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Hair Vitamins and Supplements: What Are They and Do They Work?

Sara Perkins

Reviewed by Sara Harcharik Perkins, MD

Written by Our Editorial Team

Published 11/01/2022

Updated 11/15/2023

We would be pretty loaded if we had a dollar for every time the Kardashians shilled hair vitamins. So many supplements promise overall wellness, thicker hair and maybe even a flat belly.

But seriously, we’re sure you’ve wondered if hair-growth vitamins work or if these influencers just have good genes. It may be a mix of both, TBH.

In this article, we’ll dive into the different types of vitamins and supplements that help with hair growth and which ones have actual science to back up the hype.

What Are Hair Vitamins?

Hair vitamins are vitamins, minerals and nutrients that can help support your hair’s health and growth. They’re usually sold in tablet or capsule form, either as single vitamin supplements or as multivitamin supplements intended to fill in any nutritional deficiencies you may have.

You might have already heard of things like biotin supplements or saw palmetto for hair growth.

Micronutrients such as vitamins and minerals play a vital (but not clearly understood) role in normal hair follicle development and immune cell function. A deficiency of these micronutrients can increase your risk of developing, or hinder the treatment of, alopecia.

Before we get into the nitty gritty of hair loss vitamins, let’s get one thing clear: In almost all cases, hair vitamins won’t stop hair loss on their own.

Hair loss can happen due to various factors, from a poor diet and genetics to traction alopecia or stress-induced telogen effluvium. It’s important to figure out what your root cause is before solely relying on a supplement to get your hair to Rapunzel status.

Now, if you’ve been reaching for wayyyy more Lays® than greens, your hair loss could be directly caused by a vitamin deficiency. Certain vitamins and minerals are known to promote new hair growth, helping with hair thinning, dryness and lack of shine.

Adding a hair supplement or two to your regimen can potentially stimulate hair regrowth. Silica for hair is one example of a supplement that's sometimes used. But in almost all other cases, hair loss vitamins and other supplements are just one piece of the (very complex) puzzle.

Which Nutrients Help With Hair Growth?

Remember the Pantene® commercials of the 90s? The models always had lush, thick, mega-shiny strands — like a literal shining sign of health. While genetics play a huge role in hair, having a balanced diet can help support your best healthy hair.

If you’re dealing with thinning hair or extreme dryness and brittleness, you should speak with a board-certified dermatologist or healthcare provider. They can screen your medical history and dietary habits, and if needed, order blood tests to fully understand if you have any deficiencies.  

You’re probably wondering which vitamins help with hair growth. Some common hair growth supplements include: 

  • Iron. This essential mineral is actually the most common nutritional deficiency in the world, with some studies linking it to hair loss.

  • Vitamin D. The sunshine vitamin is necessary for bone growth, and it may also play a role in hair growth.

  • Vitamin E. Also known as tocopherol, some people claim vitamin E can treat and prevent certain conditions due to its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.

  • Biotin. This mega-popular B vitamin is the queen bee (see what we did there?) of hair supplements, and you’ve likely seen it on your social feeds. Also known as vitamin H, biotin has gained popularity due to its alleged benefits for promoting thicker, healthier hair.

  • Saw palmetto. This botanical extract is a staple in folk medicine, partly because of its purported antiandrogenic properties. Some research has linked it to hair loss improvement.

We also looked into popular supplements like selenium and folic acid, but they had limited data to prove any efficacy. Our article on vitamins for hair loss is another great resource if you want to dig a little deeper.

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Do Hair Vitamins Work? The Research

Yes, taking supplements may help with hair growth if you have a deficiency. But “if” is the operative word here. You’ll need to see if you’re deficient in the first place.

Here’s the friendly PSA again: Eating a healthy diet may take care of most needs. Confused about where to start? Learn which foods for healthy hair you’ll want to add to your next meal prep sesh.

Though research is pretty limited, some findings suggest the supplements below could have some benefits:

  • Iron. While the exact reason is unknown, an iron deficiency may contribute to hair loss. Specifically, those who may be dealing with telogen effluvium (TE) could have low iron stores. One study of 100 patients showed that a relatively higher proportion of participants with TE (20.4 percent) had iron deficiency compared to only 16.7 percent of those with female pattern hair loss (FPHL). Note that you may be at higher risk for iron deficiency if you’re vegan or vegetarian. Also, vitamin C helps with the absorption of iron, so it’s not a bad idea to up your intake of citrus fruits if you’re iron-deficient.

  • Vitamin D. One small study showed that women with female pattern hair loss had low levels of vitamin D and serum ferritin. Low vitamin D levels have also been linked to alopecia areata, which occurs when the immune system attacks the hair follicle. Your healthcare provider can easily test to see if your vitamin D levels fall within the norm.

  • Vitamin E. A potent antioxidant, vitamin E deficiency is rare. But one study with 21 volunteers who received tocotrienol supplementation (100 milligrams of mixed tocotrienols daily) showed a significant increase in hair number compared to a placebo group.

  • Biotin. This mega-popular B vitamin is a key nutrient in maintaining nail and hair health, and a biotin deficiency has been shown to cause hair loss. Biotin supplementation can’t hurt, but according to research, you’ll only see the benefits if you’re experiencing a biotin deficiency — which is pretty uncommon, TBH.

  • Saw palmetto. A botanical extract with antiandrogenic properties, saw palmetto has gotten hype over the last few years for its purported benefits on hair regrowth. A systematic review of studies showed those who took saw palmetto improved their hair loss, with 83 percent experiencing increased hair density.

Should You Take Hair Supplements? 

Should you take supplements? For the most part, they’re pretty safe. And if you’re losing hair, we can understand being willing to try anything to remedy the situation.

But you have to keep a couple of things in mind. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) doesn’t regulate supplements the same way it regulates actual medications, meaning there’s a lot less scrutiny over their ingredients and potential additives.

Some ingredients in these supplements do have side effects and may potentially interact with other medications. For these reasons, it’s always best to go the extra mile and check with your healthcare provider or a dermatology professional first.

And as we mentioned at the top, hair supplements are just a part of the big picture. Today, there are so many hair loss treatments for women with proven ingredients and more of a track record of efficacy. If you’re concerned about hair thinning or hair breakage, you’ll want to consider the root causes of your hair loss.

From there, you’ll likely see more significant results with one of these treatments that have more research demonstrating healthy hair growth:

  • Minoxidil drops. Commonly sold under the brand name Rogaine®, this easy-to-apply topical solution is the only FDA-approved hair loss treatment for women. It’s believed to work by increasing the speed at which your hair follicles go into the growth phase, promoting faster, more effective hair growth. 

  • Spironolactone. This once-daily pill won’t interfere with your hair care routine. It helps decrease testosterone levels in the blood and lessens its effect on the body (like hair loss). Healthcare providers prescribe spironolactone off-label to treat female pattern hair loss (female androgenic alopecia).

  • Oral minoxidil. Studies have shown that low-dose oral minoxidil (OM) can be an effective treatment for numerous hair disorders, including female pattern hair loss (FPHL). Minoxidil requires the presence of an enzyme called follicular sulfotransferase, and the oral form requires less enzymatic activity to be effective. So while a topical treatment won’t work for those users, an oral form might be a good bet.

  • Topical finasteride spray. Another topical solution to treat hair loss in women, this spray combines minoxidil with finasteride. It can be helpful for postmenopausal women experiencing hormonal hair loss due to the effects of dihydrotestosterone (DHT).

Check out our article on hair loss in women for a deeper dive into the root causes and treatments for hair loss.

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Takeaways: Do Hair Vitamins and Supplements Work? 

Hair supplements can be a helpful component of a hair loss regimen. But there are some key things to remember:

  • Hair vitamins and supplements tend to be helpful only if you’re deficient.

  • Eat a well-balanced diet, and speak to your healthcare provider to determine if you need to fill any nutritional gaps.

  • Supplements aren’t regulated by the FDA. So do your research and make sure you’re supplementing with a formula from a trusted brand that does third-party testing.

If you’re ready to chat with a healthcare provider about a recommended hair loss treatment, it’s super easy to get started using our online platform.

Want to do even more for your hair? A good volumizing shampoo and conditioner can do wonders for extra body.

14 Sources

Hims & Hers has strict sourcing guidelines to ensure our content is accurate and current. We rely on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We strive to use primary sources and refrain from using tertiary references.

  1. Almohanna, H., Ahmed, A., Tsatalis, J., & Tosti, A. (2018, December 13). The Role of Vitamins and Minerals in Hair Loss: A Review. NCBI. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6380979/
  2. Katta, R., & Guo, E. (2017, January 31). Diet and hair loss: effects of nutrient deficiency and supplement use. NCBI. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5315033/
  3. Gokce, N., Basgoz, N., Kenanoglu, S., Akalin, H., Ozkul, Y., Ergoren, M., Beccari, T., Bertelli, M., & Dundar, M. (2022, October 17). An overview of the genetic aspects of hair loss and its connection with nutrition. NCBI. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9710406/
  4. Hamdy, E., Rasheed, H., Mahgoub, D., Hegazy, R., Abdel Hay, R., & Hamid, M. A. (2013, February 20). Serum ferritin and vitamin d in female hair loss: do they play a role? PubMed. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23428658/
  5. Vitamin D - Health Professional Fact Sheet. (2022, August 12). NIH Office of Dietary Supplements. Retrieved from https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminD-HealthProfessional/
  6. Vitamin E - Health Professional Fact Sheet. (2021, March 26). NIH Office of Dietary Supplements. Retrieved from https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminE-HealthProfessional/
  7. Shapiro, J., Soleymani, T., & Lo Sicco, K. (2017, May 1). The Infatuation With Biotin Supplementation: Is There Truth Behind Its Rising Popularity? A Comparative Analysis of Clinical Efficacy versus Social Popularity. PubMed. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28628687/
  8. Gowda, D., Premalatha, V., & Imtiyaz, D. B. (2017). Prevalence of Nutritional Deficiencies in Hair Loss among Indian Participants: Results of a Cross-sectional Study. PubMed. Retrieved May 17, 2023, from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28932059/
  9. Beoy, L. A., Woei, W. J., & Hay, Y. K. (2010, December 21). Effects of tocotrienol supplementation on hair growth in human volunteers. PubMed. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24575202/
  10. Karger, S. (2020, August 23). Natural Hair Supplement: Friend or Foe? Saw Palmetto, a Systematic Review in Alopecia. NCBI. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7706486/
  11. Suchnowanit, Poonkiat, Thammaruchu, Sasima & Leerunyakul, Kanchana. (2019, Aug 9) Minoxidil and its use in hair disorders: a review. NCBI. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6691938/
  12. Levy, L., & Emer, J. J. (2013, August 29). Female pattern alopecia: current perspectives - PMC. NCBI. Retrieved April 25, 2023, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3769411/
  13. Ramírez-Marín, Hassiel Aurelio & Tosti, Antonella Role of Oral Minoxidil in Patterned Hair Loss
  14. (2022) Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9650732/

This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. The information contained herein is not a substitute for and should never be relied upon for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment. Learn more about our editorial standards here.

Sara Harcharik Perkins, MD

Sara Harcharik Perkins, MD, FAAD is a board-certified dermatologist and Assistant Professor in the Department of Dermatology at the Yale School of Medicine. She is the director of the Teledermatology Program, as well as the Associate Program Director of the Yale Dermatology Residency Training Program. Her research focuses on telemedicine and medical education. Her practice includes general medical dermatology, high-risk skin cancer, and procedural dermatology.

Dr. Perkins completed her undergraduate education at the University of Pennsylvania and obtained her medical degree at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. She completed her medical internship at the Massachusetts General Hospital, followed by residency training in dermatology at Yale University, after which she joined the faculty.

Dr. Perkins has been a member of the Hims & Hers Medical Advisory Board since 2018. Her commentary has been featured in NBC News, Real Simple, The Cut, and Yahoo, among others.

Publications:

  • Ahmad, M., Christensen, S. R., & Perkins, S. H. (2023). The impact of COVID-19 on the dermatologic care of nonmelanoma skin cancers among solid organ transplant recipients. JAAD international, 13, 98–99. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC10518328/

  • Ahmad, M., & Perkins, S. H. (2023). Learning dermatology in medical school: analysis of dermatology topics tested in popular question banks. Clinical and experimental dermatology, 48(4), 361–363. https://academic.oup.com/ced/article-abstract/48/4/361/6869515?redirectedFrom=fulltext&login=false

  • Belzer, A., Leasure, A. C., Cohen, J. M., & Perkins, S. H. (2023). The association of cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma and basal cell carcinoma with solid organ transplantation: a cross-sectional study of the All Of Us Research Program. International journal of dermatology, 62(10), e564–e566. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/ijd.16700

  • Ahmad, M., Marson, J. W., Litchman, G. H., Perkins, S. H., & Rigel, D. S. (2022). Usage and perceptions of teledermatology in 2021: a survey of dermatologists. International journal of dermatology, 61(7), e235–e237. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/ijd.16209

  • Asabor, E. N., Bunick, C. G., Cohen, J. M., & Perkins, S. H. (2021). Patient and physician perspectives on teledermatology at an academic dermatology department amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, 84(1), 158–161. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7491373/

  • Belzer, A., Olamiju, B., Antaya, R. J., Odell, I. D., Bia, M., Perkins, S. H., & Cohen, J. M. (2021). A novel medical student initiative to enhance provision of teledermatology in a resident continuity clinic during the COVID-19 pandemic: a pilot study. International journal of dermatology, 60(1), 128–129. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7753449/

  • Cohen, J. M., Bunick, C. G., & Perkins, S. H. (2020). The new normal: An approach to optimizing and combining in-person and telemedicine visits to maximize patient care. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, 83(5), e361–e362. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7316470/

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