Viviscal is an oral supplement aimed at boosting hair growth in men and women. Launched in the U.S. in 2008 by Lifes2good Inc., Chicago, Illinois, it uses a proprietary mix of powders derived from sustainably-harvested shark and mollusk species. This “amino marine complex,” called AminoMar®, is blended with vitamin and mineral nutrients to comprise Viviscal. The product’s active ingredients, a group of long chain sugar molecules called glycosaminoglycans (GAGs), are especially adept at attracting and retaining water. Ingesting them may contribute to healthy hair and skin. GAGs were isolated from the fish- and protein-rich diet of the Inuit people after a Scandinavian scientist observed the resilience of their skin and hair. ((Viviscal website (www.viviscal.com) ))
Viviscal is not FDA-approved for the treatment of hair loss and its benefits are still speculative.
Viviscal comes in three different varieties: Viviscal Extra Strength, Viviscal Professional, and Viviscal Man. Varying amounts of the AminoMar complex are blended with plant extracts, vitamins, and minerals to create the three varieties.
Viviscal Extra Strength
The newest variety, Viviscal Extra Strength, contains 450mg of AminoMar, plus the B vitamins biotin and niacin to boost the metabolism. Vitamin C is added to aid the production of collagen, the material that forms the building blocks of hair. Zinc and iron are also added to the mix, as are extracts of horsetail stem and millet seed.1
The “professional” variety of Viviscal contains the largest amount of AminoMar of any of the varieties (475mg), and like the “extra strength” variety, contains Vitamin C and biotin. Viviscal Professional has added calcium, apple extract powder, procyanidin B-2, L-Cystine, and L-Methionine. Dropped from the ingredients list are iron, zinc, and the horsetail and millet seed extracts. ((Viviscal professional website (www.viviscalprofessional.com) ))
The variety for men contains 452.9mg of AminoMar, Vitamin C, zinc, horsetail extract, and flax seed extract.1
Viviscal is primarily marketed to women because of the relatively limited number of effective hair loss treatments for female patients. Many women with common genetic hair loss are unable to benefit from hair transplant surgery because their alopecia presents as diffuse thinning over the entire scalp. In these cases, a transplant is not indicated because the donor hair is susceptible to miniaturization and, if transplanted, may eventually thin as well. Also, the most effective hair loss medication on the market, Propecia (finasteride), is not indicated for use in women due to poor efficacy and risk of side effects.
Several studies, published over the span of two decades, have hinted at Viviscal’s ability to boost hair growth. Research published in recent years by Dr. Glynis Ablon, of the Ablon Skin Institute Research Center, Manhattan Beach, California, has focused on determining the viability and efficacy of Viviscal in female patients. A 2012 pilot study led by Dr. Ablon found that Viviscal increased the number of terminal hairs by 211% and 225% after three months and six months, respectively. ((Ablon G. A Double-blind, Placebo-controlled Study Evaluating the Efficacy of an Oral Supplement in Women with Self-perceived Thinning Hair. J Clin Aesthet Dermatol. 2012 Nov;5(11):28-34.))
In the December 2015 issue of the Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology, Dr. Ablon reported a statistically significant increase in the number of healthy, terminal hairs after prolonged use of Viviscal Professional. ((Ablon G, Dayan S. A Randomized, Double-blind, Placebo-controlled, Multi-center, Extension Trial Evaluating the Efficacy of a New Oral Supplement in Women with Self-perceived Thinning Hair. J Clin Aesthet Dermatol. 2015 Dec;8(12):15-21.)) After six months of treatment, patients showed an almost 80% increase in terminal hairs and an increase in hair diameter of 11.67%. When compared to a placebo group, patients taking Viviscal for six months showed 77% more terminal hairs, an almost 10% larger hair diameter.
Other studies suggest a similar benefit in scalp coverage and hair fullness. ((Hornfeldt CS, et al. The Safety and Efficacy of a Sustainable Marine Extract for the Treatment of Thinning Hair: A Summary of New Clinical Research and Results from a Panel Discussion on the Problem of Thinning Hair and Current Treatments. J Drugs Dermatol. 2015 Sep;14(9):s15-22.)) Bloch’s 2014 study ((Bloch L. Demonstrating the efficacy of a nutraceutical for promoting hair growth using a digital photography technique with posterior image analysis. Submitted for poster presentation at the 2015 World Hair Congress, Miami.)) suggests that Viviscal usage increased patients’ hair volume and thickness. Another 2014 publication suggests that Viviscal may benefit men with common baldness by improving scalp coverage and hair fullness. ((Pinski KS. Patient satisfaction following the use of a hair fiber filler product to temporarily increase the thickness and fullness of thinning hair. Skinmed. 2014;12(5):278-281.))
Viviscal has the potential to supplement current hair loss treatments or provide an alternative for patients not indicated for surgical hair restoration or medical treatment. This is especially the case for female patients who, currently, have relatively limited treatment options. It may also benefit men who are not indicated for hair transplant surgery. While the research is compelling, long-term independent research is necessary.