You've heard of hair growth supplements that claim to give you thick, voluminous, and lustrous locks, but do these products actually work? Whether your hair is thinning or you just want to make your mane a little longer, hair-growth supplements are a well-known "treatment." Surely if there were a miracle-in-a-bottle pill, we'd all be on board and have a Rapunzel-like head of hair. Since that's clearly, and sadly, not the case, it leaves us feeling skeptical about whether or not we're just popping placebos. To answer our questions about hair-growth supplements, we turned to Dr. Rick Mizuguchi of Manhattan Dermatology and Cosmetic Surgery and Dr. Jennifer Herrman of Moy Fincher Chipps.
Do Hair Supplements Really Work?
"I don't really believe in any of the hair supplements that are out there," says Mizuguchi. "I do think that there is growing evidence that iron supplementation in some women with proven low ferritin [the protein that stores iron] levels should take supplementation as it is a vital cofactor for hair growth." However, Mizuguchi advises you to consult with a doctor before taking iron, since too much could lead to serious liver damage.
And while you've probably heard of biotin, a common ingredient in many hair supplement products, Mizuguchi is skeptical about its efficacy. "Biotin is another supplement that's often prescribed, especially for women of color, because it's supposed to be good for hair breakage. A lot of people mistake it as something that is good for hair thinning, but biotin deficiency causes hair breakage and not hair loss." While it won't make our hair grow fuller and longer, this is definitely good to note, especially when our split ends aren't looking the healthiest.
A lot of people mistake it as something that is good for hair thinning, but biotin deficiency causes hair breakage and not hair loss.
If thinning hair is your issue, Herrman says it's important to figure out why hair loss is happening before choosing a treatment path. "Are you losing hair because of changing hormones? Do you have a dermatologic condition causing discrete bald patches? Or have you over-processed to the point where your fried locks are brittle, breaking, and simply falling out? Better understanding the reason for your hair loss or thinning is important in determining what products might be helpful." Talk with your doctor about the possible causes of your hair loss to determine which treatment suits your needs.
If you are in need of a thickening or growing agent regardless of the source of hair thinning, Rogaine is the most effective hair growth treatment on the market, according to both Herrman and Mizuguchi. Herman says, "Although we don’t fully understand the exact mechanism behind Rogaine, studies have shown that it lengthens the hair’s growing phase and restores the size of shrunken follicles. This leads to gradual re-thickening of hair."
Take These Alternatives Instead
If dedicated hair-growth supplements and chemical treatments aren't for you, keep scrolling for some alternatives!
Try a Multivitamin
Herrman says that taking vitamins B6, B12, and folate may be helpful for hair growth. The vitamins generate red blood cells, which carry oxygen to all of the body's cells, including hair cells on the scalp. Additionally, multivitamins with iron could improve the effects of hair loss caused by an iron deficiency. Remember to see a doctor before taking any sort of supplement.
Eat Foods Rich in Fatty Acids
Herrman says eating foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, like salmon, "can also help dry, damaged hair by adding luster, elasticity, and shine to dull locks." Foods rich in protein also strengthen your tresses, which is key for having a lush set of strands.
Use a Thickening Shampoo
Fortified with vitamins, herbs, and bioactive ingredients, this shampoo strengthens hair and promotes healthy hair growth.
Want more tips on how to grow out your hair? Check out these tried-and-true hair growth tips from real girls.