Micronutrients, as opposed to macronutrients (protein, carbohydrates and fat), are comprised of vitamins and minerals that are required in small quantities to ensure normal metabolism, growth and physical well‐being.
Do the supplements make my hair thicker, shinier, more dense, healthier in general?
Some micronutrients deficiency in our bodies lead to poor hair growth or quality, among other health-related conditions. As a consequence, different articles in general media report that the administration of these micronutrients as supplements would improve hair health and appearance. But, generally speaking, there is a lack of scientific evidence that the nutrients have a real effect on hair quality.
Despite some anecdotal reports relating that some administered substances are able to improve hair changes, in clinical practice, the results obtained are still disappointing when we are confronted to problems (1).
In developed countries, hair growth disorders caused by nutritional deficiencies in healthy individuals are rare and tend to be overestimated by patients and physicians, especially concerning vitamins. The evidence on dietary supplements in hair disorders is limited, combinations containing L-cystine are studied the most (2).
In general, when considering administering a dose of nutrients, blood flow becomes an important issue. With skin being one of the largest organs in the body and the fact that it is the primary thermoregulatory organ, there are a considerable number of vessels dedicated to perfusion of blood and nutrients. Supplying sufficient nutrients to the hair follicle and sebaceous glands are as important as acquiring the nutrients. The long and winding road to the skin and hair starts with ingestion, digestion, and absorption of nutrients. So all these stages are important when taking supplements and many factors (such as UV radiation and smoke, drug use and pathologies associated with the hair shaft and skin) will influence the digestion and assimilation of the nutrients.
Here are some micronutrients that I found scientific knowledge (or lack of) and prove on:
The primary component of hair strand is keratin (about 65–95%), the remaining constituents being represented by other proteins, water, lipids (structural or free), pigments and trace elements (3).
So healthy hair requires an adequate daily source of protein, from either animal protein or non-animal source. This is the basic important requirement for healthy hair.
Vitamin A (Retinol)
Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin that helps keep skin and mucous membranes that line the nose, sinuses, and mouth healthy. It plays a role in immune system function, growth, bone formation, reproduction, and wound healing. However, vitamin A taken in high doses especially through the intake of supplements is not only a potentially life-threatening condition due to intracranial hypertension but is also hepatotoxic. Mild hair loss is frequent in patients taking vitamin supplements containing vitamin (4).
Since vitamin A deficiency is rarely observed in people with normal nutrition, the addition of vitamin A to preparations intended to improve hair is not justified.
Vitamin B1: Thiamine
Vitamin B1 shares a role with vitamin B2 (riboflavin), vitamin B3 (riboflavin) and vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid) as essential coenzymes for energy metabolism (5). Thiamine deficiency leads to beriberi, one feature of which is also thin hair. Recently, also particular nail alterations were described under extreme malnutrition. Both skin and nail alterations responded dramatically to thiamine injections and improvement of nutrition (6).
Thiamine is found in grains, oysters, pineapples and pork. A lot of foods are fortified with vitamin B1 in the developed countries where it is rare to get the disease. To my knowledge, there are no studies that show vitamin B1 supplementation will increase hair growth rate, hair density or thickness of the hair strands.
Vitamin B3: Niacinamide
Niacin and niacinamide respectively, make up the vitamin B3 complex. A deficiency in niacin is called pellagra, meaning “rough skin.” Early signs are diffuse hair loss, weakness, irritability, and stomatitis.
No specific data were reported on the effect of niacin substitution on hair and nail growth and quality in normal persons. Topical application of niacin derivatives, on the contrary, was shown to improve hair growth in female pattern hair loss (7), although the exact mechanism is not well understood.
Niacin occurs naturally in many foods, including greens, meat, poultry, fish, and eggs, and many products are also fortified with niacin during manufacture.
Vitamin B5: Pantothenic Acid
Panthenol, the alcohol of pantothenic acid, is assumed to be a humectant and to improve the strength and flexibility of hair and the nails (1). Panthenol is also the major constituent of several oral preparations claiming to enhance hair and nail growth (8). However, excess vitamin B5 caused enlargement of the testis, diarrhea, and hair damage in rats (9).
Vitamin B6: Pyridoxal Phosphate
Vitamin B6 injections administered for a period of several weeks induced improvement in the hair condition in a number of women and it reduces the hair loss especially in alopecia of telogenic patomechanism (10).
Vitamin B12: Cyanocobalamin
The human body needs vitamin B12 to make red blood cells, nerves, DNA, and carry out other functions. Vitamin B12 cannot be made by the body; instead, it must be gotten from food or supplements.
The only foods that deliver it are meat, eggs, poultry, dairy products, and other foods from animals. Strict vegetarians and vegans are at high risk for developing a B12 deficiency if they don’t eat grains that have been fortified with the vitamin or take a vitamin supplement. Vitamin B12 deficiency is relatively common, especially among older people, one of the main reason being that the body cannot absorb the vitamin. A B12 deficiency can cause gray hair, megaloblastic anemia, peripheral neuropathy (2). However, no positive effect of vitamin B12 on hair and nail quality of well-nourished subjects has been demonstrated (11).
Studies in humans have shown a significant effect in the treatment of diffuse telogen effluvium (a type of diffusive hair loss ) with administration of L-cysteine (12).
Vitamin C: Ascorbic acid
There is no scientific basis for a general recommendation of vitamin C supplementation in individuals with poor hair and/or nail growth except when a vitamin C deficiency has convincingly been proven (13).
The process of keratinization is highly dependent on hormonal control like vitamin D3. Skin and hair follicles contain the nuclear vitamin D receptor for vitamin D3, the active hormone. Therefore, the lack of this receptor, but not vitamin D deficiency results in alopecia. Despite these apparent junctions, vitamin D supplementation has not proven to be beneficial for hair or nail quality (1).
Vitamin E: a-Tocopherol
There is some evidence for an adverse effect on hair growth following excessive vitamin E intake. However, current opinion considers vitamin E to be one of the least toxic fat-soluble vitamins (14).
There are no reports about vitamin E in persons with hair problems (15).
Vitamin H: Biotin
Biotin was called the hair and nail vitamin. It is a cofactor of several enzymes that are important
for carboxylation and epidermal differentiation. Biotin deficiency is rare because it is also produced by intestinal bacteria, but when it happens, it is reported to cause dermatitis and
hair loss in experimentally induced states. Biotin administration has been shown to be a beneficial therapy. Biotin improves hair density in people with alopecia. Apparently, when given long enough, it can also restore hair color (1).
It has not been sufficiently shown that additional supplementation of biotin in patients with normal blood levels can improve hair quality, although an effect on hair and nail structure is possible (2).
The major cause of hair loss in women before the age of 50 is nutritional, with 30% affected. Increased and persistent hair loss and reduced hair volume are occurring. The main cause appears to be depleted iron stores, compromised by a suboptimal intake of the essential amino acid L-lysine. Correction of these imbalances stops the excessive hair loss, however, it can take many months to redress the situation (16).
If iron anemia is present it should be treated with iron supplementation. However, hair loss treatment without anemia is still controversial.
A study (17) conducted on healthy young females showed that the hair calcium levels were weakly related to the quality of diet, with some synergistic interactions between nutrients, especially vitamin D and magnesium.
Zinc deficiency leads to poor hair and nail growth. A clinical response to zinc supplementation confirms the diagnosis.
Although traditionally used in unspecific hair treatments, an effect of zinc supplementation on
hair growth in patients with normal serum zinc levels has not been sufficiently proved (18).
Selenium, which is nutritionally essential for humans, is a constituent of more than two dozen selenoproteins that play critical roles in reproduction, thyroid hormone metabolism, DNA synthesis, and protection from oxidative damage and infection (19).
A deficiency has been reported in areas of soil with low selenium content and in parenteral nutrition. Although symptoms are mostly muscular and cardiac, hypopigmentation of the hair and skin can occur.
The major food sources of selenium in the American diet are breads, grains, meat, poultry, fish, and eggs (20).
Excess selenium can produce selenosis in humans affecting liver, skin, nails, and hair (1).
- E. Haneke and Robert BaranJ in . Krutmann and P. Humbert (eds.), Nutrition for Healthy Skin, 149 Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg, 2011.
- Andreas, M. Finner, Dermatol Clin 31 (2013) 167–172 Nutrition and Hair Deficiencies and Supplements.
- A. L. Miranda-Vilela, A. J. Botelho and L. A. Muehlmann, International Journal of Cosmetic Science, 2013, 1–10.
- A. Tosti A, Pazzaglia M. Drug reactions affecting hair: Diagnosis. Dermatol Clin 2007;25:223-31.
- Hugh D. Riordan, Nina Mikirova, Paul R. Taylor, Cindy A. Feldkamp, Joseph J. Casciari, Food and Nutrition Sciences Vol. 3 No. 9 (2012) The Effects of a Primary Nutritional Deficiency (Vitamin B Study).
- Lee, B.Y., Hogan, D.J., Ursine, S., Yanamandra, K.,Bocchini, J.A.: Personal observation of skin disorders in malnutrition. Clin. Dermatol. 24, 222–227 (2006)
- Draelos, Z.D., Jacobson, E.L., Kim, H., Kim, M., Jacobson, M.K.:A pilot study evaluating the efficacy of topically applied niacin derivatives for treatment of female pattern alopecia. J. Cosmet. Dermatol. 4, 258–261 (2005).
- Taneva, E.: Pantogar-modern treatment of hair loss, structural hair lesions, early alopecia, and dystrophy of nails, Akush. Ginekol. Sofia. 41(Suppl 1), 37–40 (2002).
- Shibata, K., Takahashi, C., Fukuwatari, T., Sasaki, R.:Effects of excess pantothenic acid administration on the other water-soluble vitamin metabolisms in rats. J. Nutr. Sci. Vitaminol. (Tokyo) 51, 385–391 (2005).
- Brzezińska-Wcisło, L.: Evaluation of vitamin B6 and calcium pantothenate effectiveness on hair growth from clinical and trichographic aspects for treatment of diffuse alopecia in women. Wiad. Lek. 54, 11–18 (2001).
- Scheinfeld, N., Dahdah, M.J., Scher, R.: Vitamins and minerals: their role in nail health and disease. J. Drugs Dermatol. 6, 782–787 (2007).
- Lengg N, Heidecker B, Seifert B, et al. Dietary supplement increases anagen rate in women with telogen effluvium: results of a randomized, placebo controlled study. Therapy 2007;(7).
- Vald.s, F.: Vitamina C. Actas. Dermosifilograf. 97, 557–568 (2006).
- McLaren DS, Loveridge N, Duthie G, Bolton-Smith C. Fat soluble vitamins. In: Garrow JS, James WPT, eds. Human Nutrition, Dietetics, 9th edn. Edinburgh: Churchill Livingstone, 1993: 208–38.
- Pehr, K., Forsey, R.R.: Why don’t we use vitamin E in dermatology? Can. Med. Assoc. J. 149, 247–1253 (1993).
- Rushton, D.H.: Nutritional factors and hair loss. Clin. Exp. Dermatol. 27, 396–404 (2002.)
- M. Jeruszka-Bielak and A. Brzozowska, Biol Trace Elem Res. Dec 2011; 144(1-3): 63–76.
- Garcia-Machado R. Letter: zinc and hair. Lancet, 1975;2(7929):322.
- Sunde RA. Selenium. In: Ross AC, Caballero B, Cousins RJ, Tucker KL, Ziegler TR, eds. Modern Nutrition in Health and Disease. 11th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2012:225-37.
- Chun OK, Floegel A, Chung SJ, Chung CE, Song WO, Koo SI. Estimation of antioxidant intakes from diet and supplements in U.S. adults. J Nutr 2010;140:317-24.
Hair loss has really created chaos around the world now days. Recent data shows tendency of hair fall has increased in past two decades (1) being a psychological problem as well.
In particular, the Female Pattern Hair Loss (FPHL) is a very common form of hair loss that can occur in all ages but most commonly in postmenopausal women. It is a non-scarring progressive thinning of hair and results from a progressive decrease in the ratio of terminal hairs to shorter, thinner vellus hairs, a process known as follicular miniaturization.
In the past, the term “androgenetic alopecia” (AGA) was the primary term used to refer to this condition in both men and women. The term “andro” from ancient Greek refers to male subjects and “genetic” referred to the contribution of heredity. Over the years, “female pattern hair loss” became the preferred term for this form of hair loss. This terminology helps to distinguish the different features of the condition in women versus men and shows the lack of clear hormonal contribution in many cases. Although hormonal factors and genetic predisposition are believed to contribute to FPHL, the complete mechanism remains elusive and the most affected women have normal androgen levels (2).
So, scientists don’t know yet why certain hair follicles are programmed to have a shorter growth period than others.
However, several factors may influence hair loss, specifically in the case of temporary loss:
- Deficiency of useful minerals & vitamins in body
- Mental & emotional stress
- Prolonged illness
- Hormonal imbalance commonly seen in hyperthyroidism, imbalance in androgen & estrogen
- Usually after child birth due to hormonal imbalance
- Certain medications like blood thinners, vitamin A if taken in excess amount, non-contraceptive pills, anti depressant drugs & medicines used in chemotherapy.
- Certain infections that can promote hair loss for example fungal infection on scalp
- Diseases like diabetes may also be a precipitating factor in hair loss
- Poor blood circulation or excess blood loss
- Lack of sleep & life style disorder
- Hereditary factors
Horsetail – composition, uses and DIY
Equisetum arvense (or field horsetail) is one of the oldest plants on earth and what remain today from tree-sized fossils are the field horsetails.
Composition: No other herb in the entire plant kingdom is as rich in silicon as is horsetail. This trace element really helps to bind protein molecules together in the blood vessels and connective tissues. Silicon is the material of which collagen is made. Collagen is the “body glue” that holds our skin and muscle tissues together. It contains silicic acid and silicates (5-10%), potassium (1.8%), calcium (1.3%), aluminium, sulphur, magnesium and manganese (4). It also contains flavonoids, alkaloids and phytosterols.
Uses: Equisetum arvense extract is used mainly as collagen promoting agent in cosmetics.
In skin care, it is considered to be the best possible tonic to cure acne and eczema, known to provide excellent healing effect for most skin conditions. Horsetail improves the texture and tone of skin, and it is also used as in cosmetics as a moisturizer and skin conditioning agent (5).
In hair care, because of the high content in silica, it promotes hair growth and improves the quality and condition of hair (6). It prevents grey hair, acts against dandruff and seborrhea (7,8).
Horsetail extracts showed hair growth-stimulating effect in an aged man with alopecia (9).
Horsetail infusion preparation for use at home: Add 3 Tsp of plant (the stems are pre-cut in very small pieces) to 1L of boiling water, cover the recipient and leave it for 10 minutes. Filter the solution and use it to rinse your hair and to massage the scalp very well. The procedure needs to be repeated every time you wash your scalp and continue for 4-5 months.
Jain Deepak, Jain Yogita1, Hair loss and Herbal Medicines, Global J Trad Med Sys. 2012 September 1(1): 13-15
Anja Vujovic and Véronique Del Marmol, The Female Pattern Hair Loss: Review of Etiopathogenesis and Diagnosis, BioMed Research International, Volume 2014.
Sasaki I, Inoue S, Togiya H. Collagen synthesis-promoting agents containing plant extracts. Jpn Kokai Tokkyo Koho 2001, 11.
Carnet A, Petitjean-Freytet C, Muller D, Lamaison JL. Content of major constituents of horsetails, Equisetum arvense L. Plantes medicinales et phytotherapy 1991; 25(1): 32-8.
Yamamoto Y, Takei M. Skin-moisturizing and -conditioning preparations containing plant extracts and lipids. Jpn Kokai Tokkyo Koho 2001, 22.
Semwal et. al/ Alopecia: Switch To Herbal Medicine, Journal of Pharmaceutical Research and Medicine, 2011.
Fukuda R, Kidena E. Hair preparations containing Equisetum arvense extracts for prevention of gray hair. Jpn Kokai Tokkyo Koho 2001, 10.
Kuriyama K, Watanabe Y, Hotta H, Takisada M, Senoo M, Kameyama K. Anti-acne and anti-dandruff compositions containing lignan glycosides and antisebum/antibacterial agents. Jpn Kokai Tokkyo Koho 1998.
Ikemitsu S, Ikemitsu H, Maeda T. Hair growth stimulants containing Equisetum arvense extracts. Jpn Kokai Tokkyo Koho 2001, 5.