Having a bad hair day? Maybe a bad hair week? Perhaps a bad hair life? If so, don’t despair. First of all, you’re not alone. Many people are dissatisfied with the appearance of their hair. In some cases, this might be because they are experiencing hair loss, slow growing hair, dry, brittle, or otherwise poor-quality hair. In this article, we’re going to discuss a combination of nutraceuticals that have been clinically demonstrated to improve hair growth and quality. But first, here are a few facts about hair, and its structure.
A Few Hair Facts
Hair is the fastest growing tissue in the human body: the average rate of growth is about one-half inch a month. Optimal hair growth occurs from age 15 to 30, slows down from age 40 to 50, and thereafter is even slower. Most men lose hair to some degree by age 35 and are more likely to lose their hair than are women—although women may also suffer from hair loss. On a healthy scalp, 90 to 95 percent of hair follicles are growing, less than one percent is declining, and five to ten percent are resting. The prognosis for encouraging hair growth is especially favorable if treatment begins before the growth stops altogether.1
Hair consists mainly of proteins, particularly keratin. The structure of human hair is well known: the medulla is a loosely packed, disordered region near the center of the hair surrounded by the cortex, which contains the major part of the fiber mass, mainly consisting of keratin proteins and structural lipids. The cortex is surrounded by the cuticle, a layer of dead, overlapping cells forming a protective layer around the hair.2
There are many vitamins, minerals, herbs and other nutraceuticals with claims for promoting hair growth or otherwise improving its appearance. In the overwhelming majority of cases, however, there is a decided lack of human clinical research to support these claims. Often, the basis for claims is theoretical, or limited to in-vitro (i.e. test tube) or animal research. One outstanding exception is solubilized keratin.
As previously noted, the predominant protein in hair is keratin. Consequently, it would seem to make sense that supplementation with keratin would help support the structure of keratin in human hair—and indeed that is the case as demonstrated in two clinical studies.
The first 90-day study3 evaluated the effectiveness of solubilized keratin (Cynatine® HNS) in strengthening and supporting hair growth in 20 healthy women (>18 years) with damaged, fragile and stressed hair as a consequence of internal (stress, genetic) and external (styling, aggressive treatments, UV exposure, etc.) causes. Results showed a significant reduction in hair loss during washing at 60 and 90 days (p<0.001, see bar graph). Hair was significantly stronger, as measured by a dynamometer, at 90 days (p<0.001). Clinical evaluation and self-assessment of hair brightness were also improved. In conclusion, solubilized keratin promoted a higher resistance to stress and mechanical actions (combing, brushing, washing, etc.), counteracted excessive hair loss, strengthened the hair and improving its ultrastructure and hair brightness.
The second study was a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled4 clinical trial conducted to evaluate the effects of solubilized keratin (Cynatine HNS) for improving various aspects of hair and nails. A total of 50 women were included, with half receiving 500 mg of solubilized keratin—along with 15 mg zinc, 18 mg niacinamide, 1.65 mg copper, 13.68 mg pantothenic acid, 2 mg vitamin B6, and 300 mcg biotin—and the other half receiving a placebo. The results were that the women taking solubilized keratin showed statistically significant improvements in their hair and nails when compared to placebo.
- Solubilized keratin showed a 12.5 percent reduction in hair loss over placebo at day 30, and a 34.5 percent and 34.4 percent reduction at days 60 and 90, respectively.
- Solubilized keratin showed a statistically significant improvement in hair growth over placebo at day 90 (p<0.001).
- Solubilized keratin showed a statistically significant improvement in hair strength over placebo at day 90 (p<0.001).
- Solubilized keratin showed a statistically significant improvement in hair appearance (brightness) over placebo at all time points (day 30 p<0.05, day 60 p<0.001, and day 90 p<0.001).
- Solubilized keratin showed a statistically significant improvement over placebo in the tendency of nails to break at all time points (p<0.001).
- Solubilized keratin showed a statistically significant improvement over placebo in nail appearance by day 60 and day 90 (p<0.02).
There are many nutraceuticals with claims for promoting hair growth or otherwise improving its appearance. However, there are few with human clinical research to support those claims. One such nutraceutical is solubilized keratin (Cynatine HNS), shown to reduce hair loss, improve hair growth, strength, and appearance, and improve nail strength and appearance.
- Janowiak JJ, Ham C. A practitioner’s guide to hair loss. Part 1—History, biology, genetics, prevention, conventional treatments and herbals. Altern Complement Ther. 2004;10(3):135–43.
- Yang F-C, Zhang Y, Rheinstädter MC. The structure of people’s hair. Peer J. 2014; 2: e619.
- Marzatico F, Quaglini M, Michelotti A. Evaluation of the efficacy of a food supplement to strengthen and support hair growth. Unpublished Study. Unpublished. Farcoderm srl. Head office: Via Angelini angolo Via dalla Chiesa - 27028 San Martino Siccomario – Pavia; 2010:17 pgs.
- Beer C, Wood S, Veghte RH. A Clinical Trial to Investigate the Effect of Cynatine HNS on Hair and Nail Parameters. The Scientific World Journal. 2014; 2014, Article ID 641723:6 pgs.
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Gene Bruno, MS, MHS
Gene Bruno is the Dean of Academics and Professor of Dietary Supplement Science for Huntington College of Health Sciences (a nationally accredited distance learning college offering diplomas and degrees in nutrition and other health science related subjects. Gene has two undergraduate Diplomas in Nutrition, a Bachelor’s in Nutrition, a Master’s in Nutrition, a Graduate Diploma in Herbal Medicine, and a Master’s in Herbal Medicine. As a 32 year veteran of the Dietary Supplement industry, Gene has educated and trained natural product retailers and health care professionals, has researched and formulated natural products for dozens of dietary supplement companies, and has written articles on nutrition, herbal medicine, nutraceuticals and integrative health issues for trade, consumer magazines, and peer-reviewed publications. Gene's latest book, A Guide to Complimentary Treatments for Diabetes, is available on Amazon.com, and other fine retailers.