Onions are a much tastier source of sulfur than MSM. (Photo by tanakawho)
This is the conclusion of my MSM experiment.
I've now been taking MSM powder for about four months. The idea was to see whether it has an effect on the growth of hair and nails, as it is claimed to do by some people.
Unfortunately, it doesn't.
I began the experiment by taking a powder that had 1,000 mg of MSM, 600 mg of glucosamine and 400 mg of chondroitin per portion (read about it here). I later started taking it with vitamin C (read about it here), which is sometimes suggested to increase absorption. After seven weeks, I hadn't noticed any effects (read about it here) on either hair or nail growth.
I then switched brands and bought a jar of pure MSM powder to increase the dosage. For three weeks, I took 4,000 mg of MSM, which was more than the amount given to the subjects in the study discussed below. I first took it all in one dose, and then tried separating it into two doses of 2,000 mg each (read about it here). Again, nothing happened.
Now, for the past three weeks, I've been taking a whopping 8,000 mg of MSM each day, which is more than I've seen or heard anyone else take. I've divided it into two doses of 4,000 mg, one taken in the morning and one later in the day.
No matter what the dose, I have seen absolutely no results from this foul-tasting powder during these four long months.
The rate of my hair growth has not increased; the rate of my nail growth has not increased; the thickness and brilliance of the hair has not increased; and the thickness and appearance of nails has not increased.
The study, which, as far as I know, is the only one studying the effects of MSM on hair and nails, doesn't seem to be peer-reviewed and is not available via pubmed. In the hair part of the study Lawrence reports:
INTRODUCTION: A total of 21 patients were studied for 6 weeks for the hair study component. The subjects were randomly assigned to either Group A (placebo) or Group B (LIGNISULMSM).
Sixteen of the subjects were men and 5 were women. Dosage was 3,000 mg/day in both Groups A & B.
The study participants were studied for hair length, brilliance, and diameter of the individual hair fibers using industry standard measurement scales at the beginning of the study period (t=0) and after 6 weeks (t=6 weeks).
RESULTS & DISCUSSION: Those subjects supplemented with LIGNISULMSM showed significant improvement in hair health, while those on placebo showed either no change, or only slight changes after 6 weeks. The most marked changes were measured in hair length and hair brilliance. The women showed the better results in hair growth, brilliance, and thickness of hair fibers.
All subjects supplemented with LIGNISULMSM were duly impressed with the changes in the health and appearance of their hair. The cosmetologists literally could differentiate which participants were on LIGNISULMSM by the appearance of the hair alone after 6 weeks.
It is expected that if the study were continued for 8 to 16 weeks, the results would have been even better for those on LIGNISULMSM as has been our past experience.
CONCLUSION: This pilot double blind, random study proves that oral supplementation with LIGNISULMSM is a valuable addition to hair care. Hair health was significantly improved in a short term of 6 weeks.
And then the nail part:
INTRODUCTION: A total of 11 patients were studied for 6 weeks for the nail study component. The subjects were randomly assigned to either Group A (placebo) or Group B (LIGNISULMSM). Dosage was 3,000 mg/day in both Groups A & B.
The study participants’ nails were measured for length, thickness, luster and general appearance using industry standard measurement scales at the beginning of the study period (t=0) and after 6 weeks (t=6 weeks).
RESULTS & DISCUSSION: Those subjects supplemented with LIGNISULMSM showed significant improvement in nail strength, thickness and appearance. Results would be better at periods of over 8 weeks from our clinical experience, but it was felt to be too difficult to keep clients enrolled in the study if it lasted longer than 6 weeks. This way we had no dropouts. Overall improvement rate was 80% even in this short study. All subjects supplemented with LIGNISULMSM stated they would continue to use LIGNISULMSM on an ongoing basis based on the improvement in nail health and appearance that was observed.
CONCLUSION: This pilot double blind, random study proves that oral supplementation with LIGNISULMSM is a valuable addition to nail care. Nail health was significantly improved by 80% overall in a short term of 6 weeks.
So according to the study, not only was MSM effective, it was effective in all participants receiving MSM. This bold statement by itself should make one very sceptical. Could it really have been that effective? How many other hair loss remedies have you heard of that claim to be 100% effective? That's right, none.
Both parts of the study mention using "industry standard measurement scales", but what exactly these measurement scales are is unclear. I assume they actually did measure things like hair thickness instead of just providing the subjects with a questionnaire. A subjective evaluation is almost meaningless when trying to estimate things like hair growth speed, since people are notoriously bad at making such evaluations themselves. Heck, a lot of people still think cutting their hair makes hair grow faster!
Still, even with assumed objective measurements we are left with some questions. How did they measure hair growth if the study only lasted for 6 weeks? How did they rule out seasonal variation? How does one measure "hair brilliance"? What does "nail luster" really mean?
So, based on the fact that only one study exists (and that the study may very well be flawed), and the fact that it had no effect on me, my conclusion is: it doesn't work. Certainly not in everyone, as the study suggests.
My first suggestion to anyone considering buying MSM is not to waste your money. Try something else instead, if you want to experiment (like green tea, for example).
My second suggestion is to take anecdotal evidence about MSM with a grain of salt. A lot of people who are experimenting with hair growth are taking all kinds of supplements, so even if they do see effects, there's no way of knowing whether it's the MSM or something else that's working. Besides, usually even the positive evidence is quite conservative ("I think my hair is growing faster, but I'm not sure"), which suggests people may just be imagining things.
Personally, I'm sort of disappointed it didn't have any effect on me. On the other hand, I'm glad I'm finally rid of it.
Having said that, if you've had positive effects from taking MSM, be sure to leave a comment and share your experience.
For more information on hair growth, see these posts:
Vitamin E Tocotrienols May Grow Hair in Humans
3 Quick Ways to Find Out Whether Your Hair Growth Product is Working
Green Tea Extract Grows Hair in Vitro, May Work in Vivo
Mixture of 5-Aminolevulinic Acid and Iron Increases Hair Growth in Mice