Viviscal supplements
Several members of the Truth In Aging community have reported that taking vitamin B supplements has helped them with hair growth. I personally tried biotin-packed Follicle Fuel and thought it might be helping my hair’s overall condition and thickness, so when a reader asked me about Viviscal’s supplements and shampoo and conditioner I was all set to give them a try. Until I saw what was in them, that is.

Viviscal Extra Strength Hair Nutrient Tablets (30 tablets/$50) are positioned as vitamins that promote hair growth; they do have biotin (a form of vitamin B), but the main active is an unexplained “proprietary marine complex.” There’s horsetail, a natural source of silica, millet seed (which has two amino acids) and vitamin C. Since none of these are scientifically associated with hair growth, I’d have to be putting a lot of faith in the unidentified marine complex.

Still, I was game to give it a try  until I saw the last ingredient, shark. Perhaps shark is the mysterious marine complex... Now I agree that sharks aren’t a lovable beast, and to most people, are a menacing subject for large screen (Jaws) and small screen (Discovery Channel’s Shark Week) entertainment. Sharks are also, depending on the type, extremely endangered  or what conservationists call “vulnerable.”  I am not going to knowingly buy an endangered species.

Out of curiosity, I glanced over at Viviscal Gentle Shampoo (6.7oz/$10) and noted that it goes out of its way to say there are no nasties such as “SLES, SLS and parabens.” While this may be true, there are several others that I prefer to avoid, such as sodium lauroyl sarcosinate. Sodium lauroyl sarcosinate is a little controversial, primarily because of its potential to be contaminated with nitrosamine (a known carcinogen) and its classification as a penetration enhancer, which may alter skin structure and allow other chemicals to penetrate deeper into the skin.

Then there is the surfactant ammonium lauryl sulphate, classified as an irritant at concentrations of 2% or higher. The longer this ingredient stays in contact with the skin, the greater the chance of irritation. The Cosmetic Ingredient Review (CIR) Expert Panel has assessed this ingredient as safe to use in cosmetics, but only in formulations designed for brief use and followed by a thorough rinsing of the skin. Then there’s sodium benzoate, which may increase the production of free radicals that cause damage to cells.

It isn’t all bad though. Viviscal Gentle Shampoo also has bilberry extract, panthenol (a form of vitamin B) and a couple of sugars, presumably for scalp exfoliation. But there isn’t enough good to outweigh the bad or the indifferent. I decided not to buy Viviscal.

Ingredients in tablets: Amino Mar™ Marine Complex, Horsetail (stern) Extract Silica, Millet Seed Extract, Vitamin C, Niacin, Biotin, Iron, Zinc (as Zinc Oxide); Other ingredients: Microcrystalline Cellulose, Maltodestrin, Film Coating Powder Blend Clear 01 (Hydroxypropyl Methyl Cellulose, Glycerol), Magnesium Stearate, Silicon Dioxide, Sodium Carboxymethyl Cellulose, Artificial Orange Flavoring, Modified Starch; Contains Fish Ingredients (shark)

Ingredients in shampoo: Water, Cocamidopropyl Betaine, Coco-glucoside, Sodium Lauroyl Sarcosinate, Citric Acid, Ammonium Lauryl Sulfate, Sodium Chloride, PEG-120 Methyl Glucose Dioleate, Glycerin, Vaccinium Myrtillus Fruit Extract, PEG-150 Pentaerythrityl Tetrastearate, Panthenol, Sugar Cane (Saccharum Officinarum) Extract, Sodium Benzoate, PEG-6 Caprylic/Capric Glycerides, Sugar Maple (Acer Saccharum) Extract, Orange (Citrus Aurantium Dulcis) Fruit Extract, Lemon (Citrus Medica Limonum) Fruit Extract, Lavender (Lavandula Angustifolia) Flower Oil, Linalool, Benzoic Acid