Is there anything you can take to improve hair growth? Some supplement manufacturers claim that their nutraceuticals can help achieve thick, healthy hair. Our readers embrace one popular supplement that is usually promoted to ease joint pain. 

MSM to Improve Hair Growth? 

Q. Years ago, I read in your column that MSM supplements (without glucosamine) helped hair stay full and thick. I started taking it about 2002, and I have pretty, thick healthy hair at age 57. I definitely saw an improvement in my hair within a few months of starting the supplement. Thank you for your good advice!

What Is MSM?

A. MSM stands for methylsulfonylmethane. It is a naturally occurring compound with well-established anti-inflammatory activity. A review of the medical literature concluded that MSM can ease the pain and stiffness of arthritis (Nutrients, March, 2017). Most people who take it are using it for that purpose.

Some preliminary research suggests that this dietary supplement alone or in combination with other compounds may be helpful for skin quality and texture (Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology, Apr. 2019). There are hints it might benefit hair, but we could find no data to support its ability to improve hair growth in humans. Some people speculate that MSM can be beneficial for hair health because it is a good source of sulfur. Until there are clinical trials, however, this remains hypothetical.

Side Effects of MSM:

Fortunately, most people seem to tolerate MSM well, and it has a good safety profile (Complementary Therapies in Medicine, Aug. 2019). Doctors have reported only a few adverse reactions. In one case, a patient developed a rash similar to eczema (Australasian Journal of Dermatology, Nov. 2016). Another patient, a 35-year-old woman, developed glaucoma with acute angle closure (Journal of Glaucoma, April/May 2015). Although such problems appear to be rare, they remind us that even popular supplements may have unpleasant side effects.

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