If you’ve ever searched for information about growing thicker, healthier hair, you may have come across recommendations for supplements containing silica.
Silica is a mineral that’s found in certain foods. Silica-rich foods include certain leafy vegetables. It’s often marketed as a natural ingredient for supporting and healthy hair growth and skin function.
Although experts haven’t found any evidence that silica prevents hair loss, research does show that it plays an important role in delivering nutrients to your hair follicles, which may promote the growth of strong, healthy hair.
Below, we’ve explained what silica is, the benefits silica can offer for your hair, skin and general health, as well as how you can add silica to your personal care routine.
Silicon dioxide (SiO2), or silica, is a mineral that consists of the trace element silicon and oxygen.
It’s one of the most abundant chemical compounds in the world — in fact, silica accounts for approximately 12 percent of all material in the Earth’s crust (the outermost, surface layer of the planet).
You can find silica in almost all naturally occurring rocks. From beach sand to granite, clay and silicone, silica makes up a diverse range of natural and artificial materials.
As an ingredient, silica is commonly included in foods as an anti-caking agent, dough modifier, for controlling viscosity and for clarifying beverages. It’s also found in medications and dietary supplements, usually as an excipient (an ingredient used to support or enhance stability).
Organic silica sources include many fruits and vegetables, such as bananas and green beans, as well as legumes, cereals, nuts and seeds. Most people in Western countries get their dietary silica from cereals, as well as fruits, drinks and vegetable-derived products.
It’s important to note that the bioavailability of silica (the amount of the compound that’s actually absorbed by your body) can differ from source to source. While some foods are silica rich, not all are equally effective at supplying silica to your body.
Like many other important minerals, silica is found inside your body. Although researchers have yet to discover the full role that silica plays in human health, research suggests that it may be involved in many functions within the body.
Silica supplements are often marketed with claims that they improve bones and joints, increase collagen production and promote stronger, healthier skin, hair and nails.
Although research into the health effects of silica is limited, there is some scientific evidence to back up many of these claims regarding hair health, skin health and nail health.
For example, research suggests that silica may strengthen your nails and offer protection from infections. People with a silica deficiency often have soft, brittle nails.
There’s also evidence that silica supplements can improve the appearance of skin by reversing the effects of photoaging (sun-induced skin aging).
In one study, researchers found that people who used silica supplements for a period of 20 weeks showed improvements in skin texture.
Although there’s no evidence that silica stops hair loss, a small amount of research also shows that silica may help to make hair stronger and more resistant to breakage.
In a study published in the journal Archives of Dermatological Research, women with fine hair were given a non-therapeutic placebo or a supplement containing orthosilicic acid (a stabilized, bioavailable form of silica).
After nine months of supplement use, the women in the silica group had thicker hair, as well as improvements in hair strength and elasticity.
Silica is also linked to other possible health benefits, including improved bone health. Overall, although research on silica is still limited, it appears to have a diverse range of potential health benefits.
Silica is found in many common foods, including leafy greens, fruits, legumes and cereals. It’s also commonly added to mineral water and other health drinks.
One of the easiest ways to add silica to your diet is with a silica supplement. You can purchase silica supplements from most drug stores, health food stores, or online from Amazon and other vendors.
Most silica supplements are quite affordable, with a month’s supply of capsules or liquid usually priced from $10 to $25. Many silica supplements use a vegetarian formula with silica from algae or plants.
Silica supplements appear to be safe for everyday use. In a small study published in the journal PLoS One, researchers gave silica to a group of men at a dose of 9 grams per day. None of the men experienced any severe side effects or showed any signs of safety concerns.
Although the FDA has not approved silica as a medication, silica is permitted for use by the FDA as a food additive.
When silica is inhaled in the form of dust, it can cause health problems such as silicosis. This is a type of pulmonary fibrosis that can affect breathing, cause a persistent cough and produce an increased risk of developing tuberculosis, lung cancer, kidney disease and other conditions.
Silicosis typically affects people in industries that involve exposure to silica dust, such as stone countertop fabrication, foundry work, construction work, mining and hydraulic fracturing.
Currently, there is no evidence that shows a link between the use of silica supplements and any of these complications.
If you use a silica supplement, make sure not to exceed the recommended dosage listed on the product label. It’s always best to talk to your healthcare provider before using any supplements, including supplements that contain silica.
Research suggests that silica can help to strengthen your hair, skin and nails, and even improve the texture and appearance of your skin.
And we know we aren’t alone when we say we love soft skin and strong nails
As such, a silica supplement may be worth adding to your hair care routine alongside other hair care products.
If you’re considering adding a silica supplement to your daily routine, make sure to consult your healthcare provider first.