamins are crucial,” says Shelly Aguirre, hairstylist in Chicago. “When a client has sudden hair loss, notices lots [of hair] in the brush or shower, or just loses shine, it’s the first thing I ask about.”
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Adding vitamins to your beauty routine can be a simple, effective way to get healthier, thicker hair. Generally, we can get most of the vitamins we need through our diets, but if there is still a deficiency, we can fill the gap with over-the-counter dietary supplements or even a multivitamin. Still, it's important to speak to a physician before beginning any new regimen. “With all of these vitamins on the market, I absolutely suggest seeing a medical professional before starting any kind of supplement routine,” says Aguirre. “A simple blood test can determine exactly what our bodies need. Our hair, skin, and nails are very telling. Listen to your body.”
Meanwhile, don’t disregard the benefits that vitamin-infused hair products can do for your strands from the outside-in, too. “In the market now, we have lots of options when it comes to shampoo and conditioner,” says Aguirre. “I do suggest that clients talk to a professional so they can prescribe exactly what they need. We can break it down and make it much easier for our clients to ensure they are using what is best for them.” To help get you started, read on for our guide on the best vitamins for healthy hair, inside and outside.
This all-star antioxidant has major benefits for your whole body—including your hair. “Vitamin C has been proven to help promote collagen, a protein which is very important for the structure of the hair,” explains Aguirre. “It also helps your body absorb iron, another major factor for healthy hair growth.” Anemia—or iron deficiency—can also sometimes lead to hair loss, Aguirre also points out. The good news is there are plenty of foods rich in vitamin C, from citrus fruits to bell peppers, to help reach your recommended daily intake.
Although vitamin C has staked its claim as a must-have skincare ingredient, it can also be used topically for hair, like in GRACE & STELLA’s Rescue My Hair Mask. In addition to vitamin C, the formula also has vitamins A, B, and E, as well as moisturizing argan oil, and Ipsters love that it “smells magical” and leaves hair “super shiny and healthy.”
Vitamin E is another famed antioxidant that helps protect hair from free-radical damage. In hair terms, that damage could lead to premature aging—including thinning hair. Unlike vitamin C, which is water-soluble, vitamin E is oil-soluble, so it can be found in oil-based capsules as well as in fatty foods like nuts, seeds, and avocado.
Because vitamin E is also renowned for its skin-nourishing capabilities, so it’s great for maintaining the health of your scalp. “Having a healthy scalp will allow a strong base for your hair to grow,” says Aguirre. “Think of it like a garden. If you have healthy soil, plants can grow and flourish. Vitamin E can also help with the quality of the hair as it grows.”
Buckle up: There are actually eight B vitamins: thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid, pyridoxine, biotin, folic acid, and cobalamin. Folic acid is one B-vitamin that is often cited for hair growth, as is biotin. To further complicate things, biotin is sometimes called vitamin H—but it’s a B-vitamin complex that’s essential to healthy hair, as it helps create amino acids that make up keratin, a.k.a. the protein that makes up our hair.
“Biotin falls under this umbrella,” says Aguirre. “You will see it in shampoos, hair supplements, and hair-loss treatments. This is because there is a direct link to healthy hair growth and overall hair health.” Simply put, the hairstylist says, “When we lack biotin, one of the first things we notice is hair loss.” Plus, studies have shown that a deficiency can result in weak, brittle nails too. Foods like avocado, eggs, and nuts are packed with biotin—as are the popular hair vitamins and gummies you’ve no doubt encountered on Instagram in recent years.
However if you’re cutting down on your sugar intake, you can reap the vitamins’ benefits from products, too. The Ipster community loves BRIOGEO Don’t Despair, Repair!™ Strength + Moisture Leave-In Mask, which contains a mixture of B-vitamins, including biotin. The spray-on formula can be used on all hair types to help build healthier hair between washes. One fan said it gave her hair “perfect balance of moisture and manageability,” while another even went as far as to say it’s “the only thing that saved my hair”.
Getting your daily dose from the sun isn’t a myth—cholesterol in our skin turns sunlight into vitamin D. And if you don’t get enough, you may notice adverse effects. “Living in the Midwest, this is something I notice in the majority of my clients in the winter months: We all lack vitamin D,” says Chicago-based Aguirre. But how does that shortage impact our hair? “Vitamin D is linked to hair-follicle growth, which is imperative to get new hairs to grow,” she explains. “Also, lack of vitamin D can lead to hair loss.”
Meanwhile, vitamin D is not very common in food sources, which is why it’s a common deficiency. However, you can find it naturally in some fatty fishes like salmon, as well as fortified foods like dairy milk and cereal.
Vitamin A plays a vital role in our hair health because it promotes oil (a.k.a. sebum) production. “Vitamin A is important for the levels of moisture on our scalps. And as we know, a healthy scalp equals healthy hair,” explains Aguirre. Still, she admits, “This is a tricky one… [if we get] too little, we can lose hair, [and if we get] too much, we can lose hair.”
Rest assured, it’s rare to overdo it on vitamin A, especially if you eat a balanced diet. However, if your physician does recommend adding more foods rich in vitamin A to the mix, go for foods rich in beta-carotene, which our body turns into vitamin A, as well as eggs and dairy.
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