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Will MSM Improve Hair Growth?

Some readers report that taking the dietary supplement MSM can improve hair growth and make it fuller and thicker.

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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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies..
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  • Butawan M et al, "Methylsulfonylmethane: Applications and safety of a novel dietary supplement." Nutrients, March, 2017. doi:10.3390/nu9030290
  • Guaitolini E et al, "Randomized, placebo-controlled study of a nutraceutical based on hyaluronic acid, L-carnosine, and methylsulfonylmethane in facial skin aesthetics and well-being." Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology, Apr. 2019.
  • Crawford P et al, "Methylsulfonylmethane for treatment of low back pain: A safety analysis of a randomized, controlled trial." Complementary Therapies in Medicine, Aug. 2019. DOI: 10.1016/j.ctim.2019.05.022
  • Kim DH et al, "An eczematous drug eruption caused by methylsulfonylmethane." Australasian Journal of Dermatology, Nov. 2016. DOI: 10.1111/ajd.12509
  • Hwang J et al, "Methyl-Sulfonyl-Methane (MSM)-induced acute angle closure." Journal of Glaucoma, April/May 2015. DOI: 10.1097/IJG.0000000000000027
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