These Vitamins for Hair Growth Will Give You the Rapunzel-Like Locks of Your Dreams
We all know the "sunshine vitamin" gives us a much-needed energy boost, but vitamin D may also stimulate the hair follicle and activates cells within the hair shaft (translation: grow, baby, grow!). One of the best vitamins for hair growth, vitamin D also helps control your body's mineral balance, specifically zinc levels, and if it goes off-kilter, symptoms like a flaky scalp and thinning, lackluster hair may start to appear. Salmon, grains, and mushrooms are great sources of vitamin D, as is natural sunlight—so what better excuse is there to take that afternoon coffee break or book that beach vacay. (Need another reason to go outside? Soaking up some sun can do wonders for your mood.)
A true all-around winner in the best vitamins for hair growth category, vitamin A is great for promoting a healthy, moisturized scalp, preventing hair from drying out, keeping dandruff at bay, and regulating retinoic acid (too much of which can lead to hair loss) in the hair follicles. Derived from two main sources—the retinoids, which are found in kidney beans, liver, and eggs—and carotenoids, found in fruits and vegetables like spinach, sweet carrots, and mangoes—vitamin A is a powerful antioxidant that you can't do without. "Basically, every cell of the body needs vitamin A to function," says dermatologist Cybele Fishman, M.D. "It also helps protect and produce the oils that sustain your scalp, and being low on vitamin A can even leave you with itchy, irksome dandruff." It is possible, however, to take in too much vitamin A and hinder hair growth. To prevent this, minimize your intake of fortified foods, such as cereals, energy bars, and margarine, recommends Greg Hottinger, R.D., nutritionist and author of The Best Natural Foods on the Market Today. If you're taking it as a supplement, don't exceed 700mg daily. (Related: The Best Time to Take Your Dietary Supplements)
While we've heard countless times that vitamin C is essential for maintaining a healthy immune system, it can also do wonders for hair growth. It helps build collagen, which stimulates the follicle to lengthen, and helps break down iron, an essential component of long and strong hair. "The major reason we need it is that it helps to transport oxygen throughout the body," says Paul Thomas, R.D., a scientific consultant to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Office of Dietary Supplements. By facilitating the breakdown of iron, vitamin C ensures that the body gets enough oxygen to each cell that works at maintaining healthy hair, skin, and nails. Reach for citrus fruits, spinach, broccoli, and peppers, all of which contain high concentrations of C. (On that note, find out how to start cooking with more citrus.)
Stimulating the expansion of the capillaries and promoting a strong blood supply is what vitamin E, one of the best vitamins for hair growth, does best. This means that it helps foster a healthy scalp, which lays the foundation for long, supple hair. Many hair-care products contain some form of the vitamin to promote shininess and conditioning—that luxurious feeling you get when running your fingers through smooth, soft locks. But be sure to regulate your intake, as vitamin E is a natural blood thinner, and overdosing could cause bleeding problems, according to the NIH, which recommends that the average adult take no more than 15mg of vitamin E per day to keep levels in check. Not sure where you're getting it? The nutrient's most commonly found in almonds, kiwi, papaya, sunflower seeds, kale, and spinach.
Often known by its more common name, biotin, this vitamin is included in the B-complex group with other vitamins like niacin and cobalamin. (Vitamin H is also called vitamin B7 and coenzyme R.) Since research has linked biotin deficiency to alopecia, or hair loss, it's considered an important vitamin for hair growth and to help strengthen hair and nails—and it's found in tons of cosmetic products. It's also found in common foods like avocados, eggs, nuts, and legumes, all of which help give your hair a healthy shine (bonus!). Though biotin deficiency is extremely rare, you can consult with your doctor about biotin supplements if you're experiencing hair loss. Just don't exceed 2.5mg per day, says dermatologist Richard Scher, M.D. (Psst, you might want to amp up your intake of these energizing B-vitamins as well.)