I wish my hair would stop growing…said no one, ever. Curly and wavy women especially can relate. Even when our hair grows at a normal rate, tight curl and wave patterns make it seem as if the length barely budges. Sigh.
But before you Google “hair growth supplements”, we need to have a chat. Slow-to-grow hair probably isn’t the reason you’re longing for Rapunzel-level length (or just a lob that makes it past your shoulders). As we age, hair can become thinner and even starting falling out, which often tricks us into thinking that our length is the problem. These nine supplements have been shown to promote thicker, stronger hair that looks fuller, healthier, and yes, longer.
Vitamin A is an antioxidant that promotes skin regeneration and collagen production, making it ideal for healthy hair, skin, and nails. It is said to promote thicker hair and stronger hair follicles through keeping the scalp moist, which in turn stimulates growth. However, too much Vitamin A can have the opposite effect, essentially causing hair follicles to go into overdrive and resulting in hair loss. Make sure to read the vitamin label and avoid taking multiple doses so you don’t overdo it.
SAW PALMETTO EXTRACT
Paradi Mirmirani, M.D., a dermatologist at the Permanente Medical Group in Vallejo, California, tells NaturallyCurly.com that saw palmetto extract may improve the growth and fullness of hair. In one study, 60 percent of patients taking saw palmetto extract saw an improvement (whereas only 10 percent of the placebo group reported any improvement). This is another supplement to be careful with, though, especially if you’re taking birth control pills: saw palmetto has been shown to “decrease the effects of estrogen in the body” and thus, potentially decrease the effectiveness of birth control.
“The vitamin D receptor helps regulate your hair cycle,” says Dr. Mirmirani, who has her patients take vitamin D supplements whenever their levels are low. Even though experts aren’t exactly sure how the body’s vitamin D levels influence hair growth, most agree that it’s an essential vitamin for skin and hair health.
Biotin, which is part of the Vitamin B family, is one of the most-recognized supplements for improving the strength and thickness of hair. Although the data from studies of biotin is inconclusive, Doris Day, M.D., a celebrity dermatologist in New York City, says, “I have some very happy patients taking biotin right now. Even though the data is mixed, there’s at least enough to support trying it out.”
If you do decide to take biotin, you can increase your body’s absorption of it by pairing it with a folic acid supplement, as well. This study from the University di Bologna shows that folic acid helps the body metabolize biotin, boosting its effects.
One of the most respected hair growth supplements on the market is Viviscal, a Scandinavian supplement made with silica, Vitamin C, and fish protein. Dr. Day tells us, “I’ve observed it help with hair thickness and regrowth, especially around the temple area.”
Celebrity hair stylist David Babaii is a fan of Viviscal, as well, after witnessing its effects on a client. “Within a month, I noticed growth of new hair and after six months, her hair was even thicker than before she started taking it,” he says.
As we age, the body’s natural production of collagen slows, which can result in wrinkled skin and thinning hair. Adding collagen, which is actually a protein, to your daily routine can counteract these effects by helping the body produce more keratin protein (which, by the way, makes up 90% of our hair). Collagen also stimulates blood circulation, which supports hair health by helping the body deliver essential nutrients to hair follicles.
GLA, also known as gamma linolenic acid, is considered an essential fatty acid of the omega-6 variety. Even though we need omega-6 fatty acids for a variety of reasons–including healthy hair and hydrated skin–the body cannot produce it on its own. Nuts and seeds, like almonds and pumpkin seeds, are great sources of GLA–but if you don’t get this essential nutrient from your diet, you can take it in supplement form to stimulate hair growth and keep your scalp moisturized.
Fenugreek is a herb that promotes healthy hair in two ways: you can take it internally or use it topically. Part of the Indian Ayurvedic tradition, fenugreek (sometimes called “methi”) has been shown to strengthen hair at the roots, preventing hair loss and thinning hair. You can take it as a supplement, or make a hair mask by mixing equal parts fenugreek seed powder and water and applying it from root to tip. Although there aren’t studies that prove fenugreek’s benefits, many people swear by it to promote hair growth, prevent dandruff, and add shine.
Of course, the best way to promote thick, healthy hair is through a well-balanced diet. First, add these hair-healthy foods to your daily routine; then, supplement with vitamins as needed.