The 7 Best Supplements To Take If You Have Dry, Damaged Hair
Shiny, hydrated hair can be hard to achieve with just a good conditioner alone. That's why it's so important to pay attention to not only what you're putting on your hair but what you're putting into your body—including supplements. Don't know where to turn in the vast world of supplementation? Well, experts say these seven nutrients have strong, sound research to support their role in healthy hair growth.
"Amino acids are the building blocks of cell membranes and keratin. Keratin is the material that hair is made of," says Joshua Zeichner, M.D., a New York City–based dermatologist and director of cosmetic and clinical research in dermatology at Mount Sinai Medical Center. One way of the best ways to get more amino acids in your diet is through collagen.* It is the most abundant protein in your body that can strengthen hair and prevent hair follicle damage.* "As collagen is digested by your gut, it is broken down into its individual amino acids that circulate throughout the body," Zeichner says. Those amino acids can then be turned into keratin to form healthy hair at the follicle.
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"Hair is made up of keratin protein, and it requires a complete diet in order to grow to its maximum potential," explains trichologist Shab Reslan. Supplementing with collagen can support your hair's natural growth and health.*
For best results, look for a grass-fed bovine collagen supplement, which contains collagen Types I and III, the types of collagen that are vital in promoting hair health.* "Grass-fed collagen is the way to go," says Ariane Hundt, M.S., a clinical nutrition coach in New York City.*
Biotin is a B-complex vitamin that's known to be important in hair and nail growth. "When patients have a biotin deficiency, they suffer from thinning, dry hair, and dry skin," says Zeichner. "Supplementing biotin may help in supporting dry scalp and dry hair."* While dry hair, hair loss, and skin rashes are good indicators of an issue, as with most deficiencies, the only way to tell for sure is by getting a blood test from your doctor.
Silica is a mineral that's often found in nature and in the body and is commonly used as a food additive, Zeichner says. Research has discovered that silica can be found in the bones, tendons, aorta, liver, and kidneys. "The exact mechanism is unclear, but silica is thought to be needed by the human body for proper production of skin, collagen, bones, and hair," he says.
"Silicon supplements have been shown to promote hair strength, brightness, and thickness and decrease hair breakage," says California-based holistic dermatologist Cynthia Bailey, M.D., a diplomate of the American Board of Dermatology.* While it's not entirely clear why this can happen, Bailey says that one theory is that it may interact with keratin, the protein found naturally in hair, which gives hair its structure.
4. Vitamin E
Vitamin E is "full of nutrients and is one of the best vitamins for the scalp," says Reslan.* Vitamin E is believed to work by calming inflammation on your skin and scalp, slowing free radical damage around your hair follicles that can lead to premature graying and hair damage, Zeichner says.* Keep in mind that it can take a little time for vitamin E to work on your hair: It takes a week for the vitamin to help manage the sebum and oily secretions that help keep your hair and skin moisturized, Bailey says.* If you want to look for hair products with the vitamin along with supplementation, "when applied topically, vitamin E helps produce collagen and healthier skin cells for your scalp," Reslen adds.
Omega-3 fatty acids are oils that are naturally found in foods like walnuts, soy, and fatty fish, Zeichner says. While they're thought to have a slew of health benefits, including reducing bodily inflammation and improving heart health, the effect of this supplement is less clear. However, Zeichner says, some research suggests that omega-3 fatty acids can support your skin and hair health when they're taken along with other supplements like antioxidants.*
Iron deficiency is a common nutritional deficiency, and it can lead to hair issues, including dryness and hair loss, says Bailey. While we don't know exactly how iron affects hair growth specifically, we do know that without the proper iron intake, hair follicles do not function properly. Iron supplementation isn't for everyone—as taking the supplement can cause digestion and stomach issues if you're not deficient—so talk to your doctor to see if you need to be tested for a deficiency.*
7. Vitamin C
Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin our bodies cannot make on their own, and thus is essential for us to ingest. It's extremely important for a few functions in the body. For starters, vitamin C promotes your natural collagen production (great for hair and scalp, as we've noted previously) as well as stabilizes the collagen you have in the body already.* Additionally, its antioxidant properties neutralize oxidative stress and free radicals, which contribute to hair loss and cell damage. And finally, vitamin C aids the body in absorbing iron, which we also know is beneficial for hair growth.
The bottom line:
What you put into your body is important for fueling the growth and health of your hair. If hair dryness is an issue for you, a supplement can help to support your hair's health naturally.*