Do Hair Growth Supplements Really Work?

Learn about how different types of hair supplements work from Erin Hodges - dermatologist at Tryon Medical Partners - including Untangled's lower dose biotin & saw palmetto combination.

Do Hair Growth Supplements Really Work?

Many people take hair growth supplements to help their hair grow faster and strengthen existing hair. Biotin is one of the most important vitamins for hair growth, but it's not a nutrient you can accumulate. Erin Hodges, dermatologist at Tryon Medical Partners, helps to dispel the myth that all hair loss occurs the same way and clarifies if hair supplements work to help people with this problem, how and what type of hair supplements.Hodges notes that while over-the-counter (OTC) hair supplements may work, different supplements work specifically for different types of hair loss. Most of the hair supplements you'll see in pharmacies specifically address male or female pattern hair loss, and aren't as effective for hair loss due to other causes.

When selecting a hair supplement, Dr. Hodges advises that you try to stay away from those that contain high levels of biotin, such as the popular brand Nutrafol.The U. S. Food and Drug Administration has issued a warning that taking high levels of biotin may alter the effect of other medical tests, causing people to miss important results on their thyroid or heart conditions.

Untangled, an over-the-counter supplement developed by a dermatologist, is Dr. Hodges' preferred supplement when making supplement recommendations to patients with androgenetic alopecia. Along with a lower dose of biotin, Untangled contains saw palmetto, which may help reduce the pattern of hair loss. In particular, saw palmetto should be avoided in pregnant and breastfeeding women, and you should consult your doctor before starting to take new supplements.

Hodges advises that leading a generally healthy lifestyle with a nutrient-rich diet is the key to preventing hair loss. Hodges explains that minoxidil works by “recruiting hair in the growth phase of the hair cycle.” It should be noted that minoxidil (and any other hair treatment) can take one to two hair cycles (three to six months) for a person to see growth, requiring patience on the part of the user.Hodges also points out that minoxidil will cause hair growth anywhere it is applied, so care must be taken when applying it. Daily administration of a patented nutritional supplement significantly increased hair growth after 90 and 180 days. Self-perceived improvements after 90 days increased after 180 days of additional treatment, suggesting that continuous improvements may occur with ongoing treatment.

These results may represent the first description of the increase in hair growth in women associated with the use of a nutritional supplement.Of course this is anecdotal evidence (no, I haven't conducted a formal survey of my friends' use of supplements), but it really seems that the cult of hair supplements is devoted. There are many, many factors that contribute to hair loss and thinning, some are more pressing than others and some are better understood than others. Iron deficiency is also believed to be a cause of hair loss in women, but literature reports are inconsistent. The increase in hair loss and weak and unhealthy hair may also be due to diets that are extremely low in calories and fat, such as certain diets for weight loss, as well as diets that eliminate complete food groups, such as vegan eating patterns (5, 7, 8).

Other natural products, such as biotin and zinc, have also been recommended for the treatment of hair loss. Subjects with other hair loss disorders, such as alopecia areata, healing alopecia and androgenetic alopecia; self-reported uncontrolled diseases, such as diabetes, hypertension, hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism; self-reported active hepatitis, immunodeficiency, human immunodeficiency virus or autoimmune also have excluded any known active dermatological condition that, in the investigator's opinion, could place the subject at greater risk or interfere with clinical evaluations. The use of a new oral supplement was associated with a visible increase in hair growth after 90 and 180 days.It causes hair loss on both sides of the front of the scalp (called a bitemporal recession) and a widening of the visible part of the hair. To date, no clinical study shows that vitamins and hair supplements promote hair growth, prevent hair loss, or improve other facets of healthy hair, such as dryness, shine and thickness.

Zinc improves oil production (in a good way, to produce the necessary amounts of sebum) and is one of the best means of delaying hair loss. Flaxseed oil has omega-3 fatty acids, which prevent inflammation and dandruff, to improve hair growth and minimize abrupt hair loss. There are other forms of hair loss that, over time, can scar the hair follicles and prevent hair from growing in the future.Additional clinical studies are currently being conducted designed to better evaluate the use of Viviscal to increase hair thickness and count in larger patient populations.

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