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Can multivitamins help with hair loss?

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There can be a number of complex causes behind hair loss, from genetics and hormones to diet and deficiencies. Here's what we know about the role of various vitamins.

Hair loss is common: close to 50% of men and women are affected by pattern hair loss by age 50.1 This can be driven by genetic or hormonal factors (women often see changes in their hair during peri-menopause, for example).

Deficiencies in our diet are another common cause; studies have shown links between nutritional deficiencies and chronic telogen effluvium, androgenetic alopecia, female pattern hair loss, and alopecia areata.2,3 But whatever the cause, hair loss can be distressing, and many of us want to do something about it.

See your GP

Sudden hair loss can be the sign of an underlying health problem, such as anaemia, alopecia, thyroid problems, diabetes and lupus, and should always be investigated by your GP.

Nutritional deficiencies

Research is ongoing into the role of diet into hair loss, but we do know that a balanced and varied diet with a wide range of vitamins – including A, C, D, E, K and the vitamin B complex group – is required for a healthy scalp.4

If you are not getting these key hair-healthy nutrients, a multivitamin or specific hair supplement can help – although a healthy diet should always come first.

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B vitamins

The whole range of B vitamins is useful for hair, as they help carry oxygen and nutrients to the scalp. Biotin, however, is particularly popular; evidence shows that a lack of this nutrient can cause hair loss.5

Smoking and impaired liver function can lead to a deficiency, but biotin can be found in a large range of foods, such as meat, fish, almonds, wholegrains and green leafy vegetables.

Vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid) is another one to look for, as it's thought to stimulate hair growth. Beef, chicken, avocado, chicken and eggs are all good sources.

Did you know?

B vitamins from animal sources are the most easily absorbed, so if you are vegetarian or vegan, consider taking a B complex supplement.

Vitamin C

Over time, oxidative stress can leave cells and tissues unable to function properly, which can contribute to hair thinning.6 Vitamin C (found in citrus fruits, kiwis, peppers, spinach and tomatoes) helps to fight this oxidative stress, resulting in healthier, more resilient hair.

Vitamin D

"Vitamin D is intricately involved in various signalling pathways of growth and differentiation of hair follicles", say the researchers behind a 2021 study into the relationship between low levels of vitamin D and hair loss.

Most research shows "an inverse relationship between serum vitamin D levels and non-scarring alopecias such as telogen effluvium, androgenetic alopecia, alopecia areata, and trichotillomania", say the scientists. Vitamin D deficiency is also associated with scarring alopecia.7

Vitamin D is only found in small amounts in foods like oily fish, eggs and fortified foods. During the summer months, it's possible to get what we need from the action of direct sunlight on our skin, but from October to April, supplementation is advised.

Vitamin E

Vitamin E has long been recognised for its ability to improve both hair and skin. Found in almonds, wheatgerm, kale, spinach and vegetable oils, vitamin E contains antioxidants known as tocotrienols, which are thought to keep the scalp healthy.

Other top tips

Pack in some protein

Hair is made of a protein called keratin, and if you are not getting enough protein in your diet, hair becomes dry, brittle, weak and thin – potentially falling out.8 Good sources include eggs, poultry, lean meat, cheese, yogurt and nuts and seeds.

Get enough omega 3

Oily fish (like salmon) is also a particularly good option, as omega 3s are found in the cells that line the scalp and can keep your scalp and hair healthy.

A 2015 study showed that for women with female-pattern hair loss, 6-month supplementation with omegas 3 and 6 and antioxidants reduced hair loss and improved hair diameter and hair density.9

Reduce stress

In a study published in Nature, scientists found that stress can put hair follicles into an extended rest phase, without regenerating the follicle or the hair.10 Unfortunately not all stress can avoided; the best management techniques include regular exercise and relaxation techniques such as mindfulness, meditation or yoga.

Practice good hair care

Care for your hair from the outside, too. As well as regular shampoo and conditioning, avoid styles that create too much traction such as tight ponytails or buns, and limit your use of damaging heated hair appliances.

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References

1 Rogers, N. E., & Avram, M. R. (2008). Medical treatments for male and female pattern hair loss. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, 59(4), 547–568.
2 Goldberg, L. J., & Lenzy, Y. (2010). Nutrition and hair. Clinics in dermatology, 28(4), 412–419.
3 Finner A. M. (2013). Nutrition and hair: deficiencies and supplements. Dermatologic clinics, 31(1), 167–172.
4 Almohanna, H. M., Ahmed, A. A., Tsatalis, J. P., & Tosti, A. (2019). The Role of Vitamins and Minerals in Hair Loss: A Review. Dermatology and therapy, 9(1), 51–70.
5 Zempleni, J., Hassan, Y. I., & Wijeratne, S. S. (2008). Biotin and biotinidase deficiency. Expert review of endocrinology & metabolism, 3(6), 715–724.
6 Trüeb R. M. (2015). The impact of oxidative stress on hair. International journal of cosmetic science, 37 Suppl 2, 25–30.
7 Saini, K., & Mysore, V. (2021). Role of vitamin D in hair loss: A short review. Journal of cosmetic dermatology, 20(11), 3407–3414.
8 Mubki, T., Rudnicka, L., Olszewska, M., & Shapiro, J. (2014). Evaluation and diagnosis of the hair loss patient: part I. History and clinical examination. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, 71(3), 415.e1–415.e15.
9 Le Floc'h, C., Cheniti, A., Connétable, S., Piccardi, N., Vincenzi, C., & Tosti, A. (2015). Effect of a nutritional supplement on hair loss in women. Journal of cosmetic dermatology, 14(1), 76–82.
10 Choi, S., Zhang, B., Ma, S. et al. (2021). Corticosterone inhibits GAS6 to govern hair follicle stem-cell quiescence. Nature, 592, 428–432.