Nutrafol Side Effects: For Men and Women

What to watch out for...

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: exploring the Nutrafol side effects you might encounter, and when you should avoid it.

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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. I also keep the lights on by selling headscarves, which you can buy right here.
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How Does Nutrafol Work?

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, according to sex 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:

Hormonal Hair Loss

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.

Stress-Induced Hair Loss

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.

Metabolism-Related Hair Loss

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, or these great supplements below!) 

Nutrafol Ingredients: And Their Effects on Hair

We’ve looked at a couple of Nutrafol’s key natural ingredients already. And for a full breakdown of all the medical grade ingredients, read 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

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

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.

Horsetail Extract

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.

Biotin

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.

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Contraindications: When to Avoid Nutrafol

Unlike Viviscal, another top hair growth supplement, 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’s still 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:

  • Gluten
  • Wheat
  • Yeast
  • Shellfish
  • Dairy
  • Soy 
  • Eggs
  • Peanuts
  • Tree nuts
  • Wheat

     

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. Viviscal has an even lower biotin content, only 120mcg. So it might be the safer choice for some.

Although Nutrafol Women doesn’t specifically say it isn’t suitable for pregnancy, I’d avoid it in this case as it contains Vitamin A. And extra 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.

Can a Supplement Help Alopecia?

Sure it can! Check out my top supplement for hair loss.

Recap: Potential Side Effects

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.

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Hypersensitivity
  • Indigestion
  • Facial hair growth
  • Headaches

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!

Other Hair Loss Treatments: Alternatives to Nutrafol Supplements

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.

Common Questions

Are there any dangers in taking Nutrafol supplements?

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.

How long does it take for Nutrafol to start working?

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.

Does Nutrafol mess with hormones?

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.

Does Nutrafol work?

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. See my post on bad reviews for more…

So you might want to choose a more trusted, and cheaper, brand like Folexin or Vegamour.

Final Thoughts: Check with Your Doctor – or Go Slow!

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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Author

Lady Alopecia

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!

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Comments

16 Responses

  1. Good afternoon,
    I have been taking the supplements for over a month. My hair is falling out less. I have not gotten my period in over two years and all of a sudden got my period. I have made an appointment with my doctor to see what is going on. I think it would be best if I decrease the dosage until I find out whether this is due to the supplements. I really hope not because I have not had any other side effects that I am aware of.

    1. Thanks for sharing Liza, wow that is quite a side effect! Just goes to show how effective it can be in addressing hormonal imbalances (although sometimes it can be a little too powerful, as we’ve seen in many comments in this thread!) Best of luck with your doctor and if you have time, I’d really appreciate if you had any updates to share here! Take care, Emma / Lady Alopecia x

  2. Hi- I took Nutrafol 5 months. While I did notice positive hair changes, I also had an increase in gastric issues (which I acknowledge could have been independent of the supplement but I did not have a history of having any GI issues). I started Nutrafol Women’s Balance at the beginning of September and had my first GI doctor visit the second week of October. I was also prediabetic (family history of diabetes and gestational diabetes). After a 5 month build up of symptoms, I wound up in the ER with an inflamed colon, dehydration and elevated blood sugar. I acknowledge that this could have happened due to other causes. The GI doctor was puzzled how I had a good colonoscopy report only 1 year prior to constant diarrhea and inflamed colon with test results showing no signs of bacterial or viral infection. A second colonoscopy found no polyps/cancer. I did not know that the product could raise blood sugar levels, and many doctors do not recommend some of the ingredients for people with diabetes. I’ve read online that the supplement can interact with diabetic medications but could not find out any information regarding this on the Nutrafol website. I’m no longer taking Nutrafol. They did give me a hassle-free refund This is the risk with supplements – there are no clinical trials to give the negative results/side effects. I would definitely recommend checking with your doctor or pharmacist when deciding whether or not to take a supplement.

    1. Hi Dana, thanks so much for sharing your experience – and I’m so sorry to hear about everything you had to go through. As someone with a lot of gastro trouble in the past, caused by chronic inflammation and all its side effects, I appreciate how scary it can be to try something you want to help, only for it to make things worse. I’ve never had to go to ER though, you poor poor thing! You’re totally right, anyone taking supplements should check with a medical professional first as the supplement industry is extensive and unregulated.

      While I’ve had some great results from the supplements I’ve tried in the past, they mightn’t suit everyone…and there are definitely certain brands out there with too many complaints to ignore. The more comments I’ve received about Nutrafol, the more I’m learning about its negative and sometimes rather serious side effects (especially for those with prior conditions). So thank you for sharing your story, hopefully it will caution those thinking about using the brand without medical consultation, too.

      Wishing you all the best in the rest of your journey, and take good care,

      Emma / Lady Alopecia.

  3. I had great results with Nutrafol for the first couple of months. My hair shedding was down by at least half. Then at about three months my hair started shedding by the handfuls again. I don’t understand what happened. I’m still taking the Nutrafol hoping it will start working again but so far at 6 months it’s still shedding the same. Has anyone else had this problem

    Thank you

    1. Thanks for sharing your experience Judy, and I’m so sorry to hear that it stopped working for you. It is interesting that the shedding occured after 3 months, as this is often the length of a hair growth cycle so perhaps your hair was shedding as it normally would. It could take up to 9 months for regrowth to happen again after this, but if there is an underlying problem perhaps your hair is still in the dormant phase (although Nutrafol is supposed to help with that.) Just wondering, did you experience regrowth again since? Or maybe someone else can share their experience, too?

  4. I started taking these in late June this year. My period in late July was the heaviest it had ever been. It was horrific for the full 5-7 days (wearing long shirts, taking change of clothes to work, etc, excessive bathroom checks and changing.) My period in August was equally horrible for about 2 days and then gone with random spotting. This month is now on day 16 and still going strong. Days 1-13 heavier than ever in my life, and 14-16 slightly heavier than my normal day 2-5/7 period). I have been taking a prescribed iron medication for anemia for about 7 months. This week I asked my MD if that could cause it, with symptoms starting 4 months after starting it, or possibly premenopause starting since I just turned 45. My nurse prac responded that this med shouldn’t cause this and I have made an appointment with her. I didn’t even think about the possibility of Nutrafol causing these symptoms, but they did start within about 30 days of starting the supplement. I started searching today for possible side effects and this site is the first one to suggest these symptoms. Thank you so much for providing comments that confirm that taking this is something I need to talk with her about about. I had asked my regular MD before starting this and he said he didn’t see any issues with me taking this, but the nurse practitioner who I have scheduled my appointment with may not be aware that I am.

    1. Hi Kelley,

      I’m so, so sorry to hear about the troubles you’ve been having with your period lately…that just sounds so tough, and exhausting, too. As you’ll have seen from the other comments here, it seems like Nutrafol could indeed be to blame for many of these hormonal changes and their more unfortunate side effects. So I’d like to a) thank everyone here for sharing their experiences and b) to commend you for speaking up to your nurse practitioner, so they will have more information about the brand, too. Hopefully it will help others going through similar problems to realise that certain supplements aren’t for everyone, and that it’s always a good idea to speak to their doctor before taking a daily vitamin that could cause such significant changes.

      Anyway, I hope you’ve stopped taking them in the meantime and that things return to normal for you soon. Take good care, Emma / Lady Alopecia x

  5. After taking Nutrafol for 3 months, I have non stop diahrrea. I will stop taking it to see if my bowels return to normal.

    1. Hi Cathy, I’m so sorry to hear about this. Honestly, since writing about Nutrafol and asking people to share their experiences, I’ve been hearing more negative stories than positive. So thank you for helping me gather more information, hopefully it will also help anyone who reads this post and is wondering whether they should try it (in my opinion, it isn’t worth all these bad side effects!) I hope you find something that’s effective for your hair loss, without these side effects. Take care! Emma / Lady Alopecia x

  6. I do not recommend Nutrafol. I have taken the vitamins for over 7 months. I have less hair now then when I started taken these. Also is now causing problems with my thyroid. Very disappointed, especially when it’s so expensive.

    1. Hi Colleen, I’m so so sorry to hear about your bad experience with Nutrafol…unfortunately, since publishing this post and similar ones (see Nutrafol bad reviews, if you haven’t already), I’ve had a few people write to me and say they’ve also had worrying side effects. While it’s difficult to say how any one person might react to a hair loss treatment (as we are all different), my feeling is that these supplements could actually do more harm than good and it simply isn’t worth taking which, as you mention, is so so expensive and could also damage your health. Thank you for sharing your story with us, I hope readers will take note of it, and I also hope that you find more success with a more gentle treatment.

      Wishing you all the very best,

      Emma/Lady Alopecia x

  7. Please do not promote this vitamin. My mom and I both have had weird side effects since taking this supplement. We both have thinning hair (common in our family) and decided to try nutrafol. My mom has been menopausal for years and after taking it for a few months she randomly got her period out of nowhere soon after taking the supplement that morning.
    She later found out that she now has an ulcer on her uterine lining and her hormone levels are way of wack, the doctors said they’re on par with a women in her 3rd trimester. She wasn’t sure if this is what caused it but this was the only change to her diet.
    She had also just had a pap not long before this happened (approx. 5mo prior) as well as a thyroid test and everything checked out fine and now that couldn’t be further from the truth.

    I started taking Nutrafol about a month ago and now my period is about a week late and so far no positive pregnancy test. I’m almost certain at this point these supplements are the causing it. There are several women speaking out in forums who are experiencing the same thing.

    1. Hi Saysha,

      Thanks so much for sharing your experience with Nutrafol and I’m so sorry to hear you and your mom have had such bad side effects. I write these posts to give people all the information I possibly can, even when I haven’t had a chance to try them for myself, so I appreciate that you can help me build a fuller picture by sharing what happened to you.

      So odd about the return of your mom’s period, and also about the disruption in your own period. Clearly, these supplements can be quite potent in terms of hormone disruption (which some people might actually need, to boost hair growth) but I would always check with your doctor first before taking any new supplement or treatment for hair loss.

      I hope things have settled down for you both now and again, thank you for sharing your story. I’ll make sure to update my Nutrafol posts with an additional disclaimer based on what you’ve told me, so thank you!

      All the best,

      Emma / Lady Alopecia

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