The hair vitamin market is a booming industry. The effects of hair loss and thinning on self-image and self-esteem have been well documented, and with promises of thick, long locks, and hair restoration, it’s no wonder many people are spending at least $176 million annually for these “miracle-in-a-bottle” supplement pills in a bid for healthy hair. However, there is no conclusive evidence these products actually work. So, are these pills just glorified placebos?
Most hair supplements contain more or less the same ingredients: Vitamin C, Biotin, Vitamin B3, and Vitamin A, all of which have been shown to be essential for hair growth. These elements are also essential for the body to function as efficiently as it can, and many of them can be found in a variety of foods and beverages.
“They’re not made-up pills. Our bodies are already taking them in and they should be a part of our diet,” celebrity hair stylist Devin Toth, of Salon SCK in New York City, told Medical Daily. Toth has worked with celebrities like Pretty Little Liars star Shay Mitchell and fashion model Kate Upton. “Taking them as supplements consistently ensures that those nutrients and vitamins travel through our bloodstream to essential organs, then to our hair follicles and cortex.”
Essential Vitamins Affect Your Hair
Considered one of the most effective nutrients to help grow and strengthen hair, vitamin C creates the collagen protein — an essential component of hair structure. It also helps the blood absorb iron, a mineral necessary for hair growth.
Biotin is a coenzyme that “reacts with enzymes to make amino acids, the building blocks of proteins such as keratin, the protein that hair is made out of,” according to Toth. It is also associated with an improvement in the strength and elasticity of the cortex — the thickest layer of the hair, located between the hair cuticle and the medulla.
Vitamin B3, also known as Niacin, is used to treat high cholesterol and triglyceride levels, but it also keeps the blood flow to scalp high, bringing vitamin nutrients to the hair follicle and keeping the scalp hydrated.
Are these ingredients more effective than placebos when put into pill form? The answer is yes, according to a 2012 double-blinded study on the efficacy of Viviscal hair supplements. Viviscal researchers found the pill safely and effectively promoted significant hair growth in women with temporary thinning hair after 90 and 180 days.
Although the study was funded by Lifes2Good, the owner of Viviscal, researchers maintain the double-blind study design helped to avoid bias. They also noted their results may represent the first description of increased visible hair growth in women associated with the use of a nutritional supplement.
“I think there’s a lot of new evidence backing not just Viviscal but other supplements out there like Nutrafol,” Dr. Ablon Glynis, dermatologist at Ablon Skin Institute and lead researcher of the 2012 study, told Medical Daily. “We’re seeing more and more data, we’re seeing more and more in vitro studies where there are actually finding out what the supplement are doing as far as on the hair follicle.”
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