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Can Supplements Help Brittle Nails & Hair? What the Research Reveals
Brittle nails and hair usually result in breakage and loss, a fact that has not been lost on the health and beauty industry. For example, Americans collectively spend an average of 3.5 billion dollars a year on products that claim to prevent or revert hair loss, according to the American Hair Loss Association. Unfortunately, 99 percent of these products do not produce results. Since hair and nail problems generally require the same nutrients, some supplements have been touted as a solution for both. However, the effectiveness of these products in combating brittleness, breakage and loss is widely debated.
University of Maryland Medical Center
Biotin, also known as Vitamin H, is a part of the vitamin B complex group of vitamins. The University of Maryland Medical Center reports that these vitamins are responsible for healthy hair, nails and skin, and a deficiency in biotin also manifests in hair loss, cracking in the corners of the mouth, and dry, flaky skin. However, UMM says there is “very weak evidence” supporting the use of biotin supplements to improve the condition of brittle, dry, thin and splitting nails and hair.
Harvard Medical School
Thiamin, known as Vitamin b1; riboflavin, known as Vitamin B2; and biotin, are necessary for healthy hair, according to Harvard Medical School. Sulfur, which is a component of thiamin, is also listed as a nutrient that produces healthy hair and nails. HMS states that most people in America receive enough riboflavin in their diets, since it is found in milk, yogurt and cheese, as well as whole and enriched grains and cereals. In addition, the medical school notes that the human body needs very little biotin, which is found in whole grains, egg yolks, fish, and organ meats. Dr. Joann Mason, a professor of medicine at HMS says most studies on the benefits of supplements may be inconclusive because the people who consume supplements are usually more health conscious and have better diet, exercise and other lifestyle habits. She warns against exceeding the recommended daily allowance of any supplement without a health care provider’s advice.
The National Institutes of Health
The National Institutes of Health notes that biotin is used for brittle nails and hair loss. The NIH states that is “likely effective” for both treating and preventing biotin deficiency – which can include thinning hair. However, the NIH states that there is insufficient evidence to rate the effectiveness of biotin in hair loss or for brittle fingernails. Preliminary evidence suggests that biotin and zinc taken orally and combined with a topical application of a cream containing clobetasol propionate can reduce hair loss. In addition, biotin supplements may increase the thickness of brittle finger- and toenails.
Dermatologist Sherrie Bullard, MD, in a Cleveland Clinic live web chat, recommends biotin, zinc, iron and the B vitamins as over the counter supplements that can combat brittle hair, damage and loss. However, she warns that most supplements, even biotin, are not miracle products, and advises a full dermatologic evaluation and nutritional diagnosis to discover the underlying cause of brittle nails and hair. For example, if stress, hereditary or medications are the causes of hair and nail problems, supplements won’t improve these conditions. As a result, consumers may end up taking nutritional supplements to combat problems that they don’t have, or worse, they may introduce too much of a particular nutrient into their bodies, which could result in a toxicity issue.