You know when a shampoo is working for you. Not only can you see when your roots are oily, you can feel the leftover product build-up when you run your hands through your hair. There is no doubting the evidence. Hair supplements, on the other hand, and their efficacy tend to be a little more difficult to navigate. They’re not magic pills that result in longer hair overnight (sadly), so you don’t really know if they’re working—and they definitely won’t instantaneously. And what they’re made of? That’s not first-hand knowledge.
But if you’re going to start taking supplements, whether it’s in an effort to make your hair grow back after a particularly tragic haircut or not, you should know what they can and can’t do.
The first step is understanding what to expect out of the bottle.
According to dermatologist Dr. Francesca Fusco, the benefits of incorporating one into your day-to-day include less shedding, longer hair, healthier hair, and thicker hair. So think an increase in mass.
But before you go buy them in bulk, know that’s not going to happen in 24 hours. In fact, she explains that first-day results is one of the biggest misconceptions about hair supplements. To put it into perspective for you, Fusco notes that hair only grows up to a half an inch a month, so you’re not going to go from a chin-length bob to lob in a month. It’s impossible.
“Theoretically it may take a couple of months, but I have patients who report decreased shedding in as little as two weeks,” Fusco says of how long it takes for supplements to see the visual difference.
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Oh, and by the way, hair supplements can’t repair hair that is already damaged. So if you have a ton of split ends, you’re still going to need to go get a trim, or invest in a deep conditioning mask.
As for what hair supplements to pick, the easiest way to narrow it down is to look for something made specifically for hair, says Dr. Fusco.
“I advise my patients to look for a Nutraceutical,” dermatologist Dr. Francesca Fusco explains. This would be a supplement that contains things like vitamins, minerals, and botanicals that work together to address hair loss, hair thinning, and shedding.
“Just like maintaining healthy young skin, one wants to incorporate antioxidants, anti-inflammatorys, and growth factors, stress adaptogens like ashwagandha, as well as vitamins.”
As an example, she notes this can include vitamin E, saw palmetto, marine collagen, hyaluronic acid, amino acids like cysteine and proline, curcumin, biotin, vitamin A,C,and D, keratin, and zinc.
While you should talk to your doctor about those that interest you, as there are many on the market, and get their own suggestions, Fusco says her go-to is NutraFol.
This particular brand utilizes a formula that the founders (both of which struggled with hair loss in the past) state neutralizes each hair loss trigger “from the inside-out for healthier, stronger hair.” These triggers can include inflammation, stress, hormones, as well as genetics.
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Like many other brands, the founders, Roland Peralta and Giorgos Tsetis, state it takes a good 3-6 months to see the best results, though they claim within the first two months you could see “reduction in hair loss, improvement in hair quality, and thickness.”
Regardless of the brand you pick, and there are many, Fusco says it’s important to stay away from ingredients that you know you’re sensitive to and if you have a pre-existing condition, are pregnant, or breastfeeding, you should consult your doctor to discuss side effects and see if it’s a good idea to start a regimen.