Nutrafol is an over the counter supplement, including Nutrafol Women and Men, to support healthy hair growth. But it gets far more specific in terms of treating hair loss – it addresses the multiple factors involved, with a range of supplements for postpartum hair loss, for peri and postmenopausal women and for vegans, too.
There’s a lot to love about Nutrafol – to see all the ways it can increase hair growth, check out my full review. But this post will focus on the darker side of Nutrafol (if one exists!), exploring the Nutrafol side effects you might encounter, and when you should avoid it.
Emma’s ‘not a doctor’ disclaimer
Hi there, I’m an alopecian, I’m not a doctor! Any advice I give is based on my own research and personal experiences. This site is, however, reader-supported. When you buy through external links, I may earn a tiny affiliate commission. Learn more here.
Nutrafol is different to other hair growth supplements because it uses a personalized approach. So, as well as using proven healthy hair growth ingredients that you’ll find in competing supplements – like saw palmetto, curcumin and Resveratrol – Nutrafol adjusts the quantities of these ingredients, plus adds extra according to gender or stage of life.
In doing so, Nutrafol covers the main causes of hair loss and hair thinning – but in a targeted way, to promote optimal hair health. We’re all different, and our hair loss is typically triggered by different things. So Nutrafol hair supplements help you figure out what’s causing yours, and how you can address it.
The most common factors affecting hair health and causes of hair loss are:
Nutrafol includes saw palmetto as a natural DHT blocker. DHT stands for dihydrotestosterone, a hormone linked to hair loss, particularly male-pattern baldness.
It uses different quantities of saw palmetto – because the hormone imbalances that cause hair follicles to shrink will be different between men and women, or women who are pregnant, nursing or menopausal.
Nutrafol has different supplements for these stages and additional boosters for those experiencing specific immune issues: like a booster for liver health, plus other hormonal hair loss factors.
Using their hair wellness quiz will help you pick the best option for you: I was recommended to take a Hair Growth Duo: comprised of Nutrafol Women and a stress adaptogen.
Another key Nutrafol ingredient for promoting hair growth is ashwagandha (also known as Indian ginseng). This medicinal herb has been proven to reduce levels of physical and emotional stress and anxiety in those with a history of chronic stress. It achieves this by balancing stress hormones – for instance, high cortisol levels – with minimal side effects.
All of Nutrafol’s supplements contain Vitamin E compounds that form a tocotrienol complex, which lowers oxidative stress in the body – which is basically, an imbalance between free radicals and antioxidants, caused by environmental damage or poor nutrition.
The Nutrafol hair growth supplement for women going through menopause (called Nutrafol Women’s Balance) also includes astaxanthin, which is a keto-carotenoid that works to reduce oxidative stress in the body further to support hair growth.
One of the major triggers of hair thinning – plus other autoimmune issues – is problems with the gut microbiome. Whether you’ve got chronic inflammation, a leaky gut, too much bad bacteria, not enough good bacteria…the effects can be felt throughout your entire body, and affect your brain, too!
Our gut controls our blood sugar levels – regulating glucose metabolism, providing enough energy to keep everything flowing and supporting our mental health. But when imbalances or inflammation are present, we get things like blood sugar spikes, brain fog, headaches, even anxiety and depression.
Thanks to the body’s stress response, our basic functions can shut down, too – meaning disrupted or paused menstrual cycles, poor hair health, and hair thinning without any chance of growth.
So how can we support a healthy metabolism? Starting an anti-inflammatory diet can help you get rid of existing inflammation. Plus, a good supplement can help heal your gut – and each hair follicle, too! Nutrafol includes anti-inflammatory ingredients like curcumin, which studies show can alleviate metabolic syndrome. (Check out my full turmeric post for more!)
We’ve looked at a couple of Nutrafol’s key natural ingredients already. And for a full breakdown of all the medical grade ingredients, check out this post.
But now let’s examine some of the more controversial natural ingredients that are included in each hair supplement, explore their pros and cons and see whether they’re safe for everyone to use.
Resveratrol (RE) is a highly popular anti-inflammatory, with proven effects on hair growth by lowering oxidative stress in the body and stimulating a move from the telogen (resting) phase into the anagen (growth) phase of the hair cycle.
It’s in Vegamour, one of my favorite brands for thinning hair and hair loss. And it’s one of the few scientifically proven ingredients to promote hair growth and support a healthy hair growth cycle.
However, this 2020 study suggests that the natural polyphenol can act like estrogen – so those with hormone sensitive conditions like breast, uterine or ovarion cancer or endometriosis should avoide as these conditions can be made worse by estrogen exposure.
The study states that while there’s extensive literature around the health benefits of RE, there’s not enough exploring its possible toxicity – and there is no current ‘recommended dosage’. Still, the authors acknowledged: “Human subjects are yet to show any adverse effects following their supplementation with high doses of RE”.
Zinc is an essential mineral needed to support our immune system and metabolic function. It’s often included in hair growth supplements to improve hair quality, particularly those aimed at women, as zinc deficiency is a common hair loss trigger for this group.
Zinc also clears dandruff and conditions like seborrheic dermatitis, strengthens hair follicles to reduce thinning hair and can help balance hormones to improve chances of hair regrowth. However, it’s important to note that excess levels of zinc can be a trigger for hair loss, too – so it’s best to check your own levels before taking supplements that include zinc.
In terms of other side effects, some reported effects of taking oral zinc include indigestion, diarrhea and headaches. Fun times.
This medicinal fern includes silica, which works to stabilize magnesium and calcium levels in the body. This in turns helps to balance hormones and improve cellular function for healthy hair growth, plus stronger hair, skin and nails.
But while it comes with positive anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant and antimicrobial properties to reduce hair loss and support scalp health, horsetail extract isn’t for everyone.
It may increase potassium levels to unsafe levels – so people with kidney disorders should avoid it. It’s also not recommended for those with a thiamin (Vitamin B1) deficiency or for those who drink alcohol regulary because horsetail may cause levels of thiamin to drop.
Perhaps the most questionable hair growth ingredient in Nutrafol, and in this post! You’ll see biotin (also called Vitamin B7) in most cosmetic treatments, especially ones for skin, nails, hair thinning or scalp health. It’s reported to have some amazing powers, like promoting thicker hair, improving quality of each strand and reducing hair loss, from the hair follicles.
But does it actually work for hair loss? Sure, a biotin deficiency can trigger hair loss – but most of us aren’t deficient in it and this study shows it to be a rare occurrence. (The most common deficiencies, particularly in women, are zinc, iodine, magnesium and iron.)
A lack of efficacy is harmless enough. But the troubling thing is, high doses of biotin can have pretty harsh side effects, especially if you have a biotin sensitivity or already have an excess of biotin. These effects include nausea, vomiting, cramping and skin rashes – so biotin certainly isn’t for everyone, even though it’s such a popular hair growth ingredient these days.
Unlike Viviscal, another top hair loss supplement for men and women, Nutrafol is suitable for most people (Viviscal can’t be taken by anyone with a shellfish allergy, due to its marine collagen peptides.)
Nutrafol also contains marine collagen, but it’s derived from North Atlantic cod, so it is suitable for those with a shellfish allergy.
Its hair growth supplements are clinically tested for heavy metals, pesticides and chemicals. They’re free from drugs, hormones, GMOs, artificial flavors or colors, plus common allergens and artificial additives such as:
However, you might want to avoid Nutrafol if you have an excess of biotin in your body, if you’re already taking a hair loss supplement containing biotin or if you have a known sensitivity to either biotin or any of the other ingredients.
Note: the amount of biotin in Nutrafol is only 3mg though, which is super-low compared to many other hair loss products and the manufacturer assures is perfectly safe.
Although Nutrafol Women doesn’t specifically say it isn’t suitable for pregancy, I’d avoid it in this case as it contains Vitamin A. And Vitamin A isn’t recommended to take while pregnant due to risk factors associated with congenital malformations involving the central nervous and cardiovascular systems.
Actually, it’s good practice to check with your doctor about any hair loss supplements – or an over the counter supplement in general – before taking them. They’ll know your history and your levels better than the manufacturers of these products – and if you’re unsure, you could always ask for a blood test to check for deficiencys or excess stores.
Now we’ve seen the potential dangers associated with the more controversial ingredients, let’s round them all up! These are just possible side effects – you may take Nutrafol for your own hair loss and not experience any at all.
In fact, since the hair growth supplements aren’t prescription strength, side effects are pretty minimal for both men and women. And good news for men: don’t expect sexual dysfunction side effects like you might get with oral finasteride. Nutrafol was designed specifically to avoid these effects.
But just so you can be informed and on the lookout, here are the most common side effects to be aware of. Most of them are linked to high doses Resveratrol, biotin and zinc.
If you find these hair loss supplements are hard on your stomach, consider whether you might have a sensitivity or an excess of any of the ingredients I’ve mentioned. Also, if you’re already taking an iron supplement, it’s best to wait 2 hours before ingesting zinc or biotin – that might make things go down a bit easier!
Honestly, it’s going to be hard to find a hair growth supplement that doesn’t contain biotin. I still haven’t so if you do, let me know! But I know that I didn’t get any bad reactions to Vegamour Biotin Gummies when I tried them – all I noticed was improved mood and energy, less hair shedding, plus the first telltale signs of hair regrowth!
I had to stop using them when I got pregnant, as they contain Vitamin A. (At least I got fuller hair then from the extra hormones!) Otherwise, I definitely wouldn’ve continued – I loved them! They don’t include saw palmetto but contain red clover as a natural DHT blocker instead.
Another hair growth brand I’d recommend is Folexin. While it does contain a much higher level of biotin, if you don’t have a sensitivity to this particular ingredient, that won’t be a concern.
It also includes natural ingredients like saw palmetto to block DHT at the hair follicles and a really great vitamin profile: including a Vitamin B complex, to help absorb nutrients from your food, promote stronger hair and reduce hair loss.
The supplements do contain horsetail extract and zinc but the good thing is, they’re a third of the price of Nutrafol. So if you start taking them and notice any side effects, at least you can stop again without having spent a fortune.
Although these supplements are made for men and women, it seems women might be more at risk in certain cases. Because there could be adverse side effects if you have breast, ovarian or uterine cancer. You should also avoid Nutrafol supplements if you’re pregnant.
Otherwise, the most serious effects affecting men and women are perhaps nausea, vomiting or diarrhoea – and these are rare enough.
Nutrafol recommends a minimum use of 3 months – but you may start restore hair growth in only a month! You’ll also get free doctor consultations and can avail of a free 6-monthly hair mineral analysis when you buy a subscription to track your results.
It can do. Ingredients like saw palmetto are present in the supplements for men and women, to manage stress hormones and correct hormonal imbalances. Maca, an adaptagen in the Women’s Balance supplement, helps naturally balance sex hormones as they decrease after menopause.
Since Resveratrol can act like estrogen, it can cause hormonal changes in either a positive or potentially negative way, depending on your existing levels. So perhaps get your hormone levels checked first before trying Nutrafol.
The reviews for the supplements themselves are really positive – with minimal side effects and lots of gushing comments about how much hair growth the customer has seen.
However, it’s a very expensive option and even though many customers experienced hair growth, the customer service they received was awful at times. So you might want to choose a more trusted, and cheaper, brand like Folexin or Vegamour.
While I’m a recent convert to supplements that promote hair growth (through a more holistic approach), I get that a catch-all solution can come with dangers. Even the more targeted supplements, like Nutrafol, may not suit everyone as we might have existing hormonal imbalances or excess mineral levels that put us at a higher risk.
Ideally, you’d check with your doctor before starting even a new topical hair growth treatment, and certainly before taking a daily hair loss supplement. But obviously, this isn’t an affordable solution for everyone. So my advice is to go slow.
Start with a one month supply and, rather than expecting miracle hair growth results in this time (which probably won’t happen, usually it’ll take at least 3), instead, keep an eye out for side effects. How do you feel? More nauseaus? Got headaches? Or cramping?
Or…do you feel you have better energy, deeper sleep and an overall improved mood? Or no difference…yet? In these cases, if you don’t have any bad side effects, I’d recommend getting another few months’ supply. Give Nutrafol – or whatever hair growth supplement you choose – a chance to do their thing.
And feel free to report on your experience in the comments below!
Love & hugs,
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Alopecian. Yoga Teacher. Copywriter. Here to share information, offer support and show people the adventures that can lie in hair loss. I’m proud to have alopecia and I want to help others embrace their baldness, too!