Vitamin E (Tocopherol) as a Hair Loss Treatment  

There are a number of  herbal supplements out there that claim to work as a treatment for  hair loss.   Whereas there is no question that marketing is over-reaching at best in order to sell a product, the real question that any hair loss sufferer asks is: will this product help combat  baldness or is there any chance that it will  regrow hair?   To date however, it is important to understand that there is no hair loss cure, therefore  realistic expectations must be kept when considering any hair restoration product.

Below I decided to take a look at an herbal supplement that has been said to combat hair loss.   This product is an “active” ingredient in a few hair loss remedies such as HairMax MD.   Vitamin E is also sold as a stand alone product  in nutritional stores.  

Vitamin E (Tocopherol)

Vitamin E consists of 8 molecules, four of which are known as tocopherols (one of the ingredients in HairMax MD), the other four known as tocotrienols. Both tocopherols and tocoltrienols consist structurally of a chromanol head and a phytyl side chain. The difference between these 2 types of molecules has to do with the phytyl side chain where tocopherols are fully saturated and tocotrienols are not. Tocotrienols contain three double bonds at the 3, 7, and 11 positions. Ultimately, these two types of molecules are distinct entities and not derivatives of one another. (Theriault et al, Clinical Biochemistry (1990) 32(5):309).

So why take the time to explain all this? From my research it seems that there may be clinical evidence to suggest that tocotrienols may be moderately beneficial for hair loss sufferers – but there is little evidence to suggest that tocopherols are, at least not  by themselves.

Another interesting fact is that tocopherols, though mentioned in some patents of the so called hair regrowing agents, are not the major active ingredient but only act as an aid to the formula itself.

A clinical study was performed on 19 balding individuals (14 men and 5 women) ranging from the ages of 23 to 59 suffering from genetic hair loss who have not received any other type of hair loss medication including minoxodil, finasteride, or ketoconazole. 11 volunteers received a capsule orally containing tocotrienols and alpha-tocopherol while 8 volunteers received a placebo capsule. The results of the study transmitted that all hair loss sufferer volunteers who took the tocotrienol / alpha-tocopherol capsules had at least some increase in visible hairs over the 15 month study which indicates that a mixture of tocotrienol and alpha-tocopherol appears to increase the number of visible hairs in balding individuals. Additionally, out of the 8 volunteers in the placebo group, 2 also experienced hair regrowth. 2 experienced hair loss while the other 4 experienced no change.

To read more about this study, visit: http://www.patentstorm.us/patents/7211274-description.html

In my opinion, one problem with the study is that the study group was small and one could argue that the hair count increase was either coincidence or that hairs were growing back as part of the natural hair growth cycle.

Keep in mind also that this study shows the effect of a tocotrienol / alpha-tocopherol mixture taken orally, not topically (as some hair loss treatments suggest). Additionally, what part the tocopherol molecule played in the increase of visible hairs cannot be determined from this study.

Conclusions:

Though some nominal evidence exists for the potential benefit of Vitamin E taken orally for hair loss, I would argue that  a larger clinical study needs to be performed to rule out coincidence or hair growing back as a result of the natural hair growth cycle.  

In my opinion, it would be better to stick to the hair loss drugs that have been proven: Propecia (finasteride), and  Rogaine 5% (minoxodil). As an adjunct hair restoration treatment, Nizoral shampoo  or Revita shampoo  both containing active ingredient ketoconazole  may also be helpful.

Bill Seemiller
Associate Publisher of the Hair Transplant Network and the Hair Loss Learning Center
View my Hair Loss Weblog

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