Note: This article deals with supplements only. If you want to know the vitamin contents of food sources or which foods to eat for the most of a vitamin, there are online resources for that.
I like to view the supplements that boost your hair growth as the pieces of wood that holds a barrel together. Each piece of wood can represent each vitamin or mineral necessary for the hair growth.
The water can't go higher than what the shortest piece of wood can hold and loading up on a few vitamins won't help much unless it's balanced with other supplements
A good supplement routine can maximise your growth and hair quality but of course lots of people have grown an amazing mane without taking additional supplements.
Let's start with the basics
Food and supplements are absorbed from the digestive system, broken down to cell-friendly nutrients in the cells and led through the bloodstream attached to the red blood cells. The nutrients go to the follicles through the capillaries. The follicles are located in the corium and the hair strand grows out through the epidermis to the surface. Attached to the follicle are a sebaceous gland to keep the follicle moisturised and a tiny muscle that when contracted will make the hair stand up.
In the bottom of the follicle is the hair bulb which contains the only living cells in the hair. The cells here are dividing rapidly and push the new cells upwards towards the surface (Actually these cells are dividing so rapidly that chemotherapy that is designed to attack the uncontrolled dividing cells in cancer clusters attacks these cells, which is why chemo-patients lose their hair) The cells are aligned in cylindrical layers and die before reaching the surface of the skin so all the hair we actually see is dead cells. When pulling out a hair you can see the hair bulb as a light, onion shaped growth. No matter what advertisings want to tell us, the actual hair strand is dead
To make sure that nutrients are absorbed in the body you need your digestive system to function well. If you suspect you have stomach problems you should see a doctor
But nice, simple hints for a better digestion are:
Aloe vera in juice or tablet form can help your stomach function better
Exercising at least a little each day
Extra fibre in food or supplement form
Getting enough sleep
Getting enough water
Yoghurt contains bacteria beneficial for the digestive system
Keeping the blood flow to the follicle high will send more nutrients to the bulb and aid the growth
Exercise at least a little each day
Ginkgo biloba increases the blood flow
Limit coffee intake as the caffeine constricts blood vessels
Massage will increase the blood flow to the effected area temporarily
Staying warm (Hats are good both for heat and protection from the wind whipping and tangling and protection from harmful UV rays) as cold constricts blood vessels
Stop smoking if you can, if not, cut back as much as possible
Try to avoid lengthy stress as it lessens blood flow to the surface of your body
It's a little tricky to put down recommended doses. The recommended daily intake and upper limit doses have changed many times and studying is still done on the subject. Many sources disagree with each other, especially on how high damaging doses are. Don't panic if your vitamin bottle name other recommended doses than what are written here
There are two things to take into consideration though:
The fat soluble vitamins are the most risky ones to overdose on. These vitamins stores in your body whereas the water soluble vitamins don't. With the water soluble vitamins, the body absorbs what it needs and the rest is discarded in the urine. As long as you don't suffer any kidney problems, it shouldn't cause any problems
As written in my barrel-comparison, you might actually not get anything out of the overdose except to pay for a lot of supplements that in the end only results in smelly pee
Supplements for healthy hair growth
For normal cellular maintenance, growth, and division, free radicals must be sufficiently neutralized by antioxidant compounds. Plants and animals maintain complex systems of multiple types of antioxidants, such as vitamin C, and vitamin E as well as certain enzymes. Low levels of antioxidants, or inhibition of the antioxidant enzymes, causes oxidative stress and may damage or kill cells. Antioxidants help your skin build up a natural resistance to UV rays and protect from burns and stress. It's not a sun protection you should count on, but every bit helps. Put short; antioxidants protects your skin, scalp and thus hair from environmental stress and damage
First a note on minerals: The term "mineral" is archaic, since the intent of the definition is to describe ions, not chemical compounds or actual minerals.
Calcium is essential for living organisms, particularly in cell physiology, where movement of the calcium ion functions as a signal for many cellular processes and physiology. This mineral work together with magnesium to ensure healthy hair growth. It takes part in muscle and digestive system health, builds bone, clears toxins and helps the blood stream.
Recommended daily calcium intake for adults ranges from 1000 to 1500 mg. It is recommended to take supplements with food to aid in absorption.
Warnings: Too much calcium can inhibit the absorption of zinc, iron, penicillin and certain types of Parkinson's medicine; An acid found in chocolate can inhibit calcium absorption.
Trivalent chromium (Cr3+) is part of the production of insulin which helps prevent hyperglycemia and hypoglycemia, both of which can cause hair loss.
In the United States the dietary guidelines for daily chromium uptake were lowered from 50-200 mcg for an adult to 35 mcg (adult male) and to 25 mcg (adult female) due to recent studies showing chromosome damage in hamster cells
Warnings: People who are allergic to yeast should not take chromium supplements.
This essential trace nutrient helps prevent hair loss as well as defects in hair colour and structure. Lack of copper can show as pale, stiff hair. This metal is part of many enzymes in the body and of an enzyme that regulates the iron in red blood cells. In animals, including humans, it is found primarily in the bloodstream, as a co-factor in various enzymes, and in copper-based pigments.
Recommended daily intake of copper for normal healthy adults is 0,9 mg although some research on the subject recommends 3,0 mg
Warnings: High levels can lead to dry hair, hair loss and severe health problems. It is believed that zinc and copper compete for absorption in the digestive tract so that a diet that is excessive in one of these minerals may result in a deficiency in the other
Essential fatty acids
Omega-3 Fatty Acid (Alpha-Linolenic Acid)
Omega-6 Fatty Acid (Gamma-Linolenic Acid)
The difference between the omega 3, omega 6 and omega 9 fatty acids are on the molecular level. The number simply refers to what number the molecular double binding bound to the carbon atom is from the end of the molecule. Fats from each of these families are essential, as the body can convert one omega-3 to another omega-3, for example, but cannot create an omega-3 molecule from scratch. Unlike Omega 3and Omega 6 fatty acids, Omega 9 fatty acids are not classed as essential fatty acid.
Essential fatty acids play an important role in the life and death of cardiac cells. The cell membrane that protects the cells sensitive inside is built on fatty acids. Both essential oils are known to nourish straw-like hair and keep hair soft and shiny. It is also essential for healthy skin and nails with the same effect on nails as on hair and helping your skin glow, clearing up eczema and minimizing fine wrinkles. For your general health it reduces cholesterol and helps your metabolism.
I take 600mg fish oil per day, which works for me. If your skin is very dry you can try a higher dose
Trace mineral, meaning that the body needs it in only very low doses. This essential mineral helps regulate thyroid hormones, which means it takes part in the energy regulation of cells and the chemical building blocks that create and maintain cells. It is necessary to regulate and produce thyroid hormones and prevents dry hair, greying and hair loss. Salt for human consumption is often fortified with iodine and is referred to as iodized salt
Recommended daily intake is 150 micrograms of iodine per day for both men and women. However the daily FDA intake recommendation may be 100 x too low
Warnings: Pregnant women should take a lower dose as it can interfere with the foetus' thyroid
One of the most important functions of iron in the system is its role is oxygenating the blood as it is the central part of the haemoglobin molecule. That way the essential metal iron prevents anaemia and hair loss. Another role of iron is energy metabolism and also serves to promote the important functioning of the body's immune system particularly in the production of the white blood cells essential in fighting infection and disease. Iron also takes part in properly utilizing the B vitamins.
Recommended daily intake:10 mg. Women may take up to 18 mg during the period if the flow is heavy
Warnings: Too much can lead to malfunctions of the liver and spleen. Humans experience iron toxicity above 20 milligrams of iron for every kilogram of mass, and 60 milligrams per kilogram is a lethal dose
This mineral work together with calcium to ensure healthy hair growth. It is important for your general health, aids in building bone, and healthy peristalsis. Magnesium ions are essential to all living cells, and are the 11th most abundant element by mass in the human body. It's a co-factor in over 300 different enzymes and as such an important part of the metabolism. Magnesium is a vital component of a healthy human diet and deficiency has been implicated in a number of diseases
Recommended daily intake of magnesium is 280 mg.
Prevents slow hair growth. Manganese is an essential trace nutrient in all forms of life. Manganese ions function as cofactors for a number of enzymes; the element is thus a required trace mineral for all known living organisms for example a co-factor in two enzymes that speed up the metabolisms chemical reactions. The human body contains about 10 mg of manganese, which is stored mainly in liver & kidneys
Recommended daily intake: 3-5 mg.
MSM is promoted as a natural source of sulphur by the supplement and health food industry, suggesting that people are deficient in sulphur intake. However, protein in the diet is an abundant source of sulphur, which is contained in the amino acids methionine and cysteine. The efficacy of MSM has been questioned and clinical research on the medical use of the chemical is limited to a few pilot studies that have suggested beneficial effects. The biochemical effects of supplemental methylsulfonylmethane are poorly understood. Some researchers have suggested that MSM has anti-inflammatory effects. The published clinical trials of MSM did not report any serious side-effects of treatment, but there are no peer-reviewed data on the effects of long-term use in humans
People on longhair forums have reported that it helps to decrease hair fall out. It is claimed that MSM does this by making the growth stage of the hair longer and the shedding cycle shorter. The growth faze is genetically determined though but it is possible that it makes the shedding cycle shorter. It is true that sulphur is a main component in hair's structure so taking it as a supplement can't hurt.
You may take up to 2000mg/day.
Warnings: Some people have linked MSM to depression! You should be aware of this when taking this supplement.
Regulates circulation and promotes healthy hair growth. Potassium is a nutrient necessary for human life and health, its important for brain and nerve function. Potassium is also important in allowing muscle contraction and the sending of all nerve impulses through action potentials.
Recommended daily intake: 4000 mg.
Warnings: Individuals suffering from kidney diseases may suffer adverse health effects from consuming large quantities of dietary potassium
Hair's structure consists primarily of protein, which remains forever critical to hair growth. Especially the protein cysteine is important for hair growth.
Protein is composed of amino acids that are the body's structural materials for muscles, skin, hair etc. The body requires amino acids to produce new body protein) and to repair damaged proteins.
Your body can't store a lot of protein, meaning that you can't fill up on protein one day and then let your body "feed off" the protein the next. A steady intake of protein is best for your hair and general health. Take a critical look at your protein intake, there are many online sources to help you with this. If your intake is around what your body needs there are no reason to take protein supplements. Some protein shakes can be very high in calories. Even if you're not calorie conscious, there's no reason to pile extra calories on, especially if it don't actually helps you accomplish anything when it comes to hair growth. Proteins can be converted into carbohydrates and thus, extra protein will end as energy for the cells instead
Recommended daily intake: You need 1 gram of protein per 1 kilo of body weight per day if you are healthy and up to 1,5 gram in cases of severe illness
Keeps skin and scalp supple and elastic. In humans, selenium is a trace element nutrient which functions as cofactor for reduction of antioxidant enzymes. It is toxic in large amounts, but trace amounts of it are necessary for cellular function in all animals, forming the active centre of the enzymes. Selenium is a trace element nutrient which functions as cofactor for reduction of antioxidant enzymes and is a co-factor for a thyroid hormone
Recommended daily intake of selenium: 45 mcg.
Warnings: Over 400 mcg of Selenium per day can be toxic, leading to the loss of hair, nails and teeth. A warning sign is metal taste in your mouth and a breath that smells like garlic
This is generally a good help for growing out hair. It increases the shine and softness of the hair and helps growing the hair out stronger. It is also has antioxidant properties
Is a part in three essential amino acids and many proteins and cofactors for skin, hair, nails, liver, and pancreas health. Sulphur is an essential component of all living cells.
Many important cellular enzymes use prosthetic groups ending with -SH moieties to handle reactions. Disulfide bonds (S-S shaped bonds) formed between cysteine residues in peptide chains are very important in protein assembly and structure. These strong covalent bonds between peptide chains give proteins a great deal of extra toughness and resiliency. For example, the high strength of feathers and hair is in part due to their high content of S-S bonds and their high content of cysteine and sulphur. In short: Sulphur is a main component to hair's structure.
Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin that has antioxidant properties and aids a healthy production of sebum which is good for the skin. It also helps promoting healthy skin and scalp, hair and nails in general. Helps maintain normal growth and bone development and protective sheathing around nerve fibres. Vitamin A actually refers to a family of similarly shaped molecules: the retinoids. Its important part is the retinyl group, which can be found in several forms
Recommended daily intake for a grown female is 700 mcg and 900 mcg for a grown male. Upper limit is 3000 mcg for both genders. Overdosing can cause hair loss and high vitamin A intake has been associated with spontaneous bone fractures in animals
Vitamin B1 (Thiamin or thiamine, also known as aneurine hydrochloride)
A funny note on vitamins B's is that many of the following substances have been referred to as vitamins because they were believed to be vitamins at one time, and they are relevant to vitamin nomenclature in that the numbers that were assigned to them form "gaps" in the series of B-vitamin names. Some of them, though not essential to humans, are essential in the diets of other organisms; others have no known nutritional value. There are named around 30 different vitamin B's!
Vitamin B1 is a water soluble vitamin that is important for the processes that make glucose which is fuel for the body's cells. The majority of the vitamin in serum is bound to proteins, mainly albumin. Approximately 90% of total thiamin in blood is in erythrocytes. A specific binding protein called thiamin-binding protein (TBP) has been identified in rat serum and is believed to be a hormonally regulated carrier protein that is important for tissue distribution of thiamine. The vitamin B1 molecule is sensitive and is broken down by high temperatures in cooking, coffee and alcohol.
Recommended daily intake in most countries is set to around 1,4 mg
Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin)
This Vitamin is needed for the proper biochemical functioning of every living cell. It is important for healthy skin especially on the lips. Riboflavin aids the body in the absorption of iron. Like the other B vitamins, it plays a key role in energy metabolism, and is required for the metabolism of fats, ketone bodies, carbohydrates, and proteins. As such, vitamin B2 is required for a wide variety of cellular processes. Riboflavin is water soluble and is continuously excreted in the urine of healthy individuals, making deficiency relatively common when dietary intake is insufficient. However, riboflavin deficiency is always accompanied by deficiency of other vitamins
The recommended daily intake in most countries is set at around 1,5 mg
Warnings: Taking nerve medicine in the form of Klorpromazin makes the body flush this vitamin twice as fast as normal through the urine
Vitamin B3 (Niacin, also known as nicotinic acid)
This water soluble, non essential vitamin is needed for oxygen transport to the cells and promotes healthy scalp circulation. Also takes part in fat, protein and carbohydrate metabolism and helps the nervous system function
The body can synthesize niacin from the amino acid tryptophan if the body's requirement isn't met through food
Recommended daily intake in most countries is set at around 15 mg
Warnings: Taking more than 1 g a day can result in "niacin flush" - a temporary heat sensation and blushing due to blood cell dilation. High doses should be avoided by pregnant women as it can result in deformations on the foetus. High-dose niacin may also elevate blood sugar
Vitamin B4 (Adenine)
In older literature, adenine was sometimes called Vitamin B4 but it is no longer considered a true vitamin or part of the Vitamin B complex because it is synthesized by the human body. However, two B vitamins, niacin and riboflavin, bind with adenine to form two cofactors that are essential to the body
Vitamin B5 (Pantothenic acid)
This essential, water-soluble vitamin participates in a wide array of key biological roles and is considered essential to all forms of life. It prevents greying and hair loss. Vitamin B5 is very important biologically and is critical in the metabolism and synthesis of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. The derivative of pantothenic acid, pantothenol, is a more stable form of the vitamin and is often used as a source of the vitamin in multivitamin supplements. A study have shown high doses of Vitamin B5 resolved acne and decreased pore size
The vitamin B5 molecule is sensitive and can be broken down by high temperatures in cooking
Recommended daily intake is around 4-7 mg
Warnings: High doses can result in diarhea
Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine pyridoxal and pyridoxamin)
This water soluble vitamin prevents hair loss and is part of the process that creates melanin, which gives hair its colour. Vitamin B6 is a factor in more than 140 enzyme activities, corresponding to ~4% of all classified activities in the body
The vitamin B6 molecule is sensitive and is broken down by high temperatures in cooking, coffee, oestrogen and alcohol.
Recommended daily intake for a grown person is around 1,3 mg.
Warnings: High doses can cause numbness in hands and feet and trouble coordinating the limbs. Medicine against Parkinson's disease can hinder the body's absorption of this vitamin
Vitamin B7 (Biotin, also known as vitamin H)
Vitamin B7 is essential in the production of keratin and may prevent greying and even hair loss in men. It promotes healthy hair growth since it increases the elasticity of the hair's cortex, thus preventing breakage and protects against dryness. Biotin is necessary for all cell growth, the production of fatty acids, and the metabolism of fats and amino acids.
Biotin supplements are often recommended as a supplement to stop hair loss, there are, however, no studies that show any benefit in any case where the subject is not actually biotin deficient. Deficiency is extremely rare, as intestinal bacteria generally produce an excess of the body's daily requirement. For that reason, statutory agencies in many countries don't prescribe a recommended daily intake for this water sioluble vitamin. The vitamin promotes cell growth and is thus needed for healthy skin as well.
Recommended daily intakeis no higher than 225 mcg
Vitamin B8 (Denosine monophosphate or inositol)
Inositol is no longer classified as a vitamin because it is synthesized by the human body. It keeps hair follicles healthy at the cellular level and is thus necessary for hair growth.
Vitamin B9 (Folic acid, vitamin M and folate)
Vitamin B9 is necessary for the production and maintenance of cells. It's an important part of the development and tissue growth as the cells need it for dividing. This also makes it an important part of red blood cell growth. It is also necessary for the repair of damaged cells. This is especially important during periods of rapid cell division and growth such as infancy and pregnancy.
Recommended daily intake of vitamin B9 is 0,3 mg.
Warnings: Even though its a water-soluble vitamin, intake of supplemental folic acid should not exceed 1000 micrograms. In supplement form the molecule breaks down when exposed to water, light and heat
Vitamin B12 (Cyano cobalamin)
This water soluble vitamin is required for the proper functioning of all cells because it's necessary for the dividing process. Vitamin B12 is involved in the metabolism of every cell of the body, especially affecting the DNA synthesis and regulation but also fatty acid synthesis and energy production. It is needed for new tissue growth, red blood cells, nervous system and skin. It prevents hair loss by keeping the bulb dividing cells to produce hair.
Recommended daily intake for an adult is 2-3 mcg .The body recycles the vitamin and the coli bacterium that lives in the colon produces the vitamin so the intake required is low.
Vitamin C (L-ascorbate)
This water-soluble vitamin functions as an antioxidant that helps maintains hair and skin health. It maintains healthy gums, teeth and blood vessels. Vitamin C plays a special function in the white blood cells (which fight infection) and in the manufacture of collagen. Collagen is a binding substance that holds all cells and the bones together. It is an essential nutrient and increases the absorption of iron.
Recommendations for vitamin C intake have been set by WHO to 45 milligrams per day and tolerable Upper Intake Level to 2,000 mg. Relatively large doses of vitamin C may cause indigestion, particularly when taken on an empty stomach. Too high intake can result in nausea and a higher risk of kidney stones
Vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin with a half-life at almost a month in the body. When skin comes in contact with the UVB rays in sunlight the body synthesize the vitamin. It increases the absorption of calcium and promotes bone formation and mineralization and is essential in the development of an intact and strong skeleton. Vitamin D regulates the calcium and phosphorus levels in the blood by promoting their absorption from food in the intestines, and by promoting re-absorption of calcium in the kidneys. It also plays a role in regulating the immune system.
Recommended daily intake: 5-10 mcg
The exact long-term safe dose of vitamin D is not entirely known, but dosages up to 250 micrograms per day for healthy adults are believed to be safe. Overdose occurs at more than 100 times the recommended daily dose of over a period of months. Acute overdose requires over ten thousand times the RDA. Foods contain low levels, and have not been known to cause overdose.
Vitamin E is the collective name for a set of 8 related tocopherols and tocotrienols, which are fat-soluble vitamins with antioxidant properties. Vitamin E increases oxygen uptake, which improves circulation to the scalp and skin. Since hair health is tied to the immune health, vitamin E is believed to stimulate hair growth by enhancing the immune function. Vitamin E also has shown to have beneficial effects on the lungs and heart and on aging in general. It has been claimed that α-tocopherol is the most important lipid-soluble antioxidant, and that it protects cell membranes from oxidation
Recommended daily intake is around 10 mg. Because vitamin E can act as an anticoagulant and may increase the risk of bleeding problems, many agencies have set an upper tolerable intake level for vitamin E at 1,000 mg.
Warnings: Can raise blood pressure and people taking high blood pressure medication or anticoagulants should check with their doctors before taking Vitamin E supplements.
This is a group of fat-soluble vitamins that are needed for the building and modification of certain proteins, mostly required for the factors leading to a successful blood coagulation. The human body does not store Vitamin K in large quantities, so the body requires a daily intake of Vitamin K. Bacteria in the colon excretes vitamin K that is absorbed by the body.
Recommended daily intake of Vitamin K for an adult is set to120 mcg for both genders. No tolerable upper intake level has been set, but too high intake may result in increased risk of bleeding
Zinc is an essential element, necessary for sustaining all life. It is estimated that 3,000 of the hundreds of thousands of proteins in the human body contain zinc. It has a stabilising effect on cell membranes. Zinc is necessary for healing wounds and heals and prevents skin problems, which benefits the scalp. It stimulates hair growth by enhancing immune function. Zinc and Vitamin A work together; a deficiency in either can lead to dry hair and oily skin.
Recommended daily intake: 8 mg
Warnings: It is believed that zinc and copper compete for absorption in the digestive tract so that a diet that is excessive in one of these minerals may result in a deficiency in the other. Too high intake can interfere with iron absorption as well.
A co-enzyme that improves scalp circulation by increasing tissue oxygenation. This fat-soluble vitamin-like substance is present in most human cells except red blood cells and cells without mitochondria and is responsible for the production of the body's own energy. In each human cell, food energy is converted into energy in the mitochondria with the aid of Q10 It is also very important for heart health. The human body can make Q10 but most of our daily need is taken in through food.
Recommended daily intake is set to 30 mg. Doses of over 200 mg can result in headache, nausea and stomach pains
Building your own supplement routine
As you can read, lots of vitamins and minerals influence hair growth and hair health, both directly and indirectly. That's why the first and most important thing you need in a supplement routine is to get a good multivitamin. In my opinion, this is what you should spend most money and energy on. Find a high quality brand you trust
You must ask yourself how many pills you want to take and how much money you want to spend on it. A multi vitamin and something targeting hair, skin and nails would be a good place to start. Some basic knowledge about the body and vitamins is necessary, but always go with your gut instinct. If you get a bad feeling from a supplement you're taking, always listen to your body
Taking your supplements
I suggest you take your supplements with water. Some tablets need a certain amount of water to work or to not draw water from your body. That's why I'll suggest you take one pill with one gulp of water each.
I make "supplement water" where I blend some lemon meat and ginger and pour boiling water over, then filter. Then I cool some green tea and pour everything in bottles. I use the 0,5 litre soda bottles because they're a good size and I can discard them after a week of use or so. This supplement water mix is supposed to help your body get rid of toxins and gives a nice vitamin C and antioxidant boost. One point with making such a water mix is to get something with a little refreshing taste since some supplements can have a bad aftertaste.
Some supplements require that you take them with a meal, others can be taken on empty stomach. If you're on a diet a good trick is to take your supplement and drink the water with them right before the meal. It fills your stomach and you will eat less
This isn't a part of my regular hair care routine and although I wrote in the beginning that this will specifically deal with supplements, I thought I would include my own drink recipe for taking protein powder. I think this one has nice protein content for the calorie count, plus the caffeine boost is nice too (And just for the irony of having warned against too much caffeine, hehe)
Protein vanilla ice coffee
2 cups (2,5 dl) of Kenya blend Senseo coffee, cooled and put in the freezer until slightly frozen
1 dl skim milk
1 scoop (20 g) vanilla protein powder (Maxim extreme protein)
Put the protein powder in the blender with milk to mix and last the iced coffee
2 cups Kenya blend: Around 190 mg caffeine
1 dl skim milk: 35 calories and 3,5 g protein
1 scoop protein powder: 78 calories and 15 g protein
In all: 190 mg caffeine, 113 calories, 18,5 g protein
To end this article with a few golden words: There are literally thousands of supplements out there, so spend time exploring the market to see what works for you. There is no universal right way that works for everyone, so seek out information and be critical to what you find
Good luck with the growing!