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How Effective Is Your Hair Supplement Really?

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I was caught in a hair-growth panic when I noticed my part and hairline thinning out at the end of a very long and stressful pandemic. Shedding like an Alaskan Malamute, I was anxiously adding hair growth vitamins to my Amazon cart in hopes that something out there would work. 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 we're just popping placebos and if the claims on the bottles are backed up with actual scientific support? 

Frustrated with no real explanations as to why hair loss supplements have been formulated in the way that they have or how exactly they work to help hair growth and stop hair loss, consumers begin to slowly lose faith in all​ hair supplements.  

While hair supplements won’t turn a pixie cut into long locks overnight, there is enough anecdotal evidence to prove that they do have merit and there are some that are backed by scientific and clinical research.

Usually, hair growth vitamins, gummies, and supplements are filled with a mix of “hair-friendly” ingredients like biotin; folic acid; vitamins D, A, C, and E; and omegas, all of which usually work together to make your hair look longer, healthier, shinier, and stronger with continued use. Much like a daily vitamin can fill in nutritional gaps, hair supplements do the same. Generally speaking, ingestible supplements can provide extra support for thinning hair and they’re safe if you’re in good health.

Biotin

Biotin, also known as vitamin B7, converts carbohydrates, fats and amino acids from food into energy. Deficiencies can manifest in the form of brittle nails and hair loss but can be quickly rectified by oral supplements. A double-blind study at the University of California showed an increase in hair volume, thickness, and scalp coverage, after 90 days of use, with continued improvement even after 180 days.1​ You’d need to take at least 5 milligrams daily for Biotin to have the chance of affecting hair growth. Biotin isn’t without its downsides: Excess biotin has the potential to trigger breakouts in some acne-prone individuals.

Folic Acid

Folic acid, also a part of the B vitamin family, is commonly found in prenatal vitamins, but has benefits beyond pregnancy, helping build healthy cells and tissue.

Vitamins and minerals do play a role in hair health, and vitamin deficiency can be behind hair loss.2

Vitamin deficiencies can be detected through blood work. They are uncommon except in those following strict diets, including vegan diets. Vegans may need to supplement to make sure they obtain adequate amounts of vitamins that come from animal products. Also, strict sun avoidance can put someone at higher risk for vitamin D deficiency.

Vitamin A​ is an essential component of hair growth, keeping the sebaceous glands in the scalp from becoming clogged.

Like in skin, Vitamin C​ is included in hair supplements because it helps stimulate and protect collagen synthesis. Collagen is an important protein for hair growth and thickness.

Heralded for an ability to encourage the growth of hair follicles, a lack of Vitamin D​ is believed to be linked to hair loss and conditions like alopecia areata.

A noted free radical fighter, Vitamin E​ helps protect the scalp and hair lipids from UV exposure, pollutants3​ and the damaging effects of chemical treatments.

Even though vitamins themselves are absolutely necessary and beneficial for your hair, they won’t do much if your body is already stocked with them—which it probably already is. Your body keeps only the vitamins it needs and then gets rid of the rest, so unless you’re actually missing some key nutrients—i.e., you’re vitamin deficient, you’ll usually end up piddling out the excess vitamins ​pretty soon after you ingest them.

Hair health is impacted by numerous factors, including genetics, stress, hormones, medical conditions,4​ and nutrition.5

The types of hair supplements correlate with the different concerns you can come across. Supplements can be grouped into those that replenish true deficiencies or insufficiencies, others that decrease inflammation, those that reduce oxidative stress, others that improve gut health (which in turn keeps fewer potentially inflammatory molecules from entering the body and effecting hair), those that reduce hormonal influences that impact hair loss, and those that decrease inflammation.

Common ingredients in hair growth supplements include vitamins (already mentioned above), minerals such as zinc and selenium, food content like collagen powders and fish oils, 6​ and botanicals such as saw palmetto or ageratum conyzoides (Billy-goat weed).  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. And if you’ve ever experienced a severe bout of physical or emotional stress (hello, pandemic!), you might have noticed a sudden shedding of your hair a few months afterward, it’s a delayed reaction to the stress or problem diet that usually occurs three months later.

Some supplements aim to improve one’s ability to tolerate stress (saffron), others decrease inflammation (PEA), some act as potent antioxidants (curcumin), others aim to reduce negative hormonal influences (saw palmetto), and some truly 'supplement' when there are vitamin or mineral deficiencies. But there are alternative options available that offer additional and new solutions for the weary thinning-hair consumer?

Ageratum Conyzoides

Ageratum conyzoides is a tropical plant originating from regions of Africa, Asia and South America and belongs to the Asteraceae family. Ageratum conyzoides has been traditionally used for various indications such as skin disorders, gastrointestinal complaints, headache, rheumatism, pneumonia and wound healing.7​ The botanical possesses many pharmacological activities such an antimicrobial, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, analgesic and allelopathic.8​  Furthermore, there is a suggestion that the constituents within ageratum conyzoides may inhibit 5-alpha-reductase and have a positive impact on dihydrotestosterone production9​, which has been known to influence hair loss and thinness.10

Mechanism Of Action

Ageratum conyzoides inhibits 5α-reductase which in turn prevents conversion of testosterone to DHT which leads to improved hair growth and decreased hair loss. Ageratum conyzoides inhibits PGD2 which improved hair growth and decreased hair loss.

HairAge is Gencor’s clinically researched branded ageratum conyzoides.   Currently there are two In-vitro studies, and one open label study with published results.11​ Ageratum Conyzoides L. Extract Inhibits 5α-Reductase Gene Expression and Prostaglandin D2 Release in Human Hair Dermal Papilla Cells and Improves Symptoms of Hair Loss in Otherwise Healthy Males and Females in an Open Label Pilot Study.​ Additionally, a current study with two arms is being completed.  The topical study has been completed and is under peer review and the oral study is currently underway.  The Efficacy of Ageratum conyzoides, orally-dosed or topically applied on increasing hair growth and decreasing hair loss in males and females. A randomized double-blind placebo-controlled study.  ​HairAge has shown exceptional initial results and has proven efficacious in increasing hair growth and reducing hair fall. 

There are some manufacturers who actually include good ingredients in their formulas, however, fail to include the most effective and clinically proven key ingredients for optimal hair growth. While other manufacturers simply fail by using a weaker potency of certain ingredients than what has been proven effective in scientific studies. Basically, an effective hair growth formula should contain top quality, clinically proven ingredients in the proper doses for optimal effect. There are a variety of significant minerals, vitamins, amino acids and botanicals that are beneficial for stimulating hair growth and slowing down hair loss.

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References:

[1] Ablon, Glynis. (2012). A Double-blind, Placebo-controlled Study Evaluating the Efficacy of an Oral Supplement in Women with Self-perceived Thinning Hair. The Journal of clinical and aesthetic dermatology. 5. 28-34.

[2] Almohanna HM, Ahmed AA, Tsatalis JP, Tosti A. The role of vitamins and minerals in hair loss: a review. Dermatol Ther (Heidelb). 2018;9(1):51-70.

[3] https://prose.com/blog/how-pollution-affects-hair.php

[4] Phillips TG, Slomiany WP, Robert Allison II. Hair loss: common causes and treatment. AFP. 2017;96(6):371-378.

[5] Almohanna HM, Ahmed AA, Tsatalis JP, Tosti A. The role of vitamins and minerals in hair loss: a review. Dermatol Ther (Heidelb). 2018;9(1):51-70.

[6] Burns EK, Perez-Sanchez A, Katta R. Risks of skin, hair, and nail supplements. Dermatol Pract Concept. 2020;10(4):e2020089.

[7] https://www.researchgate.net/publication/257724394_Phytotoxicity_of_decomposing_below-ground_residues_of_Ageratum_conyzoides_Nature_and_dynamics_of_release_of_phytotoxins

[8] Kaur, M., Aggarwal, N. K., Kumar, V., and Dhiman, R. (2014). Effects and management of Parthenium hysterophorus: a weed of global significance. Int. Sch. Res. Not. 2014:368647. doi: 10.1155/2014/368647

[9] Detering M, Steels E, Koyyalamudi SR, Allifranchini E, Bocchietto E, Vitetta L. Ageratum conyzoides L. inhibits 5-alpha-reductase gene expression in human prostate cells and reduces symptoms of benign prostatic hypertrophy in otherwise healthy men in a double blind randomized placebo controlled clinical study. Biofactors. 2017 Nov;43(6):789-800. doi: 10.1002/biof.1389. Epub 2017 Oct 19. PMID: 29048765.

[10] Elise A. Olsen, Maria Hordinsky, David Whiting, Dow Stough, Stuart Hobbs, Melissa L. Ellis, Timothy Wilson, Roger S. Rittmaster, The importance of dual 5α-reductase inhibition in the treatment of male pattern hair loss: Results of a randomized placebo-controlled study of dutasteride versus finasteride, Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, Volume 55, Issue 6, 2006,Pages 1014-1023, ISSN 0190-9622, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jaad.2006.05.007​. (https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0190962206012874​ )

[11] https://www.hilarispublisher.com/open-access/ageratum-conyzoides-l-extract-inhibits-5reductase-gene-expression-and-prostaglandin-d2-release-in-human-hair-dermal-papi.pdf