Hair and beauty supplements have quickly risen to fame over the past few years, partly due to social media. While wanting thick and luscious locks may seem vain, hair loss can indicate an underlying health condition. Using a generic supplement to tackle this before seeing a doctor may lead to a missed diagnosis and worsening of the underlying issue. This post will cover what else to consider when debating supplementing.
Common Hair Loss Supplements and What They Do
Biotin is a B vitamin needed to produce the protein keratin that makes up your hair. This is the supplement I hear talked about most often but for little reason. In research, biotin is only effective in hair loss when a biotin deficiency is present. This is very uncommon.
Biotin is naturally present in meats, milk, egg yolks, whole grains, and legumes; the bacteria in our colons also make it.
Although vegans and vegetarians may get less biotin than their meat-eating counterparts, which could contribute to hair loss, this is just a piece of the puzzle in consuming a healthy vegan/vegetarian diet.
Finally, consuming over 1mg of biotin daily can interfere with lab testing often done for hair loss. Tell your medical provider if you are on any supplements before lab testing.
Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin that is needed to help crosslink collagen. It is also helpful with iron absorption, which we’ll touch on later.
Again, vitamin C supplementation isn’t always helpful unless you are deficient.
Eating the rainbow is the best way to get your daily vitamin C. One grapefruit has almost the total recommended daily intake of vitamin C!
Collagen is a peptide that helps strengthen connective tissue. It is the most abundant protein in your body. Similar to biotin, collagen helps in the formation of keratin. It is also an antioxidant and may help mitigate free radical damage that promotes hair loss.
You can quickly get collagen with a high-quality bone broth!
Folic Acid (B9)
Back to keratin, folic acid helps promote keratin during the active growth phase of hair. Again, this may only be necessary if you have a deficiency. Due to the fortification of our foods with folate, this is uncommon.
Some populations do have higher requirements for folate. Consult your medical provider.
Folic acid comes from the word foliage; the best way to get this through diet is through leafy greens.
Reasons for hair loss
Hair loss can be due to many things, from diet to hormone imbalances. Before buying a supplement touted by an influencer, consider the following.
- Your hair is made up of over 90% protein. We talked about keratin already, but it’s not the only one. Protein is broken down into amino acids and reassembled into the protein structures that create strong and healthy hair. Are you eating enough high-quality protein throughout the day? If the answer is no or you don’t know, it’s probably best to talk to a professional.
- Hair loss can be due to an underlying issue. It could be a hormonal imbalance, a fungal infection, or an anemia. It could also be a lot of other things. Suppose you notice that your overall health isn’t where it should be, that you have low energy, trouble sleeping, losing or maintaining weight, or have heavy or irregular periods. In that case, these are telltale signs that something that requires more than a hair supplement might be happening. Blood tests and other lab work can illuminate what’s happening and help create a well-informed plan to target hair loss.
The Conclusion: Hype
Although typically safe at the recommended dosages, hair loss supplements provide nutrients easily attainable through most diets, with little evidence that they fix the underlying problem.
Instead, speak to a professional who will review your health history and assess for other signs of an underlying imbalance. If they decide to perform lab work, tell them any supplements you are currently taking so they don’t impact the results.
Almohanna, Hind M et al. “The Role of Vitamins and Minerals in Hair Loss: A Review.” Dermatology and therapy vol. 9,1 (2019): 51-70. doi:10.1007/s13555-018-0278-6
Gifford, Jessica L et al. “Biotin interference: Underrecognized patient safety risk in laboratory testing.” Canadian family physician Medecin de famille canadien vol. 64,5 (2018): 370.