My hair is my favorite accessory. I don’t take my supplements in vain; I take them because I’m vain — and because Lady Godiva locks are my goal. Every morning after I eat breakfast, I swallow a handful of supplements that would rival Valley of the Dolls’ Neely O’Hara’s daily allotment.
After testing many combinations, I've found the best hair-growth and/or thickness hack, which makes my hair grow two inches each month, is this: one Viviscal Extra Strength pill (the daily dosage is two), one biotin pill (7,500 mcg), and one folic-acid pill (400 mcg). To make sure I won’t become immune to their effects, I switch out my regular Viviscal cocktail with supplement stunt-doubles like Keratin Booster, MD Nutri Hair, or Phyto’s Phytophanere every few weeks.
Two years ago, I was only taking Viviscal’s original formula in its recommended dose: two pills per day. Since then, a half-dosage (one pill) of Viviscal Extra Strength has become integral to my supplement cocktail. Before incorporating this pill into my daily routine, my hair never grew more than a few inches beyond my shoulder. Ever. In my entire life. No matter what happened. No matter what I changed in my various hippie white-meat-and fish-focused, gluten- and dairy-free diet. Thanks to Viviscal’s aminomar marine complex, in addition to its blend of vitamin C, niacin, and biotin, my hair’s grown much longer, glossier, and thicker.
Viviscal does, however, make my roots a bit oily when I take the full dosage and I’ve also noticed my hair growing faster everywhere. In the case of my suddenly robust eyebrows, this news is well received. In the case of my five-o’clock leg-hair shadow, which I’ve since remedied with a few laser-hair-removal sessions, not so much.
The next pill I throw back is biotin, a water-soluble version of vitamin B. In my informal lab experiment of cutting my Viviscal dosage in half in favor of adding a biotin pill, I found that the oily-roots problem became a non-issue and my hair now boasted a bounce I’ve seen Orlando Pita create for Michael Kors ads. It yielded the same effect as an application of root-lifting spray and backcombing at the root — and people have noticed.
However, Dr. Dennis Gross notes, “[Biotin is] a more popular hair-growth vitamin, but I am skeptical about the clinical data out there. Biotin supplements show best results if you’re already deficient. You can naturally find biotin in nuts, eggs, and leafy greens.” Perhaps my diet wasn’t rich enough in biotin. Gross recommends topical supplements, ingredients applied directly to the skin. “These are the most effective means of preventing aging and treating existing conditions. When you consider how much volume and surface area an ingested vitamin supplement must cover as its diluted by the entire bloodstream and then covers the entire body,” Gross explains. “For instance the math analysis shows that a 2 percent vitamin-C gel applied directly to the face is 200 times more potent than consuming a 600 milligram vitamin C pill.” His hair-care suite includes a shampoo containing salicylic acid, which helps in “reducing the number of pore blockages in the skin. For your hair, it helps to exfoliate the scalp — ridding it of oils, dirt, and debris — allowing for optimum hair growth.” The line also includes peptides, retinol, azelaic acid, adenosine, and procyanidin-B2.
Last, Gross says to be cautious: “Don’t take more than recommended by the FDA or what is written on the labels. Be sure not to take more than the label tells you to. More is not better when it comes to this.” His own supplement cocktail includes GLA, which stands for gamma linolenic acid, an omega-6 fatty acid. “It is considered an essential fatty acid since it is necessary for human health, but the body cannot make it itself — you must get them through food or supplements. GLA helps to stimulate skin and hair growth among other things. It’s a good supplement to take in the wintertime,” he notes. If you’d rather score your biotin from your food directly, Cathy Wong, ND, CNS, notes that “Biotin is found in a variety of foods such as milk, bananas, cauliflower, cooked eggs, legumes, nuts, sardines, and whole grains, and it can also be produced by bacteria in the large intestine.” Bottom line? Biotin isn’t dangerous if you stick to the recommended dosage and clear it with your physician before taking it. However, topical supplements and nutrition represent an alternate route to lengthy locks, if you don’t have a penchant for pills.
Prenatal or folic-acid pills have long been recommended, even for those who aren’t with child, for thick, healthy hair, but Wong says to beware. “While they contain folic acid, they do also have larger amounts of iron, which I don't recommend, unless there is documented iron-deficiency anemia. There is no evidence that they can help, and generally, I am cautious about recommending iron because it is a pro-oxidant (opposite of an antioxidant) and may contribute to diseases of aging such as atherosclerosis and diabetes.” That said, folic acid influences biotin metabolism, according to a study conducted by the University di Bologna. “After an injection of folic acid, biotin-deficient rats showed greater alterations of the urinary excretion and liver storage of folate derivatives than did control rats. On the basis of these results, it was hypothesized that biotin influences folic-acid metabolism and particularly for the utilization of the biosyntheisis of coenzymatic derivatives.” So in short? My addition of folic acid keeps me from pissing away, literally, the benefits of my biotin.
A tip for pill poppers to save time in the most Mealprep Mondays–inspired way is to invest in three large, seven-day pill cases like these, available at Amazon, and fill them up once every three weeks. You’ll feel like an octogenarian, but you’ll save time like an efficient tricenarian. Several companies are also producing hair-care supplements such as Bliss Labs Total Bliss Give Me Strength (contains vitamins A, C, E, and biotin, Toppik Hair Nutrition 2-in-1 Capsules (contains keratin, Vitamin E, and biotin), and MD Nutrihair (contains Vitamin E, biotin, and lilac).
If punctuating your sentences with strategic hair flips is your ultimate goal, I maintain that it’s what’s inside that counts. Just be sure never to take them on an empty stomach — no matter how lengthy your locks, looking nauseated is never chic.