Hair loss, or alopecia, is a condition that can arise from a variety of causes and can occur as patchy hair loss, total hair loss, or male pattern baldness. Male pattern baldness is the most common and is caused by the presence of male hormones, although it also clearly has a genetic link. Other types of hair loss can be caused by a variety of factors, including an autoimmune response in which the immune system attacks the hair follicles, extreme stress, hormone fluctuations in women, and dietary deficiencies. Some types of hair loss are thought to respond to certain vitamins or herbs, and for this reason, there are plenty of commercially available hair loss supplements.
A common component of hair loss supplements is biotin, a vitamin involved in hair growth and associated with healthy skin and nails. The recommended daily value of biotin is about 300 mcg, whereas doses of up to 3 mg are recommended for hair loss. Although some meats and egg yolks contain biotin, it would be very difficult to obtain these levels from diet alone, so biotin supplementation is suggested for hair loss patients. In addition, high levels of biotin are often recommended by physicians to prevent or decrease hair loss in patients taking drugs associated with hair loss, such as certain chemotherapies or methotrexate for autoimmune diseases.
Omega fatty acids are another frequent component of hair loss supplements, such as the kind found in salmon or flaxseed oil. Supplementing with these fatty acids is thought to keep the hair soft and prevent breakage. Additionally, because these fatty acids appear to have an anti-inflammatory role in the body, it is thought that they might help deter hair loss that results from an autoimmune response.
Vitamins such as C, E, and coenzyme Q are thought to work as hair loss supplements by generally improving circulation and therefore keeping the scalp oxygenated and healthy. Methosulfonyl-methane (MSM) may serve as a hair loss supplement because it contains a sulfur component used in the actual hair structure. In addition, the herb called horsetail is high in silica, which may be another component essential to healthy hair.
Saw palmetto is an herb that may positively affect male pattern baldness. Hair loss in males is usually associated with an intermediate in the processing of male hormones, called dihydrotestosterone (DHT). By blocking DHT, saw palmetto is thought to slow or even reverse some male pattern baldness. A natural plant sterol called beta-sitosterol is thought to have a similar inhibiting effect on DHT and is also promoted as a hair loss solution for men.