Supporting healthy hair internally is just as important as the perfect hair care routine.
Hair growth is no simple process and requires a lot of precursors and co-factors to occur. These are all obtained through the diet.
Between soil depletion, the cost of quality food, and the lack of resources available to learn about what nutrients you need, it can be difficult to meet all your daily requirements.
Supplements have been created for this exact purpose, as “gap-fillers”. Some, like Nutrafol®, have been specifically designed for hair growth.
In this article, I’ll review Nutrafol® and its ingredients and give you the rundown on whether or not it’s worth your investment.
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Nutrafol® Review: What Is It?
Nutrafol® is a company that develops ‘nutraceuticals’ specifically targeted towards hair loss.
They make a variety of supplements for both men and women along with various “boosters” that you can add to your core regimen.
Below are the blends utilized in their products.
Vitamin and Mineral Blend
In both the men’s, women’s, and women’s plus product, there is a vitamin and mineral blend.
- Vitamin A as beta-carotene
- Vitamin C as Camu Camu
- Vitamin D3
- Biotin as D-Biotin
- Iodine from organic kelp
- Zinc as zinc amino acid chelate
- Selenium and L-selenomethionine
Having sufficient levels of these vitamins are all critical for optimal health. They may also support hair growth.
Vitamin A, as beta-carotene, is more of an antioxidant than a vitamin. In the body, some of the beta-carotene is converted by the body into retinoic acid. This is the active form of vitamin A that supports skin health, eye health, gut health, and immune function.
The amount of retinoic acid that you convert from beta-carotene is dependent on the efficiency of your beta-carotene monooxygenase enzymes (BCMO). These enzymes are encoded by the BCMO gene.
If you have genetic variances in your BCMO gene, it can decrease the amount of retinoic acid that your body makes from beta-carotene.
All the beta-carotene that isn’t converted into retinoic acid is then transported to the skin to protect the skin from sun damage (1).
The role of retinoic acid in hair growth in hair growth is complex (2). Vitamin A deficiency hasn’t been linked to hair loss, however, excess levels of vitamin A have.
So, although the conversion of beta-carotene to active vitamin A varies between people, supplementing with beta-carotene as opposed to retinoic acid is actually safer in terms of hair loss. This allows you to convert what you need while avoiding possible vitamin A overload.
Vitamin C is an antioxidant vitamin that supports the immune system and reduces oxidative stress (free radical damage). Because oxidative stress has been closely linked to hair loss, antioxidants like vitamin C may help prevent hair loss.
Vitamin D3 has been established as an important vitamin for hair growth (2). Vitamin D receptors are distributed throughout the hair follicle. Vitamin D is believed to play a role in initiating the anagen growing phase as well as sustaining and maintaining the hair follicle. It also helps prevent excessive inflammation which can contribute to hair loss (3).
Vitamin D deficiency has been implicated in Alopecia Areata (AA; autoimmune hair loss), and lesser so in pattern hair loss and Telogen Effluvium (TE; where many hairs begin to shed at once).
Nutrafol® uses the most bioactive form of vitamin D, vitamin D3. This ensures optimal absorption and effectiveness.
Biotin is often used as a supplement to support hair growth. However, research is actually quite limited when it comes to the effects of biotin on hair loss (4). One review concludes: “there is lack of sufficient evidence for supplementation in healthy individuals.”
Nonetheless, Nutrafol® uses the bioavailable form of biotin, D-biotin. If biotin does stimulate hair growth in healthy individuals, this is the right form to take.
Iodine and Selenium
Iodine and selenium have to be acknowledged together. Both of these nutrients are absolutely essential for thyroid function (5).
Because impaired thyroid function is well-known to contribute to hair loss, optimizing thyroid function is important for preventing and reversing hair loss. Thyroid function is also essential for overall health.
The forms of iodine and selenium used mimic how they would naturally enter the body.
Zinc is not only an antioxidant but is believed to act as a co-factor in many processes in hair growth (6). However, research is unclear whether or not zinc deficiency is a trigger for hair loss.
The form of zinc used in the blend is an amino acid chelate. This is the form of zinc with the most absorption.
Together, these vitamins and minerals play a definite role in supporting hair growth.
- Although the role of some vitamin deficiencies in hair loss is unclear, the Nutrafol® vitamin and mineral blend contains nutrients that play a role in supporting hair growth.
- The forms of vitamins and minerals used are bioavailable and effective.
The Synergen Complex® is an herbal and nutrient blend. It contains:
- Marine collagen
- Saw palmetto
- Vitamin E
- Hyaluronic acid
Now let’s take a closer look.
Marine collagen is a good source of amino acids, the building block for the hair shaft. As a bonus, they also help repair the gut barrier which may contribute to lower inflammation.
Ashwagandha is an herbal adaptogen. Adaptogens are herbs that improve resistance to stress (7).
Stress is a well-known contributor to hair loss.
Over time, chronic stress and cortisol release may eventually downregulate the expression of cortisol receptors. Because one of the cortisol’s functions is resolving inflammation, chronic stress can eventually impair cortisol’s anti-inflammatory through receptor downregulation.
This can lead to chronic inflammation that may influence hair loss (3).
Additionally, stress can increase substance P transmission (8). Substance P activates mast cells which release histamine and prostaglandin D2 (PGD2). Histamine may inhibit hair growth while PGD2 is an established and potent factor in hair loss (9).
So, adaptogens like ashwagandha may help prevent hair loss by improving chronic stress.
Saw palmetto is believed to be an anti-androgen. It’s often used for conditions like Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia (BPH) and Androgenetic Alopecia (AGA; pattern hair loss), both of which are triggered by a sensitive to the androgen hormone DHT.
One 2012 review suggests that the use of saw palmetto in AGA may be unfounded (9). More studies are needed to determine whether it is actually an effective anti-androgen.
Curcumin, the active constituent of turmeric, is a powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory (10). Because inflammation and oxidative stress can stimulate hair loss, curcumin is a great herbal solution.
Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant that is especially important for protecting the skin and hair follicle against oxidative stress. One clinical trial on supplementation with vitamin E resulted in a 34.5 percent increase in the average number of hairs in hair loss volunteers (11).
Hyaluronic acid supports healthy, hydrated skin. Because the skin of the scalp is the incubator of the hair follicle, it’s important that skin-supportive nutrients are included in the diet (12). This ensures that hair won’t be lost as a result of poor scalp quality.
Altogether, these nutrients are supportive of hair growth.
- The herbal formulation used in Nutrafol® contains many beneficial ingredients.
- They may support hair growth by mediating various conditions in the body that impact hair growth.
Synergen Complex Plus®
The Synergen Complex Plus® is almost identical to the Synergen Complex®. It is included in the Women’s Plus supplement which is designed for women around menopause.
It contains two additional ingredients:
- Gelatinized maca
Astaxanthin is one of the most powerful carotenoids (13). It protects the skin (like the scalp) from UV damage, oxidative stress, and inflammation.
The astaxanthin used in this complex is derived from bacteria. This is more beneficial and much safer compared to other forms of astaxanthin that are synthesized from petrochemicals.
However, one case study has demonstrated that maca may increase testosterone, which may actually cause hair loss (16).
- Astaxanthin and maca are the additional ingredients in the Synergen Complex Plus®. This may be beneficial for perimenopausal women dealing with hair loss.
- One case study, however, suggests maca may actually increase testosterone levels, which may cause hair loss.
The Nutrafol Blend® is an herb and amino acid blend. It is made up of:
- Horsetail (silica)
- Black pepper extract
- Capsicum extract (capsaicin)
L-lysine, L-methionine, and L-cysteine
L-lysine, L-methionine, and L-cysteine are all amino acids that promote the absorption of hair-friendly minerals like zinc and iron.
Although, L-methionine and L-cysteine have additional roles in promoting hair growth. They:
- Promote DNA methylation which may play a role in maintaining hair growth (17);
- Support production of proteoglycans which prevent hair loss; and
- Provide the sulfur needed to create sulfur-rich keratin.
But these beneficial amino acids are also aided by the other ingredients in this blend.
Horsetail, an herb rich in silica, may also enhance hair health. One study reports that increased silica content is associated with less hair shedding and increased shine (18). Although, there are very few studies available on silica for hair growth.
Resveratrol is a powerful antioxidant. It may help combat the oxidative stress associated with various forms of hair loss.
Black Pepper Extract
Black pepper extract is essential for curcumin absorption and bioactivity. This component of this blend works synergistically with the other complexes.
Capsaicin is a component of capsicum and hot chili peppers. One study found that administration of capsaicin alongside soy isoflavones resulted in hair growth in rats (19). However, the results couldn’t be attributed to capsaicin alone.
Overall, these ingredients may work together to contribute to hair growth.
- The Nutrafol Blend® contains various ingredients that are supportive of hair growth, particularly amino acids.
- Other herbal components of this blend work synergistically with the other complexes and may have additional benefits for hair growth.
The Targeted Boosters
Nutrafol®‘s Targeted Boosters may enhance the effects of the core supplements. They offer:
- Liver Support: contains ingredients that support the detoxification capacity of the liver. This helps the body neutralize toxins that can contribute the oxidative stress, hormone imbalance, and inflammation in the body.
- Stress Adaptogen: additional adaptogens to help combat stress.
- Vitamin B: various B-vitamins to support energy production that fuels hair growth, DNA methylation, and sulfur production.
- Sugar Balance: made up of supplements that help regulate glucose. Insulin resistance from glucose dysregulation may contribute to excess androgens, as in AGA.
- Digestive Enzyme: digestive enzymes promote absorption of nutrients so the body can effectively utilize them.
- Hairbiotic: probiotics help reduce inflammation and support skin health.
- DHT Inhibitor: contains ingredients that may reduce dihydrotestosterone, the mediator of AGA.
All of these products are designed with bodily processes that influence hair growth in mind. But, using all of them together can be seriously pricey.
Key Takeaway: The Targeted Boosters may enhance the effects of the core supplements, but using many of these in conjunction can be extremely pricey.
The Science Behind Nutrafol®
The good news is that the science behind Nutrafol is pretty promising. A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, was performed using the Nutrafol supplement (20).
After six months, the participants in the study had a significant increase in hair growth and hair quality according to investigator analysis.
The self-assessment results reported:
- 80.8 percent experienced overall improved hair growth
- 73.1 percent experienced increased hair volume
- 80.8 percent experienced increased thickness of hair body
- 76.9 percent had noticeable new hair
- 73.1 percent experienced an increased hair growth rate
However, this was a small study, with only 26 subjects in the active group.
These results suggest Nutrafol supplements could indeed be effective, especially considering the ingredients. However, the study doesn’t guarantee they will work for everyone.
Key Takeaway: A study performed using Nutrafol® suggests it indeed promotes hair growth. However, it was a relatively small study and doesn’t guarantee the product will work for everyone.
Should You Invest In Nutrafol®?
The ingredients in Nutrafol® and the findings of its clinical trial are promising.
But, the supplements they sell can be pretty pricey and there is no guarantee that they will be effective for your condition specifically.
It definitely can’t hurt to try if you have the budget to invest in their products, so long as your doctor approves.
Have you used Nutrafol® products before? What was your experience? Positive or negative? Let me know in a comment below.