Article edited for scientific accuracy by Illuminate Labs Blog Editor Taylor Graber MD
Many consumers are looking for more natural solutions for hair thinning and hair loss, because prescription drugs for these conditions often have side effects.
Nutrafol makes hair supplements for both men and women, along with some other health products. In this article we’ll review the ingredients and the science behind both Nutrafol Women and Nutrafol Men to determine whether the products are likely to be effective.
Nutrafol for Women - Ingredient Review
Nutrafol Women’s Supplement Facts label is relatively packed. There are tons of active ingredients as you would expect for a product at this price. Interestingly, they include two of the hair growth nutrients we mentioned as science-backed natural options in our chlorophyll benefits for hair review: biotin and saw palmetto.
Both of these ingredients are proven in medical research to be effective for improving hair quality, so this is a good sign that this is a well-formulated product.
The formulation also includes an effective dose of zinc, and a zinc deficiency has been associated in medical research with hair loss. Patients with lower zinc levels had more hair loss in the linked study, so this ingredient makes sense.
Nutrafol Women contains solubilized keratin, which is the protein in hair. In a medical trial, a keratin supplement improved various measures of hair quality in women, including hair loss, hair growth, hair strength, and hair luster.
This product includes horsetail extract, which we haven’t seen to promote hair growth on its own but has been shown in medical studies to improve hair density and quality when combined with other ingredients.
Overall, this seems like a very well-formulated product, and if you’ve read any of our other product reviews you’ll know we’re generally quite critical of many hair supplement brands because there are so many products with ineffective ingredients.
Our one critique is that Nutrafol Women uses proprietary blends instead of publishing the exact dosages of every active ingredient, which would be better for consumers. In their case at least it makes business sense though, because they’re selling a patented product which has been tested in medical trials and they want to keep the exact formulation private.
For most supplement companies with a prop blend, like Novex Biotech, this practice makes no sense at all and it comes off as deceptive if there are no medical trials backing the product. Prop blends allow manufacturers to effectively hide the dosage of each ingredient, because only the dosage of the entire blend is listed on the Supplement Facts panel.
Nutrafol for Women - Medical Trial Review
Nutrafol funded a clinical trial of Nutrafol Women which found that the supplement increased hair growth in women with thinning hair.
Very few supplement companies actually publish clinical data proving their products work, so this is a sign of a quality brand. It appears to be a very well-designed study, as it was double-blinded and placebo-controlled. This means that half of the study participants get an inert substance, and the other half gets the real supplement. Neither the researchers nor the participants knows who got what until the trial is over.
This is the gold standard for medical trials because it eliminates all bias.
We can conclude that this product is effective for hair loss in women due to this study. That doesn’t mean it will work for every consumer, just that it works on average.
Nutrafol for Men- Ingredient Review
The ingredients and dosages in Nutrafol Men are almost exactly the same as those in Nutrafol Women, which is actually a good thing since the product for women is proven to be effective as referenced above.
One notable difference is that the “Synergen Complex” blend lists saw palmetto extract as the first ingredient in the men’s product, meaning that it’s at a higher dosage than in the women’s product (prop blends are required to list ingredients in order of dosage).
This makes sense because saw palmetto is proposed to work due to its antiandrogenic effect. Men have significantly more natural androgens (steroid hormones) than women, which is part of why men generally lose hair earlier than women.
Since men have more androgens, it makes perfect sense to up the dose of the ingredient targeted at minimizing androgenic effect on hair in a male formula compared with a female formula.
Again, this is a good sign that this company’s formulators are competent and understand the science behind the ingredients they’re using which is unfortunately quite rare in the hair supplement industry.
Nutrafol for Men - Medical Trial Review
The medical research behind Nutrafol Men is much weaker than that of Nutrafol Women in our opinion. First of all, it’s arguably deceptive to call this one study a clinical trial because it doesn’t appear to be published in any scientific journals.
There are medical standards and strict inclusion criteria for a trial to actually be published in a medical journal. Conducting research by yourself and publishing it is not a medical trial in any true sense of the term.
The study found that the supplements increased male hair growth, but we don’t trust the results because it doesn’t appear to be a true medical trial and is thus subject to significant bias.
We cannot conclude that Nutrafol for Men is effective because there isn’t strong enough research proving so. It may work, because it has the same ingredients as Nutrafol Women which was proven effective, but the causes and biological processes involved in hair loss between the two sexes are different, and just because a hair loss product works for women doesn’t mean it will work for men.
Nutrafol Side Effects
We don’t believe there should be any concern over side effects with Nutrafol hair products, because they’re formulated with effective doses of safe botanicals. The clinical trial on Nutrafol Women referenced above noted zero side effects from study participants.
Of course we recommend speaking with a doctor prior to starting any new supplement, because it could interfere with existing medications, but overall we find the risk of side effects with either of these products to be quite low, and certainly lower than pharmaceutical hair loss agents like Propecia which can have sexual side effects including lower libido.
It’s always a red flag when a supplement company has no published team, which is unfortunately common. If you’re taking a specialty consumable health product, you want to ensure that the company manufacturing it has scientists involved in the formulations.
Nutrafol has an impressive team of scientists from relevant disciplines, including a Scientific Director with a PhD who worked at Harvard Medical School, and a Head of Scientific Affairs with a PhD in Biomedical Science amongst other experts.
We believe that a more established team of scientists leads to better formulated products, and that seems to be the case with Nutrafol.
Nutrafol makes well formulated supplements for hair loss and thinning. We recommend Nutrafol Women because it’s backed by sound science. We don’t recommend Nutrafol Men because the clinical trial backing it doesn’t appear to actually be a medically recognized clinical trial.
The company generally uses effective ingredients in effective doses, and offers natural solutions for hair loss which are likely to have significantly fewer side effects than pharmaceutical hair loss treatments.
At worst, we believe it could be a decent first option before pursuing more aggressive prescription treatments.