Encouraging hair growth can be a slow and frustrating process, whether you’re trying to treat hair loss or simply grow out a bad haircut. While taking good care of your hair plays a part in its growth, you can also help your hair grow by taking good care of your body. This means including vitamins or supplements to maximize the average half-inch-per-month rate at which hair typically grows. Vitamin deficiencies can do more than just slow hair growth, so see your doctor if you’re concerned.
Inadequate iron or anemia may cause hair loss, as well as a slew of other unpleasant symptoms. Before menopause, women need 18 mg of iron per day. Low-protein diets, crash diets and fad diets may not provide the iron you need. In this case, better eating habits that include more iron-rich foods, such as broccoli or brewer’s yeast, may help, according to WebMD. Supplemental iron may also be necessary to treat anemia and encourage normal hair growth. Anemia is typically treated with 50 to 60 mg of elemental iron twice daily, via a 300 mg ferrous sulfate supplement, the National Institutes of Health says. Visit your doctor if you suspect anemia to avoid taking in more iron than you should and to determine the treatment regimen best for you.
Essential fatty acids (EFAs)–such as those found in fatty fish, nuts and olive oil–play an important role in hair growth and health, WebMD says. Omega-3 fatty acids have anti-inflammatory properties, and you could suffer from hair loss, slowed hair growth and dry, brittle hair if you don’t get enough of them. Adding EFA-rich foods to your diet may encourage your hair’s growth, but you can also add fatty acids through supplements if you prefer to avoid fatty fish. Fish oil, flax seed oil or evening primrose oil supplements can all help with hair growth. Choose a supplement that provides 3 g of essential fatty acids daily, and look for one that contains both Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids for the best results.
Additional B vitamins, particularly B-12 and biotin, can improve hair growth. B-12 helps nourish and heal the scalp, allowing hair follicles to regenerate and new hair to grow. While B-12 is found in animal proteins such as meat and egg yolks, supplementation is often necessary, says Ted Daly, a clinical professor of dermatology at Nassau University Medical Center. The Institute of Medicine recommends women take in 2.4 mcg of B-12 daily to encourage hair growth. Biotin plays a key role in the body’s hair manufacturing process, so low levels may contribute to reduced growth or brittle hair. Biotin supplementation is frequently prescribed alongside medical hair-loss treatments. Daly recommends women take 3 mg of biotin daily.