multivitamin, capsules

Do multivitamins help with hair growth? And what are the alternatives?

For this week’s blog, we are going to address two questions relating to hair growth. The first asks if multivitamins help with hair growth. The second follow-up question asks what are the alternatives.

Let’s begin with the question of whether general daily multivitamins help with hair growth.  With the thousands of multivitamins on the market, perhaps the best place to start is with a definition of a multivitamin.

When should I take multivitamins?

The US National Institutes of Health divides the full spectrum of vitamin supplements into three types:

  1. Basic, broad-spectrum multivitamin/mineral (MVM) supplements which are taken once per day containing most or all minerals and vitamins in amounts not exceeding their Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDA), Daily Values (DV) or Adequate Intakes (AI).
  2. High potency MVMs, which contain some vitamins and minerals in amounts that are significantly higher than the RDA, DV, AI, or sometimes even the established Tolerable Upper Intake Level (UL), beyond which there is a potential increase in the risk of adverse effects.
  3. Specialized or condition specific MVMs, which might be of weight control, eye health, immune function or improved athletic performance for example. These types of supplements will frequently combine several minerals and vitamins with other specialty ingredients such as probiotics, glucosamine, coenzyme Q10, probiotics, glucosamine and botanicals. Some of these supplements may contain amounts of nutrients that are significantly higher than the DV, RDA, AI, or even UL values.

This may be the first clue to answering our initial question. The NIH sees daily multivitamins and hair, skin and nail supplements as two different types of supplements, the former clearly belonging to the MVM Type 1 above, while the latter more likely to be ascribed to Type 3 (or possibly even Type 2, depending upon formulation). In short, they are two completely different types of supplements. The phrase “fit for purpose” comes to mind here. If you are looking for a supplement to improve the appearance of your hair, skin and nails, you should concentrate your search on those that have been specifically formulated by experts to do so, rather than a daily multivitamin that has been formulated to simply maintain your general health.

What are the alternatives?

Our next clue can be found on the ingredients label of your daily multivitamin. The first thing you will notice is a large number of ingredients. However, there are only so many nutrients you can pack into a capsule or tablet, and even less in a gummy vitamin (which you should be avoiding by the way), and thus with so many different ingredients in a multivitamin, the net weight (or dose) per ingredient in each capsule or tablet will be limited.   

If the multivitamins contain ingredients associated with hair growth, or alternatively if deficiencies in these vitamins and minerals result in hair loss (such as vitamins A, C, D, E, the vitamin B complex family and the minerals iron, selenium and zinc), one might be led to believe there could be something to be gained by using them. However, as we mentioned above, they will be found in low doses and you probably will be further ahead by eating a balanced healthy diet. But even if you are eating a healthy diet, there may still be some nutritional gaps that may exist that can benefit your hair, skin and nails. Take collagen, for instance – there is more evidence for its benefit for hair growth than there is for biotin, so you could also incorporate more of the foods that are it’s best sources into your diet – these include bone broths (see our ebook for a wonderful recipe), eggs, meat and fish. If you are vegan or vegetarian, you may wish to consider collagen supplementation.

Furthermore, there are other compounds that are important for hair health, such as the amino acids lysine, methionine, proline, as well as silica that will generally not be found in a standard multivitamin, nor will biotin at dose levels where there is some evidence for effectiveness on hair growth for those with deficiencies. These are more likely to be found in formulations specifically designed for optimum hair, skin and nail growth and appearance and reinforce the notion of using a vitamin formulation “fit for purpose”.

And finally, take another look at your daily beauty routine and the products you use. Do they contain chemicals or compounds that we know should be avoided? Is the water you use while washing your hair and showering too hot and/or hard? These factors can also contribute to the health of your hair and skin and are, for the most part, easily changed for the better. 


Take away message

In this week’s blog we attempted to answer two questions you may have been curious about if you are taking a daily multivitamin. And they are: do multivitamins help with hair growth? And what are the alternatives? We found that you would likely be best off eating a balanced and healthy diet, filling in potential nutritional gaps for hair health such as collagen by adding more foods such as eggs, meat, fish and bone broth to your diet, or consider supplementation if you are vegan or vegetarian. Alternatively, you can use supplements that have been specifically formulated for your hair, rather than for your general health. Finally, re-evaluate your daily beauty routine – there may be some aspects of it you can easily change to help your hair that are not diet related at all.

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