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Hair Loss: Do Supplements Help?

By HERWriter
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Hair Loss related image Photo: Getty Images

Fighting hair loss can feel like a never ending battle. Just when you think things may have slowed down, you are faced with a larger than usual amount of hair in the drain after a shampoo. Minoxidil offers a partial solution, but only if you keep it up. A good diet is supposed to help build strong hair and nails but one wonders if there is something we’re just not getting enough of? Do supplements really help with hair loss or are we fooling ourselves?

According to Samantha Heller, a nutritionist at NYU Medical Center, an iron deficiency can contribute to hair loss in women. She stated in webmd.com that “the deficiency may be so slight you barely notice it but it can play a role in female hair loss.” Iron deficiencies are common during a woman’s reproductive years. The reduction of iron leads to anemia so there are fewer red blood cells available to carry oxygen to our waning hair follicles.

Another common deficiency women develop is vitamin B12 loss. Vitamin B12 can be found in foods such as eggs, meat and chicken so vegetarians are at risk of not getting enough in their diet. Vitamin B12 is needed for proper red blood cell development. Similarly to women with anemia, those with B12 deficiencies may have reduced oxygen reaching their tissues and hair follicles.

Biotin is another B vitamin that has been recognized by some as important in hair growth. It has been nicknamed, vitamin “H” for hair and has become a very popular supplement despite there not being conclusive scientific studies that support it helps with regrowth. The recommended daily intake (RDI) is only 300 mcg but doctors who treat patients for hair loss may recommend doses between 2,000 and 3,000 mcg.

Zinc and copper are two minerals important in maintaining hormone levels, which when low may be involved in hair loss. These metals are not ones that should be indiscriminately supplemented since they need to be in balance with each other. The amounts in a multivitamin are thought to be safe levels and provide adequate replacement. The other danger in supplementing zinc and copper is that they can contribute to free radical formation, which may contribute to unhealthy types of cell growth.

Before launching into a supplement fest, it is best to consult with your doctor to determine your baseline levels of iron and other measurable vitamins. Most doctors recommend eating a balanced diet but taking a multi-vitamin each day to provide the minimum doses of the basic ones is often needed with today’s fast moving lifestyle.

Check with your doctor or a nutritional counselor about the use of biotin or zinc balanced with copper after you have allowed time for iron supplements (if needed) or a multi-vitamin to work. This way you will be able to tell if the supplements you try are really helping.



Michele is an R.N. freelance writer with a special interest in woman’s healthcare and quality of care issues. Other articles by Michele are at www.helium.com/users/487540/show_articles

Add a Comment4 Comments


Some people think biotin helps but as I said in the article, I don't believe there are scientific studies to support it. I think if you give yourself a trial of say 3 months, if it was going to make a difference for you, then you would see thickening of your hair.

February 9, 2011 - 5:53am
EmpowHER Guest

I recently started taking Natures Bounty Hair Skin and Nails. It has 3000mcg of biotin. Does it work?

February 8, 2011 - 7:43pm

Hi Lindsey,

Glad you found supplementing your iron levels helped you. I was surprised to learn that just mild low levels could affect hair growth so it certainly is worth it for women to have their levels checked.

November 10, 2010 - 2:15pm
EmpowHER Guest

I lost my hair because of an iron deficiency. I took iron pills and it came back=) Was really glad that my hair came back so easily . . .

Lindsey Paker

November 10, 2010 - 1:02pm
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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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