Vitamin C for Hair: Benefits and How to Use

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Liz DeSousa / Byrdie

Vitamin C is used across the globe as an immunity-boosting supplement to prevent illness. Also referred to as ascorbic acid, which is the form of vitamin C found naturally in food, this ingredient can be found in everything from makeup to toothpaste. In the beauty world, it is an essential part of skincare routines for its ability to help create a more radiant, even skin tone.

As a powerful antioxidant and natural collagen booster, vitamin C seems like it would be beneficial to the hair and scalp as well as the face. The skin of the scalp is often neglected, and it may seem natural to want to improve your scalp skin health with the same products that have proven beneficial for your face. So we turned to dermatologists Brendan Camp, MD, and Marisa Garshick, MD, for their expert opinions on vitamin c for hair.

Meet the Expert

  • Brendan Camp, MD, FAAD, is a double board-certified dermatologist at MDCS Dermatology in New York City.
  • Marisa Garshick, MD, FAAD, is a board-certified dermatologist at MDCS: Medical Dermatology and Cosmetic Surgery Centers, and a clinical assistant professor of dermatology at Cornell University.

Does vitamin C have as many benefits for the hair as it does for the skin? Keep reading to find out.

Vitamin C for Hair

Type of ingredient: Antioxidant

Main benefits: Neutralizes free radical damage, aids in collagen production, and boosts shine

Who should use it: In general all hair types can benefit from vitamin C, but it may be especially helpful for those with dull hair and hair that is susceptible to breakage.

How often can you use it: As a topical treatment, it depends on the specific product formulation; many can be used two to three times per week. As an oral supplement, vitamin C can be taken daily, but dosage should be discussed with your doctor before starting a new supplement.

Works well with: Vitamin C can be paired with other ingredients such as vitamin E, niacinamide, hydrating ingredients, or caffeine.

Don’t use with: Products that alter the pH of skin or hair, such as AHA, BHAs, or alkaline ingredients

Benefits of Vitamin C for Hair

Vitamin C is an essential supplement for the normal functioning of the human body. In skincare, vitamin C is popular for its ability to brighten skin and promote collagen production. As one of the most powerful antioxidants in the skin, vitamin C has been shown to protect against photoaging and to have an anti-aging effect by increasing collagen synthesis. Typically, vitamin C is applied topically to the skin in the form of serums or moisturizers.

When applied to the scalp, it can have similar benefits. "Vitamin C works as an antioxidant to help neutralize free radical damage which can help to maintain scalp health," Garshick explains. Camp agrees, adding that vitamin C neutralizes free oxygen radicals that develop during the day as a result of normal metabolism and UV exposure. "Free oxygen radicals are damaging to cellular structures like DNA, lipids, and proteins," Camp explains. Vitamin C can also help boost collagen production in the scalp and hair, which Garshick says can in turn help to strengthen and promote hair health.

  • Neutralizes free radical damage: Vitamin C works as an antioxidant to help neutralize free radical damage, which, according to Garshick, can help in maintaining scalp health. These antioxidant properties of vitamin C are beneficial topically and when orally ingested.
  • Strengthens the hair: Vitamin C is a known collagen booster and collagen is a key component of strong hair. "Vitamin C can help to boost collagen production which can also help to strengthen and promote hair health," says Garshick.
  • Boosts shine: Vitamin C can also work to brighten and improve the overall shine of the hair, shares Garshick. Vitamin C also contributes to a healthy scalp environment, which can influence the appearance of the hair overall.
  • May prevent hair loss: Vitamin C may interact with DHT, a hormone that contributes to hair loss, says Camp. "DHT causes miniaturization and shrinkage of the hair follicle. Vitamin C reduces the formation of DHT." Research has shown vitamin C's ability to repress DHT, meaning it may help to prevent hair loss.
  • May help promote new hair growth: Garshick shares that "by boosting collagen, vitamin C may help to promote hair regrowth." Camp adds that in reducing the formation of DHT, vitamin C allows for improved hair growth.

Hair Type Considerations

Our experts agree that vitamin C is safe for all hair types, though it may have more benefits for some types than others. Those with color-treated or damaged hair may garner extra benefits from the collagen-boosting powers of vitamin C. "It can be used by all hair types, but is especially helpful for those with dull hair and hair that is susceptible to breakage," says Garshick. Camp adds that vitamin C can be used on most hair types and textures, but that people with dry hair may want to exercise more caution, as some hair products remove more oils from the hair shaft and contribute to dryness.

While it can be used by all hair types, it is always good to speak with a medical professional to determine the underlying cause of your hair concerns says Garshick. And while someone may not have an allergy to vitamin C itself, the other ingredients in a vitamin C product may have the potential to cause irritation. "Someone with an allergy to an ingredient in the hair product should avoid it, and those with more sensitive skin may want to apply the product to a test spot on the inside of the elbow for a few days before using it on their scalp," advises Camp.

How to Use Vitamin C for Hair

There are many benefits to taking vitamin C orally and using it topically. Vitamin C is an essential supplement for overall health, but unlike most animals, humans are unable to synthesize vitamin C due to a missing enzyme. This means that we must depend on dietary sources of vitamin C, like citrus fruits or vitamin supplements, to meet our physiological need for vitamin C.

In using vitamin C for hair, topical application is most effective for observing the benefits to the scalp and hair follicles. Both experts recommend using pre-formulated products containing vitamin C specifically intended for use on the hair and scalp. Products that are intended for use on the face may contain other ingredients that can damage hair or be too heavy in consistency. Camp suggests closely reading the directions on the product you're using, and following them to a T. "Overzealous application can sometimes lead to scalp or hair irritation, and too little of the product may not lead to beneficial results."

The Best Products With Vitamin C

hair oil
Bread Hair Oil $24.00

This hair oil is designed to act like a lip gloss for your hair. "This gloss contains kakadu plum oil, which is a source of vitamin C," says Camp. "It can be used as a leave-in treatment or before-shampoo mask."

mega rich conditioner
Peter Thomas Roth Mega-Rich Conditioner $18.00

Camp recommends this conditioner, as he says it is packed with a number of nutrients including vitamins B, C, and E. Vitamin E works especially well with vitamin C.

Vitamin C Brightening Hair Treatment
The Inkey List Vitamin C Brightening Hair Treatment $10.00

A hair treatment is a great way to use vitamin C on the hair, as it gives strands time to absorb the benefits. Garshick recommends The Inkey List's Vitamin C Brightening Hair Treatment, as she says it works to brighten hair and increase shine while helping to repair any damage. 

  • What benefits does vitamin C have for hair?

    Vitamin C works as an antioxidant to help neutralize free radical damage, which can help to maintain scalp health. It can also help boost collagen production in the scalp and hair.

  • What types of hair is vitamin C best for?

    Those with color-treated or damaged hair may benefit most from the collagen-boosting powers of vitamin C.

  • Does vitamin C treat hair loss or promote hair growth?

    Research has demonstrated vitamin C's ability to repress DHT—a hormone that contributes to hair loss—meaning it may help to prevent hair loss.

Article Sources
Byrdie takes every opportunity to use high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial guidelines to learn more about how we keep our content accurate, reliable and trustworthy.
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