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Hair growth is one of the few perks people recall when looking back at their first pregnancies, and typically estrogen is claimed to be the culprit. Though recently, experts have been speculating if folic acid, or folate, plays a part in the equation. Folate levels are typically increased during pregnancy to enhance their baby's neural tube development. But it turns out, folic acid (the synthetic form of vitamin B9) has a ton of perks for our hair, too. Recently, claims have been made linking folic acid to hair perks like volume, growth, shine, and the prevention of graying and thinning. But do you have to be pregnant to reap the benefits? Signs indicate no. As of late, a number of vitamins and supplements have hit the market promising to increase your folic acid intake. But there's some disagreement within the dermatological community surrounding their legitimacy. So to get to the bottom of taking folic acid-based supplements for hair growth, we turned to certified trichologist (and Founder of Advanced Trichology) William Gaunitz and board-certified dermatologist Dr. Joshua Zeichner for more information on folic acid and its benefits for hair growth.
Folic Acid For Hair
TYPE OF INGREDIENT: A water-soluble Vitamin B Supplement
MAIN BENEFITS: Stimulates hair growth, prevents premature graying, and increases volume and shine in the hair.
WHO SHOULD USE IT: Anyone dealing with low B vitamin levels which may result in fatigue, headaches, or pigmentation changes to the hair and fingernails.
HOW OFTEN CAN YOU USE IT: You want to meet a daily intake of approximately 400 micrograms per day. If you already have enough folic acid in your blood, a megadose can result in headaches, rash, nausea, skin reactions and other symptoms. Always consult with a doctor before starting oral supplements.
What is Folic Acid?
"Folic acid is the synthetic version of folate which is a B vitamin," explains Gaunitz. This vitamin can be found in supplements and multivitamins and is naturally occurring in certain foods like dark leafy vegetables and legumes. "It is essential for the production of red blood cells," adds Zeichner. Folic acid is needed for new cell growth, Zeichner explains, including the growth of hair and nails.
Benefits of Folic Acid for Hair Growth
Folic acid's role in our bodies is an extremely important one. Most notably, folate assists in the creation of red blood cells, Gaunitz tells us. "Red blood cell creation is needed to transfer nutrients throughout the body, as well as provide oxygen and minerals to rapidly dividing cells, such as hair." When we're getting the recommended daily dose of 400 mcg, folic acid might have wondrous results on our strands.
- Helps Hair Growth: By generating new cells, Gaunitz says "folic acid assists in the keratinization of hair during active hair growth".
- Prevents Premature Graying: Folic acid keeps the production levels of oxygen-rich red blood cells normalized and stabilized. Without folic acid, these cells could potentially overproduce which may result in pigmentation changes to the hair.
- Prevents Hair Loss: When your body isn't getting enough folic acid, "the body will prioritize sending those critical nutrients to more vital organs," Gaunitz explains, "which would leave the hair to fend for itself."
- Thickens Hair: "A folic acid deficiency may be associated with thinning hair," says Zeichner.
- Adds Extra Shine: Normalized levels of folic acid are associated with well distributed nutrients throughout the body. A healthy head of hair might appear shinier and stronger.
Folic Acid Considerations
Too much folate and too little folate can both cause undesirable effects. Gaunitz tells us that a megadose can lead to results such as headaches, rash, nausea, and skin reactions. So unless you are experiencing a folate deficiency that's been identified by your doctor, there is no need to self-prescribe an additional increase to your folic acid intake. "Technically, anyone can take folic acid," says Gaunitz, "but it is most critical for an individual who is dealing with low B vitamin levels."
We understand that folic acid may produce beneficial effects on our bodies that lead to desirable results that can be notably visible in our strands, but Zeichner notes there is no definitive data proving this correlation. While supplements can help you meet the daily recommended dose of 400 mcg per day, Zeichner cautions "taking a supplement will not be helpful if you are not deficient." Consuming any more than the recommended daily dose of 400 mcg does not mean your hair is guaranteed to grow faster. Take the time to consult with your doctor if you're interested or concerned about your folic acid intake to ensure a supplement is serving you well.
How to Use Folic Acid for Hair Growth
If you are experiencing premature graying, Gaunitz suggests you may want to consider adding a supplement to your routine. Consuming folate through all channels is also important. Skipping out on nutrient dense foods that are naturally rich in folate and replacing them with fortified foods may not give you the results you're looking for. "The best way to get folic acid would be to consume foods rich in B9, like broccoli, dark green leafy vegetables, legumes, and eggs," Gaunitz says. Here are a few ways to ensure you're meeting your daily recommended levels of folate:
- Take a daily vitamin: Folic acid is usually found in the form of water-soluble multi-vitamins. Your daily dose of folate can be found in B Complex vitamins, Prenatal vitamins, and other Multi-vitamins.
- Eat Foods Rich With Folic Acid: "Folic acid can be found at high levels in green leafy vegetables like spinach as well as beans, peas, and broccoli," says Zeichner.
National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements. Folate fact sheet for consumers. Updated March 22, 2021.
Daulatabad D, Singal A, Grover C, Chhillar N. Prospective analytical controlled study evaluating serum biotin, vitamin B12, and folic acid in patients with premature canities. Int J Trichology. 2017;9(1):19-24. doi:10.4103/ijt.ijt_79_16