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Image source: Instagram, @flaviaesantiago

While nothing can make your hair grow faster (most people average a half an inch per month), there are some products that can make your hair healthier, and in turn, help you retain more of the hair that comes out of your scalp.

One ingredient for hair growth that is getting popular are phytosterols. Also referred to as plant sterols or stanols, phytosterols are naturally occurring compounds found in the cell membranes of plants. Structurally, they are similar to the cholesterol we make in our bodies.

“They are most well-known for their ability to reduce LDL or ‘bad’ cholesterol up to 10 percent,” said Dr. Katie Strobe, a naturopathic physician based in San Francisco who specializes in digestive, hormonal, mental/cognitive, and skin health.

Types of phytosterols

The most commonly occurring phytosterols are beta-sitosterol, campesterol, stigmasterol, and campestanol. Food sources of phytosterols include vegetable oils, legumes, seeds, whole grains, and nuts. In supplement form, says Strobe, a combination of phytosterols are used, but beta-sitosterol is the main source.

Do phytosterols impact hair growth?

It makes sense to assume it can make your hair grow. Remember Queen Helene’s Cholesterol Conditioning Cream? For some of us naturals, this was a staple during our hair straightening days. And even after leaving chemical straightening behind, many still use cholesterol creams to deep condition (including this writer). And why do we use it? Damaged hair loses hair lipids and quite simply cholesterol fills them back in.

But does it help your hair growth? Studies are being done, but there is no definitive evidence that it does.

“There is promising research indicating phytosterols from saw, palmetto, and pumpkin seed oil can impact hair growth in people with male and female patterned baldness,” said Strobe. “Normally, when a hair falls out, another starts to grow from the same follicle. But if the hormone DHT (5α-Dihydrotestosterone) is increased, then the hair growth is decreased. Saw Palmetto and pumpkin seed oil have been demonstrated to stop the conversion of testosterone to DHT.”

What things actually improve hair growth?

While it’s exciting to consider something new that might help your hair growth, sometimes it’s best to stick to what we know. Biotin, pantothenic acid, fish oil, vitamin D, and zinc all have bodies of clinical research that demonstrate a positive impact on hair regrowth.

“Biotin supports rebuilding of hair singles from things like sun exposure and over-shampooing and pantothenic acid supports adrenal glands, which can stimulate hair growth,” said Strobe. “Fish oil supplementation reduces hair loss and supports hair growth, and zinc is an essential cofactor for many activities in the hair follicle.”

Bottomline?

It sounds like there isn’t a ton of research supporting phytosterols for hair growth, but some people say it works for them. Just remember before you try anything, especially supplements, do your research and consult with a doctor first. It may be best to increase phytosterol-rich foods in your diet or try hair products that contain phytosterols.

Have you tried any hair products containing phytosterols and experienced results? Let us know in the comments!