Unfortunately, the scientific evidence supporting many of these claims is pretty scarce. We polled a few experts on their thoughts about vitamins and they all had the same response: If it works for you, great, but the studies surrounding supplements and hair growth are too few and far between for them to give a concrete answer. Boo.
Still, we're big believers in word-of-mouth recommendations, so we're not totally ready to dismiss all the buzz surrounding supplements, even though there's not technically a lot of science to back it up. Here, we've rounded up some of the most talked-about hair-growth aids. While we can't guarantee they'll give you thick, lush locks, we've heard more than our fair share of magnificent-maned ladies gush about them that we're willing to give them the benefit of the doubt.
What about you: Have you ever popped a pill to give you healthier hair? And, more importantly, did it work?
Photographed by Amelia Alpaugh
Ever tried giving your hair a beer rinse? Then this is for you. The reason that beer is considered to add strength and shine to hair is because it is rich in biotin, a B complex vitamin. Taking biotin is thought to stimulate hair growth and biotin deficiency is said to be one cause of thinning hair. Some food sources contain biotin, such as eggs, bananas, and red meat, but the most effective way to add significant amounts of biotin to your diet is through supplements. According to naturopathic doctor Cathy Wong, ND, CNS, there is not enough scientific evidence to support the idea that biotin has an effect on hair growth or health, however some beauty lovers claim that it works wonders. Therefore, if you recently chopped your hair and are impatiently waiting for it to grow, it's possible that biotin could help aid in faster (and stronger) hair growth.
This multi-tasking vitamin is commonly suggested as an aid for hair health. Because vitamin E helps with capillary growth (boosting circulation), it is possible that having adequate amounts of the vitamin can increase circulation to the scalp and promote hair growth. Vitamin E can also be applied topically to hair and the scalp to nourish and moisturize — which is why it's a main ingredient in many of your favorite hair-care products. Besides its potential benefits for hair, the antioxidant qualities of vitamin E have been said to prevent everything from certain cancers to heart disease, so this may be a beneficial addition to your diet for your overall health, not just your hair.
Another supplement popular among beauty junkies is pre-natal vitamins. These contain the same vitamins and minerals as most women's multivitamins, but they contain higher levels of iron and folic acid than your typical supplement. Iron is thought to have a role in hair growth because it aids in the production of substances that carry oxygen to blood cells. If iron intake is low, circulation can be compromised, which can potentially affect hair growth. According to Livestrong.com, however, the reason we associate pregnant women with shiny, lush hair is not due to their vitamin intake, but instead due to their increased estrogen levels (which promote healthy bloodflow in a similar way to iron). But whether or not it truly aids in increased hair growth, iron is an essential element of a healthy diet, especially for young women.
While not a vitamin per se, Nourage is a supplement that claims to support hair health with keratin, a protein that contains amino acids that are some of the key building blocks of the hair follicle. Kyle Richards of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills swears by it, but again, this product seems to be more of a word-of-mouth beauty secret rather than a guaranteed fix for dull hair. The website includes two user testimonials, but no scientific evidence supporting the products' claims. However, the site does stress that there are no harmful side effects of the supplement, so if your hair seems to be weak or brittle, this strengthening formula could make a difference in the resiliency of your locks.
Which brings us to the Vitamin of Supermodel Lore: Viviscal, a supplement boasting high amounts of both omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin C. While the Viviscal site quotes a whole slew of experts who claim that the supplement promotes healthy hair growth, we'd say that the bottom line on this trendy supplement is similar to that of other vitamins: There may not be enough scientific evidence to brand any of these pills as directly affecting hair growth and health, but you can't know for sure if it works for you unless you try it. Maybe the secret to unlocking a shiny, flowing mane is hidden inside these bottles. Until someone decides to do an in-depth study on the subject, there's really only way to find out, so...who's game?
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Rainbow Light Prenatal One Multi Tablet, $35, available at Vitamin Shoppe; Nature's Bounty Vitamin E Softgels, $12, available at Soap.com; Viviscal Hair Repair Supplement, $30, available at Viviscal; Country Life Maxi-Hair Supplements, $14, available at Soap.com; Spring Valley Iron Supplements, $4, available at Walmart; Nature's Bounty Biotin Supplements, $13, available at Walgreens.