In addition to training and advising clients on nutrition, I often help them choose nootropic supplements to help them stay focused and motivated as they exercise.
Recently, a new client expressed concern that nootropics might cause certain issues like hair loss. I assured him that the claims had no real basis.
But, to back up my words, I decided to consult an expert in nootropic supplements, go over some scientific literature and examine each nootropic ingredient and compound and whether they have any effect on hair shedding.
Here’s what we found.
- There is no scientific evidence linking nootropics to hair loss, with some being proven to have hair growth benefits and potential in hair loss prevention.
- Male pattern baldness or androgenic alopecia is the most common type of alopecia, and it mostly affects those with a family history of baldness.
- Nootropics like Panax ginseng, ashwagandha, and pumpkin seed oil have been shown to help with hair loss and promote hair growth.
Do Nootropics Cause Hair Loss?
No, nootropics do not cause hair loss, as there is no scientific evidence to prove that they do.
On the contrary, some may actually help prevent hair loss.
Shortly, we’ll examine the individual nootropics and their effect on hair follicles. For now, let's look into what causes this issue in the first place.
What Causes Hair Loss?
The main cause of hair loss seems to be genetics.
Other causes include hormonal imbalances, medical conditions like hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism, certain medications (for cancer, depression, and arthritis), and stress .
While hair shedding is an issue for both genders, male pattern baldness (androgenetic alopecia) is the most common.
Male Pattern Baldness
Male pattern baldness is believed to be caused by an androgen hormone known as dihydrotestosterone (DHT) .
While DHT is vital in the sexual development of young male adults, the excess may lead to hair thinning and eventual hair loss, especially for the genetically predisposed.
Female Pattern Baldness
Female pattern hair loss is the most common type in women.
“Although men’s hair tends to recede from the forehead or the crown of the head, women tend to notice thinning on the top third to one half of the scalp.” - Nicole Rogers, MD
The causes include aging, changes in androgen levels, family history, heavy loss of blood during menstrual cycles, and some medications.
Common Nootropic Ingredients and Their Effect on Baldness
There are two types of cognitive enhancers that we’ll look into:
- Synthetic nootropics
- Natural nootropics
Let's examine both to see whether they are linked to hair loss.
These are lab-made pharmaceutical drugs, and while some are only available under prescription, others are categorized as supplements and can be given over the counter.
Let's examine 4 common synthetic compounds:
Modafinil is a prescription nootropic that can enhance brain function and mental performance.
It's one of those smart drugs that critics claim causes hair loss. But does it really promote hair shedding?
While there are many speculations, there is no concrete evidence showing that taking modafinil has any effect on hair follicles.
Most likely, the negative effects associated with Adderall, such as lack of sleep, and loss of appetite, might be contributing to alopecia.
Moreover, the abuse of Adderall often leads to increased stress and anxiety, and there’s a very unlikely possibility of developing an allergic reaction on the scalp that might facilitate hair loss.
There are no claims that piracetam causes hair loss. And after extensive research, we couldn't find any scientific literature associating it with alopecia.
Like Piracetam, there is no scientific or speculative evidence linking noopept to hair loss.
These are herbs and natural substances that can help improve brain activity. They include oils, whole plants, and parts of plants.
Let's examine 11 common organic nootropic compounds and see whether they can cause hair loss.
Caffeine is the world’s most popular nootropic, thanks to its benefits in improving mental alertness and concentration.
While it may have some adverse effects when used excessively, hair loss is not one of them. In fact, some studies show that it may promote hair growth .
A naturally occurring amino acid, L-Theanine, is commonly found in tea and mushrooms.
Taking it has been found to boost mental alertness and increase alpha waves in the brain that are associated with creativity .
Theanine has no links to hair loss, scientifically or speculatively. On the contrary, the calming benefit of this amino acid is useful in managing stress and anxiety, both risk factors for hair loss .
3. Bacopa Monnieri
Bacopa Monnieri is a herbal supplement that scientists have found helpful in speeding up information processing and boosting memory, especially when taken continuously.
We found no links to hair loss.
However, we found anecdotal reports associating it with hair growth, particularly from manufacturers who include it in their hair loss treatment products.
Nonetheless, we couldn't find conclusive scientific evidence supporting the same.
4. Lion’s Mane Mushroom
Taking Lion’s Mane replenishes neurochemicals and leads to more active brain cells.
Studies also show that taking it results in 60.6% neurite growth, which makes it a great nootropic supplement .
Now, there is hardly any claim that Lion’s Mane may cause hair loss. Scientific materials supporting the claim do not exist.
Conversely, some sources claim that it might help prevent hair loss, especially when combined with Reishi mushrooms. Still, scientific studies on the subject are scarce.
5. Rhodiola Rosea
Rhodiola rosea’s cognitive benefits in stress resistance and in learning and memory improvement have seen the drug become one of the go-to natural nootropic compounds .
While there are scarce reports connecting this compound to hair loss, there are a few assertions that it might help prevent hair shedding, thanks to its stress-relieving benefits.
However, we couldn’t find concrete evidence supporting the claim.
6. Ginkgo Biloba
Ginkgo biloba has numerous health benefits for people with cognitive decline problems such as mild Alzheimers and dementia .
In regards to hair shedding, preliminary studies in mice show that the compound might help slow down hair loss while promoting hair regrowth .
7. Panax Ginseng
Panax Ginseng is another popular ingredient in nootropics because it helps reduce brain fatigue and enhances cognitive performance in mentally demanding tasks .
Studies have shown that Panax ginseng has potential hair growth benefits and may also help in preventing hair loss .
8. Maritime Pine Bark Extract
Maritime pine bark extract is a common nootropic compound that helps those with cognitive decline.
According to research, Korean maritime pine bark can help prevent hair loss while promoting hair growth .
Ashwagandha extract is another common nootropic that helps protect the brain from damage caused by toxins, injury, and stroke.
In addition, one study investigating the effects of ashwagandha found that it could prevent hair loss and promote hair growth .
Related: Is Ashwagandha a Nootropic?
Choline can be found naturally in the brain. Some nootropic supplements contain the element because of the benefits of improving mental processing and memory.
No claims have been found of its association with hair loss, and neither is there scientific data showing the same.
11. Vitamin B12
Vitamin B12 (cobalamin) is another popular ingredient that you’ll find in nootropics because of its benefits in improving alertness and focus.
Scientists have found that a deficiency of vitamin B12 can lead to hair loss .
Can They Promote Hair Growth?
Yes, some cognitive enhancer ingredients and compounds such as caffeine, Panax ginseng, ashwagandha, and marine pine bark extract have actually been found to promote hair growth.
Additionally, nootropics as cognitive enhancers have stress reduction benefits that may be helpful to hair growth.
Let me explain.
As you know, chronic stress can cause physical and mental health problems.
In particular, scientists assert that the stress hormone cortisol has a negative effect on hair follicles.
It can cause thinning hair or loss of hair density and may also interfere with the hair cycle and functionality .
Hence, taking brain enhancers for your mental health might have a positive effect on your hair and can be an effective hair loss prevention mechanism.
Other common nootropics that can act as hair loss supplements because of their benefits in hair growth include:
- Green tea
- Pumpkin seed oil
Quality and Dosage Are Important
Now that you know that there is no risk of hair loss, it's important that you’re keen on the dosage.
As we saw earlier, the abuse of prescription nootropics like Adderall could lead to stress and anxiety, which are factors in hair loss.
In addition, you don't want to risk taking products with unfamiliar ingredients and of inferior quality. They might speed up hair loss.
Manzoor Ahmad, pharmacist and founder of DrugsBank, advises to look for third-party testing and certification or a certification stamp to ensure the quality of a nootropic.
Ahmad adds that it is also crucial to adhere to the recommended dosage as higher intake may be toxic and harmful.
That said, our team has tested dozens of supplement products and prepared a list of best-performing nootropic products. I’ll provide the links below.
So, Can Nootropics Cause Hair Loss?
After extensive research, we’ve concluded that there is no evidence linking brain enhancers to hair loss.
However, emphasis on quality is advised as some products on the market might contain unknown ingredients that might cause hair shedding.
That’s why we are always careful when vetting the ingredients and testing all products before recommending them to our clients.
Based on our test data and client feedback reports, the products on these lists provided excellent brain health benefits without any adverse effects, including hair shedding.
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