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It seems like every day, a buzzy new vitamin or super-greens wellness blend is touted for hair growth. There’s a lot of hype out there, but we like to cut through the BS and see what the science shows. If you’ve ever wondered if folic acid helps hair growth, this article is for you.
Everyone wants a head of thick, shiny hair, but most of us may need a little help along the way — and hey, that’s okay! About half of all women may experience hair thinning, commonly known as female pattern hair loss, at some point in their lifetime.
This guide will walk through the 101 of folic acid for hair growth, from benefits to potential alternatives. Let’s get into it!
Folic acid, a form of folate, is a B vitamin. Naturally found in many foods, it’s essential for creating DNA and overall cell function. Folic acid is a supplemental form of the vitamin you may find in enriched foods or in capsules to be taken as a stand-alone supplement.
A diet filled with whole foods and lots of green veggies will give you most of your essential nutrients, including folate. But try to include these folate-rich sources:
Vegetables (like brussel sprouts, asparagus and green leafy vegetables, such as spinach and mustard greens)
Fruits and fruit juices (especially citrus fruits like oranges and orange juice)
Peas, legumes and nuts
You can also include folic acid-enriched foods like breakfast cereals, breads, and pasta. Check the nutrition label to see how much folic acid is present in these foods.
Side effects of folate deficiency (or folic acid deficiency) can include weakness, shortness of breath, heart palpitations, fatigue, trouble concentrating, headaches and irritability.
Like most supplements buzzed about for hair loss (including biotin, zinc, riboflavin, etc.), there isn’t enough research yet with definitive evidence that any single supplement can cause hair growth, including folic acid supplements.
One study tested regular folic acid consumption’s correlation to skeletal muscle blood flow. It found positive results with improved blood flow and increased serum folate after taking folic acid.
To note, this study was small (with only nine participants) and didn’t measure the effects of folic acid and hair growth. But it does make us wonder if folic acid may also help improve blood flow to hair follicles. The jury is still out on that one.
In another small study, patients who had alopecia areata for at least six months were found to have lower levels of folate than the control group. Thus, a deficiency in folic acid or folate seems to have a link to some forms of hair loss, like alopecia areata.
If you want to learn more about the various types of hair loss in women, this guide is an excellent resource that covers everything from root causes to potential treatments.
It seems like folic acid or folate could help improve hair growth if you have a deficiency. It might help in other ways as well.
A small study published in 2017 looked at the possible relationship between folic acid, vitamin B12 and biotin in people with premature canities (aka premature graying hair). Using data from 52 volunteers, researchers found that premature gray hair was associated with lower serum folic acid, vitamin B12 and biotin levels.
So if you’re starting to see some graying and not yet ready to embrace the silver fox look, it might be worth upping your B vitamins.
Folic acid vs. biotin is like a Real World/Road Rules Challenge — there’s no clear answer on who can win, and TBH, it’s kinda complicated. If you’re wondering, Which is better for hair growth, biotin or folic acid?, it really depends on you, specifically.
Another B vitamin, biotin vital for healthy hair and nails — and a biotin deficiency can show up as hair loss. But like folic acid, it seems that biotin only helps promote hair growth if there’s a deficiency in the first place.
So both biotin and folic acid are only helpful for hair growth when you’re deficient. It really comes down to whether you have a nutritional deficiency, and then you supplement accordingly to fill in the gaps.
But if you do have a biotin deficiency, these biotin supplements are pretty delish, if we say so ourselves.
If you think you may be folate deficient, it’s best to have your healthcare provider or dermatologist run a blood test to check your levels.
Taking a folic acid or folate supplement for hair growth is typically only helpful if you have a deficiency, which is pretty rare in the U.S., tbh. For most adults, the average daily recommendation is 400 micrograms of folate.
Additionally, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends pregnant women and those trying to conceive should get 400 micrograms of folate to prevent neural tube defects in the fetus.
The neural tube is formed within the first few weeks of conception, and having enough folic acid can help decrease the chances of deformities. Basically, if you know you want to get pregnant, start supplementing a couple of months before trying to conceive. Many daily multivitamins and prenatal vitamins contain folic acid as part of a blend of vitamins and minerals.
While folic acid doesn’t have a ton of studies to back it up, other hair loss treatments for women do.
Here are a few to consider if you’re dealing with hair fall-out, a widening part, diffuse thinning or a skimpier ponytail.
Minoxidil. One of the most effective treatments for thinning hair and improving hair growth is minoxidil, an FDA-approved topical medication for female pattern hair loss. Minoxidil helps shorten the telogen phase (resting phase) of the hair growth cycle and makes those dormant hairs enter the anagen phase (also known as the growth phase).
It also extends the duration of the anagen phase, allowing your hair to grow for longer before shedding. You can get minoxidil in various forms, including 2% minoxidil drops and 5% minoxidil foam. If you’d rather not bother with a topical, no problem — oral minoxidil might be a good bet.
Topical finasteride and minoxidil spray. This two-in-one spray combines finasteride, a 5-alpha-reductase, which helps target DHT (the hormone responsible for hair loss), along with superstar minoxidil. This quick-drying spray can help promote new hair growth, but bear in mind it’s recommended for postmenopausal women, as finasteride can potentially cause birth defects in a male fetus.
Spironolactone. An antiandrogen drug, this once-daily pill can also help with hormonal hair loss caused by dihydrotestosterone (DHT). It can help slow down hair loss, and in some cases, help promote hair regrowth.
Volumizing shampoo and conditioner. Don’t knock the power of haircare products — they really help with body (even if temporarily). A volumizing shampoo will help remove oils that can weigh down thinning strands, while a lightweight conditioner provides moisture to help fend off breakage.
Learn some surefire tips on how to prevent hair damage in our tell-all guide. Another one to bookmark for your reading list? Our guide on how to get more volume has science-backed strategies to help thicken hair.
While it may not be a miracle cure, folic acid and folate play an important role in your overall health and have a range of benefits. However, there’s limited research on the benefits of folic acid for hair growth.
Here’s what to keep in mind:
Aim to eat a well-balanced diet with folate-rich sources of whole foods, like spinach, asparagus, beans and beef liver.
For general health, shoot for the CDC’s recommendation of 400 micrograms of folic acid per day, especially if you’re pregnant or nursing. Ask your healthcare provider to check your folate levels if you suspect something’s going on.
If you notice your hair thinning, talk to your healthcare provider so you can get a treatment going ASAP (the sooner you start, the better results you’ll likely see). Your provider can recommend a safe, science-backed hair loss treatment (like minoxidil or spironolactone) to help you manage hair loss and promote healthy hair growth.
Ready to get started? Take this easy-peasy hair quiz, and we’ll connect you with a healthcare provider who can help you come up with a regimen for your best hair health.
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.
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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