Medically reviewed by Kristin Hall, FNP
Written by Our Editorial Team
Last updated 1/20/2021
The anti-inflammatory compound methylsulfonylmethane has become a popular supplement, used most commonly for its antiinflammatory properties. Limited research suggests it may also show promise as a hair growth treatment for sufferers of male pattern baldness.
Unlike finasteride or minoxidil, MSM is not an FDA-approved treatment for preventing male pattern baldness, but like the supplement Biotin, it may offer a promising course of action for regrowing hair.
Hair loss can come in many forms, and have many causes. As such, the treatment for each type of hair loss can vary.
Two of the main types are:
Involutional alopecia is a natural thinning of hair as you age.
Androgenic alopecia, typically referred to as male pattern baldness, happens earlier, and is typically associated with receding hairline and disappearing hair from the crown area.
Male pattern baldness is caused primarily by the hormone dihydrotestosterone (DHT). You can learn more about DHT in our guide to male pattern baldness symptoms, causes, and treatments. But to keep it simple, regaining hair volume typically requires both treatment of the effects of DHT and stimulation of new hair growth.
There are also conditions like telogen effluvium, which is a temporary condition where the growth cycle of hair causes the appearance of thinning because a large number of hairs simultaneously enter the resting phase. Similar to alopecia areata (patchy hair loss), it is temporary, reversible and easily treated.
For more information, read the Hims list of the top reasons men go bald (and how to deal with it).
Methylsulfonylmethane is a naturally occurring organosulfur compound. It is commonly found in fruits, vegetables, and beverages like beer, coffee, tea and cow’s milk.
Scientific evidence shows MSM can be an effective inflammatory and antioxidant, and it has become a popular supplement most commonly for its antiinflammatory properties, though the precise mechanism isn’t known.
MSM is also known by a variety of other names including dimethyl sulfone, methyl sulfone, sulfonylbismethane, organic sulfur or crystalline dimethyl sulfoxide.
MSM has been studied for its anti-inflammatory properties, and for efficacy in treating pain, arthritis and allergies. It has been widely suggested as a dietary supplement for things ranging from osteoarthritis to snoring.
Additionally, initial studies, like this one on mice, have been conducted to explore its efficacy on hair wellness through its interaction with keratin.
Studies investigating the possibility that methylsulfonylmethane could contribute to hair regrowth are limited, but initial results from those studies show promising findings.
In a peer-reviewed, double-blind study for the Natural Medicine Journal, researchers examined the efficacy on hair condition as a daily ingested MSM supplement for four months. For the study, 63 subjects ingested either 1g or 3g of MSM per day.
After four months under the conditions of that study, oral MSM supplementation “led to significant improvements in the appearance and condition of hair and nails as evaluated by expert grading and participant self-assessment.”
Furthermore, higher concentrations of MSM seemed to deliver “quicker and stronger benefits” to hair follicle growth rate compared to the lower concentration (1 g/day).
In other words, the study showed that MSM improved hair appearance and condition, and that a higher dose seemed to increase the benefits.
There are promising correlations within other research as well, including a 2019 study in The Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology.
This study found that a supplement containing MSM showed increased skin health in a short period, including increased hydration and elasticity.
That study combined MSM with other compounds, but highlighted MSM’s efficacy for improving those skin conditions on its own, and its antiinflammatory and antioxidant properties. Finally, this study reported secondary results of slight improvement “most notably in hair appearance and texture” from the non-placebo group.
Most of the promising studies on correlations between MSM and hair growth have been published just in the last few years, so for the moment, the evidence is very limited, but the frequency of research seems to be ramping up in conjunction with these promising results..
It is not well understood how exactly MSM acts on the hair growth process due to the limited nature of existing research.
In the study mentioned above from the Natural Medicine Journal, it was hypothesized thatMSM, which is a source of sulfur, may promote healthy hair by “donating sulfur to keratin, which could help strengthen the bonds between keratin molecules in the hair and nails.”
But there are other possible explanations. MSM has also been studied for its efficacy as a “penetration enhancer” for MAP: magnesium ascorbyl phosphate for the treatment of alopecia.
In experiments with mice, MAP was reported to stimulate growth of hair cells in vitro, and induce early conversion of telogen phase to anagen phase of hair cycle (in other words, taking the follicle out of its rest phase and beginning growth again earlier)—and MSM could intensify these results.
The results of that study, which was published in the journal Biomolecules and Therapeutics in 2009, suggested that MSM increased the effectiveness of MAP, and concluded that, “Overall, topical application of MAP together with MSM appears to be useful for the treatment of alopecia,” and that its efficacy scaled with dosage.
Studies into MSM supplements suggest that they are safe within certain dosages.
Under the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) GRAS notification, MSM is considered safe in humans at dosages up to 4g a day. Toxicity studies conducted in rats, mice and dogs showed mild skin and eye irritation when applied topically.
The study did make note, however, that Methylsulfonylmethane has been anecdotally associated with increased sensitivity to alcohol, though no studies have been conducted to explore metabolic side effects.
Can men regrow natural hair thanks to the effect of methylsulfonylmethane? Optimistic as initial studies may be, it’s far from proven.
It’s unclear whether MSM is an effective course of treatment on its own. Combined with compounds like MAP and other treatments, however, it could have a promising future in hair loss treatment.
Interested in learning more? View our range of hair loss medications and treatment products or read our guide to the most common early signs of baldness to find out if it’s time for you to start taking action to protect your hair.
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