Your hairline is receding, and you noticed the bald spot taking shape on the top of your head. That’s right—you’re seeing the first signs of hair loss and you want it to stop. ASAP. And, if possible, you’d like to see new hair growth where you lost it.
You’ve started researching different hair loss treatments, and you came across something intriguing: hair loss vitamins. How could you not be interested? If it actually works, it’d be so simple. Wake up, brew your coffee, and swallow one little pill. After a few weeks, voilà! Your full head of luscious, healthy hair is back.
There’s only one problem. There’s no cure for hair loss. There are two FDA-approved medications — finasteride and minoxidil — that are clinically proven to help stop hair loss, but there’s nothing out there that can rid you of male pattern baldness for good.
So you can see why we might be a bit skeptical about these so-called hair loss vitamins. After all, if one measly little pill can solve all your hair loss woes, why isn’t everyone with male pattern baldness taking it?
To get to the bottom of this conundrum, we spoke to hair loss experts and Keeps medical advisors, Dr. Jerry Shapiro and Dr. Antonella Tosti.
“If a patient is deficient in a specific vitamin, then it’s important to take that vitamin,” Dr. Shapiro says. “But, if someone isn’t deficient, then I don’t recommend taking them.”
Dr. Tosti agrees.
“Vitamin supplementation is useful in the case of vitamin deficiency, but not in general,” she says. Furthermore, “hair vitamins frequently contain vitamin A—which actually might cause hair loss—and biotin, which could alter the results of laboratory tests.” (Fun fact: Taking too much vitamin E can cause hair loss, too.)
That means that if you don’t have a specific deficiency, taking vitamins won’t help you—and may even cause other issues.
This might sound like a contradiction, but using a hair product that contains certain nutrients, like a natural shampoo or thickening conditioner, can actually benefit you even if taking a vitamin wouldn’t. That’s because the way your body processes a nutrient is really different depending on whether you consume it or apply it to your skin.
When you take a vitamin, the nutrients you’ve ingested travel through your bloodstream to various parts of your body. They usually go to vital organs like the heart and brain first—as you might guess, skin and hair are pretty low on your body’s priority list. But when you apply a nutrient-enriched product directly to your scalp, your hair gets all the benefits without having to compete with your liver.
Also, it’s good to note that biotin you apply topically won’t have as big of an impact on lab results, but you should still let your doctor know before taking any tests.
Bottom line: While some supplements can alleviate the side effects you may experience if you have any nutritional deficiencies, hair loss vitamins can’t treat male pattern baldness. If you’re experiencing increased shedding, for example, Dr. Tosti recommends a blood test that checks your vitamin and nutrient levels. Taking certain vitamins could curb that extra hair shedding if your levels are low. But at the end of the day, you will still experience hair loss if you have male pattern baldness, no matter how many vitamins you take.
But don’t despair. Finasteride and minoxidil can help slow down hair loss and promote hair regrowth. Of course, you should consult with your healthcare provider first.
The information provided in this article is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. You should not rely upon the content provided in this article for specific medical advice. If you have any questions or concerns, please talk to your doctor.
If you’re experiencing a mental health crisis, please call 911 or go to your nearest emergency department. If you are contemplating suicide, call 911 or call/text the National Suicide and Crisis Lifeline at 988. These services are available 24/7.
If you would like to learn more about finasteride, please see the full prescription information here. You are encouraged to report negative side effects of prescription drugs to the FDA. Visit MedWatch: https://www.fda.gov/Safety/MedWatch/default.htm or call 1-800-FDA-1088
Photo by Simone van der Koelen on Unsplash