A good diet, proper sleep, and the correct amount of essential nutrients are the perfect treatment for stunning, healthy hair. In fact, these nutrients are vitamins. From the dawn of human civilization, men and women have longed for a full head of hair. A symbol of confidence and youthful beauty, a shining crown of hair, is the “crowning glory” of men and women, one of the aspects of our beauty that we are most terrified and nervous about. Haircare products are used in many aisles in most retail stores. Beauty supplies shops dedicate at least 75% of their inventory to shampoos, conditioners, and styling items and gadgets of all sorts. We are, indeed, a society that is distinctly hair-obsessed. But while the things we use on our hair are important, the real secret to healthy hair is what’s going on internally. Some beauty experts, clinicians, and nutritionists believe that hair is a valid predictor of optimal health.
Skin, hair, and nails are all part of what is known as the human “integumentary system,” in the biology-the body system that defends our internal organs and tissues from exposure to the world in which we reside. Although we appear to take this mechanism for granted, it is responsible for many essential life activities, including excreting waste products and controlling body temperature (as any bald person can attest!). The skin is also an attachment site for sensory receptors that sense pain, discomfort, and temperature; it also aids in the synthesis of vitamin D. Healthy skin, hair, and nails are vital not only for appearance but for overall health.
The Role of Vitamins in Skin and Hair Health
Many vitamins are required to preserve healthy hair, including vitamins C, A, E, and K. However, the B-complex vitamin, a group of water-soluble vitamins composed of eight distinct compounds, is essential for the protection of your hair. Here are few tips on how to get enough of them in your diet to keep your hair looking healthy.
Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin)
Riboflavin is vital for the synthesis of carbohydrates and proteins. It is also an effective antioxidant, a drug that fights off free radicals that can destroy cells and DNA. Riboflavin deficiency causes hair loss, dry skin, cracks, and sores around the lips. Dietary riboflavin is concentrated in eggs, liver, and kidney meat and is found in smaller amounts in wheat bran, milk, and cheese. Milling decreases the amount of riboflavin in wheat products by as much as 60%, leading to the bulk of white flour and cereals sold in the United States. Riboflavin is also used as a coloring agent or ingredient in many baby foods, spaghetti, sauces, and refined cheeses.
Vitamin B5 (Pantothenate or Pantothenic Acid)
Pantothenic acid is a crucial nutrient involved in many biological processes, including fatty acids and cholesterol synthesis. Fatty acids are essential for preserving shiny, healthy hair, so pantothenate is often used in hair care products, especially shampoos. There is little proof of effectiveness as a topical substance, and B5 deficiency is very rare.
Derived from the Greek term “pantothen,” meaning “from everywhere,” pantothenate is present in many foods, including beef, whole grains, legumes, mushrooms, avocados, broccoli, molasses, and yeast.
Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine)
Pyridoxine is necessary for the development of red blood cells and is vital for preserving hormonal equilibrium, immune function, and cardiovascular health. Some reports have suggested that pyridoxine has a leading role in developing neurotransmitters necessary for mental regulation and psychological wellbeing. Vitamin B6 deficiency can cause anemia, nerve damage, epilepsy, depression, hair loss, skin problems, and sores in the mouth.
Dietary forms of vitamin B6 include fish, beef liver and other organic meat, potatoes, some starchy vegetables, and some non-citrus fruits. Like riboflavin, pyridoxine is also applied to cereal and to additional “enriched” flour-based products manufactured in the United States.
Vitamin B7 (Biotin )
Biotin is used in the body to generate fatty acids and the synthesis of amino acids and fats. Extended vitamin B7 deficiency contributes to multiple skin and hair disorders, including hair loss, conjunctivitis (inflammation of the eyes), and a red, scaly rash around the lips, nose, and genitals. Severe biotin deficiency is very rare. In fact, the only known cases of biotin deficiency in healthy humans were caused by the daily intake of raw egg whites containing a substance that prevents dietary biotin intake. Any genetic conditions can inhibit biotin absorption, and breastfeeding and lactation can also lead to mild deficiencies.
Biotin is found in many dietary sources, although it is not particularly abundant in any one food. Swiss chard and other green leafy vegetables, liver, raw egg yolks, and peanuts contain fairly high amounts.
Vitamin B12 (Cobalamin)
Like other B vitamins, vitamin B12 is important for the metabolism of carbohydrates and proteins and is essential for the nerves’ healthy functioning. Since nervous system disorders also affect skin and hair development, B12 is often required for healthy skin and hair. Fatigue is the most frequent symptom of vitamin B12 deficiency. Vitamin B12 is present only in animal foods, but vegans who don’t consume meat or milk require vitamin B12 supplements every day. The ability to digest vitamin B12 also declines with age, so most people above the age of 50 can also take a supplement. Good young people who consume a balanced diet containing beef, dairy products, and eggs should obtain sufficient levels of B12 from dietary sources.
Should you take B-Complex Supplements?
If you want to boost your hair’s health or your general condition, taking B vitamin supplements is a smart idea. High-Potential B supplements contain ample quantities of all eight B vitamins and limit the number of vitamins that can induce toxicity. Vitamin B12 is often poorly absorbed from the gastrointestinal tract, so if you suspect that you have a B12 deficiency, it is best to take it sublingually (under the tongue) or ask your caregiver to give it to you in the form of an injection.