Although hair is the second fastest growing cell in our body, women everywhere are turning to dietary supplements that claim to quickly promote longer, thicker and stronger hair. But, are these powerful pills as safe as they claim to be? And more importantly, what are the side effects? We all want healthy hair, but not at the expense of harming the rest of our body. Our curiosity lead us to London-based Hair Specialist, Natasha Dennis IAT and Elizabeth Cunnane Phillips, a trichologist at the Philip Kingsley Clinic in New York for answers. Read along and decide for yourself if taking supplements is for you.
Are hair growth supplements a healthy option for hair growth?
“The foods we eat no longer contain the high levels of nutrients they once did so supplements can be helpful,” says Dennis. “I also recommend following a healthy diet and only using supplements to support your diet and not as your main source of nutrition.”
What should I know about side effects?
Women who’ve taken hair growth supplements have reported headaches, acne and even heart palpitations within the first week of consuming the vitamins. “Side effects may occur if your body already carries the right levels of vitamins and minerals it needs,” says Dennis.
To reduce the chances of side effects, Dennis recommends taking a blood test or Hair Mineral Analysis Test to see what vitamins and minerals your body is lacking.
Are food-based vitamins a better than synthetic options?
“Synthetic vitamins are not as easily recognized by the body so are more difficult to absorb and are often hard on the kidneys,” says Dennis. “Whole foods are absorbed easily into the bloodstream.”
However, metabolism varies among individuals and some of the vitamins and minerals you eat might not be being fully absorbed, admits Phillips.
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What’s the best way to grow healthy hair?
“One of the top causes of hair loss in women is a bad diet—and crash dieting,” says Phillips. “If more than 4 hours is left between meals have a healthy snack of fruit or whole grains as energy levels to hair follicles drop after this time.”
Furthermore, Phillips advises to eat plenty of lean proteins with breakfast and lunch because it’s what our hair is made of.
Also, be aware of traction alopecia, a type of hair loss caused by tight pulling during styling. “If tension is applied for long periods of time it can damage the hair follicles causing the hair to grow slower and weaker,” says Dennis. “The best way to avoid follicle damage is to ensure that hairstyles are not done too tightly.”
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I’m taking supplements, but my hair still isn’t growing. Is something wrong with my body?
“Hair grows only half an inch per month so it can take over two months for supplements to have a beneficial effect on your hair,” says Phillips. “Therefore, it would be about six months before you see any noticeable change. Because supplements aren’t a quick fix, people often get fed up with taking them, and stop. But try not to get frustrated—perseverance and patience do pay off.”
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What are common natural remedies used to treat or reduce the symptoms of hair loss?
Hair is the second fastest growing cell in our body and is extremely sensitive to change and imbalance. “Stress is known catalyst for hair loss; try yoga, meditation, pilates or even daily walks to help keep your body and mind calm.” says Phillips. “Exercise can also be good, but make sure not to overdo it; over exercising can also trigger excess hair shedding by increasing certain hormone levels.”
Dennis suggests digesting protein (found in salmon and eggs) to strengthen and promote growth. Additionally, nuts and seeds are sources of Omega 3 fatty acids and are known for improving scalp health.