Hair loss treatment continues to carve out a place in the aesthetic practice, as does interest in complementary treatment options such as nutraceuticals for hair loss-related deficiencies.
Nutraceuticals have recently overwhelmed the market with promises of creating a healthy scalp for better quality hair and to aid in the hair restoration process.
But, deciphering whether they work and how they’re best used can be difficult.
Unlike prescription medication, dietary supplements are not tightly regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and may contain fillers not on the ingredient list or have an incorrect amount of an ingredient listed on the label, according to a study by Consumer Reports.
“For example, in 2008, one brand of multi-vitamin was found to have 200 times the labeled concentration of selenium — after it had caused hair loss and discolored, brittle nails in about 200 people across 10 states,” they report.
In a panel discussion at South Beach Symposium 2020, Glynis Ablon, M.D., board-certified dermatologist, Manhattan Beach, Calif., talked about how to identify the safety profile of supplement products despite the fact they’re not regulated by the FDA.
“We want to make sure that we have active ingredients in our products, that we don't have any kind of toxicity in those products. We get that with clinical evidence done by appropriate research facilities,” she says. “There's also what's called a cGMP, which is a current good manufacturing practice and that is something that the FDA has established for these kinds of products, and it is third-party tested.”
Additionally, outside of the FDA there are four seals that have been found to hold some merit, U.S. Pharmacopecia, NSF International, Consumerlab.com and UL.
A new crop of nutraceutical products with scientific backing boast medical-grade formulas containing various forms of biotin; vitamins A, C, D and E; selenium and other minerals; refined ingredients and transparency of production. Adding ingredients to aid in stress relief — a common cause of hair loss — like Ashwagandha, create a solution for what companies call overall hair health, instead of simply focusing on a single ingredient or cause of loss.
“What we found is a lot of hair loss is caused by nutritional deficiencies and lack of vitamins and minerals,” says Marc Ronert, M.D., founder of nutraceutical company, Hush & Hush. “We have half a segment of the product focusing on vitamin D, other vitamins, antioxidants and minerals that are necessary to have enough nourishment for your follicles to grow healthy hair, and then we have active ingredients that focus on hormonal balance and the DHT.”
Nutrient deficiencies can be a cause of hair loss, meaning patients could potentially benefit from taking nutraceuticals as a supplement in order to maintain and strengthen their hair, while also experiencing new growth.
While there is slight concern about patients taking vitamins that they may already be getting from their diet, Gary Linkov, M.D., NYC-based facial plastic surgeon specializing in hair, says that in most cases the body is equipped to handle it.
“Of course, there's a way to go completely overboard…, but if you're taking the recommended concentrations from these companies, it usually is not going to result in some sort of overdose situation,” he says.