My hair is my favorite accessory, which is why I’ve been obsessed with finding the best vitamins for hair growth. I don’t take my supplements in vain; I take them because I’m vain — and because Lady Godiva locks are my goal. Every morning after I eat breakfast, I swallow a handful of pills that would rival Valley of the Dolls’ Neely O’Hara’s daily allotment.
After testing many combinations, I’ve found a hair growth hack that, I swear, makes my hair grow two inches each month. I take one Viviscal Extra Strength pill (the daily dosage is two), one biotin pill (7,500 mcg), and one folic-acid pill (400 mcg). To make sure I won’t become immune to their effects, I switch out my regular Viviscal cocktail with supplement stunt-doubles like Keratin Booster, MD Nutri Hair, or Phyto’s Phytophanere every few weeks.
Two years ago, I was only taking Viviscal’s original formula in its recommended dose: two pills per day. Since then, a half-dosage (one pill) of Viviscal Extra Strength has become integral to my supplement cocktail. Before incorporating this pill into my daily routine, my hair never grew more than a few inches beyond my shoulder. Ever. In my entire life. No matter what happened. No matter what I changed in my various hippie white-meat-and fish-focused, gluten- and dairy-free diet. Thanks to Viviscal’s aminomar marine complex, in addition to its blend of vitamin C, niacin, and biotin, my hair’s grown much longer, glossier, and thicker.
Viviscal does, however, make my roots a bit oily when I take the full dosage and I’ve also noticed my hair growing faster everywhere. In the case of my suddenly robust eyebrows, this news is well received. In the case of my five-o’clock leg-hair shadow, which I’ve since remedied with a few laser-hair-removal sessions, not so much.
The next pill I throw back is biotin, a water-soluble version of vitamin B. In my informal lab experiment of cutting my Viviscal dosage in half in favor of adding a biotin pill, I found that the oily roots problem became a non-issue and my hair now boasted a bounce I’ve seen Orlando Pita create for Michael Kors ads. It yielded the same effect as an application of root-lifting spray and backcombing at the root — and people have noticed.
However, Dr. Dennis Gross notes, “[Biotin is] a more popular hair-growth vitamin, but I am skeptical about the clinical data out there. Biotin supplements show best results if you’re already deficient. You can naturally find biotin in nuts, eggs, and leafy greens.” Perhaps my diet wasn’t rich enough in biotin.
Gross recommends topical supplements, ingredients applied directly to the skin. “These are the most effective means of preventing aging and treating existing conditions. Consider how much volume and surface area an ingested vitamin supplement must cover as it’s diluted by the entire bloodstream and then covers the entire body,” Gross explains. “For instance, the math analysis shows that a 2 percent vitamin C gel applied directly to the face is 200 times more potent than consuming a 600 milligram vitamin C pill.”
His hair-care suite includes a shampoo containing salicylic acid, which helps in “reducing the number of pore blockages in the skin. For your hair, it helps to exfoliate the scalp — ridding it of oils, dirt, and debris — allowing for optimum hair growth.” The line also includes peptides, retinol, azelaic acid, adenosine, and procyanidin-B2.
Lastly, Gross says to be cautious: “Don’t take more than recommended by the FDA or what is written on the labels. Be sure not to take more than the label tells you to. More is not better when it comes to this.”
His own supplement cocktail includes GLA, which stands for gamma linolenic acid, an omega-6 fatty acid. “It is considered an essential fatty acid since it is necessary for human health, but the body cannot make it itself — you must get them through food or supplements. GLA helps to stimulate skin and hair growth among other things. It’s a good supplement to take in the wintertime,” he notes.
If you’d rather score your biotin from your food directly, nutritionist and wellness expert Cathy Wong, notes that “Biotin is found in a variety of foods such as milk, bananas, cauliflower, cooked eggs, legumes, nuts, sardines, and whole grains, and it can also be produced by bacteria in the large intestine.” Bottom line? Biotin isn’t dangerous if you stick to the recommended dosage and clear it with your physician before taking it. However, topical supplements and nutrition represent an alternate route to lengthy locks, if you don’t have a penchant for pills.
Prenatal or folic-acid pills have long been recommended, even for those who aren’t with child, for thick, healthy hair, but Wong says to beware. “While they contain folic acid, they do also have larger amounts of iron, which I don’t recommend, unless there is documented iron-deficiency anemia. There is no evidence that they can help, and generally, I am cautious about recommending iron because it is a pro-oxidant (the opposite of an antioxidant) and may contribute to diseases of aging such as atherosclerosis and diabetes.” That said, folic acid influences biotin metabolism, according to a study conducted by the University di Bologna. “After an injection of folic acid, biotin-deficient rats showed greater alterations of the urinary excretion and liver storage of folate derivatives than did control rats. On the basis of these results, it was hypothesized that biotin influences folic-acid metabolism and particularly for the utilization of the biosyntheisis of coenzymatic derivatives.” In short? My addition of folic acid keeps me from pissing away, literally, the benefits of my biotin.
Pill poppers who want to save time in the most Mealprep Mondays–inspired way can invest in three large, seven-day pill cases, available at Amazon, and fill them up once every three weeks. You’ll feel like an octogenarian, but an efficient one. Or invest in one of the many hair-care supplements now on the market. The cocktailing is already done for you, occasionally in gummy form and with specific mixes of ingredients to suit a variety of hair-care needs in addition to boosting overall growth.
If punctuating your sentences with strategic hair flips is your ultimate goal, I maintain that it’s what’s inside that counts, and these six hair vitamins for growth will help. Just be sure never to take any of these on an empty stomach — no matter how lengthy your locks, looking nauseated is never chic.
These cute chewable vegan gummies contain the usual hair-growing suspects — biotin and folic acid — in addition to two lesser known but helpful hair ingredients: paminobenzoic acid (also known as PABA) and polygonum multiflorum (also known as fo-ti). Both have hair-darkening abilities, which is great if you’re looking to stave off pesky grays while you grow out your length.
If your growth goals have been stunted by daily wear and tear, try this repairing French supplement. It’s packed with vitamin E and omegas 3 and 6 to help protect fragile strands and extend their life cycle in the process. Phyto recommends popping these bi-seasonally — in spring and fall — when hair growth reportedly slows due to the seasonal change, making it a good option for those up for some vitamin mixology.
If your hair has taken on a very matte look despite your preference for it to go glossy, look into Nouráge’s blend. The first ingredient listed is keratin (a.k.a. what about 90 percent of hair is made of), which can help your hair push past that overall blah quality by boosting shine and improving texture over time.
If you suspect stress or the unavoidable passage of time is at the root of your hair issues (thinning, overall hair loss), Nutrafol’s science-y blend of super antioxidants and ingredients that decrease cortisol (the stress hormone) and lower inflammation will help you see results.
Your scalp literally holds the roots of your hair’s health, so it shouldn’t go ignored on the quest for hair-growth. In addition to physically exfoliating it, adding Hairfinity to your routine can give your scalp some extra love. The blend includes Vitamins A and D to keep the skin up there in good shape, Vitamin B12 to oxygenate it, and Niacin to promote healthy blood circulation in that direction.
This article was originally published October 30, 2013. It has been updated throughout. If you buy something through our links, New York may earn an affiliate commission.