You've seen questions about them in the forums and pictures on the 'gram. Reality TV personalities, rappers, and models, pose with a bottle (or cup of tummy flattening tea) praise supplements that promise transformations of your hair from the inside out.
Claiming to "boost your hair's natural collagen" and help hair reach its "maximum capacity," these "specially formulated" pills say you'll have longer, thicker, shinier hair in just 3 months. But do hair vitamins actually work?
According to Medical Daily, we spend almost $176 million a year on supplements we hope will make our hair grow.
"They’re not made-up pills. Our bodies are already taking them in and they should be a part of our diet," says NYC celebrity hairstylist Devin Toth . "Taking them as supplements consistently ensures that those nutrients and vitamins travel through our bloodstream to essential organs, then to our hair follicles and cortex."
Most hair supplements contain a mix of biotin, Vitamin C, and Vitamin B3, which are all known to help hair growth--but a healthy diet that includes foods high in protein, iron, and other vitamins can also keep hair looking its best. Salmon is full Vitamin D, protein, and omega-3 fatty acids to promote hair growth and almonds can give you a boost in Vitamin E, which keeps blood flowing to your scalp and encourages hair to grow.
"One of the biggest misconceptions is that vitamins will help with these problems, but in fact, they may be linked to internal issues stemming from the thyroid or chronic anemia," says Dr. Melissa Piliang, a dermatologist at the Cleveland Clinic. "Multivitamins or prenatal supplements help to fill gaps found in our diets. We tend to restrict carbohydrates or fats for weight lost or replace them with juices, but vitamins contain important nutrients like biotin, zinc and B-complex that help to enhance the health of our hair."
Hair supplements may promise to help your growth, but the vitamin industry isn't regulated as strictly by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The FDA classifies vitamins as dietary supplements, and manufacturers don't have to get the FDA's approval before those pills end up on shelves at your local beauty supply.
"While vitamin deficiencies — notably iron and vitamin D — can contribute to hair shedding, there just isn't data to support the efficacy of vitamin supplements...and people spend so much money on them," says dermatologist Marie Leger.
The bottom line? Be careful about any supplements you take. "Natural" doesn't always mean safe. People of color have been targeted by health scams in the past. According to Cariny Nunez, M.P.H., a public health advisor in the Office of Minority Health at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), states "scammers know that ethnic groups who may not speak or read English well, or who hold certain cultural beliefs, can be easy targets,” Nunez says. For example, Native Americans, Latinos, Asians and Africans may have a long tradition of turning to more herbal or so-called “natural” remedies." Take caution when combining supplements with other medicines, whether prescription or over-the-counter. (http://www.fda.gov/ForConsumers/ConsumerUpdates/ucm466588.htm)
"Vitamins and supplements aren't miracle drugs, they simply allow your hair to reach its full potential," Toth said "[They] maximize what the body is capable of. Your hair needs certain things to reach maximum capacity … that’s what vitamins are for."