Folic acid is a supplement commonly mentioned to add in when a woman becomes pregnant. But, aside from that, you may not hear a lot of talk about this B vitamin.
Folic acid is a necessary vitamin for general health, but can a lack of it also negatively affect your hair?
Below, we will review what folic acid has to do with your hair, if a folic acid deficiency can lead to negative consequences like hair loss, cover the difference between folic acid and folate, and then let you know ways that you can get more folic acid into your diet or supplement regimen and what dose to aim for.
Folic acid is related to healthy hair growth in a couple of different ways.
Firstly, folic acid helps maintain the healthy production of red blood cells. So much so, that a deficiency of folic acid/folate can lead to a type of anemia called folate-deficiency anemia. Since red blood cells are responsible for bringing oxygen and nutrients to tissues, including your scalp and hair follicles, having anemia of any sort may compromise the general health of your hair follicles and hair growth rate.
Secondly, folic acid plays a role in cell division and new cell growth. Since the cells involved in hair growth are some of the fastest-growing cells in your body, tripping this up due to a lack of folic acid/folate could mean that your hair growth is not as fast as it could be.
While we do not have any studies conclusively linking hair loss to a folic acid deficiency, we do know that anemia (that can occur from a lack of folic acid) can lead to increased hair shedding or slowed growth.
Other studies dealing with folic acid and hair include one looking into premature hair greying. In the study, low folic acid levels were associated with premature hair greying.
Another study looked into folic acid levels and people with an autoimmune hair loss condition called alopecia areata, where the hair falls out in clumps. In this alopecia areata study, they concluded that patients with alopecia areata had lower levels of folate in their red blood cells, and that the lower the folate levels, the worse the severity of the alopecia areata.
So, while these studies suggest that low folic acid levels are associated with premature hair greying, or alopecia areata, we do not know if it can directly cause other forms of hair loss, or exacerbate situations like patterned hair loss.
It is also worth noting that if your folate levels are just fine, adding in more folate or folic acid is unlikely to do anything for your hair.
The terms folic acid and folate are sometimes used interchangeably, but there is a slight difference.
Your body uses these two the same way (folic acid becomes the active form of folate in the body). But, technically, folate is vitamin B9, and is what you would get from consuming foods that contain vitamin B9 naturally. Folic acid is the term for the synthetic version of folate that you would get in a supplement or fortified foods. However, as we mentioned earlier, your body converts both folate and folic acid into the activated form of folate (5-MTHF), so it is all the same no matter which route you choose.
If you are concerned about how much folic acid or folate you are getting in, you may want to speak with your doctor about if supplementation is necessary, or you may want to ramp up your intake of folate-rich foods.
Foods that contain high levels of folate include: beef liver, spinach, black-eyed peas, rice, asparagus, brussel sprout, lettuce, avocado, broccoli, mustard greens, green peas, kidney beans, wheat germ, tomato juice, Dungeness crab, and orange juice, just to name a few.
Ways to increase your folic acid intake would be to eat more foods that are fortified with folic acid like certain breads, pastas, and cereals. You can also get more folic acid in by taking a supplement that contains folic acid.
Most adults over 18 years of age should be consuming or supplementing with 400mcg of folate (or dietary folate equivalents, DFEs) daily in order to hit their recommended daily allowances. Pregnant women will need to be getting in a little bit more, and should be aiming for about 600mcg of folate or DFEs daily.
Talk to your doctor before starting on a new supplement, as they can review your levels and see if supplementation is even necessary, and make sure the supplement fits well with your other medications and current conditions.
If your folate levels are good, it is unlikely that increasing your folate intake will do anything for your hair loss or growth speed. If your folate levels are low, getting them up to normal may be good news for your hair and general health, but it also may not be the whole story when it comes to your hair concerns.
Most cases of hair loss in both men and women are from a genetic process called androgenetic alopecia. This is also sometimes referred to as male pattern hair loss and female pattern hair loss. Androgenetic alopecia stems from your genetic makeup and cannot be stopped, but, it is possible to help slow the progression and keep more of your hair with treatment.
At Strut, we have a focus on prescription medications to help treat male and female pattern hair loss. We utilize ingredients like Minoxidil, Finasteride, Dutasteride, Spironolactone, Tretinoin, and Biotin in customizable formulations to help you get the most out of your treatment.
If you are interested in seeing if a prescription hair loss cream or capsule is a good route for you, simply select the product you are considering and complete a free online questionnaire and image-based telemedicine consultation in under 15 minutes. One of our U.S. doctors will review your information and determine if treatment is appropriate for you. If you are a good candidate, your prescription will be put together at a U.S. compounding pharmacy and shipped to your front door with our free shipping.