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While there is no magic bullet to combat hair loss and restore healthy hair, good nutrition is key.
Many people wonder what vitamin is good for hair.
While no specific nutrient has been shown to stimulate hair growth or grow more hair, proper nutrition is vital to maintaining hair health and preventing hair loss (1).
When any of the necessary nutrients are missing, hair enters a resting phase and will not grow as normal.
Since hair continues to shed, a lack of continuous hair growth results in thinning.
You can combat hair loss and promote the growth of healthier hair by getting the proper amounts of vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients.
The hair shaft itself is formed almost entirely of a protein called keratin.
The living cells in the hair follicle produce this shaft of keratin according to hormonal signals and the availability of nutrients.
Protein is a general term for a collection of specific nutrients called amino acids.
The body is capable of synthesizing some amino acids, called non-essential amino acids.
It is unlikely you will ever be deficient in a non-essential amino acid.
The other amino acids are called essential because they can only be found in food.
While a general protein deficiency is unlikely, it is possible to be deficient in one or more essential amino acids even if you are eating regularly.
Multiple amino acids are used to create keratin, but the most vital among them may be cysteine (3).
While many different foods are said to contain protein, they will all contain different types and levels of amino acids.
A complete protein is a term for a food that has all the essential amino acids together.
Most animal sources of protein are complete, while most plant sources of protein are incomplete.
As a result, strict vegetarians and vegans tend to be the most likely to suffer a protein deficiency.
You do not have to eat animal products or meat to get a complete protein profile, but you do need to eat a wide variety of high-protein plant foods (4).
The B vitamins are usually listed as a group because they work in tangent with one another.
The full list of B vitamins includes thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, folate (folic acid), vitamin B6, vitamin B12, biotin and pantothenic acid.
It is usually best to take all the B vitamins together as “B complex” unless you are deficient in a particular one.
Although a healthy diet is likely to provide you with all the B vitamins you need, B12 can be more difficult for those who follow a strict vegetarian or vegan diet.
B12 can only be obtained from animal foods, so those who abstain from all animal products will need to supplement with B12 specifically.
Biotin is one of the key vitamins related to hair loss.
A deficiency in biotin has been strongly linked to hair loss problems, but it is not known if getting extra biotin will help unless you are deficient (5).
Other B vitamins help with energy, circulation and the growth of red blood cells.
Circulation is extremely important for hair health because healthy follicles require a steady supply of nutrients.
Many forms of baldness occur due to starved hair follicles not receiving enough blood supply.
Since there are so many B vitamins, it can be difficult to narrow down the list of foods that contain them.
Many foods are a great supply of just one or two B vitamins, while some foods contain moderate amounts of several of them.
The good news is that B vitamins are in a wide variety of foods.
If you are eating a healthy and balanced diet, then you are likely getting enough of all the B vitamins from food.
While meats, fish, and eggs tend to be excellent sources of several of the B vitamins, dark green vegetables and legumes tend to provide a sufficient vegetarian supply.
Most fruits and vegetables contain at least some of the B vitamins — enough to prevent deficiency.
Be sure to eat fruits and vegetables raw or lightly cooked to preserve the B vitamins found in them.
Avoid boiling vegetables, which strips them of most of their nutrients (6).
Vitamin C is an important vitamin for hair loss because it is vital for collagen creation.
Collagen helps to strengthen capillaries and blood vessels, which improves blood supply and nutrient availability to the follicles.
Vitamin C is also a powerful antioxidant that will help protect the hair follicle from damage by free radicals (7).
Proper levels of vitamin C are necessary for the absorption of iron, which is another important nutrient for hair and overall health.
Oranges may be the best-known source of vitamin C, but there is a wide range of fruits and vegetables that have an abundance of this nutrient.
All citrus fruits have vitamin C, as do peppers, dark leafy greens and many types of berries.
For best results, eat foods with vitamin C raw or only lightly cooked.
Most vitamin C is destroyed by heat during cooking.
Vitamin A is another of the important vitamins for hair health because it is necessary for all cell growth in the body.
As a result, hair follicles need vitamin A to stay healthy and produce hair.
The body also needs vitamin A to produce sebum.
Sebum is the oily substance on the scalp that serves as a natural conditioner and helps the scalp and hair retain moisture.
A lack of sebum will cause dryness and flakiness of the scalp, which may reduce hair growth.
The hair may also get brittle and appear drier and thinner. It may also shed more easily.
This leads to an overall thinner appearance (8).
The body gets most of its vitamin A indirectly through beta-carotene.
Beta-carotene is found in a variety of foods and is also the most widely available supplemental form of vitamin A.
The body will convert beta carotene to vitamin A as needed.
Foods rich in beta-carotene are easily identified by their orange or yellow color and include pumpkin, sweet potatoes, and carrots.
It is possible to overdose on vitamin A, which may actually cause hair loss in addition to other health problems.
Generally, you will only overdose on vitamin A when taking it directly, not as beta-carotene.
Excess amounts of beta-carotene will be expelled from the body and wasted.
Vitamin E is a fat-soluble vitamin, another natural antioxidant and an important vitamin for hair loss.
Like vitamin C, it helps prevent free-radical damage and oxidative stress to the hair follicle.
This keeps the follicle healthy enough to produce hair.
This vitamin is also important to protect the hair and scalp from sun and heat damage.
Excess sun and heat exposure combined with a lack of vitamin E could lead to hair that is brittle and fragile and may fall out more easily.
Vitamin E may be one of the best hair-growth vitamins.
Supplementation with vitamin E has been shown to dramatically boost hair growth, unlike most other nutrients that first require deficiency to show an effect.
In a study, those supplementing with vitamin E for eight months showed a 34.5 percent increase in hair growth compared to just .1 percent for the control group (9).
You can get vitamin E from a variety of foods, which include avocados, spinach, almonds and sunflower seeds.
Vitamin D is another of the best vitamins for hair growth.
It is an important all-around nutrient that has been linked to a variety of health benefits.
Vitamin D has been studied in relation to hair growth, although its direct impact on hair is still unknown.
Research has shown that large amounts of vitamin D may help create new hair follicles by stimulating the growth and restoration of stem cells in the skin (10).
While it is relatively easy to get good amounts of vitamin D, most people still end up with a slight deficiency.
This deficiency is more pronounced during the winter months for those who live in northern climates.
Your body produces some vitamin D naturally when exposed to sunlight.
Due to increased risks of skin cancer, however, experts advise that you obtain about half of your vitamin D from diet.
Vitamin D is not found in many foods, but fatty fish such as salmon and tuna are excellent sources.
Most dairy foods and cereals are fortified with the vitamin. It is also easy to obtain in supplement form (11).
Selenium is a mineral and essential nutrient that you need in trace amounts.
It is vital for hair growth as an antioxidant that protects the hair follicle from damage.
It also works as an immune enhancer that further protects the hair follicle and ensures optimal body function.
You do not need a significant amount of selenium, and proper amounts should be obtained naturally from the diet.
Only supplement if you are found to be deficient.
Selenium can be found in whole grains, butter, garlic, some types of fish and in trace amounts in other foods (12).
Zinc is an essential mineral for hair growth and overall health.
It has been found to strengthen hair follicles, which contributes to better hair growth and healthier hair.
The mineral also serves as an antioxidant and immune booster, so it works together with selenium.
A deficiency in zinc may result in hair loss (13).
Zinc can be found naturally in many foods. These include red meat, poultry, shellfish and some grains and legumes.
Vegetarians may be more likely to have a zinc deficiency due to abstaining from the richer animal-food sources of zinc.
Magnesium is an essential mineral that many people may be deficient in.
A deficiency can be difficult to spot because it often manifests as a wide variety of symptoms with other common causes.
A doctor is likely needed to diagnose a deficiency and recommend treatment.
While many foods have magnesium, it can be difficult to get sufficient amounts from diet alone, so a doctor may suggest supplements to correct the deficiency.
Magnesium boosts hair growth primarily by helping the body absorb and use other nutrients.
Low magnesium levels may accelerate hair loss and reduce the effectiveness of other nutrients or supplements.
Foods that provide high levels of magnesium include dark chocolate, black beans, cooked spinach, halibut and pumpkin seeds (14).
Iron is critical for producing red blood cells and allowing vital nutrients to reach all the parts of your body.
When you are deficient in iron, your body may become anemic.
Anemia may cause a host of health problems that include lethargy and hair loss (15).
Iron deficiency is common in certain individuals, especially menstruating women and those with poor diets.
Red meat is an excellent source of iron, but vegetarians can still get the iron they need from spinach and lentils.
Omega-3 fatty acids are a group of fats that have been shown to be highly beneficial and vital for health.
The three most important fatty acids that make up the omega-3 group are ALA (alpha-linolenic acid), DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid).
These fatty acids have been shown to contribute a wide range of health benefits.
They function as antioxidants to help protect the follicles and stimulate hair growth.
These oils are also essential building blocks of the natural oils produced by your scalp to protect your skin and hair.
A deficiency in Omega-3 fats may result in a scalp and hair that is dry, brittle, flaky, itchy and more prone to thinning and damage.
Omega-3s must ultimately be obtained from dietary sources.
While the body can synthesize some of its own omega-3, the process is inefficient and is not enough to prevent deficiency.
Fatty fish such as salmon, tuna, cod, and herring are excellent sources of omega-3.
Shellfish such as lobster and crab are also excellent sources.
Vegetarians can still get the omega-3 they need from flaxseeds, chia seeds, and walnuts.
While a healthy diet may not be enough to prevent or cure hair loss by itself, a deficient diet is sure to contribute to hair loss (17).
Maintaining a healthy diet and getting enough vitamins to make hair grow through a balanced combination of food and supplements will ensure your body has the building blocks it needs to maintain and regrow hair.
If you are suffering from hair loss, you should first examine your diet and nutrition.
Nutrition will benefit your hair-loss treatments even if the deficiency is not the direct cause of your hair loss.
Armed with the knowledge of what vitamins are good for hair, you can set yourself on a path toward better health and more hair today.