This supplement supposedly combats hair thinning and hair loss, but you need to take four pills a day for multiple months to hopefully see results. Still, hair stylists, experts, and customers are raving. Here's what you need to know.

By Melanie Rud
March 26, 2020
oxygen/Getty Images/Nutrafol

From shampoos to scalp treatments, there are tons of different products available to combat hair thinning and hair loss. But among the many, many options out there, there's one oral supplement that seems to be a standout star getting the limelight. It's Nutrafol, an oral supplement that claims to improve hair growth and quality, particularly in women with thinning hair. So, how exactly does Nutrafol work? And, the million-dollar Q: does it actually work? Here's the scoop:

What is Nutrafol for Women?

The swallowable capsules contain a mix of ingredients that work to address some of the key culprits that can trigger and exacerbate hair thinning and loss in women: stress, a hormone known as DHT, micro-inflammation, and poor nutrition. (More on those specific ingredients in a moment.)

And there is a difference between the hair thinning and hair loss, says Bridgette Hill, a trichologist and stylist at the Paul Labrecque Salon and Skincare Spa. Thinning occurs when hair fibers become damaged and break, due to overprocessing, heat styling, or even too much tension from tight ponytails, explains Hill. A disturbance in the hair growth cycle—be that due to hormonal changes, diet, or lifestyle—can lead to excessive shedding, which would also be considered hair thinning if it occurs all over the head, she adds. On the flip side, hair loss occurs when the hair follicles shrink so much that they ultimately disappear and hair stops growing entirely. This is usually concentrated in one specific area. (Related: The Best Shampoos for Thinning Hair, According to Experts)

There are three different varieties: Nutrafol for Women (which is what we're talking about here), Nutrafol Women's Balance, which is specially formulated for women dealing with hair thinning or loss before, during, and after menopause, and Nutrafol Men. Each variety costs $88 for a 30-day supply (one bottle) available on Amazon and Nutrafol.com or you can choose to sign up for one of the brand's monthly subscriptions for $79 or $99, available on the Nutrafol website.

According to the brand, all three Nutrafol formulations have been created for and clinically shown to improve hair growth, thickness, and reduce shedding.

Nutrafol Ingredients

At the core of all three Nutrafol varieties is the brand's proprietary Synergen Complex, a blend of five ingredients that have been shown to help address some of the underlying causes of hair thinning and hair loss. More specifically:

Ashwagandha, an adaptogenic herb, helps decrease levels of the stress hormone cortisol, says Hill. Elevated cortisol levels have been shown to shorten the hair growth cycle, which in turn can lead to premature shedding.

Curcumin acts as an antioxidant and reduces inflammation that can also disrupt the hair growth cycle. (Curcumin is also found in turmeric. Read more about the benefits of turmeric.)

Saw Palmetto, an herb, reduces an enzyme that converts testosterone into DHT (or dihydrotestosterone), explains Hill. That's important because DHT is a hormone that can ultimately cause hair follicles to shrink and die (and lead to hair loss), she adds.

Tocotrienols, plant-based compounds rich in the antioxidant vitamin E, protect the scalp from environmental damage, creating a healthy environment for hair growth.

Marine collagen offers a dose of amino acids, the building blocks of keratin, a protein that hair is primarily made of. (Related: Are Collagen Supplements Worth It? Here's Everything You Need to Know.)

Along with that complex, there's also a blend of other vitamins and nutrients in the Nutrafol formula. According to nutrition and diet expert Nicole Avena, Ph.D., an assistant professor at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City, they each have special skills that can help combat hair loss. This includes vitamin A (1563 mcg), required for all cell growth and repair, vitamin C (100 mg), which compacts the oxidative stress that can damage cells leading to hair loss, and zinc (25 mg), which "helps with cell reproduction, tissue growth and repair, and protein synthesis, which are needed for proper hair growth," says Avena.

Nutrafol varieties also contain biotin (3000 mg; a form of vitamin B), which has been shown to help strengthen the keratin protein found in hair, as well as selenium (200 mcg), which may help the body utilize hormones and proteins to promote hair growth, says Avena. More specifically, biotin is important for thyroid function and the hormones it produces. Plus, hair loss can be a symptom of thyroid disease. (Related: Are Biotin Supplements the Miracle Beauty Fix Everyone Says They Are?)

Finally, Nutrafol has vitamin D (62.5 mcg), which stimulates hair follicles to promote growth. What's more, a vitamin D deficiency has been linked to hair loss or slowed hair growth, add Avena.

It's worth noting that the recommended daily dosage for Nutrafol is four pills per day, and it's recommended to take them after a meal containing healthy fats (as some of the individual vitamins in the formula are fat-soluble) to boost the absorption of the supplement.

Also worth noting: Nutrafol isn't recommended for anyone taking blood thinners or anyone who is pregnant or nursing. And, as with any other supplement, you may want to check with your doctor beforehand, particularly if you're already taking any of the vitamins in Nutrafol already.

Does Nutrafol Work?

The brand has conducted a study on the Nutrafol for Women supplement and came away with some interesting results, though it's worth pointing out that the study had a smaller sample size of only 40 women, and they were financed by the brand and not third party-tested. However, the research found that women with self-perceived thinning hair who took Nutrafol for six months reported a 16.2 percent increase in vellus hair growth (superfine hair) and a 10.3 percent increase in terminal hair (thicker hair) growth, according to analysis via phototrichogram, a tool used to quantify various phases of hair growth.

A physician also assessed all participants in the study (including a second group of women with self-reported hair thinning, who took a placebo of six months) and saw a notable improvement in hair quality—brittleness, dryness, texture, shine, scalp coverage, and overall appearance—in the group taking Nutrafol.

Plus, more than 80 percent of those taking Nutrafol reported an improvement in overall hair growth and thickness, with 79 percent of women reporting feeling more confident after taking the supplement or six months. Given the emotional toll hair loss and thinning can have, that's pretty major.

Hill confirms that the six month period of this study is, in fact, a good amount of time to see these types of changes, specifically a reduction in hair shedding, and an increase in hair density and volume. The other nice thing? Once you do start to see the results you want, they shouldn't disappear once you stop taking the supplement. Unlike a prescription drug, the impact a supplement like Nutrafol has on the cells and tissue generally has long-lasting, positive residual effects that will prevent an extreme reversal—like sudden hair loss—from occurring once you stop taking it, says Hill.

Nutrafol Reviews

All this being said, the customer reviews for Nutrafol on Amazon are a little mixed. Some people love it; reviews such as, "I'm on my second bottle and have seen lots of baby hairs and more volume, and will keep taking it," and, "Nutrafol works, my hair has stopped falling and is growing slowly," are common sentiments. Jeanine Downie, M.D., a dermatologist in Montclair, NJ is also a fan. "I've been taking the product for almost five years and my hair has grown about three and a half inches and a lot thicker," she says. "I feel more confident about my hair now than ever before."

Still, some customers don't seem as satisfied with some reviews saying, "I didn't see any difference," and "no changes in hair growth." Nutrafol also comes with a hefty price tag and a long-term commitment—two noted drawbacks for some reviewers.

The bottom line on Nutrafol: As with any supplement, you'll want to first check with your doctor before taking it. But as long as you get the OK, you may want to take it for a test run and see if it could work for you. The big caveat: Give it some time. There's no quick fix for hair loss and thinning. So while you may see some positive changes in your hair after a month, the brand recommends giving it a solid six months to really see any major results in hair growth or thickness.

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