You’ve seen them along the shelves of your favorite beauty supply shop, in Instagram ads, and on celebrity social media profiles. With a cocktail of vitamins and minerals, hair growth pills have become an inescapable craze, the simple solution to thinning tresses and slow-growing strands. And we have to admit, they’ve definitely piqued our interest. A pill that promises increased hair thickness, shine, and overall health? We’re on board. But are these promises too good to be true? Is it mane magic or just great marketing? We spoke with Dr. Nancy Samolitis, co-founder and medical director of FACILE Dermatology + Boutique, and Michael Bontekoe, a certified physician’s assistant at the Roxbury Institute, to get the honest truth about hair growth pills. Every burning question about these simple supplements is answered below!
What Even Is a Hair Growth Pill?
Let’s start with the basics. Just what makes up a hair growth pill? “Most hair growth supplements contain nutrients such as vitamins and proteins that are important components of producing and growing healthy hair,” Dr. Samolitis says. These ingredients are best used to strengthen existing hair. According to Dr. Samolitis, strand supplements may not necessarily make hair regrow if there is an underlying disease process occurring on the scalp or in the body that is causing hair loss.
Hair growth supplements may also have other drawbacks. Take biotin, a popular B vitamin, for example. “Biotin supplements can interfere in giving accurate medical test results including thyroid and cardiac tests,” Bontekoe warns. “I instruct patients to discontinue biotin before undergoing any medical tests.”
You Can’t Fight Genetics
While hair growth pills are effective at maximizing your hair health, they can’t alter the underlying genetics at play. “They can make the hair thicker and longer to the best of its capacity, but cannot change the genetic properties of the hair,” Dr. Samolitis explains. “For example, they can not transform fine hair into a thick, wavy mane of hair or make hair grow longer than it is genetically programmed to do, some people just have hair with a shorter growth phase,” she continues. If you are not particularly deficient in the vitamin or protein found in the supplement, adding that ingredient may not do much of anything for your mane.
What to Look for in Hair Growth Pills
With so many hair growth pills on the market, it can be tough to distinguish snake oil from a serious solution. “There are many supplements that make undocumented claims to grow hair,” Dr. Samolitis cautions. “But, there are some companies who have invested in legitimate controlled studies to scientifically prove the efficacy of their product such as Viviscal and Nutrafol.” These companies have published scientific studies documenting their efficacy. “Nutrofol contains ashwagandha which may improve stress-induced hair loss,” Michael adds. “Viviscal Professional contains a marine-complex thought to improve the appearance of thinning hair,” he says.
Ingredients are also key. “The ingredients and formulation that a person should specifically look for may vary depending on the type of hair loss they are experiencing,” Dr. Samolitis recommends. Different types of hair loss like stress-related, age/hormone-related, autoimmune, and vitamin deficiency may require different courses of treatment.
Check With a Board-Certified Dermatologist
Not sure what’s behind your thinning tresses? Check with a doctor before you make a major move. “While these supplements are widely available, they are not subjected to rigorous clinical trials,” Michael cautions. Before trying a hair growth supplement, make a visit to a dermatology provider to diagnose the cause of hair loss. “Hair loss can be caused by diseases affecting the scalp or the problem could be isolated to the hair shaft. I frequently order lab tests or take a skin biopsy to ensure there are no systemic problems contributing to the hair loss,” Michael says. Medical expertise is an invaluable part of your hair growth journey.
Did you know you can also take vitamin shots for hair growth? Read all about one of our editor’s experiences HERE!