A reader recently posted a question on the "strategies for thinning hair" article asking what I thought about oral supplements for fighting hair loss. My answer that I was skeptical, but that my neighbor claims her hair is growing thicker as a result of flax and vitamin D supplements. I decided I had better do some research, which along the way led me to the Elon Thinning Hair Care System with Matrix 5000 ($55). This is a shampoo, conditioner and multi-vitamin that "provides the 3 essential building blocks, biotin, silica and L-cysteine, to nourish the body and aid in healthy and strong hair growth".

So let's look at those three building blocks. According to the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon University, hair loss is one of the systems of an extreme deficiency in biotin. But its website adds that there "are no published scientific studies that support the claim that high-dose biotin supplements are effective in preventing or treating hair loss in men or women". Silica is a little more promising as it improved the strength and thickness of women with fine hair in a study conducted by the University of Cincinnati. L-cysteine is the subject of amusing internet scare stories revolving around the fear that L-cysteine supplements are made from human hair (this concerned one person on the grounds she was a vegetarian - eh? So its OK to swallow human hair if you are a meat eater?).

As to the vitamin cocktail in Matrix 5000, even Elon admits that they aren't there to fight hair loss, but to conveniently replace your  daily multi-vit.

So far, I haven't found any credible research about oral supplements and hair growth. The nearest thing, was some research from the University of Minnesota that concluded that taking supplements may stop people pulling their hair out. That doesn't really count though.

Incidentally, Elon's shampoo isn't likely to have any effect on hair growth. The main ingredients, palm and babassu oils, mainly function to impart shine. Meanwhile, the conditioner contains a toxic compound called behentrimonium chloride, and concentrations of .1% and higher have been shown to damage the eyes by causing tissue death of the mucous membranes. It’s also highly flammable, and irritating to the skin.

Matrix 5000 Complete:

Vitamin A 166 Ie, Vitamin C 100 Mg, Vitamin D 33 Iu, Vitamin E 33 Iu, Vitamin B-2 1.7 Mg, Vitamin B-3 33 Mg, Vitamin B-6 10 Mg, Folic Acid 33 Mcg, Biotin 5000 Mcg, Pantothenic Acid 8.3 Mg, Zinc, 15 Mg, Lecithin 200 Mg, Silicone Dioxide 100 Mg, Choline Bitartrate 50 Mg, L-Cysteine 50 Mg, Inositol 33 Mg, Lutein 250 Mcg Other Ingredients: Di-Calcium Phosphate, Cellulose, Magnesium Stearate, Titanium Dioxide, And Triacetin

Moisture Therapy Shampoo:

Purified Water, Palm Seed Oil, Babassu Nut Oil, Cocoyl Isethionate, Cocamidopropyl Betaine (Coconut), Cocamide Mea, Pentaerythityl Tetrastearate PEG-150, Glycol Stearate, Acylates/Aminoacrylates/C10-30 Alkyl PEG-20, Silica, Dimethicone Meadowfoamate PEG-8, Polyquaternium 7, Di-Panthenol, Fragrance, Triethanolamine, Disodium EDTA, Methyl Paraben, Phenoxyethanol, Jojoba Seed Oil, Sunflower Seed Extract, Hydrolyzed Rice Protein, Hydrolyzed Soy Protein, Hydrolyzed Wheat Protein, Hydrolyzed Oat Protein

Moisture Therapy Conditioner:

Purified Water, Cetearyl Alcohol (Coconut), Behentrimonium Chloride, Silica, Colza Plant Oil, Cyclomethicone, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Propylene Glycol, PPG-3 Benzyl Myristate, Polyquaternium-10, Polyquaternium-59, Fragrance, Ceteareth-20, Methyl Paraben, Phenoxyethanol, Hydroxythylcellulose, Olive Fruit Oil, Jojoba Seed Oil, Sunflower Seed Extract, Hydrolyzed Rice Protein, Hydrolyzed Soy Protein, Hydrolyzed Wheat Protein, Hydrolyzed Oat Protein