Medically reviewed by Katelyn Hagerty, FNP
Written by Our Editorial Team
Last updated 10/11/2021
Perhaps you’re just looking to boost hair growth a bit. Or, maybe you’re dealing with hair loss and need to correct it.
If the latter applies to you, you’re not alone. Research has found that less than 45 percent of women make it through life without losing at least some of their hair.
Whatever your reason, you’ve probably seen all types of dietary supplements marketed as being able to increase hair growth and give you fuller hair.
But which hair supplements should you actually pay attention to? And do they really work?
Well, let’s have a look...
There’s no shortage of supplements that claim to promote hair growth. You see a sea of them every time you walk down the cosmetic aisle at the supermarket.
Shelf after shelf of serums, vitamins, sprays, shampoos and everything in between.
But what are they and do they really work? We’re breaking it down.
This B vitamin is known for encouraging healthy hair and growth.
One study found that taking a supplement that included biotin (and other ingredients) produced faster hair growth in women dealing with thinning hair.
Generally speaking, it’s worth noting that most studies only find biotin supplementation helps if you’re suffering from a biotin deficiency.
It’s naturally found in some foods — including eggs, milk and bananas. If you get plenty of biotin in your diet, you may not need a supplement.
But, if you’re concerned you’re not getting enough in your diet, a nutritional supplement may help.
Among many other claims, silica supplements are marketed as products that make hair stronger and healthier. But do they actually do that?
There is actually a small amount of research that shows that silica may help give you stronger hair and make it more resistant to breakage.
One study looked at women with fine hair who 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 who took silica reported thicker hair and improvements in strength and elasticity.
It’s often touted that fish oil supplements promote hair growth and strength. You should know there’s not enough evidence to draw this conclusion just yet.
But there is some preliminary research that has found that omega-3s (the main component of fish oil supplements) may prevent certain types of hair loss and even stimulate growth.
One small study from 2015 looked at women who took a supplement that contained omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, along with certain antioxidants. After six months, most women reported increased hair density and less hair loss.
There is also a study from 2018 that was done on mice. It looked at mackerel-derived fermented fish oil used topically and found that using it stimulated hair growth.
You’ve probably heard that melatonin can help with sleep. But some also believe it can help with the hair growth cycle.
A review of research specifically looked at the effects of melatonin on hair growth and concluded that it may work to treat a type of hair loss called androgenetic alopecia. This is often referred to female pattern hair loss (or female pattern baldness).
The review looked at multiple clinical studies to draw the conclusion that topical melatonin is a viable hair growth promoter.
In one of the studies, it was found that using melatonin for 30 or 90 days led to a significant reduction in the severity of androgenetic alopecia.
Researchers still don’t quite know how melatonin works to address androgenetic alopecia, but the results so far are interesting, to say the least.
Beyond hair growth supplements, there are plenty of other medications and treatments that can encourage hair growth and deal with hair loss. Some of them include:
Sold under the brand name Rogaine®, it is actually FDA-approved for androgenetic alopecia. Minoxidil comes in a 2% solution or 5% foam.
Although its exact mechanism of action is still unknown, researchers generally believe that when applied topically, minoxidil sends a signal to your blood vessels to open so that more nutrients and oxygen can get to the hair.
Additionally, it stretches the growth period for hair, so more follicles are created to replace lost hair.
The acne drug spironolactone may be prescribed to you as a hair loss treatment if testosterone is behind your loss.
When testosterone roams free, it can attach to androgen receptors in the hair bulb and the dermal papilla which regulates hair growth. This may shrink your hair follicles.
That roaming testosterone may also be converted into dihydrotestosterone (DHT), which can then also attach to androgen receptors and cause hair loss.
Spironolactone prevents testosterone from turning into DHT. It also slows the production of androgens, which will slow this type of hair loss.
Dry, brittle hair is prone to breakage and can make your hair appear thinner. Dryness-inducing habits include using hot tools frequently and dying or relaxing your hair.
Living in a dry climate can also cause parched hair.
You can also keep your tools on the lowest setting (or set days when you skip them all together!). Weekly hair masks are also a good idea.
Changing certain habits can also help you address hair thinning.
For example, a healthy diet may help a healthy scalp. Studies have shown that if your iron levels are low or you’re not getting enough zinc, it can potentially be bad for hair health.
People who increased these things in their diet have seen an improvement in hair growth.
Zinc can be found in foods like crab, pork chops, cashews and oatmeal. Worried about an iron deficiency? Eat more leafy greens, meat and seafood, or look into iron supplements.
From biotin gummies to fish oil capsules, there are plenty of supplements on the market that are advertised to help with growth, give you stronger hair or promote fulle, more luscious locks.
Many of these supplements have some preliminary research that support these claims. But it’s good to highlight the word limited in that sentence.
In addition to dietary supplements, there are a variety of medications and other things you can do to address hair loss or assist with hair growth.
These medications could specifically be helpful if you are dealing with a condition like female pattern hair loss.
For example, minoxidil has been proven to work and is backed by the FDA specifically for the treatment of hair loss.
Additionally, addressing nutritional deficiencies that could be affecting healthy hair growth could help give you a healthier head of hair, too.
Before you take anything, it’s always a good idea to consult a medical professional about what hair loss treatment can help give you more growth or promote thicker hair.
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