November 2022

Natural Medicines for Hair Loss: Do Any Work?

Hair loss supplements have been growing in popularity for some time. Marketing of these products has increased significantly in recent years, so you might be getting more questions about whether they’re worth a shot. What should you tell patients?

There isn’t any good evidence supporting the use of natural medicines for hair loss. At the recent American Academy of Dermatology annual meeting, a panel of experts concluded that more data is needed to support the use of any supplement for hair loss treatment or prevention, especially in patients without nutrient deficiencies. Despite this, the hair supplement market value is expected to reach almost $3 billion in the next decade. Patients might be tempted to give them a try, with the assumption that they can’t hurt. But this isn’t necessarily the case. Many of these products contain very high doses of a long list of ingredients.

Nutrafol is one popular example. It contains 1563 mcg vitamin A, 3000 mcg biotin, 200 mcg selenium, and a variety of other ingredients. These doses are already well above recommended dietary allowances, and taking this product along with a typical multivitamin could have patients regularly exceeding tolerable upper intake levels (ULs). Regular doses above the UL can place patients at an increased risk for serious adverse effects. Also, biotin is one of the most common ingredients in most of these products. Not only is there no strong evidence supporting its use for hair loss, but high doses of biotin can interfere with many lab assays, potentially skewing results for a variety of lab tests.

Tell patients to skip these products until we know more. Ultimately, they might be doing more harm than good. They also come at a hefty price – Nutrafol costs $88 for a 30-day supply.

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