Hair Loss Supplements Probably Don’t do Much — Donovan Hair Clinic
Does targeted supplementation impact hair growth?
Hair loss can be associated with underlying abnormalities in several micronutrients including ferritin, zinc, and vitamin D. It’s really not clear if supplementation makes a big difference for most patients.
For example, most patients with AGA and low ferritin aren’t really helped with iron supplementation despite the widely held myth. Most patients with AGA and low vitamin D or low zinc really aren’t helped all that much with iron supplementation despite the widely held myth.
Klein et al 2022
Authors performed a retrospective analysis of 138 patients with non-scarring alopecia treated at New York University between January 1, 2008, and October 1, 2021. Patients completed 2 visits in which trichometric measurements and laboratory tests were collected.
There were 138 patients (80.4% female), studied. the most common diagnoses were androgenetic alopecia and/or telogen effluvium (97.0%). About 85 % had AGA, 13 % had TE and about 2 % had AA. Some had a mix of conditions.
At the initial visit, 70 patients had laboratory abnormalities; 39 (28.3%) with low ferritin, 35 (25.4%) with low vitamin D, 6 (4.3%) with abnormal thyroid stimulating hormone, and 4 (2.9%) with low zinc levels. Fifty-two patients received supplementation, with 17 demonstrating normalized levels at the follow-up.
Patients who were deficient in some lab test and supplemented and later achieved normal blood test levels did not show a statically significant difference in hair density than deficient patients who did not use supplements.
Patients who were deficient and used supplements but didn’t achieve normal levels did not have a difference in hair density than deficient patients who did not use supplements.
Patients who were deficient in some lab and who were supplemented and later achieved normal levels did not show a statically significant difference in hair caliber than deficient patients who did not use supplements.
Patients who were deficient and used supplements but didn’t achieve normal levels did not have a difference in hair caliber than deficient patients who did not use supplements.
Overall the authors concluded that these results fail to demonstrate a statistically significant association between supplementation and hair growth. I really liked this study. The fact that most patients 85 % had androgenetic alopecia is a real strength. I think the TE data is a little trickier but overall the main message is similar: supplementation does not likely have a big impact.
The study has many conclusions although the small size limits generalization:
1) If you think that a patient with low iron or low vitamin D is necessarily going to get hair improvement by supplementing iron or vitamin D you are wrong.
2) Focusing on supplements, supplements, supplements in androgenetic alopecia is probably not going to help much.
3) Repeating blood tests over and over to see if levels are normal is probably not necessary for most patients – especially those with borderline levels.
4) The authors proposed taking a multivitamin may be a better strategy than chasing individual lab results with various supplements.
Klein EJ et al. Supplementation and hair growth: A retrospective chart review of patients with alopecia and laboratory abnormalities. JAAD Int. 2022 Aug 30;9:69-71.