Hair Supplements Are Everywhere in 2021, But Do They Actually Work?

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Some people swear by them, others say they're useless, but do hair supplements actually work?

Turns out, this isn't a clear cut question. Why? Because there are precisely 1,456 different supplements on the market, all claiming to do a wide range of things. According to their bottles, some even perform miracles. 

Narrator: They did not perform miracles…

If you've ever wondered about hair supplements, you’re not alone. In 2020, Adore’s hair supplement sub category grew by 250 per cent = lots of people Googling ‘best hair supplements’.

To cut through marketing BS with cold, hard facts, we've done the hard work for you by asking two medical experts to spell out exactly what hair supplements can do.

Do Hair Supplements Work?

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According to trichologist (that's a hair doctor) and Philip Kingsley Brand President, Anabel Kingsley, the way hair supplements work has to do with how our body divides up the nutrition we give it.

"Nutrition is the most important thing for your hair, above what products you're using or how you're styling it. If your nutrition isn't correct, your hair just isn't going to grow as well as it should," she told the Beauty IQ Uncensored podcast. 

"This is because hair isn't an essential tissue. To us, it's essential, it can make or break your day, but our bodies literally couldn't care less [about hair] because it's dispensable. If my hair fell out right now, I would be a mess but my body would physically be fine."

Kingsley went on to explain supplements can be helpful because "it's really hard to eat correctly for your hair because its energy and nutritional requirements are so high and unique."

And because our hair isn't an essential tissue, whatever you eat is first shuttled to the parts of your body that keep you alive. Then, your hair receives the leftovers, if there are any. Supplements aren't miracle pills, though.

"In order for a hair supplement to work, you have to take them alongside a healthy diet. If you're putting supplements into your body but your diet isn't great, your body is going to send those nutrients to your essential tissues. Secondly, a supplement isn't meant to be a meal replacement. It's meant to be a compliment to your diet."

"It's normal to lose up to 100 hairs a day, but if it continues for more than three months, and especially if it's accompanied by other symptoms, seek [professional] help. Whenever I see [a patient], I'm thinking about: What are they eating? What are their vitamin and mineral levels like? Even scalp health, were they pregnant, were they ill six to 12 weeks ago? You have to look into all of these things holistically."

So, the short answer is: If a hair supplement promises to make your hair grow in just a few weeks, approach with healthy scepticism. 

You can listen to our full interview with trichologist Anabel Kingsley on this episode of the Beauty IQ Uncensored podcast below.

Hair Supplement Ingredients.

So, what ingredients should you look for in a hair supplement?

There isn't really a one-size-fits-all answer, but Director and Principal Compounding Pharmacist of PharmacySmart Compounding Andrew Lau says hair supplement ingredients can generally be categorised into two groups that serve different purposes: 

Ingredients involved in the production of the building blocks for our hair and skin, and antioxidant ingredients that minimise free-radical damage in the body.

According to Lau, "Taking hair supplements is all about maintaining balance."

Below, Lau explained in basic terms how some of the main types of ingredients you'll find on the back of hair supplement labels work to support hair health.

  • Selenium - An antioxidant and amino acid involved in activating enzymes that assists in the production of hair, and the immune response.

  • Biotin (known as vitamin H or a vitamin B complex) - Mainly involved in cell growth, repair and production. It may be involved in the production of red cells and the oxygenation of the hair follicles, but this is yet to be proven.

  • Vitamin D - Involved in hair production and immune response, and activating the enzymes that make components for hair.

  • Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) - An antioxidant involved in collagen production, and helps to optimise iron absorption.

  • Silicon (silica dioxide) - It's complicated, but it's a building block of hair that also activates enzymes in the production process.

  • Amino acids (cysteine, methionine) - Sources of protein and iron that are building blocks of hair, both of which are needed for hair production.

  • Zinc - Supports tissue repair and growth.

Hair Supplements on Adore Beauty.

Now we're clear on how hair supplements work (and what they can't do), which one is right for you?

Here are three hair supplements you'll find on Adore Beauty at different price points.

Trico.Lab Good Hair Vitamins are a daily supplement to support healthy hair and a healthy scalp. Formulated with biotin, silica and collagen, this once-a-day supplement is designed to help overall hair and scalp health. Trico Lab is free from gluten, sugar and dairy, but these supplements aren't suitable for vegetarians or vegans as they contain collagen from animals. At $39.95 for a two-month supply, they're affordable as far as supplements go.

Apotecari Mane Event is a vegan hair supplement formulated by a team of naturopaths, nutritionists and trichologists. Designed to be taken twice daily (or two capsules daily) with food, these Aussie-made supplements contain amino acids, activated B vitamins and silica, and are rich in nutrients and antioxidants. The brand is also cruelty-free, and free from gluten, wheat, dairy, lactose, shellfish, egg, refined sugars, artificial colours, sweeteners, flavours and preservatives. Got all that?

Yes, these AÉDE Hair Activist bottles will look chic on your kitchen counter. These twice-daily hair supplements are made in Australia and have been formulated with a blend of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, plus marine collagen, biotin, silicon and selenium (they aren't vegan or vegetarian though). AÉDE supplements are designed to support a healthy head of hair 'from the inside out'.

Finally, a few important things to know about hair supplements:

  • Always consult your doctor before starting any new supplement, especially if you’re pregnant, breastfeeding, or have recently had surgery or been in an accident.

  • Take your supplements as directed - exceeding the recommended dosage won't get you results faster, but it will cost you more money.

  • If you're concerned about hair loss, chat to your health professional for personalised expert advice, because no two heads of hair are the same.

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