I could really rip apart the Hairfinity clinical study but I don’t want to. I want smaller companies to continue to do experimental work to substantiate their claims and having a third party like myself denigrate those efforts is counterproductive. I also understand the cost of making a good scientific study and that it can be more than what a small company can afford. If this was a University-led study or a large company like L’Oreal, there would be no holds barred in my critique. This is as gentle as I can make it.
The ingredients label lists a variety of common vitamins with substantially above recommended daily intake of the B vitamin family. B vitamins are known to be essential for a variety of biological functions including increasing cell numbers and cell growth. Although it is not something you can see obviously, hair is composed of cells and hair growth means increasing cell numbers and cell growth. Will high levels of B-vitamins increase hair growth? This is unknown. However, as B vitamins are water soluble, you should expect to see the excess passing out in urine.
The active ingredient is listed as capilsana complex which is defined as a mix of MSM (methylsulfonylmethane) and hydrolysed collagen.
Important: Please do not substitute this general information for a doctor’s advice. Do not take this pill if you are pregnant or intending to fall pregnant as it has high vitamin A levels. Collagen is an animal derived protein so if you are vegetarian or if you do not eat some types of meat for religious reasons, this pill may not be for you. Due to the above average B vitamin levels, your water intake should be increased. If you are on a low protein diet or have kidney problems, consult your doctor first.
The reason for the clinical study
In the clinical study report, MSM is highlighted as a key ingredient of hairfinity pills. Hairfinity states that MSM has potential to increase the hair growth phase but this has yet to be shown clinically, hence there is need to do the clinical study.
Analysis of the study
The reporting of the study is very poor for a variety of reasons which I will list. The impact of this is that I cannot say whether or not it was a good study and importantly whether or not the results of it are valid.
Here are the issues:
1. There is missing data
For example, hair length measurements to assess hair growth are taken after 15 days, however, the graphs show only a single measurement every 30 days. It does not make sense to me. Should I double the number to get the monthly growth? If I do, then the growth rate would be astronomical — about 1.25 inch per month without the supplement and going up to 2–3 inches per month with the supplement. If I do not double the 15 day measurement, the numbers are still grand — 0.75 inches per month without the supplement and 1–1.5 with. Is this real?
2. The study does not mention any controls
In science controls are everything. In order to know if the effect of hair growth is only from the pill and not from other factors (e.g change in weather, diet etc.), it is necessary at the very least to have a comparison group who do not take the supplement throughout the 90 day study period. This instance was not reported.
3. The study has only 25 participants
This is a very small group; which is not ideal, but more importantly, the gender, age, ethnicity, nutrition, activity level etc of the participants is not mentioned. These are all important factors to judge how biased the study was. It is not accurate enough to mathematically calculate bias with just 25 participants (Yes, you can calculate bias!).
4. The study does not mention which part of the head was used for hair growth measurement.
We know that different parts of the scalp can grow at different rates so a direct comparison needs to be done from the exact same location. This is not directly mentioned.
5. The method used in the study to measure hair growth length may not be good enough.
The usual technique in hair growth studies is to shave a small section of hair to the scalp and then record hair growth from the scalp. This eliminates issues like hair breakage due to combing. The method used in the hairfinity study is a hair dye method in which existing hair is dyed and hair growth is then measured from the scalp to the dye mark. There is a large potential for error with this method. Fading of the dye over time as well as being able to accurately measure from the scalp to the exact point where the dye is could both potentially pose a challenge when seeking to attain results.
There are many simple procedures that if properly implemented, could have improved the overall study. I would venture to say that a lot of the issues within the study arise because of how the data was presented, which I think was for simplicity rather than accuracy. This is common when a scientist is trying to communicate a general message. If there is additional data, I would be happy to look at it and make a better assessment of whether the study results and the resulting claim that the supplement can increase hair growth are at the very least valid.
Do the studies done by product companies themselves hold a lot of weight for you in terms of your decision to buy?