Do hair supplements actually work?

Let’s be honest: Who doesn’t want to turn heads with healthy, bouncy locks? The reality for most of us though, is that our hair gets to a stage where it thins or breaks easily, thus denying us our Beyonce-like moment.

Common hair problems like dry or thinning hair could result from factors such as using the wrong products for your scalp. Maria Mazengarb, trichologist at DrHair, says that continuous air-conditioning, UV rays, mechanical damage from hair tools, hair products, and nutritional deficiencies can also contribute to your hair woes. Thankfully, these factors can all be controlled and rectified.

Our hair, as with every other part of our body, requires sufficient nutrients for healthy growth. Leonica Kei, founder and principal trichologist at Leonica K Trichology, explains that hair is a non-essential tissue, and its thickness depends on our general health. When our hair starts to thin or shed, it is usually related to internal issues such as stress, diet, general health, medication or genetic predisposition.

“Hair receives nutrients from our blood supply. A balanced diet rich in protein is good for hair density,” she says. “I have seen many cases of hair thinning and heavy hair shedding that were caused by low iron and low vitamin D. Some vegetarians may be low in vitamin B12.”

Choose your supplements wisely

This is why some experts recommend hair growth supplements with specific ingredients such as zinc, iron and B vitamins to remedy nutritional deficiencies and bolster the hair growth cycle.

According to Dr Karen Soh of Prive Clinic, hair supplements can support hair growth and overall hair health from within – the theory behind this comes down to internal structural support.

A balanced diet rich in protein is good for hair density.


Hair is made up of keratin and, like most processes in our body, the production of keratin is heavily influenced by free radical damage and oxidative stress – both of which can be eased or neutralised by antioxidants. Dr Soh says clinical studies have shown that key nutrients such as antioxidants and essential vitamins in supplements can support the synthesis of healthy hair growth.

As with the efficacy of any supplement, it comes down to the formulation. Therefore, she advises one to choose hair supplements that are clinically proven, trusted by doctors, and formulated with vital ingredients to promote healthy hair growth.

Dr Soh suggests hair supplements with vitamin B5, manganese and magnesium – ingested or applied topically – as these may also help to strengthen and support hair follicles. However, if you have food allergies, health conditions, or are pregnant or breastfeeding, you should consult your doctor before taking any supplements to ensure that the ingredients are safe for your consumption.

She reveals that some of the most commonly used supplements for healthy hair and nails are marine proteins, such as those in Viviscal PRO, which has been clinically tested to promote hair growth. People with low levels of protein lack amino, and these provide missing amino acids in the hair follicle to promote a healthy follicle and subsequent hair growth.

Consider a hair analysis first

Maria says getting nutrients from our food is important as supplement will only benefit our hair if we are deficient in that particular vitamin/mineral/nutrient. It’s therefore important to get a blood test or hair analysis to confirm what we are deficient in. This is because, if we take supplements that we don’t need,
it can cause toxicity to our bodies – and one of the first effects of this is hair loss.

Your age could also determine what nutrients are beneficial for your hair health. Maria points out that women of child-bearing age should monitor their iron levels as hair loss will occur when there is a drop in iron levels. And women going through menopause need to be aware of their vitamin D and calcium levels. Vitamin D helps our bodies absorb calcium, and our calcium levels decrease as we age.

You can complement your supplements intake with treatments that will further enhance your hair health. Leonica recommends hair hydration treatments for hair that’s dry and prone to breakages. This happens when moisture escapes and evaporates from the hair shafts. And because hair shafts are dead structures that cannot be repaired or regenerated by nutrients or supplements, such treatments are more effective.

Looking to boost your hair health? Here are three ways you can do so:

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