What is Methylsulfonylmethane MSM and Does It Help Hair Growth?

Last Updated on July 21, 2021 by Dr. Sanusi Umar, MD

Methylsulfonylmethane (MSM) — also known as dimethyl sulfone, methyl sulfone, and DMSO2 — is a colorless, crystalline substance that is an organic source of biologically active sulfur, exerting a direct physiological effect in the body. Often touted as the “miracle supplement,” it is recommended for inflammatory conditions like arthritis, along with other health applications such as diabetes, chronic pain, TMJ, and migraines.

As a popular health supplement, MSM has also been linked to hair and skin beauty. By supplying sulfur, MSM improves our collagen production for the skin and keratin for the hair. But does this mean that MSM can help hair grow?

MSM is a supplement that can help improve our skin, hair and other health areas.
MSM is a supplement that can help improve our skin, hair, and other health areas.

A Research Study on MSM for Hair Growth versus Drug Delivery

One study wanted to determine if MSM could help another compound called MAP (Magnesium Ascorbyl Phosphate) improve its ability to grow hair [1]. Within their research, the scientists also tested the ability of MSM by itself to grow hair. 

Previous studies have shown that MAP can end the telogen (hair growth resting stage) phase and initiate the active anagen hair growth phase in mice (Sung et al., 2006). It can promote the proliferation of derma papilla cells which regulate hair follicle growth and development. 

What is MSM Used for as a Topical Treatment?

Researchers are looking at MSM to help improve topical skin penetration and drug delivery.
Researchers are looking at MSM to help improve topical skin penetration and drug delivery.

As a derivative of DMOS, the researchers believed that MSM (which has a very similar chemical structure) could also improve the permeability of cells. It was likely that MSM could potentially improve the hair growth performance of MAP as a skin penetration enhancer for drug delivery. 

Testing the Benefits of MSM for Skin Penetration

The researchers performed their experiment on mice with alopecia. They first prepared various concentrations of MAP

  • 2.5%
  • 5%
  • 7.5%
  • 10%

At concentrations higher than 7.5%, they found that hair growth effects plateaued, which is how they determined that 7.5% was the highest concentration needed for improving hair growth.

The researchers also wanted to test various concentrations of MSM, along with the 7.5% MAP. This included:

  • 1%
  • 5%
  • 10%

5-10% MSM was able to produce better hair growth effects compared to MAP 7.55 alone. The researchers. The amount of hair growth achieved was proportionate to the concentration of MSM used. 

In the next phase of the experimentation, the researchers wanted to determine how and why MSM could enhance hair growth. 

Does MSM for Hair Growth Work? 

The scientists first tested the hypothesis that MSM itself worked to enhance hair growth, compounding MAP effects. This was based on the idea that MSM provides sulfur, which creates keratin for the hair fibers. 

The scientists applied 7.5% MSM to the backs of mice with alopecia but did not achieve hair growth. 

The following hypothesis they tested was that MSM works as a skin penetration enhancer by improving the transdermal delivery of MAP to the follicles. When applying higher concentrations of MSM along with the 7.5% MAP, they found that skin penetration decreased instead of improving. This outcome disproved the notion that MSM helps improve hair growth by enhancing the receptivity of the skin.

The final possibility tested by the researchers was that MSM improved the retention of the 7.5% MAP. When measuring the amount of MAP in the skin due to 10% MSM, they found that it had accumulated at an impressive 8.5 ug/cm2, nearly 200 times more than MAP alone. 

The researchers concluded that while MSM does not improve hair growth, it can work in a dose-dependent fashion to enhance the retention of a particular ingredient in the skin, like MAP, to boost its effectiveness. 

How Does Methylsulfonylmethane Help Hair Follicles?

Methylsulfomethane - MSM can help keep our hair follicles healthy by reducing inflammation, a rather common contributor of hair loss
Methylsulfonylmethane helps keep our hair follicles healthy by reducing inflammation, a common contributor to hair loss.

Methylsulfonylmethane (MSM) supplement usage is primarily recommended for treating inflammation. Inflammation is part of our immune system’s response. It is intended to help our tissues heal, following an injury, or provide defense against invaders like viruses and bacteria. 

During an inflammatory reaction, our bodies release cytokine proteins which signal and communicate for other resources (e.g., hormones, nutrients, and immune cells) to aggregate at the site of the trigger to fix the issue. 

But sometimes, these responses are miscalibrated. They may be excessive or present when there is no internal threat. White blood cells may start attacking other cells and tissues, including those of the hair follicles, which causes damage to them. 

MSM treats chronic, low-grade inflammation by inhibiting a protein complex and nuclear factor known as NF-kB, promoting gene expression to produce cytokines, chemokines, and expression molecules. [2] 

MSM also reduces the production of signaling proteins associated with systemic inflammation, such as interleukin 6 (IL-6) and tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-a). [3] 

Within the context of hair follicles, inflammation is often linked to a standard and reversible form of hair loss known as telogen effluvium, which manifests as unwanted thinning and shedding. 

By suppressing excessive inflammatory responses throughout the general physiology, MSM can also contribute to healthier hair follicles.

Methylsulfonylmethane (MSM) Benefits for Oxidative Stress 

 Health articles found online discuss the detrimental effects of oxidative stress, which is often countered with antioxidants. 

Oxidative stress is a leading cause of aging processes in the body which also affect our hair follicles. It is caused by unstable free radical molecules that miss an electron and attempt to regain it by stealing it, so to speak, from nearby cells and tissues, perpetuating a chain reaction. 

MSM supplements are often described to have powerful antioxidant capabilities. However, the compound itself works to aid in the synthesis of glutathione in the liver. As the most critical antioxidant found within our bodies, it is often regarded as an anti-aging nutrient. 

Glutathione requires sulfur [4], a nutrient that MSM can supply. As this antioxidant works to neutralize free radicals within the body, it contributes to our hair follicles health, vitality, and longevity. 

In summary, MSM can improve the delivery of other topical agents that benefit the follicles’ hair-producing functions. However, it will not directly promote hair growth. Instead, MSM can realistically be expected to stave off inflammation and oxidative stress as two critical sources of follicular damage, leading to possible hair loss. 

Oxidative stress due to free radicals has been linked to alopecia. MSM can act as a neutralizer to mitigate this type of damage.
Oxidative stress due to free radicals is linked to alopecia. MSM can act as a neutralizer to mitigate this type of damage.

Common MSM Side Effects

MSM is generally considered to be safe. However, there have not yet been any long-term studies on the effects of high doses. Possible side effects may include fatigue, nausea, diarrhea, insomnia, headaches, concentration difficulties, skin reactions, or swelling in the feet or ankles. 

It is essential to ask your doctor if it is safe to take MSM if you are pregnant or breastfeeding. Other conditions to inquire about with a physician include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, prostate cancer, asthma, allergies, bleeding, or blood clotting disorders like hemophilia. 

Safety Profile

The Environmental Working Group scores methylsulfonylmethane a 1 (green), meaning this ingredient shows minor safety concerns. Its reports on MSM include:

  • Not an environmental toxin
  • Shows no potential of harm for organ systems
  • Not suspected to be persistent or bioaccumulative

Hair Growth Product Containing Methylsulfonylmethane (MSM)

Dr.UGro Gashee hair products support your hair growth journey by boosting results while improving your hair health. These products are created through a combination of botanical ingredients, including methylsulfonylmethane. They are designed by Dr. Sanusi Umar, a board-certified dermatologist and hair transplant specialist, through an innovative cold-formulation process to minimize hair damage.

A 2021 study tested the effects of Gashee products on patients experiencing extreme hair loss. The study presented three hair products — a hair lotion, pomade, and supplement — to combat the balding patterns. According to the research, the plant-based ingredients helped all patients have drastic hair growth improvements.

Methylsulfonylmethane is an ingredient in all Gashee products.
Methylsulfonylmethane is an ingredient in all Gashee products.

VIDEO: Gashee User Shares Hair Growth Experience

Watch the video below to hear from a real Gashee user about his experience.

 


Frequently Asked Question – What is MSM? 

How is MSM derived?

MSM can be synthetically in lab settings, and the most commercially available MSM in the food and pharmaceutical industry is synthesis. Exact synthesis methods result in bio-identical MSM that is the same in every practical sense as the naturally occurring.  Likewise, MSM can also be derived from natural plant sources such as

  • Tomatoes
  • Alfalfa sprouts
  • Coffee beans
  • Legumes
  • Apples
  • Raspberries
  • Swiss chard

The starting point of MSM is sulfate in the ocean, which is taken up by algae, phytoplankton, and other marine micro-organisms. It turns into various compounds before it is released into the atmosphere. Eventually, MSM is formed and descends into the earth’s soil through rain and precipitation. Plants then absorb the MSM allowing the nutrient to become available through food sources. 

Can MSM supplements improve the texture and softness of the hair? 

As the third most abundant mineral in the body, sulfur is undoubtedly crucial for our health and well-being. MSM is an excellent source of organic sulfur to create keratin which is needed for typical hair structures.  However, dryness and brittleness of the hair are mainly due to moisture loss which can be attributed to age and UV radiation from the sun. The sulfur provided by MSM can help the hair’s general state of health, a benefit that is highlighted by some oral and topical hair product lines. But there are no known studies that link sulfur deficiencies to changes in hair texture.  


References

  1. S. Shanmugan et al., The Effect of Methylsulfonylmethane on Hair Growth Promotion of Magnesium Ascorbyl Phosphate for the Treatment of Alopecia, Biomolecules and Therapeutics, 17(3), 241-248 (2009)
  2. T.Lawrence, The Nuclear Factor NF-kB Pathway in Inflammation, Cold Spring Harb Perspect Biol. 2009 Dec; 1(6): a001651
  3. Ahn. H et.al., Methysulfonylmethane inhiibits NLRP3 inflammasome activation, Cytokine 2015 Feb; 71(2):223-31.doi: 10.1016/j.cyto.2014.11.001. Epub 2014 Nov 21.
  4.  Grimble RF1. The effects of sulfur amino acid intake on immune function in humans. J Nutr. 2006 Jun;136(6 Suppl):1660S-1665S. DOI: 10.1093/Jn/136.6.1660S.
  5. Sanusi Umar, Marissa J. Carter, “A Multimodal Hair-Loss Treatment Strategy Using a New Topical Phytoactive Formulation: A Report of Five Cases“, Case Reports in Dermatological Medicine, vol. 2021, Article ID 6659943, 12 pages.

Further Reading

Discover how a corn-derived compound can improve your hair’s softness and shine

Learn more about how olive leaf extract can help hair loss

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