Medically reviewed by Kristin Hall, FNP
Written by Our Editorial Team
Last updated 6/5/2022
You probably grew up with some version of it: the warning from parents, grandparents or guardians to take your vitamins and eat your vegetables, so you can grow up big and strong.
Everyone gets a slightly different version. Millennials might remember the frightful warnings to drink our milk to get our vitamin D, lest our bones powderize on the basketball court. Gen X kids had Popeye and his vitamin-packed spinach, a similar, almost-accurate portrayal of the role of vitamins in strength.
So, no matter how old you are, you might remember the warnings: finish your food or you’ll stay short forever, your muscles will shrink and your hair will fall out.
But even if you never heard the vitamin warnings as a kid, anytime our bodies start to under-perform, it’s natural to wonder if it’s something we can fix with vitamins — magic pills to correct course on health problems.
Can a lack of vitamins make your hair as weak as pre-spinach Popeye or the athletes who didn’t get asked to star in Got Milk? campaigns in the ‘90s? Can the Flintstones vitamins fix it?
We’ll tell you, but first, you need to understand some vitamin and hair basics.
Vitamins, minerals and nutrients all play an important role in the health of your hair, from the development and growth of the hair follicle itself to the immune function that protects the follicle.
But it’s not just about growing or not growing. Vitamin deficiency can become a “modifiable risk factor” in the development — and prevention — of hair thinning or alopecia, also known as hair loss.
Vitamins help supply the structures of the hair follicle, so not having enough of them can lead to hair loss.
But some vitamins may also cause hair loss when taken in excess volumes. At least some anecdotal research has found examples of both selenium and vitamin A as the culprits in some types of hair loss.
Still, deficiency is arguably a worse problem for your hair, because the conditions it causes can vary so greatly. Let’s take a look at what insufficient vitamins can do to your hair, one vitamin at a time.
A vitamin deficiency isn’t going to result in immediate, permanent hair loss, but over time, vitamin deficiencies can cause problems for the growth, sustainability and overall health of your hair.
On the long list of vitamins and minerals needed for a healthy body, there are some that apply particularly to hair:
We don’t typically think about vitamin A as a hair vitamin, in part because it’s so frequently used in acne medications and treatments.
Vitamin A presents a unique set of traits with regards to hair loss: it’s important to both the immune health that protects the hair follicles and the cell growth and cell division processes for hair.
Research has also shown that vitamin A helps you keep your hair in your head — treatment with vitamin A supplementation led to fewer hairs in the telogen (or resting, before shedding) phase as a result of telogen effluvium.
Vitamin B in all its forms (and as both water-soluble and fat-soluble vitamin types) is important to the growth and health of your hair. When you hear about vitamin B2, vitamin B6, vitamin B7, riboflavin, biotin, folate and vitamin B12, you’re essentially hearing about different versions of the vitamin B complex, which plays crucial roles in hair growth, cellular development, cell signaling, gene regulation and more.
Your body maintains its own levels of biotin, but if it’s struggling to do so, supplementation may be an important solution to this problem. Otherwise, all of these versions of vitamin B can be acquired through a healthy diet.
Vitamin C deficiency has a surprising connection to hair loss: while you might assume that the antioxidant properties of vitamin C are to blame here, it’s actually vitamin C’s critical role in iron absorption in the intestines that makes the difference. Low iron levels can slow your hair growth and ultimately cause hair loss over time.
Oh, and because vitamin C is also crucial to the process of reducing oxidative stress, it can be considered one of the critical protectors of your hair follicles.
Vitamin D is a critical tool in warding off conditions like telogen effluvium (another type of hair loss) and androgenetic alopecia, so if you’re deficient, you’re giving these hair loss types home court advantage.
Your vitamin D levels are important for another reason though: vitamin D deficiency is directly related to keratinocytes, a type of cell crucial to the growth of your hair — if your levels of vitamin D are low, hair loss can result just from insufficient supply of these cells. Vitamin D supplements might be the answer, but talk to a healthcare professional to learn more.
Vitamin E is an important fat soluble antioxidant for your hair, and it protects against oxidative stress to your hair follicles, which can destroy them if allowed. Can vitamin E deficiency cause hair loss though? Research is limited.
Anecdotal research suggests that vitamin E deficiency can adversely impact people with alopecia areata. One small study found that levels of vitamin E were lower in people with autoimmune diseases like psoriasis, vitiligo and alopecia areata than people without any of these conditions.
One small study does not make a medical fact, and it is a big leap in logic to say that keeping vitamin E levels up with stave off hair loss, but it might be worth keeping an eye on your vitamin E levels regardless.
“I tried several different options before but Hims combined approach of all four methods by far created the best results.”
“Hims has been the greatest confidence boost, no more bald jokes! I look and feel so much younger!”
“When I show my barber my progress, he is always in disbelief. I have to recommend Hims to any guy who’s experiencing thinning.”
“Cost effective and affordable. My hair keeps growing thicker, fuller, and at a fast rate.”
“I noticed a huge change in the overall health and fullness of my hairline.”
“Now after 5 months I’m able to style waves first time in 10 years!”
“I decided to jump right in and I'm so glad I did. I definitely feel ten years younger!”
“In just as little over two and half months, I can really see the difference in thickness and in color.”
“4-months strong and my confidence boosted back up to 100% using Hims, future me really does thank me.”
“I’m a 34 year old father of two and have been using Hims for over a year now. My hair is back to what it was in my mid twenties.”
Iron deficiency, known as iron deficiency anemia, is common worldwide. An iron supplement might be important to everyone’s health, but its value to hair is somewhat less understood. Still, low levels of iron are commonly associated with hair loss in women.
This is true of female pattern hair loss, particularly in postmenopausal women, but it might also affect pregnant women. Though iron’s role in hair growth requires more study, taking steps to prevent anemia is important regardless of its impact on your hair.
Too much selenium may lead to hair loss if it reaches toxic levels, but generally speaking, low levels of selenium — a more common problem — have pointed to a relationship between this vitamin and hair loss.
Zinc is important for your body, but your body cannot manufacture its own supply of zinc. That means that you’re going to need to get your zinc deficiencies fixed with an outside supply.
Why does zinc matter? Well, zinc mineral deficiencies often result in hair loss, and it’s a fairly common deficiency in people with hair loss in general. Supplementation is a debated question, though — talk to a healthcare professional about sources of zinc if you find that you’re deficient.
Fixing a vitamin deficiency isn’t as simple as downing a bottle of everyday vitamins you snagged over-the-counter with a Diet Coke. In fact, some research shows that certain vitamins are best absorbed not through supplements, but as part of our natural diet.
There are several strategies for optimizing your hair vitamins that we recommend:
Eating a balanced diet is the best way to get many of the vitamins and minerals we need to live. A diet rich in the right combination of proteins, fruits, vegetables and whole grains will supply you with much of what you need to survive. If you’ve been sleeping on the idea of eating better, wake up.
Experts agree that certain vitamin deficiencies can be improved by the use of supplements. Though there’s a fair amount of back and forth about how exactly a supplement should work (or how much you should take), they might be an option if you’re dealing with some deficient vitamin levels.
Research is scarce on the effectiveness of vitamins in things like conditioner, but if you’re seriously deficient, the vitamins and minerals in your shampoo might very well provide your hair with the vitamins it needs.
Talk to your healthcare provider, and if they give you the go-ahead, see if you can find a shampoo or another one of the many hair treatments on the market with some vitamin content in their ingredients list.
In the big picture, and regardless of the potential cause of your hair loss, you should talk with a healthcare professional if you’re experiencing hair loss.
Things like medical history, existing damage to hair follicles, and family history may be equally or more important as vitamin deficiency when it comes to your type of hair loss.
Professionals can help you determine whether your hair loss is due to vitamin deficiency, another medical condition or if it’s just a result of common male pattern baldness, and then chart your best course of action from the long list of best hair loss treatment options for men.
Depending on the cause of your hair loss, your doctor may prescribe medications like topical minoxidil to restart growth. Other treatments like oral finasteride may also help.
Want to learn more about hair loss treatment options? Have that next-step conversation today with a healthcare professional. Talk to one of our experts to find out more.