Fish oil is one of the most widely consumed supplements worldwide. This is because it has a lot of potential benefits.
Some of the benefits that you may be able to get from taking fish oil are: supporting heart health, lowering blood pressure, aiding in weight loss, supporting healthy skin, and many more. It is a very well researched supplement because so many people take it. What most people don’t know though is that a lot of the benefits come specifically from the omega-3 fatty acids that fish oil contains.
Omega-3 fatty acids are very powerful. The benefits I mentioned above are the ones that you will most commonly hear about, but taking fish oil can also have an effect on your hair and may even be able to help hair loss.
In this article, we will take a closer look at the research surrounding fish oil and how it relates to hair, as well as hopefully creating an understandable connection to how it may be able to help people suffering from hair loss. So let’s get into it.
How fish oil affects hair: is all about the omega-3’s
The omega-3 fatty acids that you get from taking fish oil are essential. What this means is that your body needs them to function in a healthy manner, but it doesn’t product them naturally meaning that you have to get them entirely from your diet.
Maintaining a well-balanced diet can be very difficult if you do not know what you’re doing. Many people do not consume enough omega-3’s, which is likely why fish oil supplements are so popular. But, if you are able to either supplement or get enough omega-3’s through your diet there are several benefits that you may be getting for your hair.
Although scientists are still not entirely sure of the mechanisms behind how inflammation is reduced, they theorize that omega-3’s damped the response of macrophages.
Macrophages are immune cells that live in all tissues and organs and play a huge role in the coordination of inflammatory responses throughout the body. Sometimes macrophages can be more potent, which leads to increased inflammation that can be harmful to hair.
By increasing the prevalence of a process called autophagy in macrophages, scientists hypothesize that omega-3’s are able to calm aggressive macrophages which in turn reduces inflammation. All of this is theoretical at this point though.
What isn’t theoretical is that, by some process, omega-3’s have been shown to reduce inflammation. This may be beneficial to someone experiencing hair loss as scalp inflammation has been shown (1,2) to be elevated in people with hair loss. It is also theorized that inflammation may play a role in the exacerbation of hair loss.
In short, by reducing inflammation, omega-3 fatty acids may be protecting your hair from the potential worsening of hair loss that it can cause, though more research is needed to establish a definite connection.
Preventing a dry scalp/dandruff
Omega-3’s might also be able to help hair loss by preventing an itchy scalp and/or dandruff.
Both dandruff and scalp itch can worsen hair loss, which is why we have written an in-depth article here explaining exactly how.
To summarize the article: a skin condition called dermatitis can lead to dandruff and dry skin which therefore leads to hair loss. Well, studies have shown that fish oil works to prevent dermatitis by maintaining skin homeostasis.
Although the studies do state that more clinical evidence is needed before any substantial claims can be made, the inference can be easily made. All we can do is keep our fingers crossed that more trials take place soon.
So, theoretically, by preventing and alleviating dry skin/dandruff through processes that suppress dermatitis, fish oil may help mitigate the damage to hair that they can cause.
Promoting hair growth
One very interesting study discovered that fish oil may directly promote hair growth.
Researchers found that by activating several signaling pathways and promoting cell progression, that fish oil increase dermal papilla cell proliferation. But what on earth does that mean?
Proliferation is defined as the “rapid reproduction of a cell,” and dermal papilla cells are responsible for inducing and regulating hair growth. So basically, there is an increased reproduction rate of cells that help hair grow.
What this means, and what was shown in the study, is that with the increased proliferation of dermal papilla cells, the anagen (growth) phase of the hair cycle was maintained longer and more hairs were encouraged to move into the anagen phase. The study resulted in increased length and thickness of the hairs due to longer growth periods and more hair growing as opposed to resting.
Though these results are very promising, this is unfortunately the only study of its kind. The end of the study summarizes it best: “our results could help development of hair loss treatments using FFO containing omega-3 fatty acids such as DHA,” which basically says that more research is needed.
Should you use fish oil for hair loss?
Like with most things that have great potential in the hair loss world, the research for hair loss implications it not quite there.
There are however some interesting findings and theoretical implications for benefitting hair loss.
This is clearly a subject that needs to be further investigated. At the moment, most of the evidence is derived from studies testing fish oil for benefits not related to hair loss, which implications are drawn from.
But is it worth trying? Probably, yes.
There are generally no side effects from supplementing with fish oil, and if there are they are usually minor. This is what allowed the fish oil industry to grow to $4.1 billion in 2019. Not to mention that there are the other health benefits associated with taking fish oil that you can reap.
With a low risk and high potential reward, it seems that adding fish oil to your regimen is certainly worth a try. Just make sure you do not use it as your primary hair loss treatment as there are scientifically proven treatments such as minoxidiland finasteride that will give you a much higher chance of overcoming hair loss. Think of fish oil as an addition to your hair loss routine that may or may not provide you with some benefits.
There are a lot of health benefits that you can get from taking fish oil, including those that might potentially help hair loss. Though the research regarding fish oil and hair loss is limited, it is exciting and definitely warrants further investigation. All in all, it is worth adding to your daily routine whether it be for hair loss or not.