Niacin for Hair: How to Regain Strength

Medically reviewedby Dr. Ahmad Chaudhry M.B.B.S.
WrittenbyLuat Duong
Last updated

For our hair to reach its fullest potential, it needs a lot of tender lover and care. It's easy to assume that optimal results come solely from oiling your hair and adjusting your eating habits to achieve long, flowing hair.

While those two factors are integral, another contributing factor in promoting healthy hair is adding hair growth vitamins to your diet. This is where Niacin becomes the main character. While it is also known as vitamin B3, Niacin is a water-soluble vitamin that drastically changes our hair, skin, and overall health for the better.

Studies by various medical institutions show the effects of Niacin to help promote hair growth and treat numerous hair issues. One specific study shows that applying Niacin can help reverse female pattern alopecia, as it's a popular ingredient for hair growth. Here is why it is so beloved.

What is Niacin?

Niacin is an organic compound that is crucial for human nutrients. Also known as vitamin B3 or nicotinic acid, it is also historically referred to as Vitamin PP. It gets this name because a lack of niacin leads to a fatal disease called pellagra, to which niacin is the only known treatment.

More research for its abilities is being had in the medical community as it's known for more than its ability to fight pellagra. Studies detail its ability to work as a valuable hair loss treatment in supplement form.

Before we dive too deep, you may be wondering what niacin does briefly. Well, it's a B3 vitamin that conversation carbohydrates into energy within our bodies. The vitamin also distributes that energy to cells throughout our bodies and helps maintain a cell's integrity. Knowing how important it is to our bodies' functions, niacin should be integral to your daily diet. This vitamin can be found in many household foods, including but not limited to tuna, mushrooms, beets, nuts, sunflower seeds, and select dairy products.

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Why is Niacin Important to Hair Growth?

Niacin has the important job of adding oxygen and nutrients to hair follicles. This means that hair loss is limited, and growth is available. At the end of the day, you can’t have healthy hair without also having a healthy scalp. It would be like trying to grow a healthy plant with poor soil. Niacin isn’t the only ingredient needed for healthy hair. A balanced diet is crucial for overall health.

Blood circulation is also a massive attribute for hair health. If you have poor circulation, then you can see signs of hair loss and hair thinning. When you improve blood flow to your scalp, niacin can get to the follicles faster for hair growth and health.

How does Niacin work?

Here's a deep dive into all the ways Niacin helps your hair:

  1. Niacin Increases Blood Circulation to the Scalp.

Hair loss treatment research tests possible medications and natural remedies for treatment and possible causes for how hair loss begins. Per Klemp, Kurt Peters, and Birgittr Hansted completed such a study at the University of Copenhagen.

With 28 volunteers, 14 suffered from early male-pattern baldness, and 14 were similarly aged and had standard hair patterns. Researchers surveyed subcutaneous blood flow to determine if it was a factor in alopecia.

A significant pattern was shown in the results. It was found that, on average, subcutaneous blood flow was 2.6 times lower in men with early male pattern baldness than with their counterparts.

There are holes in this study, though, as it was only focused on current blood levels. The biggest flag was that researchers could not determine whether the lowered blood flow caused male-pattern baldness or if it was a side effect.

However, we do know one of the likely predecessors of alopecia is reduced blood flow. What studies found is that when injecting a botulinum toxin into the scalp, hair loss improves. This helps reduce any tension in the scalp, thus, improving blood flow.

This is where niacin steps in. It is a treatment option that helps increase blood flow to the scalp.

Niacin makes blood vessels open up near the skin, causing a tingling sensation. This is why some users experience a "flushed" or "blushed" look, which can be an added benefit of using niacin. However, this can be avoided by taking a B3 tablet after eating a meal or by gradually increasing your niacin dosage. Typically, flushes last about 10 minutes as a sign that you've taken enough niacin. It's best used when taken among other vitamins to ensure a healthy balance of vitamins in your body.

This happens because niacin dilates dermal blood vessels and increases blood flow throughout your body. Niacin also reduces the thickness of blood, helping with circulation to the scalp and its hair follicles.

  1. Niacin Help Reduce Inflammation of the Scalp.

Dihydrotestosterone, also known as DHT, as a hormone that influences sex reproduction, as well as hair, skin, and brain health. For people with alopecia, it can cause heightened inflammatory and hair loss.

The majority of studies discussing niacin’s anti-inflammatory abilities focus on its part in averting cardiovascular diseases. However, these studies are also helpful for showing niacin’s ability to reduce specific whole-body inflammation.

One such study showed promising results for those looking to reduce the high-sensitivity C-reactive protein (hs-CRP) levels within the body. The volunteers treated with niacin saw a 20% decrease in their inflammatory.

In another study, the difference in levels of hs-CRP between those who took niacin treatment and the placebo group was significant.

While these studies were focused on niacin’s role in cardiovascular disease prevention, hs-CRP is a marker for inflammation anywhere in this body. High levels of hs-CRP can positively show an enhanced danger of cardiovascular disease. Still, they could also indicate uncontrolled inflammation in other parts of the body, including the scalp.

The evidence pointing to niacin reducing the levels of hs-CRP within the body is an essential takeaway for those who suffer from hair loss. Niacin has anti-inflammatory properties, which can help those looking to reduce inflammation and irritation in their scalp. It essentially helps with sensitivities derived from DHT.

  1. Niacin Helps to Repair Keratin.

One of the reasons niacin is so desirable when it comes to hair growth is its keratin-inducing effects.

Why? Keratin is a fibrous structural protein that is responsible for protecting epithelial cells found at the skin's surface. Keratin is responsible for the health of hair and nails, being it's a significant part of their genetic make-up.

Niacin helps to increase the synthesis of keratin, which, in turn, helps to build stronger and healthier hair.

Niacinamide, which is a derivative of niacin with the addition of an amino group, helps reduce water loss and improves moisturization in the skin.

During the anagen phase, keratinization transpires, which involves keratin proteins moving from under the skin to the skin's surface. Since hair is formed almost entirely of keratin, any lack of keratin movement can result in thinner, weaker hair. This derivative of niacin induces keratin production to help with successful keratinization.

  1. Niacin Restores Damaged DNA.

Niacin is converted in the body to a coenzyme involved in several metabolic processes known as nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide, or NAD for short. To put it simply, NAD converts compounds to energy in a biological process known as oxidative phosphorylation. This process has helped repair DNA damage.

Are You Consuming Enough Niacin?

If you’ve experienced any hair thinning, hair loss, or weight gain, these may be signs of a niacin deficit. Of course, this isn’t always the case. Lifestyle choices are a huge contributing factor to external changes, including smoking, alcohol consumption, and taking certain medications, including pain killers, anti-depressants, and antibiotics. These factors can contribute to your body not being able to absorb certain vitamins because your body naturally kills them off.

Something important to note about the vitamins is that those that improve your vascular and circulatory systems also help your scalp health. When you have a happy scalp, you then can grow healthy hair. In addition to your scalp needing to receive nutrient-rich blood, external factors also affect your scalp. These include certain tight hairstyles that pull on your hair follicles, essentially tugging them out. Leaving your hair down and loose can help resolve the issue, and niacin can help regrow the hair and repair damaged strands.

How Can You Add Niacin to Your Diet?

Niacin is quite easy to add to your diet through the medium of vitamin B3. While you can always take supplements, there are many foods that are rich in this specific vitamin, including:

  • Asparagus
  • Avocado
  • Fish
  • Green Peas
  • Liver
  • Mushrooms
  • Peanuts
  • Sunflower Seeds

When it comes to cooking, there are also other alternatives to adding bulk ingredients to your meals to consume the B3 vitamin. Instead of using olive oil or vegetable oil, you can swap in avocado oil. You can also get creative with how you want to prepare the foods. For example, you can heat up green peas and use them as a side dish, or you can keep them cold and add them to a salad with the sunflower seeds. And say you don’t love the taste of fish; instead, you can even consume fish oil to reach that balance in your system.

Can Too Much Niacin Hurt You?

While you want to make sure you add niacin into your diet, you need to be careful about over-supplying the vitamin. As they say, too much of a good thing isn’t such a good thing. When you add too much niacin into your system, various side effects can occur, including:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Diarrhea
  • Itching
  • Fast heart rate
  • Gout
  • Liver damage
  • Nausea/vomiting
  • Severe skin flushing

It’s always best to consult with your doctor before adding supplements to your diet to make sure that you are consuming a safe amount specific to your body and its needs.

In addition to those severe health issues, too much niacin can result in the one thing you were trying to avoid in the first place: more hair loss.

While consuming too much niacin through foods alone is nearly impossible, when you venture into the world of supplements, niacin overdose is a common issue. This just means you took too much of the good thing. Fear not, the damage done can be reversed.

How Can You Make Sure This Doesn’t Happen?

As stated prior, if you keep to niacin-rich foods, you shouldn’t come across any issues. These foods are very well-balanced; so, unless you eat 50 avocados a day, you should be in the clear. If you really hate avocados and all the foods listed above, you can always try taking supplements, but it’s always best to talk to your doctor first. You don’t want to consume too low of a dose otherwise you’ll never see the fruits of your labor. You also don’t want to take too much otherwise you’ll experience adverse effects.

If you do start to experience those negative effects, stop taking the niacin supplements immediately. If you don’t, the long-term effects can impact your liver, leading to more damage to your overall health. Your hair is not worth your life.

Who Could Be At Risk?

Overdosing on niacin can happen to anyone choosing to take the supplements. As stated prior, taking too much niacin can lead to flushing, nausea, diarrhea, and more. So, if you experience any of these symptoms, stop taking the supplement immediately. They’re not just casual side effects.

Say you take the supplement, and you’re having no adverse effects. That’s great! One lifestyle change that you’ll need to take is to cut out alcohol. If you consume it, this is where your symptoms will likely show face, especially in the form of flushing. Avoiding alcohol is highly encouraged when taking this vitamin.

In addition, anyone pregnant or nursing should consult with their doctor prior to taking any niacin supplements.

FAQs on Niacin

How Can You Topically Apply Niacin?

Same with the food, avocado is incredible for its niacin levels. This fruit (not a vegetable), contains roughly 13-18% of all the niacin you should consume daily. Adding this directly to your scalp will do wonders for your scalp health.

To apply it topically, simply mash up a ripe avocado with a splash of avocado oil to make it a runnier consistency. Then, add in a spoonful amount of honey to have a nourishing component. Et voila! You are caring for your body and scalp all with household ingredients. You can always try to find a mask with similar ingredients from a drugstore, but fresh is best.

I Understand Niacin Is Great for Blood Circulation. What Else?

As you’ve now read several times, niacin is key for good blood flow and circulation. What else does it do? Well, it also brings oxygen and nutrients to your hair follicles. Remember the plant analogy from earlier? You can add a plant to soil, but without proper elements, it will still die. So, bringing the oxygen and nutrients to the follicle is like adding water to your plant and placing it under the sun. And when you add the hair mask, it’s like adding fertilizer to the pot. This is where not only your plant will survive; it will thrive. Your hair will become thick and strong, and your hair loss was drastically decrease.

The Biggest Takeaway

Niacin does wonders for your hair and its health in the right moderation. Eating foods rich in vitamin B3 is best but taking supplements with medical supervision also does the trick. A happy scalp means happy hair, so be sure to take in enough niacin orally and topically.


Luat Duong

Luat Duong is a Copenhagen-based writer and content strategist specializing in hair loss and health. His work has been featured in MyHealthGuide, The Right Hairstyles, and Woman's Era. He is a graduate of Vaasa University. You can connect with him on LinkedIn.