Wouldn't it be great if all our curly problems could be solved with one pill?
Unfortunately hair care hasn't gotten that convenient just yet.
While many women rush to the vitamin aisle to help with lackluster hair or even dreaded hair loss, it is important to check out the research on the matter before just assuming a vitamin is the answer. One of the most hotly debated and misunderstood options on the market is the use of vitamin A supplements for hair.
And it makes sense, after all, retinol, a prominent member of the vitamin A family is a very common ingredient in both hair and skin care for its rejuvenating properties. But before you stock up on this little powerhouse, there are a few things you need to know first.
The matter of taking vitamin A supplements for hair loss isn't a clear-cut, yes or no type of answer.
While there have been studies that suggest vitamin A can help with hair growth, these studies were typically small-scale studies collecting data too small to be fully conclusive in its findings. It is also important to note that there are studies suggesting that a vitamin A deficiency can lead to hair loss. If a person doesn't have a deficiency in vitamin A, many people think there is no harm in simply doubling up to be on the safe side. However, if you do not have an actual deficiency, taking vitamin A supplements can have the opposite effect and lead to premature hair loss. In a study published in the esteemed journal, Dermatology Practical & Conceptual, it was found that, "While deficiency has not been linked to hair loss, high levels of vitamin A have. In fact, one study found that in a mouse AA model, reduction of vitamin A in the diet actually delayed hair loss onset."
Remember, just because it's a vitamin doesn't mean the more the better.
Unlike vitamin C, our bodies don't naturally flush (literally!) excess A out of our systems. As it's a fat soluble vitamin, not a water-soluble vitamin, vitamin A takes much longer to leave our bodies, and can build up to toxic levels if you're not careful. As well as hair loss, symptoms of over-intake of vitamin A can include irritability, nausea, severely reduced appetite, spontaneous bone fractures, and liver damage. Not fun stuff, curlies.
So, unless you have a deficiency in vitamin A, you might want to skip adding in supplements, especially less obvious ones that are still high in the substance like Cod Liver Oil. But how do you know that you actually might have a significant amount missing from your diet in the first place? The symptoms of a vitamin A deficiency include dry skin, vision problems such as being unable to see in dim settings, dry eyes, and vision spots or "floaters", as well as frequent infections. If you suspect you have a deficiency or any of these symptoms, consult your doctor. You should never start a vitamin A supplement without checking in with your physician just to be on the safe side—and if you doubt us, scroll back up and read through the overdose symptoms one more time.
If you have consulted your doctor and increasing your vitamin A intake is a suggested method, it is important to note a few things.
If possible, it is better to get your vitamin A through digestion of vitamin A rich foods over supplements. Foods rich in vitamin A, include common, easily found munchables like kale, sweet potatoes, spinach, liver, broccoli, and eggs.
If you do decide to take vitamin A supplements for hair growth or other issues, do remember that supplements are not closely regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), so a vitamin A supplement may have less vitamin A than it leads you to believe. It is important to carefully read any labels on the supplements to make sure you are getting something that is pure and safe, as well as to read reviews before purchasing anything and to ask questions in communities that DON'T profit from selling supplements. If you still have questions about supplementation, you can consult your doctor or a registered dietician for guidance.
What do you think curlies? Have you ever supplemented blindly or do you always check in with your GP first?
Let us know in the comments!