We put our hair through a lot in the name of style: We straighten it, we curl it, we bleach it, we color it precious pink — or, for a little extra pop, we may even dye it every shade of the rainbow. And then we look for ways to make our hair stronger, longer, and lusher, so we can do it all again.
Enter products like SugarBearHair, the Tiffany blue gummy vitamins touted on Instagram by Kardashian/Jenner sisters Kylie, Khloé, and Kim as an “amazing” and “delicious” way to solve your hair woes. The adorable, chewable bear vitamins are marketed as a one-stop supplement shop for longer, stronger, and shinier locks. Packed with 13 active natural vitamins and minerals, the gummies, described as “cute and sweet,” promise to be “so easy and enjoyable to eat that you’ll look forward to taking them every day.”
But do they work and are they worth the $30-a-month price tag? Not necessarily, say experts.
“What’s good for your body is good for your skin and hair, so really being optimized on all your nutrients by maintaining a good, healthy well-balanced diet is most important,” says Mary Gail Mercurio, MD, professor of dermatology and of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Rochester Medical Center. “Hair vitamins are all a very similar combination of ingredients, and then some companies will throw in a special vitamin without any particular evidence that they’re of any relevance.”
Dermatologist Nicole Rogers, MD, who is in private practice at Hair Restoration of the South and a member of the volunteer faculty at the Tulane University School of Medicine, agrees. “Why can’t you just take a multivitamin? Everything that’s in it does what’s in a multivitamin, and the reality is that we don’t have a lot of data supplementing the high dose of [many of these specific ingredients] for hair.”
Not to mention that the gummy vitamins are, well, gummies. “It’s a well-rounded supplement, but the way that it’s made adds in a ton of sugar and artificial coloring,” NAO Nutrition founder Nikki Ostrower tells Yahoo Beauty. “We know that they contain the vitamins A, C, D, etc., but the ingredients that actually make it a gummy are so toxic that it doesn’t matter what’s actually in the supplement; you might as well eat a gummy bear.”
What’s in the tasty blue treats, exactly? The company lists vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin D, vitamin E, vitamin B-6, folic acid, vitamin B-12, biotin, pantothenic acid, iodine, zinc, choline, and inositol as their active vitamins and minerals, and their bubble-gum-pink-and-blue website dedicates a page to touting their individual benefits. But according to independent testing done by Labdoor, a San Francisco-based lab that tests and grades dietary supplements, and reported by BuzzFeed, the listed amount of each vitamin and mineral contained in the gummies was inaccurate by 20 percent or more. Oh, and they also found that the gummies contained “relatively high” levels of lead compared to other hair supplements that the lab had previously investigated. (Mmmm, lead.)
What’s missing from the supplements? Protein and iron.
When it comes to your diet and the health of your hair, “the main thing is getting enough calories,” says Rogers. “I know that sounds a little oversimplified, but the patients who will come in and have an acute onset of shedding are patients who are on a strict crash diet. If they’re not getting enough protein, in particular, it can really affect their hair.”
While there are many factors involved in hair growth, from genetics to diet to drugs to illness, studies have shown vitamin D, iron, and zinc have helped those suffering from temporary hair shedding, Rogers explained. But while SugarBearHair gummies do contain both vitamin D and zinc, iron is nowhere to be found among their ingredients; for that, you’d have to pair the gummies with a side dish of healthy greens, like kale and spinach.
Many of the ingredients contained in the gummy vitamins do have the potential to benefit hair health, however. “The B vitamins are huge with hair growth and regeneration,” says Ostrower. SugarBearHair supplements specifically contain vitamins B-6, B-9 (a.k.a. folic acid), B-12, and B-5 (a.k.a. pantothenic acid), which are known to help maintain a healthy metabolism, liver function, and the formation of red blood cells, all of which can ultimately help the health of hair follicles and thus help in the growth of healthier hair.
Then we have vitamins A, C, and E, all of which are antioxidants known to benefit your scalp, skin, and hair, explains Ostrower. Vitamin C, in particular, is helpful for collagen synthesis, while vitamin E helps prevent sun damage and speeds up cell regeneration. But, warns Rogers, too much vitamin A, which is typically associated with eye health, has actually been linked with hair loss.
Then, of course, we have biotin, a.k.a. vitamin H, for hair. “It’s a rare patient who doesn’t start biotin on their own,” Mercurio tells Yahoo Beauty. “I find it to work best where there is hair breakage, not so much where there is a hair cycling issue.”
How does it work, exactly? Biotin helps with metabolic nerves and heart function and aids in the metabolism of fatty acids, proteins, and sugar, explains Ostrower. “Your hair is made up of proteins, thus [anything that helps in the] digestion of healthy fats and proteins also helps to keep your hair nice and shiny.” But be warned: biotin is water soluble, meaning that anything you don’t need is just going to get peed out. According to Rogers, we only need about 100 micrograms of biotin a day; according to their nutrition label, SugarBearHair gummies contain a whopping 5,000 micrograms of the stuff.
Ultimately, brands like SugarBearHair can “easily build a platform around ingredients, but that is not the same thing as doing a clinical study and really looking at the impact of these combined ingredients in patients who have hair problems,” says Patricia Farris, MD, a clinical associate professor at the Tulane University School of Medicine. “Hair is just a sign of what’s going on on the inside.”
“It’s all about maintaining balance,” agrees Ostrower. “If you’re eating a well-rounded diet filled with mostly clean, unprocessed protein, fruit, vegetables, healthy fats and healthy grains, then you’re going to get exactly what you need in order to have the most luscious hair. Then, you won’t necessarily need to take a supplement.”
Yahoo Beauty reached out to SugarBearHair for comment but did not hear back.