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Beneficial Effects of a Sulfur-Containing Supplement on Hair and Nail Condition [1] A prospective, double-blind study in middle-aged women

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Home > November 2019 Vol. 11 Issue 11 > Beneficial Effects of a Sulfur-Containing Supplement on Hair and Nail Condition
Beneficial Effects of a Sulfur-Containing Supplement on Hair and
Nail Condition [1]
A prospective, double-blind study in middle-aged women
By Neelam Muizzuddin, PhD, and Rodney Benjamin
Abstract
Methylsulfonylmethane (MSM) is an organosulfur compound that has been shown to be beneficial for joint
health, sports nutrition, and immune function, as well as exerting antiaging effects. It is gaining popularity as a
nutritional supplement for support of the hair, skin, and nails. In this double-blind clinical study, 63 subjects
ingested either 1 g or 3 g of MSM per day. Expert clinical grading and subject self-assessment were used to
evaluate hair and nail condition over 4 months of use. MSM supplementation provided statistically significant
improvements in the condition of the hair and nails as determined by expert grading and subject self-
assessment. The higher concentration (3 g/day) of MSM delivered quicker and stronger benefits, as compared
to the lower concentration (1 g/day). MSM appears to benefit hair and nail health, possibly by its action on
keratin, which is a major building-block for the hair and nails.
Introduction
Hair is composed of 95% keratin, a fibrous, helicoidal protein that is a component of the skin and its
appendages, including the hair and nails. It is synthesized by keratinocytes and is insoluble in water, which
helps to protect the hair and contributes to its impermeability. The hair contains 18 amino acids, including
proline, threonine, leucine, and arginine. Keratin is particularly rich in cysteine. Cysteine is a sulfurated amino
acid that forms disulfide bonds between molecules and thus lends the structure strength and resistance. Aging
and excessive exposure of hair to solar irradiation cause dryness, reduced strength, a rough surface texture,
loss of color, decreased luster, stiffness, brittleness, and an overall dull, unhealthy appearance.1-5
Nails are composed of a protective protein called alpha-keratin, which imparts tough rigidity. Nails get their
strength from 3 linked keratin layers, where oils and moisture cement and lubricate the nail plate. Functionality
results from the nail shape, which mirrors that of the underlying bone. Hair and nails that maintain tight inter-
corneocyte connections are generally not subject to desquamation. However, hair is shed through life-cycle
programming, and nail corneocytes are eroded due to friction and physical activity.
The effect of the diet on aging skin has gained increasing attention over the past few decades6 and studies on
the effects of dietary supplements have confirmed that such supplementation can help to maintain and even
improve skin, hair, and nail condition. In 2007, Jacquet et al7 reported that a dietary supplement containing 100
mg shark cartilage, 1.6 mg vitamin B2, 6 mg vitamin B5, 2 mg vitamin B6, 0.15 mg vitamin B8, and 350 mg fish
oil (omega-3 PUFA) had beneficial effects on the skin, hair, and nails and helped to reduce many signs of
aging. Other studies have demonstrated that the oral intake of minerals like zinc (zinc monohydrate),8-11 B
vitamins,10,12,13 and L-cystine10 has beneficial effects on hair and nails, and 5-alpha-reductase inhibitors are
useful for addressing hair loss.14 While some of these studies demonstrated that oral supplementation can
have a positive effect on hair and/or nails, others showed that a lack of nutrient intake has detrimental effects
on the hair and nail conditions.
Methylsulfonylmethane (MSM) is naturally present in the environment. It is found in plants as well as the milk of
both bovines and humans and may provide a source of sulfur for the essential amino acid methionine.15 Sulfur-
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containing amino acids influence the cellular redox state and the ability to detoxify free radicals, reactive
oxygen species, and toxic substances, thus contributing substantially to the maintenance and integrity of
cellular systems.16 MSM sulfur can be assimilated into methionine and cysteine—both sulfur-containing amino
acids—to provide a source of dietary fiber. MSM has been reported to affect the compartmentalization and
metabolism of sulfur.17 Animal studies with radioactive dimethylsulfone have indicated that over 80% of orally
administered dimethylsulfone is metabolized in rat tissues, while over 10% is incorporated into the body
including hair.18 The distribution of radioactive sulfur in the rat suggests that dimethylsulfone is metabolized to
yield sulfur-containing compounds in the body.18
MSM may donate sulfur to keratin, which could help strengthen the bonds between keratin
molecules in the hair and nails.
When administered orally, MSM is rapidly absorbed, well-distributed, and efficiently excreted from the
body.19,20 In humans, a daily dosage of 3 g of MSM results in a significant increase in blood MSM after just 2
weeks of treatment, with a continued rise in blood MSM after 4 weeks of treatment.21 Plasma concentration of
MSM is directly correlated with MSM intake; there is no difference in this response between men and women.22
The peak concentration is reached within the initial 4 weeks of supplementation, and plasma levels do not
increase further during subsequent treatment.22
MSM is Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS). It is well-tolerated by most individuals at dosages of up to 4 g
daily, with few known and mild side effects.23 It has been reported to be nontoxic.19,24
An increase in levels of glutathione (GSH), superoxide dismutase (SOD), and catalase (CAT) from MSM intake
supports the natural antioxidant pathways of the body.25 MSM reduces levels of homocysteine, which damages
collagen crosslinking.26 While it has also been hypothesized to enhance the production of keratin, a major
building block of hair and nails, the literature contains little information on the efficacy of MSM in this area.
Therefore, a prospective clinical study was designed to examine the effect of oral administration of MSM on the
condition of the hair and nails. In addition, this study sought to identify the best dose for optimum efficacy.
Material and Methods
The study was conducted at a third-party clinical testing facility (International Research Services Inc. (IRSI),
Port Chester, NY) according to IRSI research policies and standard operating procedures, as well as US and
international standards of good clinical practice (US Food and Drug Administration and International
Conference on Harmonization [ICH] guidelines). The study was approved by the Allendale Institutional Review
Board (IRB), and informed consent was obtained from each participant prior to enrollment.
A total of 63 subjects completed the study. The subjects were recruited from the Westchester, NY, area using
the subject database of IRSI. The subjects were all females between 35 and 59 years of age with Fitzpatrick
Skin Type I-IV. They were healthy with no acute or chronic disease or medical condition, including
dermatological problems, that could put them at risk in the opinion of the Principal Investigator or compromise
study outcomes. Subjects who regularly used nutritional supplementation (within the previous 2 weeks) were
excluded. The subjects were not participating in any other clinical studies involving the face. Subjects with a
history of allergic reactions, skin sensitization, and/or known allergies to cosmetic ingredients, toiletries,
sunscreens, etc., were also excluded, as were those who were immunocompromised, on hormone
replacement therapy, or on oral contraception for less than 3 months before the screening visit. Pregnant and
lactating women were excluded. Employees of the testing lab or other testing firms/laboratories, cosmetic or
raw goods manufacturers, or suppliers were excluded.
The regular use of facial products and color-cosmetics for at least 2 weeks prior to study enrollment was
allowed during the study period. In contrast, the use of other systemic or topical medications and treatments
was prohibited during the study.
The panel was divided into 2 groups. Group A (n=31) received a daily dose of 3 g of OptiMSM® 1,000 mg
vegetarian capsules containing 100% MSM in a hydroxypropyl methylcellulose shell (Bergstrom Nutrition,
Vancouver, WA) and Group B (n=32) consumed 1 g a day of the same product. The subjects were instructed to
take the capsules in the morning with or without food for 4 months and to refrain from using any hair or nail
treatment products and from receiving manicures for the course of the study.
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Expert visual grading of hair shine, volume, overall health and split ends was conducted at baseline and at
weeks 4, 8, 12, and 16. This grading scale was created and validated internally by IRSI and used a 1-10 cm
scale where 1 was none and 10 was extreme for each parameter. At each time point, the subjects also
assessed the same parameters via a questionnaire that asked the participants to indicate their level of
agreement with a statement regarding the results on a 5-point scale.
Nails were also visually graded by trained experts using a 1-10 cm scale, where 1 was none and 10 was
extreme for nail shine and overall appearance at baseline and at weeks 2, 4, and 8. At each time point, the
subjects also assessed the condition of their nails via a questionnaire.
Statistical Analysis
Visual assessments were analyzed with descriptive statistics; paired t-test (monadic). Statistical significance
was set at P<0.05, and a statistical trend was set at P<0.01.
Results
Hair
Figure 1 shows the effects of oral administration of MSM on hair condition. With respect to the visual grading of
hair condition (Fig. 1 A-I), there was a statistically significant improvement in hair shine with use of the product.
The high dose of 3 g/day clearly improved hair shine soon after the study began (12% improvement
vs baseline within 4 weeks; P<0.05), and this trend persisted over the course of the study, with highly
significant results after 12 weeks (22.9% improvement; P<0.001) and 16 weeks (29.7% improvement;
P<0.001). The lower dose of 1 g/day also improved hair shine versus baseline—significantly (P<0.05) after 8
weeks and highly significantly after 16 weeks (P<0.001). In the subject self-assessment of hair condition (Fig. 1
A-II), most subjects agreed that supplementation with MSM improved hair shine. Only 1 of the subjects in
Group A disagreed after 4 weeks and 16 weeks. Only 2 of the subjects in Group B disagreed after 4 weeks and
16 weeks.
While visual grading of split ends did not show a change with treatment, most subjects noticed some
improvement with use (Fig. 1 B-II). In Group A, only 4 subjects disagreed after 4 weeks and 1 disagreed after
16 weeks. In Group B, 4 subjects disagreed after 4 weeks and 2 disagreed after 16 weeks.
Both doses of MSM appeared to significantly increase hair volume after 8 weeks of use (P<0.001) (Fig. 1 C-I)
and hair volume continued to improve over the course of the study. The high dose (3 g/day) tended to be much
more effective than the lower dose (1 g/day). Most subjects agreed that the product improved their hair volume
(Fig. 1 C-II).
As shown in Fig. 1 D-I, there appeared to be some improvement in the overall healthy appearance of
hair; however, contrary to previous trends, the lower dose tended to be more effective than the higher dose. As
with the other parameters, most of the subjects agreed that treatment resulted in an overall healthier
appearance (Fig. 1D-II).
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Figure 1. A-I, B-I, C-I, D-I: Hair improvement as assessed by expert visual grading. A-II, B-II, C-II, D-II: Results
of subject self-assessment.
Nails
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Figure 2 shows assessments of nail condition after treatment with MSM. As observed in Fig. 2 A-I, there was a
significant improvement in nail shine within 2 weeks of treatment with MSM at both 1 g/day (P<0.05) and 3
g/day (P<0.001). While the higher dose was more effective than the lower dose, nail shine continued to
improve over the course of the study for both concentrations. Most of the subjects agreed that nail shine
improved with treatment (Fig. 2 A-II), and this beneficial effect was evident sooner with the higher dose.
For both doses, there was a significant improvement in overall nail appearance within 2 weeks of
supplementation (P<0.05) and appearance continued to improve for 8 weeks (P<0.001) (Fig. 2 B-I).
Furthermore, most subjects agreed that their nails appeared to be healthier (Fig. 2 B-II) and stronger (Fig. 2
B-III) with supplementation.
Figure 2. A-I, B-I: Nail improvement as assessed by expert visual grading. A-II, B-II, B-III: Results of subject
self-assessment.
Discussion
Although myriad instruments are available to measure the condition of hair and nails, the ultimate satisfaction
of the consumer depends on palpable changes as perceived through visual observation and subject self-
perception. In this study, participant self-assessment questionnaires indicated overall satisfaction with hair and
nail health. Consistent with previous findings for the skin,27 MSM improved the condition of the hair and nails in
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a dose-related manner. Measurable improvements with 2 assessment tools suggest that MSM
supplementation is beneficial for hair and nail health in this study demographic. The most noticeable effects
were the improvements in hair shine and volume and nail shine. Expert grading revealed a statistically
significant improvement in these parameters for both the 3 g/day and 1 g/day doses. Similarly, the subjects
themselves reported predominantly positive responses.
MSM is a popular dietary supplement that is used for various reasons, including the maintenance of normal
keratin levels in the hair, skin, and nails.28 Keratin provides intra- and intermolecular hydrogen bonds and large
amounts of the sulfur-containing amino acid cysteine required for the disulfide bridges. Extensive disulfide
bonding contributes to the insolubility of keratins and thermally stable crosslinking that imparts significant
strength and rigidity to hair and nail structures. Human hair is approximately 14% cysteine. The amount of
cysteine disulfide keratin determines the strength of the bonds to make hard cells like nails, or softer to make
flexible tissue like hair and skin. The more flexible and elastic keratin of human hair has fewer interchain
disulfide bridges than that in mammalian fingernails. Supplementation with MSM can provide a good source of
sulfur to strengthen these bonds.
Nails can be a barometer of overall health and aging. Like hair, nails undergo changes over time due to
disease, internal processes in the body as it ages, nutritional deficiencies, or external factors like long-term
exposure to chemicals or ultraviolet light. The growth of nails is known to slow with age. In addition, nails
become dull and brittle, and/or yellowed and opaque. Lengthwise ridges may develop, which further
compromise the integrity of the nails.
The nail is a specialized skin appendage. It grows approximately 2 to 3 mm per month and achieves complete
replacement in 6 to 9 months. Most of the nail plate is made of keratin and contains both “hard” keratin (hair-
type) and “soft” keratin (epithelial-type). In addition to these keratins, intermediate filament-associated proteins
that are high in sulfur or tyrosine/glycine moieties and the protein trichohyalin are also expressed throughout
the nail unit.29
Hair-type keratin constitutes 80% to 90% of the nail plate and epithelial-type keratin comprises most of the
remaining 10% to 20%. Its overall sulfur content is approximately 10% by weight. The disulfide bonds of
cysteine in the matrix proteins are known to greatly contribute to nail hardness by holding the keratin fibers
together, thereby contributing to the nail plate tensile strength. Contrary to popular belief, calcium does not
contribute to nail hardness and makes up only 0.2% of the nail plate by weight.30 Although the major
contribution to nail-plate hardness is unclear, it is likely due to both the high concentration of sulfur matrix
protein and the current hydration state.
Numerous options are available for the treatment of brittle nails, including buffing and moisturizing, application
of essential fatty acids, and ingestion of vitamin C, pyridoxine, iron, vitamin D, calcium, amino acids, and
gelatin.13 A nutritional supplement that has been extensively investigated and recently shown promise is biotin,
or vitamin H.31 The present results suggest that MSM could also be a good source of nutrition for nail health.
Conclusion
Under the conditions of this study, oral supplementation with MSM led to significant improvements in the
appearance and condition of hair and nails as evaluated by expert grading and participant self-assessment.
The higher concentration (3 g/day) of MSM seemed to deliver quicker and stronger benefits compared to the
lower concentration (1 g/day). Although the exact mechanism of action is not well understood, it has been
hypothesized that MSM may donate sulfur to keratin, which could help strengthen the bonds between keratin
molecules in the hair and nails.
Conflict of Interest
Rodney Benjamin received funds from the study sponsor (Bergstrom Nutrition) outside the submitted work. In
addition, Benjamin has patents (U.S. Patent 8,217,085 and its foreign counterparts, U.S. Patent 8,546,373, and
U.S. Patent 8,841,100 and its foreign counterparts) licensed to Biogenic Innovations. Neelam Muizzuddin
received funds from Bergstrom Nutrition for helping to draft this manuscript.
Acknowledgment
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The authors thank Robert Frumento and Francis Friscia from International Research Services, Inc., for their
expertise and guidance regarding the clinical work presented in this manuscript.
About the Authors
Neelam Muizzuddin, PhD, operates a consulting company that offers skin clinical research designing, testing,
data mining, and training, as well as preparing manuscripts for publication. Muizzuddin has worked in the
cosmetic industry for over 3 decades as a clinical research scientist. She has extensive expertise in managing
GCP-compliant clinical studies pertaining to safety and efficacy of topical materials and is proficient in using
skin bioengineering instrumentations for skin Muizzuddin Neelam is a serious student of the skin microbiome.
She has several publications as book chapters, patents, and papers in peer-reviewed journals. She is president
of Skin Clinical Research Consultants, LLC, and adjunct professor at SUNY Stony Brook.
Rodney Benjamin has worked extensively with MSM since April 1997. He is currently director of research,
development and client technical services for Bergstrom Nutrition. He holds degrees in both chemistry and
business administration and is the inventor of numerous methylsulfonylmethane patents. He is considered a
subject matter expert on methylsulfonylmethane. He has delivered several interviews and technical
presentations both domestically and internationally.
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... At present, it is used in industries ranging from cosmetics to food supplements; ~85% of all sulfur is used to produce fertilizer (14). A number of studies have elucidated the functions of sulfur in the human body, namely as a component of skin, bones, hair and cartilage tissue (15,16). Sulfur is also essential for enzyme and immune reactions (17,18). ...
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Background: Methylsulfonylmethane (MSM) is an organosulfur compound used as a dietary supplement. We determined the plasma MSM concentration following four months of oral MSM supplementation at escalating dosages. Methods: 45 men and women (25 ± 5 years) participated in this study. Subjects were assigned to ingest either 1, 2, or 3 grams of MSM daily for 16 weeks. Blood was collected at baseline and following weeks 4, 8, 12, and 16 and analyzed for plasma MSM concentration using a LC-MS/MS method. Results: A group (p<0.0001), time (p<0.0001), and group x time (p=0.0005) interaction was noted. Values were higher for the 2 and 3 grams/day group as compared to the 1 gram/day group and were also higher for the 3 grams/day group as compared to the 2 grams/day group (p<0.05). Values at weeks 4, 8, 12, and 16 were higher as compared to baseline (p<0.05) but no differences were noted between weeks 4-16 (p>0.05). With regards to the interaction, at weeks 4, 8, 12, and 16, values were higher for the 3 grams/day group as compared to the 1 gram/ day group (p<0.05). Although a gender effect was noted (p=0.01), with higher overall plasma MSM values in women (1082 ± 1006 μM) as compared to men (845 ± 805 μM), no gender interactions were noted (p>0.05). Conclusion: Both men and women respond to MSM supplementation in a similar manner as related to plasma MSM concentration. A higher dose of supplement results in a greater plasma MSM concentration. Values reach peak concentration within the initial 4 weeks of supplementation and do not increase further during subsequent weeks of treatment.
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Hair loss is a complex problem that generates significant concern for those who are affected. Patients seeking medical treatments have limited options, and are increasingly turning to natural therapies. A novel nutraceutical product containing a proprietary Synergen Complex® composed of standardized, active botanicals with potent anti-inflammatory, adaptogenic (anti-stress), antioxidant, and dihydrotestosterone-inhibiting properties has been developed to improve hair growth and hair quality. The objective of this 6-month randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study was to assess the ability of this oral supplement (Nutrafol® Women's Capsules) to strengthen and promote the growth of hair in adult women with self-perceived thinning. Enrolled subjects were randomized to receive active treatment (n=26) or placebo (n=14). The primary endpoint in this study was a statistically significant increase in the number of terminal and vellus hairs based on phototrichograms obtained through macrophotography analysis. Daily intake of the nutraceutical supplement resulted in a significant increase in the number of terminal and vellus hairs in the target area at day 90 and day 180 vs placebo (P less than 0.009). Blinded Investigator Global Hair Assessments revealed significant improvements in hair growth (P equals 0.016) and overall hair quality (P equals 0.005). A significant percentage of subjects receiving active treatment also reported improvement in hair growth, volume, thickness, and hair growth rate, as well as decreased anxiety and other wellness parameters. There were no reported adverse events. Conclusion: This nutraceutical supplement safely and effectively promoted hair growth in women with self-perceived thinning. It provides a multi-targeted therapeutic approach to hair loss by addressing micro-inflammation, stress, and oxidative damage with clinically tested, standardized, and bio-optimized phytoactive ingredients. ClinicalTrials.gov: NCT03206567 J Drugs Dermatol. 2018;17(5):558-565.
Article
Introduction: Methylsulfonylmethane (MSM) is a commonly used dietary supplement for the alleviation of joint and muscle pain. It is known primarily for its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. While it is believed to have excellent bioavailability, little is known about its serum concentrations following chronic ingestion. Methods: 20 healthy men were supplemented with 3 grams of MSM daily for four weeks. Blood was collected at baseline and after two and four weeks of supplementation. Serum was analyzed for MSM concentration using Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) spectroscopy. Results: All baseline samples but one (0.028 mM) was below the limit of quantification for the NMR assay (0.002 mM). Serum MSM values increased across time (p 0.05). A total of 13 of the 20 men demonstrated higher serum MSM values at week 4 as compared to week 2. and eight of these men demonstrated an increase at week 4 of at least 25% above what was observed at week 2. Conclusions: Serum MSM concentrations increase following oral MSM supplementation, in somewhat of a timedependent manner in selected subjects. The pattern of increase varies somewhat from subject to subject, although all individuals experience an increase of approximately 1-3 mM after 2-4 weeks of supplementation.
Chapter
Shampoos and hair conditioners function primarily at or near the fiber surface. The primary function of shampoos is to remove soils or dirt from the hair surface, however, hair soils are highly varied from oily to particulate and the mechanisms for removal of these different soils also differ. Secondary functions of shampoos are also varied from conditioning the hair to dandruff control. With increasing damage to hair whether by chemical or photochemical reactions or even by abrasion, the hair surface becomes more hydrophilic and more acidic or anionic in character thus changing the affinity for different ingredients. Shampoos are often perceived as products that do not damage the hair; however damage can occur from some shampoos and such damage is described in detail. Different types of tests from laboratory to half head to tests on consumers are employed to evaluate the functionality of shampoos. These tests are described in detail with contrasts and some useful conclusions and insights. The sorption of shampoo and conditioning ingredients to hair including theories of sorption and diffusion are described in detail. Dandruff including scalp flaking, and skin irritation by surfactants is described in the last part of this chapter.
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The role of diet in aging skin is highly controversial with limited available scientific data. There are recommended daily allowances for vitamins and other essential nutrients necessary for the maintenance of health, but these allowances were arrived at by consensus rather than science. These nutritional allowances are set at the minimum required for health, providing little advice as to the optimal nutritional intake for a given age. We now know that the requirements set for vitamin D intake were too low and not properly age adjusted. This contribution examines the role of nutrition, glycation, and oxidation in skin aging.
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The metabolism of dimethylsulfone was quantified for possible medical applications based on the hypothesis that the agent may be metabolized to yield methionine or its metabolites. The 35S-labeled dimethylsulfone and methionine are orally administrated to rat. Over 80% of the administrated dimethylsulfone is metabolized in the rats tissues, and 59.7–79.1% of it is then excreted into the urine as 35S-containing metabolites; 3.5–10.3% of the same remains incorporated in the tissues. The uptake of radioactivity, though different from the quantity of methionine in percentage at the retained site, is observed in the blood, spleen and hair, and over 80% of the administered [35S] dimethylsulfone is excreted the same day. Meanwhile, the distribution of the 35S concentrations of both agents in the rat system suggests that this compound had been metabolized to yield certain sulfur-containing compounds.