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MSM for Hair Growth: Research & Side Effects

Katelyn Hagerty

Reviewed by Katelyn Hagerty, FNP

Written by Rachel Sacks

Published 01/09/2021

Updated 08/25/2023

The world of hair loss treatments is full of some, shall we say, interesting choices. On the one hand, you have proven-effective methods like medications and topical solutions. And on the other hand, some hair supplements promise to give you back the full head of hair from your youth.

One of these supplements is the naturally occurring compound methylsulfonylmethane, which has become a popular supplement, used most commonly for its anti-inflammatory properties. Methylsulfonylmethane (or MSM for short) is also believed to stimulate hair growth and treat male pattern baldness.

But is there any truth to MSM for hair growth? Are there any MSM benefits for hair, or is this dietary supplement simply snake oil?

Keep reading to learn whether MSM hair growth is fact or fiction.

What Is MSM?

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First things first: What is MSM, and what are the benefits of MSM for hair?

MSM is a chemical compound that provides a source of sulfur to the body, which can be beneficial for joint health and immune function. It’s commonly found in fruits, vegetables, and beverages like beer, coffee, tea and cow’s milk.

Available as an oral supplement or in powder form, MSM is also known by various other names, including dimethyl sulfone, methyl sulfone, sulfonylbismethane, organic sulfur and crystalline dimethyl sulfoxide.

Known for its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, MSM is often used to treat arthritis, joint pain and swelling for many conditions like osteoporosis or muscle cramps.

MSM sulfur has also been suggested to improve skin quality and texture by strengthening keratin, a vital nutrient for skin and hair.

Recently, the effects of methylsulfonylmethane have been researched for possible hair growth benefits. Could MSM powder for hair growth be true?

Thanks to the bonds MSM sulfur may form to strengthen keratin in hair, it’s believed that methylsulfonylmethane may encourage healthy hair growth.

Studies investigating the possibility of MSM for hair growth are limited, but initial results from those studies show promising findings.

  • Limited research suggests that topical application of MSM powder may work as a treatment for alopecia (the scientific term for hair loss). However, this particular study was only conducted on mice.

  • A peer-reviewed, double-blind study for the Natural Medicine Journal examined the efficacy of a daily ingested MSM supplement of 1 gram or 3 grams for four months. MSM supplementation improved hair appearance and condition for 63 subjects, and a higher dose seemed to increase the benefits.

  • A 2019 study published in the Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology found that a supplement containing MSM showed improved skin health in a short period, including a boost in hydration and elasticity, as well as a slight improvement in the appearance of hair. This study looked at MSM combined with other compounds, though, such as hyaluronic acid and L-carnosine.

Most of the promising studies on MSM hair growth have been published just in the last few years. So for the moment, the evidence is very limited.

MSM isn’t an FDA-approved treatment for preventing male pattern baldness, meaning the U.S. Food and Drug Administration hasn’t listed it as an effective, researched-backed remedy. (For the record, the FDA doesn’t approve supplements, only drugs.) 

Male pattern hair loss is often caused by a combination of two factors: the production of a certain male hormone known as dihydrotestosterone and the sensitivity of your hair follicles to this hormone. We covered more reasons why men go bald in this guide.

Dihydrotestosterone (DHT) is a male hormone and byproduct of testosterone that may play a role in triggering male pattern baldness. DHT binds to the hair follicles and causes them to shrink, which can slow — and possibly stop — hair growth altogether over time.

Put simply, regaining hair volume typically requires both treatment of the effects of DHT and stimulation of new hair growth.

While potential MSM benefits for hair are still being explored, there’s not too much known about the side effects of MSM powder for hair growth.

Studies into MSM supplements suggest they’re safe within certain dosages.

Under the FDA’s Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS) notification, MSM has a recommended dosage of up to 4 grams daily.

The effect of methylsulfonylmethane has been found to be well tolerated, with most people experiencing mild side effects.

Toxicity studies conducted in rats, mice and dogs showed mild skin and eye irritation when applied topically.

However, a review of studies noted that methylsulfonylmethane has been anecdotally associated with increased sensitivity to alcohol, though no studies have been conducted to explore metabolic side effects.

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more hair... there's a pill for that

The research on MSM for hair growth is limited, and MSM powder for hair isn’t currently approved by the FDA. But other options for treating hair loss have been proven effective and are backed by extensive research.

Here’s what to consider.

Use Finasteride

Approved by the FDA in 1997 for male pattern hair loss, finasteride is a hair loss treatment that prevents your body from converting testosterone into DHT, the hormone that slows hair growth. Multiple studies have shown that finasteride significantly decreased hair loss while increasing the number of new hairs growing.

Also sold under the brand name Propecia®, this drug is typically taken as an oral medication. It’s also available as a topical solution combined with another hair loss medication in this topical finasteride & minoxidil spray.

Try Minoxidil

Typically sold under the brand name Rogaine®, minoxidil is a topical medication used to treat hair loss. Research shows that, when used consistently for several months, minoxidil may help stop hair loss and improve the thickness of existing hair.

This particular medication is available in a minoxidil foam or a liquid minoxidil solution that’s usually recommended as a twice-daily treatment.

Will you join thousands of happy customers?

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Before/after images shared by customers who have purchased varying products, including prescription based products. Prescription products require an online consultation with a healthcare provider who will determine if a prescription is appropriate. These customers’ results have not been independently verified. Individual results will vary. Customers were given free product.

Take Diet or Hair Supplements

Some research suggests a possible connection between vitamin deficiencies and thinning hair, as well as certain foods for hair growth, such as those rich in protein, omega-3 fatty acids and other vital nutrients.

In addition to providing certain nutrients, vitamins for hair play important roles in helping you maintain a good level of hair density. 

These include iron, zinc, amino acids, vitamin C and vitamin E, as well as B vitamins like biotin. Biotin is a form of vitamin B7 that’s often low in people with certain forms of temporary hair loss.

You can take biotin gummies, which may offer some substantial benefits for hair health. We’ve written about this before, so check out our guide to biotin for hair growth if you’re curious.

Use Healthy Hair Products

The hair products you use may make a difference in whether you have hair that appears thinner or a full head of hair. Check your shampoo and conditioner for ingredients that promote hydration and volume.

Our thickening shampoo with saw palmetto targets harmful DHT while boosting volume and moisture. And this volumizing shampoo and conditioner not only provides hair with a lift but has hydrating and nourishing ingredients for healthier hair.

Hair loss treatments, delivered

You may or may not have heard of MSM powder for hair growth. But when you’re dealing with hair loss, you might be willing to try any solution.

Keep these points in mind when weighing your options.

  • What is MSM? A naturally occurring source of sulfur, methylsulfonylmethane is known for its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that are beneficial for joint health and pain reduction.

  • There’s also limited evidence on potential MSM benefits for hair, namely encouraging growth and improving hair health. The current research still has a way to go, but it shows promising results.

  • There are plenty of other well-proven options to treat hair loss, including the oral medication finasteride, a topical solution called minoxidil, hair supplements and healthy hair products.

If you want to treat your hair loss as soon as possible or are simply interested in learning more about your options, connect with a healthcare provider to discuss hair loss treatments.

11 Sources

  1. Butawan, M., Benjamin, R. L., & Bloomer, R. J. (2017). Methylsulfonylmethane: Applications and Safety of a Novel Dietary Supplement. Nutrients, 9(3), 290. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5372953/
  2. Shanmugam, S., Baskaran, R., Nagayya-Sriraman, S., Yong, C.-S., Choi, H.-G., Woo, J. S., & Yoo, B.-K. (2009). The Effect of Methylsulfonylmethane on Hair Growth Promotion of Magnesium Ascorbyl Phosphate for the Treatment of Alopecia. Biomolecules and Therapeutics, 17(3), 241-248. Retrieved from https://www.researchgate.net/publication/247915887_The_Effect_of_Methylsulfonylmethane_on_Hair_Growth_Promotion_of_Magnesium_Ascorbyl_Phosphate_for_the_Treatment_of_Alopecia
  3. Muizzuddin, N., & Benjamin, R. (2019). Beneficial Effects of a Sulfur-Containing Supplement on Hair and Nail Condition. Natural Medicine Journal, 11(11). Retrieved from https://www.researchgate.net/publication/338677423_Beneficial_Effects_of_a_Sulfur-Containing_Supplement_on_Hair_and_Nail_Condition_1_A_prospective_double-blind_study_in_middle-aged_women
  4. Guaitolini, E., Cavezzi, A., Cocchi, S., Colucci, R., Urso, S. U., & Quinzi, V. (2019). Randomized, Placebo-controlled Study of a Nutraceutical Based on Hyaluronic Acid, L-carnosine, and Methylsulfonylmethane in Facial Skin Aesthetics and Well-being. The Journal of clinical and aesthetic dermatology, 12(4), 40–45. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6508480/
  5. Ho, C.H., Sood, T., Zito, P.M. Androgenetic Alopecia. [Updated 2022 Oct 16]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2023 Jan-. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK430924/
  6. Kinter, K.J., Anekar, A.A. Biochemistry, Dihydrotestosterone. [Updated 2023 Mar 6]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2023 Jan-. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK557634/
  7. Zito, P.M., Bistas, K.G., Syed, K. Finasteride. [Updated 2022 Aug 25]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2023 Jan-. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK513329/
  8. Lee, S. W., Juhasz, M., Mobasher, P., Ekelem, C., & Mesinkovska, N. A. (2018). A Systematic Review of Topical Finasteride in the Treatment of Androgenetic Alopecia in Men and Women. Journal of drugs in dermatology : JDD, 17(4), 457–463. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6609098/
  9. Propecia. (n.d.). Accessdata.fda.gov. Retrieved from https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/drugsatfda_docs/label/2012/020788s020s021s023lbl.pdf
  10. Badri, T., Nessel, T.A., Kumar, D. D. Minoxidil. [Updated 2023 Feb 21]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2023 Jan-. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK482378/
  11. Mysore V, Shashikumar BM. Guidelines on the use of finasteride in androgenetic alopecia. Indian J Dermatol Venereol Leprol 2016;82:128-134. Retrieved from https://ijdvl.com/guidelines-on-the-use-of-finasteride-in-androgenetic-alopecia/
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