Supplements For Hair Loss: What They Can They Do For Your Hair
Reviewed by Katelyn Hagerty, FNP
Written by Our Editorial Team
Hair loss supplements are, to put it simply, a big business. Data from Verified Market Research states that the hair loss treatment products market was valued at more than $15 million in 2020, with projections putting the market’s value at $45 million by the year 2028.
The market for general hair care products is even larger, with data from market research agency Grand View Research estimating that the hair and scalp care market will be worth $134.3 billion by 2028.
But do hair loss supplements actually work? Well, yes and no. While some supplements have real, scientifically demonstrated effects on hair growth and thickness, others are rich on claims and much less heavy on results.
In this guide, we’ll look at some of the most common hair loss supplements and explain exactly what they can and can’t do for your hair.
We’ll also bust some of the most common myths about hair loss supplements and explain how they can fit into an effective hair loss prevention routine.
The Hair Loss Supplement Industry
First, it’s important to share a few facts about the hair loss supplement industry, as well as the supplement industry as a whole.
Although some supplements may contain medical terminology on the packaging and possess drug-like names, they aren’t regulated by the FDA in the same way real medications are.
The FDA regulates dietary supplements as food products, not as drugs. This means that dietary supplements aren’t subject to the same thorough testing and approval process that medications go through before they come onto the market.
For the FDA to approve a medication, it needs to be proven both safe and effective for a certain purpose.
For example, if a new hair loss drug is being tested, the testing process needs to show not only that the medication is safe for people to use, but also that it helps to prevent hair loss, stimulate hair growth or do both.
With supplements, the FDA takes a much looser approach to effectiveness and safety, meaning that many of the supplements available to treat hair loss haven’t been scientifically proven to do anything. Instead, they’re simply considered "safe enough" to be put on the market.
This doesn’t mean that hair loss supplements aren’t effective. Instead, it just means they don’t need to be proven effective in order to go on sale.
Second, supplement companies have a lot more leniency when it comes to making claims about their products than drug companies.
If a drug company promotes a treatment for hair loss, for example, it needs to stick to the facts when it makes claims about efficacy.
On the other hand, a supplement brand can use terms like “Maximum Hair Growth Formula” or “Regrow Hair in 30 Days” to market its products with far fewer legal restrictions.
It’s important to keep these two facts in mind when you look at hair loss supplements, especially if you’re comparing them to FDA-approved medications.
Generally speaking, while supplements may help to prevent hair loss, promote better hair health or stimulate new hair growth, it’s important to keep an open mind when you’re looking into some of the marketing claims used to promote them.
Understanding the Hair Loss Process
Before we get into the specifics of hair loss supplements, let’s quickly go over why pattern hair loss -- the form of hair loss that causes a receding hairline and other signs of baldness -- tends to occur in men in the first place.
This form of hair loss occurs due to a combination of genetic and hormonal factors. If you have a genetic predisposition to hair loss, a hormone called dihydrotestosterone, or DHT, can bind to receptors in your scalp and damage your hair follicles.
DHT is a byproduct of the hormone testosterone, and your body converts a tiny amount of your testosterone into DHT via an enzyme called 5-alpha reductase.
Our guide to DHT and male hair loss explains this process in more detail, as well as the options you have if you’re genetically sensitive to the effects of DHT and want to take action to stop your hair from thinning.
Because of DHT’s major role in the hair loss process, many hair loss treatments work by aiming to reduce the amount of DHT that’s present, either in your body or locally on your scalp.
For example, the hair loss medication finasteride works by reducing DHT levels throughout your body by blocking the conversion of testosterone to DHT.
Other products work by providing your hair with certain nutrients it needs to grow effectively. For example, the medication minoxidil promotes hair growth by moving your hair follicles into a state of active growth and increasing local blood flow.
While these products don’t necessarily block DHT, they may help stimulate hair growth by giving your hair a better environment for reaching its full potential.
Supplements for Hair Loss
Numerous supplements are available to treat hair loss, from essential vitamins linked to the hair growth process to minerals, essential oils and even plant extracts that may reduce the effects of DHT.
Below, we’ve listed the most common hair loss supplements, with information on how each type of supplement works and its potential effects on your hair.
Biotin, or vitamin B7, is a water-soluble vitamin that’s one of the most popular ingredients in over-the-counter vitamin supplements for hair loss.
As a B vitamin, biotin plays an important role in the growth of your hair, skin and nails. People who are deficient in biotin often experience symptoms such as skin rashes, hair shedding and brittle, weak fingers and toenails.
Due to its role in the hair growth process, biotin is a common supplement that can be found as an active ingredient in shampoos, conditioners and oral hair growth supplements.
Research suggests that people who often experience hair shedding may be biotin deficient. For example, in a 2016 study published in the International Journal of Trichology, researchers noted that 38 percent of women complaining of hair loss were deficient in biotin.
While this might sound like an alarming problem, the reality is that biotin deficiencies aren’t very common, particularly in men. In the United States, biotin deficiency affects between one in every 31,000 and 80,000 infants, with slightly higher rates in other countries.
However, this type of nutritional deficiency is relatively common in pregnant women, with around one third of all pregnant women in the US affected.
Although biotin isn’t linked to male pattern baldness, some research shows that it improves hair growth in women with self-perceived thinning hair.
However, there’s currently very little research available on the effects of biotin as a supplement for men, especially men dealing with DHT-induced male pattern baldness.
At the moment, most of the scientific data about biotin focuses on oral biotin supplements (for example, capsules and tablets).
However, there is some scientific data showing that biotin is absorbed through the skin, making biotin ointments a possible option for treating biotin deficiencies.
So, what can biotin do for you? If you have low levels of biotin, taking a biotin supplement may reduce breakage and help you grow thicker, healthier hair. However, it isn’t proven to have any benefits for stopping the effects of DHT-induced hair loss such as male pattern baldness.
Interested in using biotin? Our Biotin Gummy Vitamins make it easy to consume enough biotin for healthy hair, all without worrying about biotin sources in your diet.
Saw palmetto is another common ingredient in hair loss supplements. Some research has found that saw palmetto can reduce DHT levels in the prostate, suggesting that it could be an effective natural treatment for male pattern baldness.
In one study, researchers looked at the effects of a saw palmetto herbal blend on DHT levels in men’s prostate tissue.
Like your hair follicles, your prostate is also sensitive to DHT. In fact, DHT can cause growth of prostate tissue and contribute to a condition called benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), which is common in middle-aged and older men.
At the end of a six-month study period, men who used the saw palmetto supplement showed a 32 percent drop in prostate DHT levels -- a reduction described by the researchers as “modest but significant.”
While saw palmetto doesn’t appear to have as strong of an effect against DHT as finasteride, it does seem to have some positive effects.
This means that supplements containing saw palmetto could potentially slow your rate of hair loss, albeit not at the same rate as finasteride.
One thing to be aware of is that because saw palmetto and finasteride both lower DHT, it’s not recommended to use finasteride and saw palmetto at the same time.
Instead, it’s safer to stick with one DHT blocker to keep your DHT levels under control and slow androgen-induced hair loss.
Alternatively, you may want to consider a topical saw palmetto product to treat hair loss, such as our Hair Thickening Shampoo, which is made to block DHT at your scalp rather than throughout your body. We have an entire article on Saw Palmetto Benefits if you are interested.
Ginkgo biloba, or simply ginkgo, is a popular natural health supplement that’s produced from the fan-shaped leaves of the Ginkgo biloba tree, which is native to China.
Supplements containing ginkgo are often marketed for their medicinal properties. Proponents of gingko often claim that it can improve blood circulation and cardiovascular health, reduce levels of inflammation and enhance cognitive function.
Ginkgo is also marketed as a natural supplement that can treat and prevent hair loss caused by male pattern baldness.
While scientific research on ginkgo’s anti-hair loss effects is limited, some studies have revealed that it may offer benefits. For example, in an animal study, researchers found that ginkgo biloba leaf extract reduced prostate growth -- a common symptom of high DHT levels.
This same study also noted that ginkgo biloba appears to work as an antiandrogen (a substance that reduces the effects of androgen hormones, such as DHT).
While these findings are interesting, it’s important to remember that this study wasn’t carried out on humans.
Another animal-based study from Japan found that an ethanolic extract from ginkgo biloba had a stimulatory effect on hair growth in mice. However, like the research mentioned above, this study wasn’t carried out on humans with hair loss, so we can only speculate about its effects.
Overall, although the evidence for ginkgo biloba is interesting, more clinical studies are needed before it’s possible to say that this supplement has positive effects on hair growth in men.
Pumpkin Seed Oil
Pumpkin seed oil is a popular essential oil that’s often promoted as a natural treatment for male pattern baldness.
Some animal studies have found that pumpkin seed oil may help to block the effects of 5-alpha reductase -- an enzyme that’s responsible for converting testosterone into DHT -- reducing hair loss and promoting healthy hair.
Research involving humans also suggests that pumpkin seed oil may offer benefits for men with certain forms of hair loss.
For example, a study involving 76 men with male pattern baldness found that men who regularly used a pumpkin seed oil supplement displayed a 40 percent increase in hair count over a period of 24 weeks, versus a 10 percent increase for those who used a non-therapeutic placebo.
Throughout the study, the men who used the pumpkin seed oil didn’t report any noticeable side effects.
The pumpkin seed oil group also reported a self-perceived increase in hair thickness, indicating that regular use of pumpkin seed oil could be an effective treatment for male hair loss.
So, what can pumpkin seed oil do for your hair growth? While the amount of scientific research that’s available right now is by no means conclusive, it does suggest that pumpkin seed oil may have real benefits if you’re beginning to experience hair loss.
Our guide to natural oils for hair growth provides more information about pumpkin seed oil and other popular oils for optimal hair health and wellness, including black seed oil, peppermint oil, castor oil, and others.
Selenium is an essential mineral that plays a major role in several bodily processes. It’s often promoted as an important nutrient for preventing oxidative stress, improving heart health and protecting against age-related mental decline.
Research has found that selenium is an important component of at least 35 proteins, including keratin and others used to create hair.
People with a selenium deficiency may experience some hair-related issues, including hair loss and changes in hair color.
However, selenium deficiency isn’t common. It generally occurs in infants with low body weight, in people who require total parenteral nutrition (nutrient delivery via IV) and in those who live in areas with low-selenium soil.
While selenium is important for healthy hair growth, consuming excessive amounts may cause you to shed hair.
Because of this, it’s best to focus on getting selenium naturally through fresh vegetables, meat, nuts and other food sources.
Rosemary oil is another natural substance that’s linked to accelerated hair growth. In fact, one study of rosemary oil found that it was just as effective at promoting hair growth as minoxidil, a hair growth medication that’s used as a treatment for male pattern baldness.
It’s important to note that there’s only a small amount of research available on rosemary oil and its effects on hair health.
Still, it’s an interesting finding that signals that rosemary oil may have real potential as a natural treatment for hair loss. Our guide to what you should look for in a hair loss shampoo covers the potential benefits of rosemary oil in more detail.
Research suggests that oxidative stress -- a type of imbalance between levels of free radicals and antioxidants inside your body -- may play a role in the aging process of your hair.
Antioxidants, which help to slow down or stop damage to cells caused by oxidative stress, may help prevent this form of damage to your hair follicles.
Common antioxidants include selenium, carotenoids such as beta-carotene, lutein, zeaxanthin and lycopene, as well as vitamins C and E.
Many foods are rich in antioxidants, including fresh vegetables, sweet potatoes, berries, fruits, lentils, nuts, fish, shellfish and some types of meat. Antioxidants are also common in red wine, chocolate and many other food products and beverages.
Antioxidants are also available in supplement form, although research has generally found that supplements containing antioxidants aren’t as effective as antioxidant-rich foods.
Several vitamins are important for healthy, consistent hair growth, including vitamin A, vitamin B, vitamin C, vitamin D and vitamin E.
While vitamins aren’t directly involved in male pattern baldness, some vitamin deficiencies could result in hair shedding or reduced hair growth.
There’s also evidence that vitamin deficiencies are associated with other forms of hair loss. For example, a study published in the British Journal of Dermatology found a link between alopecia areata -- a form of autoimmune hair loss -- and vitamin D deficiency.
Vitamins that are good for your hair usually also have other important functions within your body, including producing your skin and nails, strengthening your immune system and allowing for the conversion of food into energy.
You can learn more about these vitamins and their role in the hair growth process in our detailed guide to essential vitamins for a healthy head of hair.
Zinc is an essential mineral that your body uses for numerous processes, including supporting your immune system, promoting wound healing and synthesizing DNA.
Research has found that people with several common forms of hair loss often have lower zinc levels than their peers. However, there’s no authoritative research to suggest that zinc has a direct role in male pattern baldness or DHT production.
Zinc is found in a variety of foods, including oysters, beef, crab, pork, lobster and certain seeds and nuts. It’s also available as an inexpensive health supplement.
As with all dietary supplements, you should always seek expert advice from a dermatologist or other healthcare professional before taking zinc for hair loss on a daily basis.
Can Vitamin Deficiencies Cause Hair Loss?
Although male pattern baldness is caused by a combination of genetic factors and DHT, many vitamins play critical roles in the process of hair growth. Many of these same vitamins are also critical for the production of amino acids in collagen and other building blocks for your skin.
Because of the major role that vitamins play in healthy hair, skin and nails, vitamin deficiencies can often take a rapid toll on your hair.
If you have a vitamin deficiency, you may notice that your hair sheds rapidly, resulting in a large number of hairs on your bedding or in your hairbrush. Alternatively, you might notice that styling your hair isn’t as easy as before due to breakage and thinning.
In addition to vitamins, countless other nutrients are also involved in healthy and consistent hair regrowth, including zinc, iron, magnesium, omega-3 fatty acids and others.
Deficiencies in these nutrients, such as iron deficiency anemia, may cause hair loss in addition to affecting your general health and wellbeing.
Even crash dieting -- suddenly reducing your calorie intake to burn fat -- can take a toll on your hair by causing a form of hair loss referred to as telogen effluvium.
To avoid vitamin, mineral and other nutritional deficiencies, it’s best to maintain a balanced diet and, if necessary, add a multivitamin to your daily routine.
Our guide to what you should eat for optimal hair growth shares healthy, readily available foods that you can add to your diet for thicker, stronger hair and minimal shedding.
Hims has helped thousands of men regrow their hair
Do Hair Loss Supplements Have Side Effects?
Most hair loss supplements are safe to use, provided you stick to the recommended dose that can be found on the packaging.
However, it’s important to keep in mind that supplements don’t always work better with greater doses, meaning taking two of a certain capsule won’t necessarily give you twice the results of your normal dose.
To keep yourself safe while using hair growth vitamins or other supplements for hair health, it’s important to avoid overdoing it. Stick to the recommended daily intake and avoid falling for the “more is better” mentality.
It’s also important to talk to your healthcare provider before using any dietary supplements, as some supplements have the potential to interact with medication.
Your healthcare provider will be able to let you know what’s safe for you to use, as well as the steps that you can take to keep yourself as healthy as possible while protecting your hair.
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The Bottom Line on Hair Loss Supplements
Although male pattern baldness is caused by a combination of genes and androgen hormones such as DHT, nutritional factors do play a role in the health of your hair.
While there’s no one-size-fits-all best vitamin or supplement for hair growth, research tends to suggest that biotin, selenium, saw palmetto and other evidence-based active ingredients may have a place in a balanced hair care routine.
You can easily add these vitamins to your routine by eating a balanced diet and with products like our Biotin Gummy Vitamins.
Interested in learning more about treating hair loss? We offer a full range of hair loss treatment products for men online, including FDA-approved medications to prevent hair loss and promote healthy, sustainable hair growth.
You can also find out more about your options in our detailed guide to the most effective forms of treatment for thinning hair.