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Is Your Vitamin B Complex Helping Your Hair?

Knox Beasley, MD

Reviewed by Knox Beasley, MD

Written by Steph Coelho

Published 09/17/2017

Updated 04/25/2024

Eight B vitamins make up the vitamin B complex. Since these nutrients are vital for a healthy mane, you might think about taking a B complex for hair growth. But what does vitamin B do for your hair? Is it really the key to luscious locks?

While B vitamins play a critical role in hair growth, the scientific evidence is mixed when it comes to the effectiveness of taking a B complex for hair growth.

Below, we’ll cover all you need to know about B vitamins, including what the research says about B-complex vitamin benefits, how to spot a deficiency, B vitamin safety considerations and what a B-complex supplement might do for hair health.

While many think of “vitamin B” as a single vitamin, there are actually eight different B vitamins:

  • Thiamine (vitamin B1)

  • Riboflavin (vitamin B2)

  • Niacin (vitamin B3)

  • Pantothenic acid (vitamin B5)

  • Pyridoxine (vitamin B6)

  • Biotin (vitamin B7)

  • Folate (folic acid)

  • Vitamin B12

These vitamins are all water-soluble. They’re essential in helping your body metabolize macronutrients — proteins, fats and carbohydrates.

Thiamine (Vitamin B1)

Thiamine, or vitamin B1, helps metabolize glucose and amino acids, meaning you need it to convert these nutrients into usable energy.

Many whole grains, meats and fish products contain thiamine. Good food sources of this vitamin include:

  • Enriched rice

  • Fortified breakfast cereals

  • Black beans

  • Mussels

  • Tuna

  • Pork

  • Beef

  • Orange juice

  • Sunflower seeds

The National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements recommends men get 1.2 milligrams (mg) of thiamine a day.

Riboflavin (Vitamin B2)

Riboflavin, or vitamin B2, is essential for cellular function, energy production and metabolism. It’s also an antioxidant.

You can find riboflavin in many whole grains and protein-rich foods, including beef liver, fortified breakfast cereals, oats, yogurt, milk, clams, chicken breast, beef steak, mushrooms, almonds, certain types of cheese, salmon and quinoa.

The Office of Dietary Supplements recommends men get 1.3 milligrams of riboflavin a day.

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Niacin (Vitamin B3)

Niacin, or vitamin B3, can come in different forms, including nicotinic acid, nicotinamide and nicotinamide riboside.

Your body converts niacin into nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide. That’s a mouthful — we’ll just call it NAD.

NAD helps your body make energy out of the nutrients from foods you eat.

Common sources of niacin include beef liver, chicken breast, turkey breast, salmon, tuna, pork, ground beef, peanuts, marinara sauce, peanuts and fortified breakfast cereals.

The Office of Dietary Supplements recommends men get 16 milligrams of niacin a day.

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Pantothenic Acid (Vitamin B5)

Pantothenic acid, or vitamin B5, plays a major role in the synthesis of coenzyme A. This helps your body turn proteins, fats and carbs into energy.

Research suggests that pantothenic acid may support cardiovascular health in people with high blood lipid levels.

Pantothenic acid can be found in almost all animal and plant-based foods. Rich sources of this B vitamin include beef liver, chicken breast, tuna, mushrooms, avocados, sunflower seeds, eggs and dairy products such as milk.

The Office of Dietary Supplements recommends men get 5 milligrams of pantothenic acid a day.

Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine)

Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine) is a generic term for six related compounds (aka vitamers). 

These compounds are involved in a wide range of bodily processes, including more than 100 enzyme reactions, many of which are related to protein metabolism. 

Vitamin B6 also supports cognitive development, immune system function and the production of hemoglobin, an essential protein found in red blood cells that transports oxygen throughout the body. 

Common food sources of vitamin B6 include chickpeas, beef liver, tuna, chicken breast, salmon, potatoes, turkey, ground beef, bananas, marinara sauce and fortified breakfast cereals.

The Office of Dietary Supplements recommends men 19 and older get 1.3 milligrams of vitamin B6 daily and 1.7 milligrams for those over 50.

Biotin (Vitamin B7)

Biotin, or vitamin B7, helps you metabolize fatty acids. It’s also an essential vitamin for cell signaling, a vital process for a healthy immune system and tissue repair.

People deficient in biotin often have weak, brittle nails, skin rashes and temporary hair shedding. That’s why supplements for healthy hair, skin and nails often contain biotin.

Your small intestine naturally produces biotin, but you can also get it through certain foods, like beef liver, salmon, eggs, pork, ground beef, tuna, sunflower seeds and sweet potatoes.

The Office of Dietary Supplements recommends a daily biotin dosage of 30 micrograms (mcg) for men.

Folate (Folic Acid, or Vitamin B9)

Folate, or vitamin B9, helps with DNA synthesis, supports red blood cell production, promotes a healthy appetite and assists with tissue growth — among various other bodily processes.

Natural sources of folate include beef liver, black-eyed peas, spinach, Brussels sprouts, mustard greens, asparagus, fortified breakfast cereals, spaghetti and bread. You can also get the synthetic version, folic acid, in supplement form.

The Office of Dietary Supplements recommends guys 14 and older get 400 micrograms of folate a day.

Vitamin B12

Vitamin B12 plays a key role in protein metabolism. It also helps produce red blood cells and maintain your central nervous system. 

Good sources of vitamin B12 include beef liver, fish, poultry, meat, eggs, milk and other dairy products. Some fortified cereals and nutritional yeasts also contain this vitamin.

The Office of Dietary Supplements recommends adults get 2.4 micrograms of vitamin B12 a day.

Most people get enough vitamin B12 from the foods they eat. However, some lack a protein called intrinsic factor (IF) needed to absorb the nutrient from food.

B-complex vitamins help break down the essential nutrients that fuel your body and keep you healthy.

Nutritional deficiencies, like a lack of B vitamins, can lead to health issues. For example, not getting enough vitamin B6 or B12 could cause anemia — a condition where there aren’t enough red blood cells to transport oxygen around your body.

A healthcare professional might recommend taking vitamin B complex supplements if:

  • You’re pregnant

  • Have a health condition that affects nutrient absorption

  • You’re older than 65

Research also suggests that vitamin B complex supplements may help with wound healing. A study published in the journal Advances in Skin & Wound Care found that some combinations of B vitamins may help improve wound closure in healing skin.

Additional research has found that vitamin B complex supplements may help improve mood and mental performance.

However, it’s worth noting that this research was sponsored by Bayer — a pharmaceutical brand that manufactures and markets its own line of vitamin B complex supplements.

Since all B vitamins are water-soluble, your body doesn’t store the excess. 

So no matter how much vitamin B you consume, your body only ever uses the amount it needs and gets rid of the rest through urine.

If your diet lacks certain B vitamin-rich foods, or you have a health issue that prevents you from properly absorbing nutrients, you may develop a B vitamin deficiency. 

B vitamin deficiencies aren’t very common, but if you have one, you’re likely deficient in multiple B vitamins. 

Thiamine (Vitamin B1) Deficiency

Thiamine deficiency can affect your cardiovascular, immune and nervous systems. Symptoms can show up as impaired reflexes, sensory deficits (when you struggle to sense physical touch, temperatures or pain) and heart problems.

You might lack vitamin B1 if you eat lots of white rice or processed grains — but as noted, enriched rice often contains thiamine.

Certain health issues, such as chronic alcoholism, malnutrition or the effects of bariatric surgery, can increase your risk of thiamine deficiency.

Read more about the hair-related effects of bariatric surgery in our guide to hair loss after bariatric surgery.

Riboflavin (Vitamin B2) Deficiency

Riboflavin deficiency is very uncommon. It can develop due to endocrine issues, like thyroid hormone deficiency or other health conditions.

If you have a riboflavin deficiency, you may notice hair loss, skin issues, sore throat, and itchy or red eyes. Other symptoms include edema of the mouth and throat, swollen or cracked lips and angular stomatitis (lesions in the corners of your lips).

Niacin (Vitamin B3) Deficiency

Like other B-complex vitamin deficiencies, niacin deficiency isn’t very common. But it may develop in people who lack access to protein-rich foods.

Niacin deficiency can cause a disease called pellagra. This is when the skin develops a sunburned, rough appearance and a noticeable pigmented rash. 

Pellagra can also affect the digestive system, causing symptoms like diarrhea and vomiting.

Over time, pellagra can worsen and take a significant toll on your health. So make sure to seek treatment as soon as you notice symptoms.

Pantothenic Acid (Vitamin B5) Deficiency

Since pantothenic acid is found in most foods, you’re unlikely to develop a deficiency. 

When pantothenic acid deficiency does occur, it may cause symptoms like numbness, fatigue, burning in the hands and feet, headache, sleep difficulties and gastrointestinal issues.

Vitamin B6 Deficiency 

Vitamin B6 deficiency is uncommon and typically develops in tandem with other vitamin B deficiencies.

It can occur in people with chronic kidney disease or those with conditions affecting nutrient absorption, such as Crohn’s disease, celiac disease or ulcerative colitis.

Vitamin B6 deficiency can lead to dermatitis with angular cheilitis (a form of scaling on the lips and corners of the mouth), a weakened immune system and psychological issues like depression and confusion.

Biotin (Vitamin B7) Deficiency

Your body naturally produces biotin in the small intestine, so it’s rare to become deficient. In fact, no cases of severe biotin deficiency have ever been reported in people with a typical balanced diet.

When biotin deficiency does occur, it usually causes gradual hair thinning that can progress to a severe form of hair loss affecting the entire body.

It can also cause symptoms such as a scaly, red rash near body openings, conjunctivitis (pink eye), skin infections, brittle nails and neurological issues like lethargy, hallucinations and depression.

Read more about hair loss symptoms and biotin for hair loss in our guide to biotin for hair growth.

Folate Deficiency

Folate deficiency can develop in people with alcohol use disorder (AUD) and those with health issues affecting nutrient absorption.

Folate deficiency is usually accompanied by other nutrient deficiencies.

It can lead to a range of symptoms, including changes in skin, hair and fingernail color, shortness of breath, irritability, weakness, fatigue, difficulty concentrating and heart palpitations.

Vitamin B12 Deficiency

The only natural sources of vitamin B12 are animal foods like meat and dairy, so deficiencies often occur in vegetarians and vegans.

Older adults and folks with conditions like pernicious anemia (an autoimmune condition that prevents vitamin B12 absorption) or gastrointestinal disorders can also develop a deficiency.

Common symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency include fatigue, weight loss, tingling hands and feet, heart palpitations and glossitis (inflammation) of the tongue. 

Vitamin B12 deficiency is also a common cause of a potentially serious condition called megaloblastic anemia (when bone marrow produces abnormally large red blood cells).

Read our guide to vitamin B12 deficiency and hair loss to learn more about this vitamin’s role in hair health.

Some B vitamins, such as biotin, play a significant role in growing and maintaining hair. If you’re deficient in these vitamins, your hair might not look as thick and full as it once did. You may also notice more shedding than usual.

In that case, taking a B-complex supplement might help.

How Does B Complex Help With Hair Growth?

While vitamin B complex supplements may help stimulate the hair growth cycle, most research shows they’re only effective when hair loss results from a vitamin deficiency.

In other words, unless you’re deficient in biotin or other B vitamins, you probably won’t notice any positive change in your hair follicles from taking biotin or a B-complex vitamin supplement daily.

So if we had to pick, which vitamin B is good for hair? 

The short and sweet answer is…all of them!

You might get better results from taking a daily multivitamin.

Many multivitamin supplements contain all or most of the essential B vitamins your body needs to produce strong, healthy strands, and they can benefit your overall health. You’ll get other nutrients, too, like vitamin D, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E, iron and zinc.

Since you essentially pee out any excess B vitamins in your body, there’s little risk of supplementation-related toxicity.

Having said that, consuming excessive amounts of some B vitamins has been linked to health issues.

For instance, extremely high intakes of vitamin B6 can cause nerve problems, including losing control over bodily movements. 

High doses of niacin may lead to flushed skin, hypotension (low blood pressure), fatigue and gastrointestinal issues.

Over the long term, excessive use of some vitamin B complex supplements could contribute to liver issues.

These issues aren’t common and typically only happen when someone takes a very, very high dose of vitamin B complex supplements.

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Although some B-complex vitamin deficiencies are associated with hair loss, taking B vitamins may not do much to improve hair growth if you’re not deficient.

Here’s what to remember about vitamin B and hair growth:

  • B vitamins offer countless health benefits. However, if you eat a balanced diet, you may not need a B complex vitamin supplement.

  • Right now, there’s no solid scientific evidence suggesting that taking a B complex aids in healthy hair growth or slows down hair loss associated with androgenetic alopecia (aka male pattern baldness).

  • Hair products like finasteride (available in topical or oral forms) or minoxidil (available as a topical foam or liquid solution) might be a better option if this is your issue. You can also use them together with our topical finasteride & minoxidil spray.

  • There’s some evidence that taking a biotin supplement can help reverse hair loss in men who are biotin-deficient. However, biotin deficiency is uncommon.

  • Since B vitamins are water-soluble, your body eliminates any excess through your pee. So you’re not doing yourself any favors by taking massive quantities. An obvious sign you’re overdoing it is bright yellow urine.

  • If you do have a B vitamin deficiency, you’ll almost always have noticeable symptoms. 

Worried about your B vitamin levels? Dealing with thinning hair? Consider adding a multivitamin supplement to your daily health routine. 

Or talk to a healthcare professional, like a dermatologist, for medical advice on what hair loss treatment options might work best for you.

15 Sources

  1. B Vitamins. (2021, April 6). Retrieved from
  2. Thiamin. (2021, March 26). Retrieved from
  3. Riboflavin. (2021, March 26). Retrieved from
  4. Niacin. (2021, March 26). Retrieved from
  5. Pantothenic Acid. (2021, March 26). Retrieved from
  6. Vitamin B6. (2021, March 26). Retrieved from
  7. Biotin. (2021, March 29). Retrieved from
  8. Vitamin B9 benefits. (2018, December 30). Retrieved from
  9. Folate. (2021, March 29). Retrieved from
  10. Vitamin B12. (2019, February 2). Retrieved from
  11. Vitamin B12. (2021, January 15). Retrieved from
  12. Rembe, J.-D., Fromm-Dornieden, C., Stuermer, E.W. (2018, May). Effects of Vitamin B Complex and Vitamin C on Human Skin Cells: Is the Perceived Effect Measurable? Advances in Skin & Wound Care. 31 (5), 225-233. Retrieved from
  13. Kennedy, D.O., et al. (2010). Effects of high-dose B vitamin complex with vitamin C and minerals on subjective mood and performance in healthy males. Psychopharmacology. 211 (1), 55-68. Retrieved from
  14. Wiley, K.D. & Gupta, M. (2020, June 22). Vitamin B1 Thiamine Deficiency. StatPearls. Retrieved from
  15. Vitamin B12. (2021, April 6). Retrieved from
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Hims & Hers has strict sourcing guidelines to ensure our content is accurate and current. We rely on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We strive to use primary sources and refrain from using tertiary references. See a mistake? Let us know at [email protected]!

This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. The information contained herein is not a substitute for and should never be relied upon for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment. Learn more about our editorial standards here.

Knox Beasley, MD

Dr. Knox Beasley is a board certified dermatologist specializing in hair loss. He completed his undergraduate studies at the United States Military Academy at West Point, NY, and subsequently attended medical school at Tulane University School of Medicine in New Orleans, LA. 

Dr. Beasley first began doing telemedicine during his dermatology residency in 2013 with the military, helping to diagnose dermatologic conditions in soldiers all over the world. 

Dr. Beasley is board certified by the American Board of Dermatology, and is a Fellow of the American Academy of Dermatology.

Originally from Nashville, TN, Dr. Beasley currently lives in North Carolina and enjoys spending time outdoors (with sunscreen of course) with his wife and two children in his spare time. 





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