Folate and Folic Acid for Hair Growth
What are Folate and Folic Acid
Folate is a vitamin, called vitamin B9, which is found in many green leafy vegetables, legumes and fruits. The word is used for different types of folate – those found in nature as well as those created in laboratories.
Folate has a range of important health benefits. It is needed for the production and division of our cells; including red blood cells. Having sufficient levels of folate in your blood supports heart and brain health. Folate is especially important during pregnancy and breastfeeding – during this time it is vital for the development of the baby’s brain and retina.
Folic acid is the synthetic form of folate and is the type that is most widely used in nutritional supplements. Folic acid is also added to some foods. These so-called fortified foods include grains, breads and breakfast cereals.
Causes of Hair Loss
There are many different causes of hair loss. They include heredity, hormonal changes, thyroid problems, immune system conditions, scalp infections, certain medications and so on.
A nutritional deficiency is an important, yet often neglected cause of hair loss. That is why it is important that you check your blood levels of vitamins and minerals related to hair health. These include iron, vitamin B12 (cobalamin), vitamin B7 (biotin) and vitamin B9 (folate).
Does Taking Folate Help You Regrow Hair?
Folate is one of the nutrients, which help your hair stay healthy and strong. That is why lots of people that suffer from hair loss decide to take a folate supplement.
However, these people experience mixed results - sometimes folate helps, while often it doesn’t bring about the desired results.
The reason for this is simple and depends on the cause of your condition.
If hair loss has been triggered by folate deficiency, taking folate/folic acid supplement can result in dramatic improvement. If, however, there is another reason behind hair loss, folate supplementation won't help until your resolve the underlying issue.
The effectiveness of folate has been shown in an animal study (there haven’t been any studies made in humans yet). In this study, folic acid has been given to a calf that showed signs of folate deficiency. Folic acid supplementation resulted in steady growth of hair; the calf completely recovered from all symptoms of folate deficiency within 2 months (1).
How Do You Know if You Have Low Folate Levels
So, how can you tell if you have folate deficiency? If you are suffering from unexplained hair loss, blood tests for folate and other common nutritional deficiencies are a quick way to asses if this may be the cause.
However, there are also several physical signs that can point to folate deficiency. Hair falling out is one of the less known symptoms of low blood folate levels. Another hair-related symptom is premature graying of the hair.
Other symptoms of folate deficiency include:
- Feeling tired or breathless
- Heart palpitations
- Pale skin
- Swollen tongue or sores in the corners of the mouth and on the lips
- Tinnitus (ringing in ears)
- Frequently getting sick
- Poor digestion
- Mood swings and being easily irritated
Since symptoms of folate deficiency can be fairly vague, the condition easily goes undiagnosed for long periods of time.
People that are taking certain medications are more likely to have low blood folate levels. Medications that cause folate depletion include: anti-seizure drugs (such as the ones prescribed for epilepsy), sulfasalazine (for Crohn's disease and rheumatoid arthritis) and medications that affect folate absorption (bile acid sequestrants or water pills).
If you are on any of these medications, you may need to take supplement that contain high dose of folate.
Folate is also often taken to counter the toxic effects of the medication methotrexate (2, 3). This medication is taken for rheumatoid arthritis and psoriasis and causes several negative side effects; hair loss being just one of them.
Why is Folate Needed For Healthy Hair
Folate supports the health of our hair and scalp in 3 different ways.
Folate helps build and maintain healthy blood cells. This ensures that enough nutrients and oxygen get to the scalp and the cells that are responsible with hair growth.
Folate is also needed for the division and growth of new cells. Without adequate folate, new hair are not created quickly enough to replace the hair that have fallen out - in time leading to loosening and gradual thinning of hair.
Folate together with vitamin B12 also supports the production of melanin - the pigment that gives hair color. If you have low blood folate levels, your production of melanin drops, which causes premature graying of hair.
Recommended Supplements for Hair Growth
If You Have Low Folate Levels
If you have been diagnosed with folate deficiency, taking a high dose folate supplement is the way to go. This will improve not only the health of your hair, but also correct other imbalances in the body that have been caused by nutritional deficiency.
Many people can’t absorb folic acid well, so we recommend that you take a different form of folate – a methylfolate supplement. This is a form of bioavailable folate (meaning that your body can use it better than folic acid) and is frequently taken by people with folate deficiency.
Recommended folate supplements include:
Life Extension Optimized Folate: Contains the patented form of folate called Quatrefolic. This type of folate has high absorption and bioavailability. Each tablet provides 1.000 mcg of folate.
Solgar Folate: Provides another patented form of folate, called Metafolin. It is in tablet form and contains a type of sugar called mannitol, which gives the supplement a slightly sweet taste (you can either swallow the tablet or chew it if you have troubles with swallowing). Each tablet contains 800mcg of methylfolate.
Jarrow Formulas Methyl Folate: Another supplement with the Quatrefolic brand of folate. Provides 400 mcg of folate per capsule. In case of diagnosed folate deficiency, you would need to take at least 2 capsules daily.
If Your Blood Levels of Folate are in the Normal Range
If your blood tests don’t show a folate deficiency, it would be better if you skip the standalone folate supplement.
Instead, choose a supplement with biotin (nutrient that is well known for preventing hair loss and supporting overall hair health) or a formula with a mix of different ingredients for hair health.
Popular hair growth formulas are:
Natrol Biotin: The supplement contains biotin, which is B vitamin that is essential for healthy hair and nails. Each tablet has 10.000 mcg of biotin.
Hairfluence: Provides a mix of vitamins and minerals (including folate and high dose biotin). Also contains other ingredients for strong, lush hair, such as MSM, collagen, bamboo extract and keratin.
Nature's Bounty Extra Strength Hair Skin Nails: Contains a mix of vitamins for healthy hair, skin and nails plus alpha lipoic acid, collagen, argan oil and hyaluronic acid.
How to Take Folate/Folic Acid Supplements
The absorption of folate and folic acid is best when you take these supplements on an empty stomach. However, supplements with folic acid (but not folate) may cause stomach distress in some people. If this is the case, take your folic acid supplement with a meal.
The recommended daily intake of folate is 400 mcg for healthy adults (both men and women). The corresponding dose for folic acid is 200 mcg daily.
- Hair Loss in Men and Women (Alopecia). http://www.medicinenet.com/hair_loss/article.htm
- Hair Loss Health Center. http://www.webmd.com/skin-problems-and-treatments/hair-loss/
- Folate Evidence. http://www.mayoclinic.org/drugs-supplements/folate/evidence/hrb-20059475
- Folic Acid Deficiency Anemia - Topic Overview. http://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/tc/folic-acid-deficiency-anemia-topic-overview#1
- 9 Signs of Folate Deficiency & How to Reverse It. https://draxe.com/folate-deficiency/
- Folic Acid Deficiency Anaemia. https://patient.info/health/folic-acid-deficiency-anaemia
- Methotrexate Toxicity. https://toxnet.nlm.nih.gov/cgi-bin/sis/search/a?dbs+hsdb:@term+@DOCNO+3123
- Bouvet A et al. Folic acid therapy for alopecia in a Charolais calf. (1988)
- Shea B et al. Folic acid and folinic acid for reducing side effects in patients receiving methotrexate for rheumatoid arthritis. (2014)
- Al-Dabagh A et al. The effect of folate supplementation on methotrexate efficacy and toxicity in psoriasis patients and folic acid use by dermatologists in the USA. (2013)