Friday, February 06, 2009

L-carnitine for your hair

Those of you who follow my Menopause Moments blog might already be taking this stuff to boost your brain. So here's good news from that this supplement may stimulate hair growth.

Hair follicles go through cycles wherein hair grows (anagen) and then falls out (telogen). Hair aging badly becomes thinner, finer, and more colorless with each cycle. Progesterone promotes glorious hair (think hair during pregnancy) and precipitous drops in this hormone cause hair loss (think hair after pregnancy or during menopause). Testosterone causes hair loss in a characteristic pattern (those thinning temples and shiny pink crowns of aging men and some women). Minoxidil or Rogaine improves circulation to hair follicles and sort of helps men and women hold onto their hair. So what does l-carnitine do?

When hair follicles were cultured in the lab (if they can grow 'em in a dish, why can't they grow 'em on our heads?) in the presence of l-carnitine, researchers at the University of Hamburg observed several positive things: the growth phase lasted longer, fewer hair matrix cells keeled over dead, and more matrix cells proliferated. At a molecular level, less TGFbeta2 factor, less TGF-beta II receptor protein, and falling levels of caspase 3 and 7 confirmed a more-growth-less-death environment for the hairy little cell community(1).

The German dermatologists summed it up thus: "l-carnitine, a frequently employed dietary supplement, may stimulate hair growth by increasing energy supply to the massively proliferating and energy-consuming anagen hair matrix." Whoa, I would like to use "massively proliferating" and "my hair" in the same sentence. How do you say "Please don't hate me because I have beautiful hair" in German?
1. Foitzik, K et al. L-carnitine-L-tartrate promotes human hair growth in vitro. Exp Dermatol. 2007 Nov;16(11):936-45.


Anonymous said...

So do you swallow it or rub it in?

kenju said...

Are there any contraindications or problems if you are taking certain other meds?

femail doc said...

Anon: As the one and only research article that suggests a favorable effect of L-carnitine on hair proposes that you culture your hair in a petri dish with the stuff, I'd have to say I have no idea about the best approach. I've been taking this for several months ago and my hair is no better or worse than usual. I did lie awake last night (do I need a life or what?) thinking about trying to mix the contents of an L-carnitine capsule with some light oil or other and rubbing it on my scalp pre hair wash. Hard to imagine how much you'd have to take by mouth to get a high enough concentration on scalp to cause this massive proliferation business.

KJ: I have read of no contraindications with other meds, and the mechanism of action of carnitine suggests that there should be no problems.

Mauigirl said...

Hmmm, maybe I should try it. I'm thinking my hair ain't as thick as it used to be!

P. Rocerin said...

Also, some dietary changes might help - you should be able to find a list of arthritis trigger foods and foods that are considered superfoods for athritis that can reduce inflammation. Well good luck to you but I am sure you will be fine. You are making a good decision because children are wonderful and a blessing.

Dan said...

Check out the new L-Carnitine Shampoo from Hewley (at or on Amazon). Myself and my colleague designed it from scratch as we have seen dramatic results from its use. Best of luck!!

Anonymous said...

In order for L-Carnitine to provide you with hair regrowth (assuming the German research is sound), I think you would have to inject it in the form of a solution into your scalp. You would probably have to inject into the lower dermis (the fat layer). How much and how often is anyone's guess. I would NOT recommend using Acetyl L-Carntine since it modifies L-Carntine proteins
(It does this so the L-Carntine can reach the brain faster).