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Vitamins for Hair Growth not Enough to Prevent Loss


Science does not understand well animal and human hair growth cycle interactions with its biochemical metabolism yet. Recent research may have unintentionally discovered another piece of the puzzle that is hair graying and male pattern baldness but it will be decades until laboratories develop a practical and effective product. For now, we can only draw practical conclusions from these research studies, one of which is that vitamins for hair growth by themselves aren’t enough to prevent male pattern baldness (MPB).

To understand what other factors intervene in hair loss we must understand its growth cycle and its interaction with dihydrotestosterone (DHT). These will give hints on what can be causing the hair thinning, graying and eventual loss. Some conclusions will be drawn from research and others from personal and professional deductions and experience. Until specific research studies are performed on these theories they will be just that, theories supported on some doctors’ opinion, experience and patient testimonies.

With this warning we can proceed explaining how if someone starting to lose hair wants to prevent more of its loss and strengthen it must address some issues besides just taking vitamins for hair growth. To explain why they aren’t enough we must briefly understand some things first. If you are a woman the next information doesn’t apply to the cause of your hair loss so you can scroll down to the vitamins for hair growth section. The section before that can be of interest to you and may contribute to a better hair health for both genders.

Hair Growth Phases

  • Anagen: the hair growth phase during from 2 to 6 years. About 85% of the hairs on the head are in this phase and usually people with longer anagen phase will grown longer hair.
  • Catagen: a follicle renewal phase that lasts about 2 weeks where the hair is still attached to the scalp but no longer grows.
  • Telogen: the follicle enters a resting phase where it lies dormant from 1 to 4 months. Usually 10-15% of hairs are in this phase. Once this phase is over the cycle restarts with the anagen phase, the existing hair is pushed out of the root canal by the new growth falling naturally.

In MPB, follicles slowly shrink and the anagen phase of the hairs reduce its duration. This shortens the hair’s maximum length. At the same time, the telogen phase lengthens making the cycle telogen dominant.

Eventually, the anagen phase becomes so short that there is hair thinning and its attachment to the scalp weakens. This makes the successive cycles shorter. Each hair has a finite number of cycles and, in pattern hair loss, follicles approaching its end of life will enter a villification state where the hair transform into villus.

In the villus state the hair can be restored with proper treatment but once it has completed its life-cycle the follicle dies and only hair transplant can restore the affected area.

DHT Influence on Hair Growth Cycles

DHT is a more potent form of testosterone produced by the enzyme 5-alpha-reductase (5α-R). About 5% of testosterone is reduced to DHT in a healthy male and is vital for development and puberty but when something alters this balance and there’s a higher level of DHT it affects head hair growth. It is a hormone that attaches more easily to promotes body hair growth but inhibits head hair growth. Scientists think that DHT attaches to androgen receptors on hair follicles five times more avidly than testosterone and, through an unknown mechanism, genetically trigger these receptors to start shrinking. Vitamins for hair growth alone can sometimes increase the production of DHT so it is important to understand how it is produced and regulated before taking any supplement.

The highest levels of DHT are in the prostate because this gland is one of the main producers of the second subtype of reductase enzyme, 5α-R2, in adult males also found in hair follicles. The first type, 5α-R1, is found in sebaceous glands.

A conclusion that something is affecting the normal function of the prostate and/or the hair bulb and disrupts the normal production of 5α-R. A study by the University of Washington School of Medicine published by The International Journal of Cancer Epidemiology concludes that male pattern baldness is linked with increased risk of prostate cancer. [1]

This may support the theory that some type of prostate dysfunction may cause alopecia. Another supporting evidence is the established use of 5α-R inhibitors to treat MPB and benign prostate hyperplasia. [2] Some scientist have suggested that nickel metal toxicity may play a major role in this disruption. A 2002 study concluded that when inhibiting only 5α-R1 40% of balding men recover a noticeable amount of hair but when inhibiting both 5α-R1 and 2 the percentage rose to 90% of men affected by alopecia. This reinforces the theory that the prostate metabolism plays a role in male pattern hair loss. [2a]

The Interaction between Nickel, Fungi and 5α-R

Metal toxicity, nickel among them, is a health problem that is largely disregarded outside medical care of professionals that have a risk of direct exposure and severe metal toxicity. That’s why in our western lifestyle we inadvertently ingest metals that harm our health. And because of the search for profit society focuses on supplementing with vitamins for hair growth instead of analyzing if our body has something that shouldn’t have. Giving advice on how to avoid toxicity isn’t as profitable as recommending detox supplements, shampoos and vitamins for hair growth.

Unfortunately the prostate collects toxins very efficiently, especially for nickel. Urinary tract bacteria and fungi, specifically the aspergillus genus, are very attracted to nickel as it plays a main role in their metabolism. They are making use of your urea as food. To digest it they first break the urea molecule apart into two ammonia molecules. One way to know there’s an infection is a strong ammonia smell in your urine. We can’t produce ammonia, only bacteria can do it. Their digestive enzyme is called urease and it needs nickel to be able to break urea into ammonia. [3]

Nickel is plentiful in the soil where these microorganisms belong but not in our bodies. Nickel is fat soluble so it stores in our skin fat temporarily when a surge enters our body. Because our metabolism can’t process it, the body tries to excrete it through the skin sweating. Starting to see a relation? It not only affects hair growth but is common to see other skin problems such as allergies and rashes.

How to Stop Ingesting Nickel

First you have to identify sources of nickel which are plenty and as you avoid them start an oral chelation therapy that will help to eliminate what is already in your body. Then you can start taking aminoacids and vitamins for hair growth as your metabolism will be able to absorb them more efficiently and use it as intended. Let’s see common sources of nickel intoxication and an efficient way to restore a normal prostate function.

Sources of nickel:

  • Dirt. In small amounts in food. Those quantities are mostly harmless
  • Metal cutlery. Even if they are stainless steel, they contain 8% of nickel. Specially avoid sticking cutlery in acid food, like mayonnaise or margarine. Notice the strong metal taste when you touch metal cutlery with the tongue. That’s metal leaking to your tongue blood vessels because of the acidity of saliva. Our skin is almost like a sponge in many senses so it is better to use ceramic, plastic or wooden cutlery. Notice how Asians in traditional communities are less affected by baldness. In my opinion it may have more to do with the use of chopsticks than a genetic factor.
  • Metal dental ware. Nickel is used to make amalgams, bridges, gold crowns, retainers, brackets and braces. Orthodontics are specially harmful since they contain a high amount of nickel and leach it in great amounts. I mention this from personal experience as I was a user before knowing about health. It took me a long time to reduce nickel levels from the body and still have some prostate problems that are slowly improving. Exchange it all for plastic ware and composite buildups.
  • Metal Jewelry. Don’t wear metal jewelry. Wear plastic or wooden rings, earring posts, plastic or leather watches and glasses.

It is much better to prevent than to eliminate metal toxicity once in our bodies. It may take years to chelate and excrete a buildup of decades. Once you address the nickel ingestion you can start taking vitamins for hair growth and then they may help to slow or even stop male pattern baldness, alopecia areata or other types.

Optionally Detoxify Your Prostate

And we say optional because some people will be uncomfortable with this. Since many studies link prostate health and 5α-R with hair growth it is advisable to detoxify the prostate even if there is no hyperplasia or difficulty to urinate. A telltale sign may be noticing an increased hair loss accompanied with these prostate symptoms. But even if you don’t notice them it is better to detoxify it regardless since it is an easy process.

Organic apple cider vinegar (it must have the mother, we don’t recommend refined apple vinegars) is a potent detoxifier and will help the prostate to get rid of toxins at a higher rate. Take one tablespoon mixed with a glass of warm water first thing in the morning. You can optionally add some healthy sweetener such as stevia, honey, fructose, etc. We don’t recommend refined white sugar. Also you can add cinnamon and turmeric to improve taste and health effects.

A good additional effect of organic apple cider vinegar is that it stimulates a healthy gastric function. If you had prior acid reflux you will notice an improvement and better overall digestions. This will help to better absorb and assimilate any vitamins for hair growth and foods rich in them that you will take.

Unfortunately apple cider vinegar by itself won’t help get the prostate to get rid efficiently of all the toxins. The prostate gland has the size of a nut and is situated just under the bladder and around the urethra. Its tubuloalveolar tissue secretes a slightly alkaline fluid that forms 30% of the semen. Also it has smooth muscles that help expel semen during ejaculation.

Those smooth muscles don’t compress the prostate enough to help it get rid of toxins. We need to massage it in order to help it expel toxins through its secretions. Urologists do this massage often with their patients with benign prostate hyperplasia so, in our opinion, is better you learn to do this yourself (or let your partner do it) than to rely on a doctor after your prostate has deteriorated further and your hair was gone a long time ago. In India, where there is less of a taboo with these matters, wives do prostate massages to their husbands often during intercourse. They know it is a way to keep their husbands healthy and sexually active.

To massage it you have to introduce the middle finger in the rectum and slightly press down towards the pelvic floor. Press until you feel a walnut size ball and notice pressure under the bladder. Sometimes you can feel an increased need to pee even if there’s no urine in it.

To massage the prostate, don’t use force and slightly rub on its sides with the finger and very slightly from the top to the bottom. It is normal to feel a lingering pressure or slight discomfort after the massage. The sensation will pass and you will notice a big improvement if you had prior difficulties to pee or discomfort in ejaculation.

We mention pumpkin seeds here because they are beneficial for prostate health. Although these seeds aren’t especially rich in vitamins for hair growth. Other exercises that help the prostate are practicing yoga asanas for prostate health or Kegel exercises.

Vitamins for Hair Growth

The Role of Cyclooxygenase in Hair Growth

Cyclooxygenase (COX), officially known as prostaglandin-endoperoxide synthase (PTGS) is an enzyme responsible of the formation of prostanoids. These include thromboxane (with a role in blood clotting) and prostaglandins (inflammatory, anti-coagulant and vasodilator effects) such as prostacyclin (same effects but is anti-inflammatory). Prostanoids are part of protein signaling processes where a lipid intervenes in a biological signal attaching to a protein receptor. The signals where prostanoids intervene are inflammation processes.

Pharmaceutical inhibition of COX can provide relief from the symptoms of inflammation and pain. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as aspirin and ibuprofen, exert their effects through inhibition of COX. Those that are specific to the COX-2 isozyme are called COX-2 inhibitors.

A 1997 study observed that NSAIDs induced hair loss in patients. This was because of the inhibition of COX-1 which researchers found present in the dermal papilla of hair follicles in anagen or catagen phase. This is why Minoxidil promotes hair growth since is an activator of the COX-1 enzyme. [4]

COX-1 is the predominant enzyme present in healthy tissue. When there is a COX-1 inhibition there’s an upregulation of COX-2 as an anti-inflammatory defense reaction. This area needs more research but some scientists theorize that selective inhibitors (either inhibiting COX-1 or 2 but never both) or nutrients that favor the formation of prostacyclin can promote anti-inflammatory effects that may have a relation with the increase of hair growth. [5]

Long Chain Omega 3 Fatty Acids

Our western diet makes us imbalanced in Omega 3 and 6 levels. Statistically we have thirty times higher Omega 6 levels, which promotes inflammation, than Omega 3 which has anti-inflammatory effects. Fish oils provide alternative fatty acids to arachidonic acid. These acids can be turned into some anti-inflammatory prostacyclins by COX instead of pro-inflammatory prostaglandins. [6]

When you search for Omega-3 supplements discard those with short chain alpha-linolenic acid. Our metabolism converts very poorly shorter chain fatty acids. Most of the scientific evidence on positive health effects is on docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) Good long chain Omega-3 sources are; flax and hemp seeds, king salmon, greenshell and lipped mussels, hoki, also called blue grenadier and gemfish. Because COX produce prostanoids which have a vasodilator and anticoagulant effect you must exert care if you are already taking anticoagulant medication including aspirin. Consult your physician before using fish oil or any food or supplement high in omega 3 because it can increase bleeding.


A 2004 study confirmed the protective role of zinc in rats induced with nickel liver toxicity. This could explain why zinc supplementation is vital for hair health. [7]

Also in 2016 a study on androgenic alopecia observed that, in males affected by baldness, zinc levels were similar in blood to males with healthy hair. The zinc levels were lower in the hair instead and the lower the level, the higher the degree of alopecia. [8]

Also anyone taking zinc supplements has to be careful not to overdose. Too much zinc can depress the immune system and may have neurotoxic effects. Food agencies recommend a dose between 11 and 14 mg daily.

Iron and 5-aminolevulinic acid (5-ALA)

A 2013 study published in the Journal of Korean Medical Science concluded that iron plays a key role in female and male pattern hair loss. One in four people, male or female, with hair loss showed lower iron levels than normal. Instead among people with no hair loss no one showed lower iron levels. [9]

A 2008 study published in the International Journal of Dermatology observed that administering both iron and 5-ALA topically, daily for 15 days promoted hair growth in alopecia induced mice. It stimulated growth much more than mice administered with iron only. The stimulatory effect was almost identical to 5% Minoxidil with none of its side effects. Among them; vasodilation, itchiness, dependency of Minoxidil to keep the hair growth and increased hair loss when a person stops applying it. [10]

Levulan has 5-ALA as an active component.

Iron and L-Lysine Amino-acid

A 2002 study found that the major cause of hair loss among women before the age of 50 is nutritional. A 30% of the total women population had some kind of hair loss. A deficient intake of the amino-acid l-lysine seemed to be a contributing factor to the lower levels of iron observed in balding women. Restoring normal levels of both lysine and iron restored the hair to its former health but it took several month to do so. [11]

Iron in both cases seems to be closely related with 5-ALA and l-lysine in women with any type of hair loss. Supplementing iron alone does not seem to reverse it as concluded a 2002 study by the University of Melbourne. [12]

Good sources of lysine are high protein foods such as eggs, red meat; pork, lamb or poultry, beans, peas, cheese specially Parmesan and fish like cod and sardines.

B6, B7, C and D Vitamins

Among the vitamins for hair growth we will mention first the vitamin C. It improves the absorption of dietary iron and oral iron supplements. It decreases the risk of developing urinary tract infections which helps in keeping the prostate healthy.

In addition a 2005 study showed that a vitamin C derivative, ascorbic acid-2-phosphate showed increased growth of the hair dermal papilla and hair shaft. [13]

A 2016 study showed that among a population of women affected by hair loss, 38% of them had vitamin B7 (biotin) deficiency. Of the total balding population of women 24% had telogen effluvium. This is a type of baldness where the hair thins or sheds by entering early in the resting (telogen) phase. A 35% of them had associated seborrheic dermatitis which is one of the symptoms of biotin deficiency. [14]

This means that only 4 in 10 women has a biotin deficiency as the cause of her hair loss. As biotin is water soluble there are few risks of overdosing. Despite this it is better to save your money if you don’t really need biotin supplementation. Do a blood test to be sure or use telltale symptoms to deduce its deficiency like dermatitis or enteritis (inflammation of the small intestine).

For vitamin B6 or pyridoxine, a 2001 study in Poland showed that, for women between pubescence and 30 years of age with diffuse alopecia, parenteral administration of vitamin B6 induced hair growth. Whereas for vitamin B5 or pantothenic acid there were no changes and was ineffective. Parenteral administration is any form of ingestion excluding orally, the easiest way is buying pyridoxine patches. [15]

A 2016 study showed that, for a group of 45 women between 15 and 30 years of age, a contributing factor in the cause of their hair loss was a vitamin D3 or cholecalciferol deficiency. [16]

For additional sources rich in the vitamins for hair growth mentioned you can read our list of vitamins and our series on healthy foods to eat.

Keeping a healthy hair is relatively easy with proper preventive measures and nutrition. Restoring a pattern of hair loss requires more work and patience. These supplements and vitamins for hair growth won’t work by themselves. Additionally there must be an adequate detoxification and care of supporting glands. If you treat any kind of hair loss holistically, diagnosing the possible deficiencies you may have in your personal circumstances with the help of this guide you will see results. Most importantly, results without wasting money on useless shampoos, gadgets, supplements and vitamins for hair growth. Our advice is to always rely on practical scientific research. Ignore product marketing and ads that have no backing by science.


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