Vitamin C is one of the best-known vitamins. It’s common to take vitamin C supplements to fight the common cold, and of course everyone knows that a deficiency means a nasty case of scurvy. But did you know it’s also important to protecting the health of your hair?
To be clear, this vitamin isn’t a miracle cure for baldness or thinning hair. In fact, vitamin C likely won’t improve your hair growth at all. What it will do is keep your hair and scalp healthy, preventing hair loss and lending a nice shine.
Most importantly, maintaining good levels of vitamin C will help fend off hair loss in the first place. As the old saying goes, an ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure.
Vitamin C Deficiency and Hair Loss
Avitaminosis C, more commonly known as scurvy, is the medical disorder that results from ingesting too little vitamin C. It was famously a scourge of sailors until the 1700s, when a Royal Navy surgeon discovered it could be treated and prevented by eating citrus fruit.
Scurvy is rare these days, as it’s easy to get enough vitamin C in a normal diet. Especially living with access to good food, it’s unlikely that you’ll suffer from a C deficiency.
For people who do suffer from scurvy, the symptoms are dire. They include dry, brittle hair that snaps off easily, along with tooth and gum problems, muscle pain and more. Suffice to say, you should eat your fruits and veggies.
Can You Get Too Much Vitamin C?
Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin, so it’s very difficult to take too much. Excess C isn’t stored in the body like other vitamins, but is instead flushed out in urine.
In extremely high doses, C can cause nausea or heartburn as the substance sits in the stomach. If you begin to experience these symptoms when using vitamin C supplements, consider scaling back.
When taking supplements at their recommended dosages, including the ones sold in the Cold & Flu aisle, most people do not experience these symptoms. They’re even more unlikely to occur when obtaining C from food sources, and next to impossible when it is topically applied.
Food Sources for Vitamin C
- Citrus is, of course, the most well-known source of vitamin C. Oranges are the classic, but lemons, limes, grapefruit, and any other citrus fruit will provide plenty.
- Green, leafy vegetables such as kale, spinach, and broccoli are also a great way to obtain vitamin C, along with fiber and a score of other nutrients.
- Strawberries offer more vitamin C than oranges by weight, with about 7mg in an average berry. They’re a delicious treat and a good source of hair-healthy antioxidants, as well.
- Cauliflower is packed with vitamin C, providing more than your day’s recommended amount in a single serving. It also provides plenty of B vitamins, fiber, and even a little protein.
- Pineapple, in addition to being a great source of vitamin C, is a natural anti-inflammatory. Eating the fruit or drinking the juice will help settle your stomach, aid digestion, and boost your immune system.
- Bell peppers are packed with vitamin C. Red peppers offer the most concentrated dose, but green peppers are also excellent.
- Chili peppers are widely recognized as health dynamos. They’re an easy way to nutrients like vitamin C, and the capsaicin (the naturally occurring chemical that gives spicy foods their kick) will improve blood flow to your scalp, keeping your hair healthy.
The Benefits of Vitamin C Supplements for Hair
Vitamin C supplements are available over the counter at most grocery stores and pharmacies. They come in pills, powders to be added to drinks, sublingual tablets, and other forms like gummies, lozenges, and liquids.
C is easily absorbed by the body, and any of these forms should work well for most people. Again, it’s difficult to overdose on vitamin C, as it is a water-soluble vitamin. There is available liposomal vitamin C, which is combined with lecithin to make it fat-soluble. We recommend taking more care with this form, and consulting a medical professional before taking it.
Applying Vitamin C Topically to the Hair
Vitamin C is also available in topical treatments, applied directly to the hair and scalp. It’s commonly found in conditioners and shampoos that promise hair growth, often as a supplementary ingredient to biotin. Leave-in oils and rubs are also available from many beauty stores, drugstores, and online.
There’s little scientific evidence that these products benefit hair directly, but they are good for your skin. Vitamin C has long been used to fight wrinkles and other signs of aging. Applied to the scalp, they may help keep hair follicles healthy, and prevent acne outbreaks on the scalp that can speed up hair loss.
One little-known use of vitamin C in hair care is as a safe, effective dye remover. If you’ve dyed your hair and would like to go back to your natural color, using natural ingredients, you can mix vitamin C with a plain shampoo. Crushed up tablets work well for this, as citrus juices will lighten your hair due to the acids present in them.
Work the shampoo into your hair, and leave it in for up to an hour. Depending on the dye and your hair, you may need to repeat the process once or twice. You should find that your hair has returned to its natural color.
Ensuring that you have enough vitamin C in your body, whether through diet or supplements, is one of the best things to protect your hair health. Getting adequate C prevents the early symptoms of scurvy, which includes dry, brittle hair.
If you haven’t been getting enough C, correcting the problem will give you healthy, thick hair. You’ll find that your scalp is healthier too, resulting in less dandruff. Some preliminary studies even show that vitamin C helps keep hair from going grey.
If you’d like to experiment with vitamin C for your hair, the best thing to do is increase your intake from food, or with a supplement taken at the recommended dosage. Topical treatments like shampoos and oils are also completely safe, and you may see results within a few weeks.
Although it’s highly difficult to get too much vitamin C, you should always consult with a doctor before beginning any supplement routine.