New Study Finds Supplements That Actually Help With Hair Loss
Experts say some may be more effective than others.
Many of us take great pride in our luscious locks—especially because they don't always last forever. Under normal circumstances, we shed anywhere from 50 to 100 hairs every day, according to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD). Hair grows back, but once you start to see more falling out every day or notice a significant thinning of your hair, you may be dealing with hair loss. The AAD says hair loss can occur for a number of reasons, and no matter the cause, it can be hard for those experiencing it to get their hair to grow back. There are many products and methods marketed for hair regrowth, but few are actually effective. Nevertheless, a new study has determined that certain supplements could actually make a difference. Read on to discover the latest research on the supplements that may help with hair loss.
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Millions of people in the U.S. suffer from hair loss.
Hair loss is hardly an uncommon experience. According to a 2014 survey from the International Society of Hair Restoration Surgery, roughly 35 million men and 21 million women in the U.S. suffer from some level of hair loss.
And those numbers have likely only gotten worse in the past few years as a result of the pandemic. Hair loss has become a common symptom associated with long COVID, and some research estimates that around 22 percent of people hospitalized from the coronavirus experience temporary hair loss, The New York Times reported in Sept. 2022.
"I have never seen anything like it in my life," Michele Green, MD, a New York City-based dermatologist who specializes in hair loss, told the newspaper. "I'm seeing more male and female patients, from every age group, every working profession. It's really been across the board."
Now, a new study might provide some relief to anyone wishing their hair were back to what it once was.
Research suggests supplements may help.
Several supplements are often pushed as treatments for hair loss, and a systematic review published Nov. 30 in JAMA Dermatology looked to determine if there was any truth to the matter.
For the review, researchers analyzed 30 studies dealing with the use of dietary and nutritional supplements in individuals with hair loss. But they excluded studies that involved people losing their hair due to known nutritional deficiencies, the use of medications, trauma, or physical stress.
The researchers concluded that these prior studies have indicated there is a "potential role for nutritional supplements in the treatment of hair loss." They added, "Some patients with hair loss may benefit from nutritional supplementation, and shared decision making with dermatologists should be encouraged to review risks and benefits of each treatment."
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Certain supplements may be more beneficial than others for hair loss.
Not all supplements are equal in their helpfulness for hair loss. The new study found the "highest-quality evidence" for the potential benefits of specific supplements: capsaicin, omegas 3 and 6 with antioxidants, zinc, and pumpkin seed oil. On the other hand, supplements like kimchi and vitamin D were among those found to have "lower-quality evidence" for the improvement of hair loss.
Trista Best, MPH, a nutrition professor and a registered dietitian working with Balance One Supplements, tells Best Life that zinc is important for the body's cell development, which is directly linked to the health of our hair. "Zinc plays an essential role in the growth and repair of hair tissue along with keeping the oil glands around the follicles operating efficiently," she says.
Ghanima Abdullah, a cosmetologist working with The Right Hairstyles, also vouches for the effectiveness of pumpkin seed oil. "This can be taken orally as a supplement to improve hair growth," Abdullah says, citing a separate study from 2014 that highlighted its benefits.
Published in the Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine journal, the 2014 study tested men with pattern baldness, giving them either pumpkin seed supplements or a placebo to take. The result showed that those who received the supplements had 30 percent more hair growth than those who took the placebo.
But experts also urge people to exercise caution.
Don't run out and buy as many supplements as you can if you're experiencing hair loss. The researchers for the 2022 systematic review acknowledged some concern, noting that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) "does not govern the safety or effectiveness of nutritional supplements" before they are marketed for consumers to purchase.
"Given the ubiquitous use and substantial financial burden of nutritional supplements, it is imperative that both physicians and patients be aware of the lack of FDA oversight and be vigilant when selecting a supplement," the researchers wrote in their study.
According to Abdullah, the effectiveness of supplements may be reduced depending on what's causing you to lose your hair. "Hair loss can't always be treated with supplements because the reasons for hair loss vary. If you have traction alopecia, which happens from wearing extensions or a tight ponytail, if you don't stop that behavior, supplements will be of no use at all," she says.
Anna Chacon, MD, a board-certified dermatologist and published author based in Miami, also says taking too many vitamins and dietary supplements can have many negative consequences—including hair loss getting even worse.
"Overdosing on vitamin A can also contribute to hair loss, in addition to too much selenium. In general, it's preferable to stick to the upper recommended limit for vitamins because taking too much of them might lead to a number of health issues," Chacon notes. "Before beginning any therapy, I advise addressing your hair loss with a board-certified dermatologist."
Best Life offers the most up-to-date information from top experts, new research, and health agencies, but our content is not meant to be a substitute for professional guidance. When it comes to the medication you're taking or any other health questions you have, always consult your healthcare provider directly.