Q: What’s your honest take on Nutrafol? It is a product my dermatologist has recommended for my hair loss. — N.S. ~ New York, N.Y.
A: The traditional thinking is that that male pattern alopecia (androgenetic alopecia) is due to follicular sensitivity to DHT causing miniaturization and eventual loss of hair. The premise of Nutrafol is that hair loss is multi-factorial with an important inflammatory component and that it is important to address the inflammation as well as the DHT sensitivity.
This is a relatively new and important concept (I would like to stress this point!). However, the big leap is their conclusion: Since hair loss is multi-factorial, then broad, rather than targeted treatments would be most beneficial, and since naturally occurring “phytochemicals” are broader in action than targeted, FDA approved drugs (like finasteride and minoxidil), they should offer benefit in the treatment of hair loss and Nutrafol is the elixir that can accomplish this.
Although this makes sense in concept, there is no scientific evidence that Nutrafol can actually reverse or/mitigate androgenetic alopecia or any other type of hair loss. We need independent, blinded, controlled studies to show that Nutrafol actually works. Until then, it is very difficult to recommend this product and, more importantly, to recommend it over other treatments known to be effective.
- Read about treatments for men’s hair loss
- Read about treatments for women’s hair loss
- Discover the causes of hair loss
Q: Have there been any lab studies proving that Saw Palmetto works to prevent hair loss? — A.B., Yonkers, NY
A: There have been no verifiable clinical studies that show saw palmetto can stop hair loss or cause hair to re-grow. There have been some preliminary tests showing that saw palmetto may be able to inhibit 5-alpha-reductase, but its usefulness for androgenetic hair loss has not been documented in controlled studies.
Q: What is Saw Palmetto? — R.P., White Plains, NY
A: Saw Palmetto is a dwarf palm plant native to North America. The active ingredients can be found in the plant’s brown-black berries. It is proposed that it blocks the enzyme 5-alpha-reductase that converts testosterone to dihydrotestosterone (DHT). There is little scientific evidence that Saw Palmetto is actually effective for hair loss.
Q: I have pretty significant hair loss. Should I take vitamins to help grow my hair back?
A: Although vitamin deficiencies are known to cause hair loss, there is little scientific evidence that shows that vitamin supplementation, in an otherwise healthy individual eating a well balanced diet, can prevent hair loss or improve the quality of one’s existing hair.
In addition, taking too many vitamins can actually contribute to hair loss. Excess Vitamin A can cause hair shedding in a reversible process referred to as telogen effluvium.
Accutane, a medication used for cystic acne, is a derivative of vitamin A and can cause hair loss that may be permanent.
Q: Some non-steroid athletic nutritional supplements claim to increase testosterone. Assuming they worked, would increasing testosterone increase DHT and hair loss?
A: Yes, if they were effective in increasing testosterone then they may accelerate hair loss.
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