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Are Hair Vitamins Really the Secret to Long, Healthy Hair?


There’s good news…and there’s not-so-good news.

Glorious locks—or even just a full head of hair—is something most of us crave. But when it comes to demanding factors such as stress, taking prescribed medication, genetics or certain medical conditions, our #hairgoals aren’t always within our reach. 

As a consequence, consumers are flocking to retailers for hair-growth supplementation in the hope of giving their manes a boost when they are unable to achieve overall hair health on their own.

For centuries, flourishing, luscious hair was viewed as a symbol of wholesome youth and beauty in various cultures around the world. In ancient African civilizations specifically, it played a significant role, defining many of life’s milestones—fertility among them. Attractive, well-maintained hair was looked upon as a sacred, elevated feature of the female body, assisting in a spiritual communication that suggested fruitful capacity. If a young woman’s hair was long, thick and neat, it indicated she was ready to bear healthy children. 

During this time, the locks of these refined, soon-to-be-married young women were entrusted only to close relatives. They believed that if even one strand of hair landed in the hands of an enemy, it would bring reproductive impairment and sterility to the hair’s owner.

With sales reaching $2.76 billion in 2022 and surpassing $5 billion by 2029, per Fortune Business Insights, the global hair supplements market shows no signs of slowing down. The countless brands, moving testimonials and growing list of celebrities touting their benefits are everywhere.

But can hair supplements promoted as solutions for hair growth really help to give you Instagram-worthy hair, or are these pills something you can skip?

While it may be tempting to try hair vitamins – after all, there are plenty of products out there claiming to regrow and restore our hair – doctors say their performance mostly falls short on their promises. Ahead are the top reasons why they say you might be better off investing your money and time elsewhere. 

Hair Vitamins Are Not FDA-Regulated

According to the National Library of Medicine, hair vitamins are not monitored by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA). There is no centralized database that lists current products, so hair supplement companies can do whatever they want. They can add, mix, omit ingredients—even fabricate claims. For example, in 2008, one brand of multivitamin was found to contain 200 times the labeled potency of selenium after it had caused hair loss and discolored, brittle nails in about 200 people across 10 states. 

This doesn’t necessarily mean all hair supplements are automatically dangerous, but legislative measures to ensure our safety don’t exist. Moreover, it is important to note that the FDA does not approve hair vitamins for any purpose.  A recent article published by the agency in May of this year clarifies: “Products that have claims to treat, diagnose, prevent, or cure diseases are generally subject to regulation as drugs, {not dietary supplements}.”  

To date, there are only two FDA-approved, prescription-only, oral-tablet drugs available on the market that treat hair loss:

  • Olumiant (baricitinib) 

Approved in June 2022. 

Discovered by Incyte Biopharmaceuticals, licensed to the Lilly pharmaceuticals company.

Treats adult patients with severe alopecia areata, an autoimmune disease that often triggers patchy baldness.

  • Litfulo

Approved in June 2023.

Manufactured by the Pfizer biopharmaceuticals company.

The first FDA-approved drug for the treatment of severe alopecia in adolescents as young as 12 years of age and adults. 

Hair Supplements Lack Scientific Evidence

Despite the extensive use of hair vitamins and supplements, doctors warn there is very little clinical data that supports their ability to prevent hair loss, promote hair growth, treat its conditions or improve other components of the hair strand, such as dryness, shine and thickness. Most published research is funded by the brands themselves and isn’t backed by government-approved data.

Your Body Can Produce Hair-Healthy Nutrients With Food

Dr. Crystal Agochi Aguh, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist, Associate Professor of Dermatology and Director of the Ethnic Skin Program at the John Hopkins School of Medicine – her area of research focuses primarily on skin conditions that disproportionately impact minority populations, with specific emphasis on scarring alopecia – explains in a recent article, how the common ingredients in supplements (vitamins A, C, E, biotin, folic acid, protein and omegas) already exist in a diet composed of mostly whole foods. She also points out that although rare, in cases where poor hair health is caused by nutrient deficiencies, taking supplements may improve hair quality, but these shortages can only be determined by trained medical professionals.

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Hair Vitamins Can Trigger Side Effects

Doctors say taking synthetic hair vitamins and minerals may mitigate certain deficiencies, but the risks involved in their misguided absorption can be severely harmful to the body. For instance, taking too much vitamin A can cause hair loss, just as getting too little can. Ingesting biotin supplements (the FDA has issued a warning against it) compromises the usefulness of blood work, resulting in misdiagnoses that have led to deaths. Taking too many iron pills (although there is growing evidence its exact supplementation can be effective in some women with proven, low ferritin levels—the protein that stores iron) can lead to liver damage. 

The Final Takeaway

According to doctors, dietary supplements can serve as an important function in the improvement and maintenance of our overall health, and some may even demonstrate how they can be effective in helping us meet our daily requirements of essential nutrients for our hair, but they also warn that hair vitamins typically don’t work for most people. 

If you’re experiencing chronic hair problems for no clear reason, then taking a vitamin should never be the first course of action. It is important for a physician to determine whether you are deficient in certain nutrients because dietary supplements can come with health risks, interfere with lab tests or react with medications. 

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If a nutrient deficiency is properly diagnosed, then it allows our doctors to supplement us in the correct way.

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