If your hair is growing out gray, you may have a nutritional deficiency, particularly the B vitamins. Antioxidant vitamins, such as vitamins A, E and C, are important vitamins for healthy hair, but the B vitamins play a specific role in maintaining natural hair color and keeping it growing strong. Unfortunately, some people do not like the look of gray hair, and taking vitamin B supplements -- or any other dietary supplements -- might not restore pigmentation in every person who has gray hair. Talk to your doctor before taking vitamin supplements, especially if you are taking medications, pregnant or nursing.
When you build a house, you build a strong foundation first, so your house withstands winds and other weather conditions. Additionally, you would not build the house with paper, but rather stone or brick. The same concept applies to hair. Vitamins B-1, B-2 and B-9 are B vitamins that work at the foundation level of hair growth. Vitamin B-9, commonly called folic acid, helps maintain healthy levels of the amino acid methionine, which is a building block of hair, according to Dr. J.J. Janowiak's August 2004 article published in "Alternative & Complementary Therapies." Vitamins B-1 and B-2 are similar to the stones or bricks used for building the house. Without these vitamins, your hair would grow weak and brittle, something that typically accompanies gray hair. To prevent gray hair growth, Dr. Janowiak recommends taking a daily supplement containing 25 mg to 50 mg of both vitamins B-1 and B-2. Additionally, he recommends a folic acid supplement containing 400 mg to 800 mg of folic acid per day, but no more. A high intake of folic acid can mask a vitamin B-12 deficiency.
Vitamin B-12 is critically important for those who desire to restore natural hair color and prevent further graying of hair. Dr. Alan Green, a professor at Stanford University School of Medicine, says that a nutritional deficiency of vitamin B-12 can cause gray hair, even in children. Some people may have adequate intakes of vitamin B-12, but may still have a deficiency, due to a problem absorbing the vitamin. The Dietary Reference Intake, or DRI, established for vitamin B-12 is 2.4 mg per day for males and females age 14 and over.
The X Factor
Para-aminobenzoic acid, or PABA, is a B-complex vitamin, nicknamed vitamin B-X. It is not an essential vitamin, but a nutrient that plays a role in the pigment of skin and hair. According to the Huntington College of Health Sciences, PABA is a nutrient recommended for those who have gray hair when the graying stems from nutritional deficiencies or stress. Stress causes oxidation, or the aging of cells. The Huntington College recommends 25 mg to 50 mg of PABA per day to restore natural hair color and prevent the graying of hair.
Other vitamins, such as vitamins A, C and E are also hair vitamins that prevent oxidation of cells and prevent premature aging of hair. However, nutritional deficiencies are not the only cause of graying hair. The increased rate of cell oxidation that occurs during the aging process is the primary reason for the graying of hair. Vitamins might prevent premature aging, but they cannot stop the aging process altogether. If your hair is graying prematurely, a B-complex vitamin might prevent further graying. Keep in mind that B complex vitamins might not contain all the B vitamins, so read the product label before purchasing vitamins.
- "Alternative & Complementary Therapies"; A Practitioner's Guide to Hair Loss. Part 2 -- Diet, Supplements, Vitamins, Minerals, Aromatherapy, and Psychosocial Aspects; JJ Janowiak and C Ham; August 2004
- Linus Pauling Institute; Vitamin B-12; Jane Higdon, Ph.D.; March 2003
- Huntington College of Health Sciences; Have a "Good Hair Day"; Gene Bruno, MS, MHS; 2009