Is MSM Worth Trying For Hair Loss?

Updated: Dec 11, 2020

Methylsulfonylmethane, aka MSM, is a popular dietary supplement. It is an organosulfur compound that is found naturally in humans and is most commonly used to relieve arthritis and muscle pain. But, MSM has other, less conventional potential benefits, including those for hair loss.

Though there are many popular and effective hair loss treatments available on the market such as minoxidil, finasteride, laser helmets and more, most of them are not natural. For those who want to take a natural approach to hair loss MSM may be a great option. Not only is it natural but it may be able to help hair loss in several ways and even promote growth.

In this article, we will take a closer look at the research surrounding MSM for hair loss. By the end of the article, I hope to leave you with an understanding of how MSM potentially affects hair loss and if it is worth adding to your own hair loss routine.

The different ways MSM may be able to help hair loss

Like I mentioned above, MSM is an organosulfur compound, meaning that it provides the body with a source of natural sulfur.

Sulfur is the third most abundant mineral in our body (behind calcium and phosphorus). It plays an important role in many of the bodies various functions and is one of the essential building blocks of life. A few of the functions of sulfur (and subsequently MSM) have been shown to have benefits for people suffering from hair loss.

Let’s take an in depth look at some of the ways sulfur/MSM may be able to help hair loss.

Promotes hair growth

The most profound finding and ear-perking benefit that MSM may be able to have for hair loss is promoting growth.

One study took a look at how different concentrations of MSM combined with magnesium ascorbyl phosphate (MAP) affected hair growth in mice. The researchers found that the higher concentration of MSM there was, the better the hair growth. In fact, the mixture with the highest concentration of MSM that included MAP 7.5% and MSM 10% was “comparable to or better” than a group that was treated with minoxidil!

It is theorized that this is because MSM may have a positive effect on the hair growth cycle.

To briefly summarize the hair cycle: it consists of four stages: anagen (growth), telogen (resting), catagen (transition), and exogen (shedding). When you begin to lose hair, it is because DHT affects your hair cycle, essentially shortening the anagen stage which leads to miniaturization. One of the most effective ways to combat miniaturization is to lengthen the anagen phase.

This is exactly what MSM hypothetically does. Not only might it help lengthen the anagen phase, but it also might encourage hair in the telogen phase to move to the anagen, essentially reactivating dormant hair follicles.

If this were confirmed to be true it would be a huge discovery for the hair loss community. Unfortunately, this is a one of a kind study at the moment. Although the results are valuable and cause for further investigation, not only were researchers not able to identify the exact mechanism that makes MSM effective, but there are no human trials and MSM was not used alone.

There are still a lot of questions that need to be answered, but any treatment that can go head-to-head with minoxidil is nothing short of impressive.

Reduces inflammation

MSM is most well-known for reducing inflammation, it is why it is very effective at helping relieve joint and muscle pain.

But the inflammation-relieving properties of MSM may also be able to protect your hair.

There are a lot of things that can cause scalp inflammation ranging from skin conditions like dermatitis and dandruff, to increased sebum (scalp oil) production and even sunlight. Since there has been research done showing a link between inflammation and hair loss (1,2), anything that can potentially relieve scalp inflammation would be protecting hair from damage, which is exactly what MSM does.

Although MSM’s effect on scalp inflammation has not been studied directly, it is known to have anti-inflammatory effects throughout the body, which has implications for protecting hair.

Note: at this point this is purely hypothetical

Positive effects on keratin

Your hair is composed of about 95% keratin. It is the main structural component of hair.

Without adequate levels of keratin your hair would break easily which can eventually lead to thinning and hair loss. But MSM may be able to help that.

In one study, 63 participants took either 1 gram or 3 grams of MSM per day for 4 months. After the study concluded, it was found that MSM supplementation led to significant improvements in the condition and appearance of hair. Notably, just like the other study we mentioned earlier, higher concentrations of MSM were seemingly more effective, possibly suggesting that increasing MSM dosage could yield better results.

Again though, the researchers state that the exact mechanism of how MSM works isn’t entirely known. They theorize however that MSM donates sulfur to keratin, which may help strengthen the bonds between keratin molecules and hair.

The key takeaway from this study? Regardless of the mechanism of action, MSM visibly improved hair quality.

Should you take MSM for hair loss?

That’s the big question, is it worth trying, and spending hard earned money on to help hair loss?

At this point, based on current research, your money is likely better spent elsewhere.

If you are suffering from arthritis or muscle pain then MSM might be your go-to, but for people dealing with hair loss there are better options available. FDA approved treatments like finasteride and minoxidil have been proven time and time again to be effective, or if you want to use a natural supplement, they usually (and should) include ingredients that have been much more well-researched {including ours here). Even if you are set on MSM, there has not been a standard dose established for hair loss, meaning you would be wasting money if you bought an MSM-only supplement. Instead, you should look for one of the many supplements available that contain MSM, as well as other well-researched ingredients that provide benefits for your hair.

In conclusion

MSM is certainly attention grabbing for someone looking for a solution to their hair loss. But unless most research becomes available, it may not be the best option. That’s not to say that there isn’t plenty of anecdotal evidence online of people who seemingly had success using MSM, but there are FDA approved treatments that will likely yield better results.

To sum everything up. MSM has a lot of potential, and if you choose to add it to your hair loss regime you may get some benefits from it. Just make sure, at least for the moment, it is not your primary, or only treatment you are using to combat hair loss because you may be disappointed.

Just like a house needs a strong foundation, so does your hair.