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The Dark Side Of Hair Growth Supplements And Why You May Want To Reconsider Using Them


Multiple supplementsEven though I prefer to give advice that applies to the majority of our readership, it’s difficult to talk about hair growth without pulling from one’s own experience and today I will get more personal than usual when I revisit the subject of hair growth supplements. I have written about them in the past here and here in very general terms.

Hair growth supplements sound perfect don’t they? You pop a pill daily with or without a meal and they tremendously increase your hair growth rate, some even claiming potential gains of an inch per month.

You combine your new supplementation with a decent hair regimen, cross your fingers and pray for BSL hair. You have to admit, the pull of hair growth aids is sometimes irresistible to us black women.

Until about 6 months ago my own experience with supplementing vitamins for hair growth was theoretical for the most part having never bothered with them. Hair grows anyway right?

When I was making my final push to achieve my waist length hair goal in November of last year, I decided that along with boot-camp protective styling, I would also try supplementation. After all, so many hair gurus and long haired youtubers admitted to taking supplements to enhance their growth efforts. It was definitely worth a try I thought.

In November 2012 I opted for the ever popular Fast Grow Ethnic Hair Growth Enhancer which I took religiously as described. Unfortunately it was unavailable when the time came to re-order so I switched to Hair Formula 37 in December 2012.

In the middle of November I started to notice a disturbing symptom. I developed involuntary muscle twitches. We all get muscle twitches from time to time which are perfectly natural and generally go away on their pretty quickly but this was very different from anything I’d ever had. The twitches would go away for a day or two but would always come back. They were particularly persistent in my bottom eyelids.

It wasn’t actually very noticeable to other people unless I specifically pointed out the area as it was happening (thank goodness), but it was something that I was constantly aware of and truthfully, it was beginning to frighten me. A google search of the symptoms brought up everything from ‘nothing to worry about’ to ‘a fatal muscle wasting disease’. Clearly not helpful.

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Alma

About Alma


Hi! I'm Alma Ruddock, a full time blogger. I stumbled on a hair care forum in 2008 frustrated with my breaking relaxed hair and the information that I found there changed the fate of my hair forever!. I started BlackHairInformation.com as a way to help both myself and other women of color achieve their dreams of long healthy hair. I have now achieved my goal length and I continue to bring new information about hair on both this website and my personal blog.



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49 Comments

  1. 1
    Shamecki McCoy says:

    Thanks for the posting. I suspect
    I am also having an issue with supplements. I have been taking Hairfinity since
    December 15, 2012. I have been breaking out in hives lately. A lot, to the
    point where I can’t sleep at night and need to take allergy meds. I hate taking
    them because even if they claim that they are non-drowsy I still get sleepy.
    One day I read an article snippet on vitamin b. Too much vitamin b causes hives
    and that was all I needed to see. I immediately stopped taking them and haven’t
    had many issues since. I will say that in the past I have had hives before
    taking the vitamins, just not on the same level.

    Also in reading the article and
    several others I learned that a lot of the fruits and veggies I eat contain the
    same vitamins and minerals I thought I needed from the vitamins.

    • 2
      MsCurlyKat says:

      Please see an allergist for testing-if you have suffered from hives even before the vitamins you potentially have allergies. I suffered from hives for a long time with no idea why…one day when I’d had enough and they were more frequent I mentioned them to my doctor and she sent me for allergy testing-turns out I have a multitude of food allergies among others, some very dangerous, such as shellfish. I now have to carry an epipen whenever I plan to eat out someplace. Those hives are trying to tell you something!

      • 3

        I’ve been tested for celiac before but it was negative for the antibodies so I’m all clear. But thanks for this, my sister suffers from hives so I will mention this to her.

  2. 4
    MsCurlyKat says:

    wowzers…

    I am notoriously vitamin D deficient, so every year or two at my physical the doctor prescribes a round of 5000 iu vitamin D, which I have to take once a week for usually 12 weeks or so. That level is considered potentially toxic, so I already expect side effects from it-the first 2 days afterward I have a slight headache and feel out of sorts. But, she also prescribed (over the counter) a B-vitamin supplement. For a while I took it faithfully every day, and I had the same thing you did, eye muscle twitching. I first thought it was due to lack of sleep or eye strain, but was able to determine that wasn’t the cause. I never thought of vitamins! I still take a B supplement, but it isn’t daily, just several times per week in no particular pattern, and I no longer have the twitches. I’m thinking that while I might be deficient, I’m not deficient enough to need the full dose every day, maybe. Also interesting you mentioned gluten: from early childhood I have had gluten allergy-in fact I now have celiac disease-because when I was a kid if there were no outward allergy symptoms doctors didn’t test for allergies. I wasn’t diagnosed until I was 38, several years ago. All that time I had been eating gluten and all the other (many) things I am allergic to, most often with no outward symptoms, or with a hive I thought was an insect bite, or a headache I thought was from something else…you get the idea. It turns out that celiac sufferers don’t absorb nutrients properly because eating gluten causes the part of your intestine that absorbs nutrients to die off. Growing up I always had to take a vitamin, never knowing it wasn’t helping much. Now I have to watch what vitamins I take because I can accidentally have too much at once and cause adverse reactions, like that muscle twitching. Vitamins-classic potential for too much of a good thing! I am glad you were able to figure out your twitch, and in doing so helped me figure out mine!

    • 5

      Yep, you have to watch those vitamins. Might I suggest a small daily dose if vit d instead of the megadose once in a while? Vitamin d is probably the only one I would consider supplementing in the future simply because deficiency is associated with so many negative consequences. Wish lived in sunnier climes so I don’t have to bother with it!

      • 6
        MsCurlyKat says:

        I do take a multi now, though still not every day faithfully, that has vita D included. I have also learned that if I don’t wear a sunscreen for one day a week (my usual face preparations do have sunscreen so I just use a regular moisturizer instead those days), or in the summer wear a v neck/short sleeves and get about 15 min. of sun, things like that, it boosts my vita D naturally. I read it someplace maybe a year and a half ago, so now I make an effort to get a little sun each week to help. I still wear sunscreen the rest of the time.

        • 7

          I was thinking about sunscreen the other day and decided to google it to see if it is effective at preventing skin cancers but there seems to be studies that suggest that skin cancer is actually higher among those who use it. Africans never wear sunscreen yet have the lowest rate of melanoma even though they get a higher exposure to the sun. Makes you think huh?

          • 8

            Hmm that’s interesting. I remember reading somewhere that black people already have approximately spf 15 already as part of our darker skin. It’s possible that applying more sunscreen on top of that essentially stops all vitamin D production? I’m pretty sure that low vitamin D status is associated with more disease so it’s possible I guess. I tend to keep sunscreen in my handbag but only ever apply it when I have been out in the sun for more than a few hours which doesn’t happen often :)

          • 9
            MsCurlyKat says:

            they are having something on the Dr Oz show (if they didn’t already) about how ineffective sunscreen really is-I hope I didn’t miss it…
            Oh, and I have read in the past about Africans and their sun exposure…not only do they have a high rate of natural protection, but a lot of their natural body care products (among them shea butter) are natural sunscreens as well.

  3. 10
    Misskthpriss says:

    Great article. I couldn’t sleep one night (had insomnia for about 3 weeks) so I started googling how I could use MSM as a topical supplement. I had been taking it internally faithfully for about a month. I ran a cross an article on guess what? How MSM causes insomnia. Stupid me. Here I am can’t sleep trying to figure out how I can use more of this stuff. Umm no more extra vitamins for me.

    • 11

      Wow, I didn’t even know that! It’s weird how we don’t instantly draw the parallel between supplements and physical changes. Glad you figured it out though.

    • 12

      I just took my first dose and have been awake all night. I even have shortness of breath so i’ll try 1 a day and see how that works. :(

  4. 13

    Hey Alma, I have HUGE skin issues with hair supplements! I posted about my personal experience and I refuse to revisit. I drank tons of water, ate well…it just sent my already acne prone skin into overdrive!!!

    • 14

      Gosh! I must have missed your post but I have just read it and I am surprised that so many others have had issues with supplementation. If I had bothered to read about other peoples negative experiences, I probably wouldn’t have bothered with them. Self experimentation is all well and good but when there is a chance that it could affect your health negatively, I don’t think it’s worth the trouble.

  5. 15
    shelrob says:

    Thanks again for this article dear… love it!… I am so laughing, why, months ago I had experience severe twitching of my eyes, it was so worrisome, I started doing research, didn’t find anything that dictated it was serious, it went from one eye to the next, and was very uncomfortable. At the time, I was taking my general vitamin supplement (not necessary for hair growth), also, MSM (for hair growth) and vitamin C. Surprisingly, I didn’t even realize that I was not experiencing it anymore until I read your article. It had stopped,,,, but guess what, I have not been taking any vitamin supplements for more than 5 months now due to budgetary reasons…. So… I am wondering, was those vitamins causing my twitch… as I said, I didn’t even realized that it had stopped until now….gosh.

    • 16

      Wow! At least you know now. It’s weird how we don’t put two and two together especially when taking so called ‘natural’ supplements.

  6. 17
    Henny Pen Maggie says:

    This information is misleading. Like all things there are a certain amount of risks but to suggest to your readers that they should not take hair vitamins or supplementation is way overboard. For years Black women have not had adequate supplements and for that reason may be exposed to greater risks of many dis-eases. If you know that MSM causes Insomnia then do not take in the evening. SImple. I have been taking the Nzuri Kra-Z hair gro vitamins for 6 months and I have gotten great growth results on my very slow to grow hair. I also noticed a prettier skin complexion so I normally like your advice but I do caution you to be so broad to discourage something as useful to us as supplementation. People should get blood tests to see where they are low on Vitamin D, B or E and then take vitamins according to their deficiencies but to just quit b/c you had an eye twitch, i don’t think so. What in the vitamins caused it?

    • 18

      Did you even read the post?? I quote:

      “I only hope to give you pause by either avoiding supplements altogether
      in cases where you don’t have a proven deficiency or to encourage
      vigilance if you happen to notice any negative symptoms while taking
      supplements. Always check with your doctor before taking any supplements
      especially if you are already on medication.”

      That means that if you have a deficiency then by all means take the supplements but remain vigilant. I have not said anywhere that everyone across the board should stop taking them but neither am I suggesting that you should.

    • 19
      Shaniqua says:

      It’s already mentioned in the article that some people never have any problems with supplements and I take my Womens mega without any problems but if I notice anything of course the pills are going to be the first to go. I don’t think it was meant as broad generalization especially if you read the last page she just advices caution rather than ‘don’t do it’!

  7. 20
    Heather Holly says:

    I havent had any issues with the hair growth
    supplements
    I take (Nourage)- they work really well actually.My hair is growing in super thick. But I will keep an eye out for these issues you mention. I had had issues with Vitamin B myself, and as far as insomnia- that would be a dealbreaker for me!

  8. 21

    I stopped using them a year ago when biotin caused me to have nightmares

  9. 24

    Carmella McCoy thats scary.ive stopped taking biotin.i didnt get nightmares but only saw growth in my lashes.but im over the hype of them.my hair will either stay this length or grow or i cut it.thats it

  10. 26

    Hi. I am still shocked (without judging ) when sum1 take pills for growing hair. But it is never too late to stop n u know the hair will grow maybe but the consequences will come soon if u r lucky will come soon or late or when old( don’t be surprised)
    Who say that we have to stretch curly hair to have the length,who say that long hair is only the one which is trendy?.
    I am going natural and if my can just do a right ponytail(to style quickly) that’s it.
    We have to be patient n run away any product s.thx

  11. 27

    I’m still amazed at how many black women believe that they’re going to automatically turn into rapunzel just because they pop some “vitamins”. Your hair grows regardless of wether you take vitamins. People say they see 1 or 1 1/2 inch per month but has it ever occurred to anyone that that’s NORMAL growth even if they WEREN’T taking these vitamins?? I think It’s psychological, people WANT to believe that they work so they convinced them that they do. My hair has grown SIGNIFICANTLY with simply proper care and protective styles.

  12. 29

    Please admin, what is the name of that pills

  13. 30

    I use that hairfinity and my hair has thickened considerably :3 over the past two months..eh, but I guess not everything is for everyone. I’m a way but sceptic and started to take them to see how worked.
    Also, kid you not. …this post reminded me to take them. Ty!

  14. 31

    Bout time something like this was posted. There are people sending up their bill money buying pills to achieve long and thick hair. Even though some of the things in those pills promote hair growth and thickness in many cases, you can over do it and mess up all of the progress.

  15. 32

    I take prenatal vitamins… we’ll see how those work out.

  16. 33

    Who wrote this I have a jumping in my bottom lid now for 3 weeks thank for infor

  17. 34

    I read prenatal vitamins will make ur hair grow. I’m just taking black strap molasses and maybe a multi evryother day.

  18. 35

    Starlan Hoke I had the same jumping so I stopped taking the supplements and the jumping has stopped as well also had headache

  19. 36

    Tamarra James not sure if you are still taking supplements but maybe they are causing the breakouts and/or headaches.

  20. 37

    I’m a nurse, and from what I read she was taking too many things. Over supplementing. Everyone has different experiences. I used biotin for years, and now I only use hair finity. I haven’t had any of the above symptoms. The story was interesting, but I hope it doesn’t scare people. It’s ok to take ONE supplement not 4 at the same time, because it will create imbalance. If it disagrees with you, just stop taking it.

  21. 38

    I take Biotin because it helps your metabolism, not to grow my hair. Many years ago my daughter’s hair began to break off after being colored and a dermatologist prescribed Biotin for her. While taking them she started losing weight and that’s when I began taking them but not consistently. For the past couple of months I’ve taken them consistently to aid in weight loss and yes, they do work for that. My hair has grown but I don’t attribute the growth to the Biotin though because I believe it would have grown anyway and I’m taking really good care of it as well.

  22. 41

    Interesting…

  23. 42

    I was taking msm and biotin and had to stop!! I was having some bad side effects!! Glad I’m not the only one that went through craziness lol my hair grows fast as it is, I had to stop putting so much stress on myself to grow my hair faster then it does on its own

  24. 43

    A daily multivitamin and Biotin is all you need. She was taking too many things at one time

  25. 44

    I Take Natures Bounty Hair, Skin And Nails ..And So Far No Serious Side Effects, Maybe Some People Bodies Are Sensitive To Certain Nutrients In The Vitamin..Or Maybe She Was Just Using To Much At A Time…Ohh I Forgot To Say That The Natures Bounty Vitamin Has Made My Skin Absolutely Flawless!!!!

  26. 45

    I take Biotin (hair & nails) and I don’t really have any acne or anything and im 14 soo lol my hair is growing and so are my nails.. and sometimes I may get a bad pimple but thats it.

  27. 46

    Well the pills work for me. And all the hype about the supplements obviously show they work. So the fuss is because they ain’t work for u

  28. 47

    Great article..I’ve always been skeptical of hair supplements but I am a big juicer and I attribute that to my hair growth and strength..natural vitamins from your veggies and so great for your body! Love it!

  29. 48

    I also had the eye twitching problem. I thought I was the only one lol. But I still take vitamins just not as often I take them every other day and the twitching stopped. And I stopped taking as many also.

  30. 49

    I read this after searching for information on natural hair care as I have gone back natural. Anyway even though I may be very late I think it needs to be said if only to better advise someone after me. The problem is not supplements but lack of advice or knowledge. Sorry but you were ill advised and just went about taking pills. It is very important to listen to your body. When taking any drug whether natural or not please research or get medical advice. You were taking Niacin at a substantial dose and if you had sought medical guidance you would have known that it is normally prescribed with antihistamines. Any supplement has a risk of harm especially when taken without proper knowledge

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