Are Supplements Helpful for Hair Growth?

Hands holding biotin pills

Have you ever seen advertisements for supplements that help you grow your hair?  

Most dietary supplements ads target our fear of hair loss, promising luscious long locks in a matter of months. But do any of them actually work? Not really. Healthy hair doesn’t come from eating enough of just one vitamin. But what we do know is that an overall healthy diet including healthy fats, protein, and foods rich in a vitamin called biotin is a great way to support hair growth over time. A strong foundation of good nutrition in your diet is helpful for hair growth. Bringing the focus on foods first is a great way to get all that your body needs for hair growth. If you feel like it's difficult for you to get enough nutrition with your diet alone, then it might be helpful to talk to your doctor or a dietitian about taking a multivitamin supplement to support you and your hair.  

Healthy Fats

Regular consumption of healthy fats in the form of essential fatty acids encourages healthy hair growth. Essential fatty acids are nutrients we must get from food or supplements because our bodies don’t make them1. Essential fatty acids play an important role in cell growth getting enough of them helps to increase hair thickness and reduce hair loss in healthy people2,3. Lack of these fatty acids might result in hair loss, brittle nails, and skin rash. Aim to have around 8 oz of seafood, 5 oz of nuts/seeds/soy products, and 27 oz of high-quality oils per week to get the recommended amounts. Other foods that are high in essential fatty acids are: meat, poultry, and avocado4

Biotin

Biotin is an important component of hair. It helps create hair root cells, supporting our nervous system so that it can work properly, and helps our bodies process carbohydrates, fats, and proteins5. While biotin is normally marketed in the media as a supplement to help your hair grow, there actually isn’t much evidence about biotin supplements doing what they claim to do6. Although, while supplements might be ineffective, foods with biotin have been shown to offer benefits, especially for someone who isn’t getting enough. If you aren’t getting enough biotin in your diet, you might notice a red scaly rash, hair loss all over the body, and eye irritation. The recommended amount of biotin for adults is 30mcg/day7. Some biotin-rich foods are yeast, beef liver, egg, salmon, pork, beef, avocado, sunflower seeds and almonds8.  

Protein

Protein is another key nutrient in helping hair grow. Keratin is one of the specific types of protein that boosts the health of your hair, skin, and nails9. Your body can create keratin from the proteins that you eat in your diet. The root of your hair (the follicle) is made up of keratin, so eating enough protein makes it possible for your body to build healthy hair roots. Low protein in the diet has been shown to cause hair loss. Some good protein sources to include in your diet are eggs, dairy products, meat, seafood, nuts and seeds, tofu, and beans. 

Overall, a healthy and balanced diet of essential fatty acids, enough protein, and foods rich in the vitamin biotin is a great way to support hair growth and prevent hair loss in healthy people. But remember, it’s not ONE nutrient that is responsible for supporting a healthy mane; It starts with a healthy overall diet that nourishes your whole body. There are other factors that can affect hair health including stress, illness, and some medications,  all of which can be evaluated by health care professionals at the Bastyr clinics. A provider at Bastyr Center for Natural Health or Bastyr University Clinic can help you through education on ways to include enough food in your diet rich in these nutrients and vitamins discussed above. Call to schedule an appointment today! 

Daniella Durant is a dietetic intern at Bastyr University in Seattle, WA. 

References

  1. Kang J-I, Yoon H-S, Kim S, et al. Mackerel-Derived Fermented Fish Oil Promotes Hair Growth by Anagen-Stimulating Pathways. International Journal of Molecular Sciences. 2018;19(9):2770. doi:10.3390/ijms19092770 
  2. Floc'h CL, Cheniti A, Connétable S, Piccardi N, Vincenzi C, Tosti A. Effect of a nutritional supplement on hair loss in women. Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology. 2015;14(1):76-82. doi:10.1111/jocd.12127 
  3. Moll R, Divo M, Langbein L. The human keratins: biology and pathology. Histochemistry and Cell Biology. 2008;129(6):705-733. doi:10.1007/s00418-008-0435-6 
  4. Essential Fatty Acids. Linus Pauling Institute. https://lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/other-nutrients/essential-fatty-acids. Published January 1, 2021. Accessed January 6, 2021.  
  5. Patel DP, Swink SM, Castelo-Soccio L. A Review of the Use of Biotin for Hair Loss. Skin Appendage Disorders. 2017;3(3):166-169. doi:10.1159/000462981 
  6. Guo EL, Katta R. Diet and hair loss: effects of nutrient deficiency and supplement use. Dermatology Practical & Conceptual . 2017;7:1-10. doi:10.5826/dpc.0701a01 
  7. Biotin. Linus Pauling Institute. https://lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/vitamins/biotin. Published January 1, 2021. Accessed January 6, 2021.  
  8. Office of Dietary Supplements - Biotin. NIH Office of Dietary Supplements. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Biotin-HealthProfessional/. Accessed December 16, 2020. 
  9. Munkhbayar S, Jang S, Cho A-R, et al. Role of Arachidonic Acid in Promoting Hair Growth. Annals of Dermatology. 2016;28(1):55. doi:10.5021/ad.2016.28.1.55 
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