Do Vitamins and Supplements Work For Hair Growth? (Plus, the Best Ones to Take)
The answer is… it depends.
Who doesn't want thicker, longer, shinier, healthier hair? Sure, there are plenty of products on the market that lend themselves to strengthening our strands, but some healing has to be done from the inside out. Yep, that's right, we're talking supplements.
Supplements and haircare vitamins get a bad rap because of the oversaturated market of Instagram brands you've likely seen all over your feed. (You'll probably get a whole slew of ads from just clicking on this story. Sorry!) Supplements are quite literally everywhere these days, claiming to give you the hair of your dreams — and if you're actually thinking of taking one, it can be overwhelming to decide which to try. They're not necessarily the cheapest and nobody wants to spend all that money without the guarantee of longer, thicker, or healthier hair.
So what do these supplements actually do? And do they actually work? We spoke to Molly Kimball, New Orleans-based registered dietitian at Ochsner Fitness Center and host of the podcast "Fueled", and hair expert and stylist Rachel Roger to find out if supplements actually work (and which ones to take).
Do Supplements for Hair Work?
In short, yes, supplements can work. Kimball tells InStyle that supplements and vitamins have been tested in multiple clinical trials which have found that they "can be effective in supporting hair growth."
There are two vitamins, in particular, to look for that have shown they can support hair growth: vitamins D and E, she says. Other helpful supplements include protein-rich collagen and plant-based compounds like ashwagandha and horsetail, she adds.
Roger agrees, that vitamins and supplements can absolutely "boost hair growth and prevent hair loss," especially if you're deficient in something. But she stresses that it's always important to consult your doctor before starting a new supplement or vitamin.
"When people are concerned about hair loss, I always ask what vitamins they are taking, or if they recently added any new medications," says Roger. "Often hair loss stems from side effects of certain medications or a medical conditions such as thyroid disease. Therefore, it is always recommended to check with your doctor, as well as a trusted hairstylist."
What About Biotin?
You may notice one popular vitamin that is noticeably missing from this list: Biotin, the famed B-Vitamin popular for hair, skin, and nails. While biotin can sometimes help, it's usually only useful if you're deficient in it.
"Biotin gets much of the glory, but clinical trials don't support its use for hair growth unless there's a risk for deficiency," Kimball tells us. "The same goes for zinc, iron, and niacin. If we're deficient in these nutrients, then supplementation may benefit hair health, but otherwise, the science just isn't there to recommend these minerals across the board as remedies for healthier hair." (Which is again, why it's important to always consult your doctor to ensure you're getting the right amount of each vitamin and mineral.)
Not looking to take supplements but still want to promote hair growth? Roger offers this simple piece of advice: Start with a clean scalp, free from build-up and debris. This way your products, serums, and conditioners are able to penetrate your strands and roots, which will "create the perfect environment for growth," she says. (Roger loves this Rene Furterer pre-shampoo detox scalp treatment)
Read on for Kimball and Roger's favorite supplements and products that will promote healthy, luscious hair.
Shop the Best Products For Hair Growth and Strength
Nutrafol Women Hair Growth Supplement
"Nutrafol is my preferred brand as it contains more of the ingredients that have peer-reviewed data to support their use for hair growth," says Kimball.
Shop now: Nutrafol Women Hair Growth Supplement, $88; amazon.com.
Vital Proteins Marine Collagen
Collagen has basically been everywhere lately. So why is it so effective? "Collagen is a protein that's found in our hair, as well as our skin, nails, and connective tissue," says Kimball. "Most types of collagen peptides are bovine-derived (sourced from cows), while marine collagen is sourced from fish."
Bonus: You can pretty much mix this collagen with just about anything. "I love that it's unflavored — it's virtually tasteless and odorless, mixing easily into smoothies, hot coffee or blended collagen café 'frappes,'" says Kimball. "It also works well in soups, sauces, and hot or cold cereal."
Shop now: Vital Proteins Marine Collagen, $36; amazon.com.
Nature Made Ashwagandha
"Ashwagandha is an adaptogenic herb, meaning that it supports our body's ability to handle stress, helping us to maintain a sense of balance, particularly during challenging times,"
Kimball tells InStyle. "We know that chronic stress can lead to hair loss, and it appears that supplementing with ashwagandha for its anti-stress properties may be effective as a complementary treatment for hair loss."
Shop now: Nature Made Ashwagandha Capsules, $17 (originally $20); amazon.com.
"Horsetail is a medicinal plant that may promote healthy hair via two different approaches: It's rich in silicon, a mineral important for optimal collagen synthesis, which can support hair growth and thickness, and horsetail may help to block the conversion of testosterone to dihydrotestosterone (DHT), which can protect against hair loss," says Kimball.
Shop now: Swanson Horsetail Capsules, $9; amazon.com.
Nature Made Vitamin D3
"Vitamin D receptors are found in hair follicle cells, and low levels of D are associated with an array of conditions that can lead to hair loss," says Kimball. "Since an estimated 40% of Americans are deficient in vitamin D, it can be worth getting your vitamin D levels checked if you're experiencing hair loss, and supplementing with vitamin D3 if levels are low."
Shop now: Nature Made Vitamin D3 capsules, $15 (originally $27); amazon.com
Nature Made Vitamin E
"Supplementing with 100 mg of the antioxidant vitamin E has been shown to increase total hair count," Kimball tells us. "Stay patient, though, as it can take months to notice a difference."
Shop now: Nature Made Vitamin E capsules, $11 (originally $17); amazon.com
The bottom line on hair supplements and vitamins: Talk to your doctor or a registered dietician to find out if you're deficient in any vitamins or minerals that contribute to hair health and growth. If you're not lacking any of these nutrients, try a mild supplement like collagen powder or horsetail. But always consult a professional first.