You may have a hair care regime that rivals your skincare, but often working from the inside out with targeted hair growth vitamins delivers the best results
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A quick Google of "how to make hair grow" throws up a plethora of hair growth vitamins, all promising Rapunzel-esque hair with daily supplementation. But do they actually work? According to Daniel Collins, founder of Finnish health brand, Forest Spa Finland, the important thing to remember about any supplement is that "they are an additional boost to help your body function optimally," he says. "For healthy hair, skin and nails you need to ensure your body has an array of nutrients in plentiful amounts. Supplements are a good way to top up anything that may be lacking in your diet."
In particular, supplements can be beneficial for creating the best environment for hair growth and strength. "Hair cells are the second-fastest dividing cells in your body therefore hair needs a great deal of energy and nutrients in order to grow to its full potential," says Anabel Kingsley, consultant trichologist and Philip Kingsley brand president.
The trouble is, because hair is a non-essential tissue, your body will never send extra reinforcements its way if you are lacking in any particular vitamin or mineral. Ergo, "if you have a nutritional deficiency, you may experience symptoms such as shedding and weak strands that will not grow beyond a certain length," adds Kingsley.
From Vogue Scandinavia's October/November 2021 issue. Wearing: Silk bodysuit, €790, dress, €1,450. Both Versace. Hairpin, €275. Schiaparelli. Photo: Gregory Harris
While a healthy diet should, in theory, provide you with all the vitamins and minerals you need for healthy hair cell production, everything from stress to your body’s unique metabolism and hormonal imbalances can interfere with this. That’s where certain key hair supplements come into play. According to Kingsley, those that make the biggest difference to strands will include iron, zinc, biotin, vitamin D and vitamin B12.
There are just two caveats. While it's normal to shed up to 200 strands a day, if you are suffering from a genetic predisposition to hair loss, where the follicles on your scalp gradually shrink and produce finer strands, then hair supplements will likely be of little use and it's crucial to see a professional.
Secondly, you need to be patient and take hair supplements consistently. “The rate at which hair grows, and the length to which it will grow, is genetically determined," says Kingsley. "For most, this is half an inch per month.” In other words, it can take up to three months to see a difference to the strength, shine and length of your strands.
Ferritin (a stored iron) is needed by the body to produce hair cell protein. "Ferritin deficiency commonly causes increased hair fall and a shortening of the anagen phase of the hair growth cycle," says Kingsley. "This means hair may not be able to grow as long as it is capable of. If you eat red meat, try to do so two times a week. If you do not eat red meat, you should consider taking a nutritional supplement containing iron. Although dark, leafy greens such as spinach contain iron, it is ‘non-haem iron’ – and this is harder for the body to break down and absorb."
A zinc deficiency can cause hair to shed and break off prematurely. A combination of supplements and a balanced diet rich in whole grains, beans and poultry is recommended.
For Kingsley, the reason biotin is a key hair vitamin is that it helps with the breakdown of carbohydrates and the production of glucose, "both of which are needed for cell energy," she says. Biotin can also boost keratin, the protein hair is made of.
As Swedish stylist-turned-designer Thora Valdimars told us in a recent interview, biotin tablets helped to restore her hair after a particularly stressful period.
While biotin works well, don't be tempted to overdo it with supplementation - biotin is water-soluble, so whatever your body doesn't use, you urinate out.
When the body doesn't have enough vitamin D, the keratinocytes in the hair follicles have trouble creating hair growth.
B12 is an often overlooked vitamin but it actually helps your body metabolise amino acids, which are the building blocks of healthy hair, and keeps your red blood cells healthy so that they transport fresh oxygen to your hair follicles.
The best supplements for longer, stronger and thicker hair
Density Health Hair Complex
Growth Phase Hair Supplements
The Nue Co.
Hair Sweet Hair
Thick and Full Supplements
B12 Berry Booster with Vitamin B12
Hair + Energy Formula
High Strength Biotin Capsules