On how to treat thinning hair.
I had the great opportunity to interview Dr. Sophia Kogan, an MD who specializes on integrative hair health and an expert on the effects of botanicals, nutrition and stress on follicle biology. If you are experiencing thinning hair or trying to re-grow your hair, please read my Q&A with Dr. Sophia Kogan, Co-founder and Chief Medical Advisor of Nutrafol, who at one point also suffered thinning hair.
BL: What is Nutrafol?
Dr. Sophia Kogan: First and foremost, I consider our company a research company dedicated to furthering science and innovation in integrative hair health. We are also a leading nutraceutical brand offering 100% drug-free products for men and women, that have been clinically shown to improve hair growth and quality, and have helped so many customers when it comes to hair loss and hair health in general. My business partners Roland, Giorgos and I came together from a personal need, with our individual hair loss challenges, but with one mission – to find an alternative that is natural, effective and healthy, and most importantly to make an impact. I lost a lot of hair due to stress and poor diet during my medical training, while Giorgos suffered from sexual side effects from a popular medication he was taking for hair loss and Roland was trying to recover his hair health after a battle with cancer and autoimmune disease. From my perspective, I was also finding how devastating hair loss could be especially for women, though very infrequently talked about, and likewise how few solutions were available for us. Since our inception, we published several peer review articles and a clinical study with key leaders in dermatology, furthering research and understanding of hair health issues as a product of multiple factors that include inflammation, stress hormones, environmental assaults, aging and not just genes. Personally, I am also proud of our company for furthering conversation and research amongst the western medical community on the use of botanicals such as stress adaptogens for hair health, bridging the gap between eastern and western medicine (not sure this is needed as it’s another layer of messaging and we have so many already). Our mission is to continue to this thought leadership through further educational programs and partnerships with physicians.
Nutrafol is pioneering a new category in hair, going beyond hair growth, hair nutrition and hair loss into a comprehensive whole-body approach to hair wellness from within. Our comprehensive approach to hair wellness is rooted in our understanding that different imbalances in the body impede hair growth and cause hair loss, and this holistic approach has allowed us to create products that not only help correct these imbalances, but do so in a safe (reco “healthy”, safe is risky) way. We do this through the use of standardized, bio-optimized and clinically tested nutraceutical botanicals. Our formulations are rooted in science and have shown clinical efficacy in rigorous trials.
As research evolves, so do we. We also understand that we are all beautifully unique and research shows that some people may need a little extra support in one area, while others in another. With the introduction of Nutrafol’s new GrowthPlan™, we brought to market the first tools for personalizing each individual’s hair regimen for optimal hair wellness. It offers a proprietary algorithmic Hair Wellness Evaluation, Hair Mineral Analyses and one-on-one consultations with hair wellness specialists (“experts” for consistency) that help determine the (remove, legal risk) root causes of a customer’s compromised hair health and build out a selection of recommended ( reco “personalized” for consistency) products, unique to each individual’s hair health needs. Nutrafol’s dedicated team of scientists, researchers and doctors developed seven new Targeted Booster formulas that work in concert with (legal risk, reco “are perfect complements to”) the Core formulas, to provide extra support where and if it’s needed.
Nutrafol offers two subscription options: The Core nutraceutical treatment (Women’s, Men’s and Women’s Core Plus), and a unique, personalized GrowthPlan® for optimal performance.
I am proud of where we’ve come as a company, filling a very important gap and demand from patients and customers for natural/safe alternatives. It warms my heart when we receive letters from our customers thanking us for giving them hope, helping them feel better and improving their confidence along with their hair. In that way, I feel that our impact goes well beyond external appearance – it’s a conversation that spans health, wellness, confidence and wellbeing.
BL: If it is not a drug for hair growth, then is it a vitamin?
Dr. Sophia Kogan: Well that’s precisely the difference between Nutrafol and other natural offerings for hair on the market. Although Nutrafol contains vitamins, I don’t like to call it a vitamin as it’s really a nutraceutical supplement, made with medical-grade botanical nutraceuticals that target the underlying causes of poor hair health. Our mission was to create something that was 100% drug-free and both safe (healthy) and clinically effective, and thus we use standardized, bio-optimized and clinically tested nutraceutical botanicals. Vitamins and minerals (like biotin and zinc) risk to make comparisons (where is this being published?), as well as just collagen alone mainly contribute to hair through replenishing nutritional building blocks, meanwhile poor hair health and hair thinning are caused by a number of other factors, including inflammation, stress, aging, environmental assaults, hormonal imbalances, genetic predisposition and more. Just giving nutritional support in the form of vitamins may help someone who is nutritionally compromised, but most of us have many other causes. In other words, providing vitamins alone to a hair follicle without the medical-grade botanicals is like watering a plant that’s in sick soil. It may grow a bit but won’t flourish unless the environment at the roots is addressed, optimized and healed (risky if we are implying our product heals). Only then, will the nutrients be fully (too strong, “better”?) absorbed. That’s the difference with using standardized clinically studied botanicals – they address the multiple causes: inflammation, the hormone cortisol from psycho-emotional stress, hormonal imbalances (e.g. DHT), aging, oxidative damage and more. While the additional vitamins, minerals and collagen provide the nutrients in Nutrafol Core formulations.
More recently, we introduced the Growth Plan® to account for biochemical individuality of each customer- allowing us to personalize and expand our approach to hair wellness system-wide. The Growth Plan® includes an algorithmic Hair Wellness Evaluation, one-on-one consultations with hair health specialists and a range of new Targeted Booster recommendations, that may warrant to be taken together with core, based on customers’ unique needs.
BL: It is effective for both men and women, of all different age groups?
Dr. Sophia Kogan: Yes! Nutrafol is effective for both adult men and women, and specifically to different age groups. From four years of market, thousands of customers, physician cases and clinical research – the efficacy of core Men’s and Women’s formulations speak for themselves. Although in both men and women hair thinning is due to a combination of factors, we knew from the beginning that the two genders require distinct unique formulations. The reason is that certain factors play a greater role in women vs men and vice versa. In men for instance, hair thinning is more related to the hormone DHT and genetic predisposition to it, while in women stress and environmental factors often play a greater role. So the formulations are tailored accordingly with different fractions of specific ingredients like botanical DHT-blockers, stress adaptogens, anti-inflammatories and more.
Further, through the last two years of updated research we found that specific groups like older women who are close to or entering menopause have different needs when it comes to hair health, and thus we introduced a new product called the Core for Women Plus, with ingredients clinically shown to improve hair growth. This formulation is optimized (“solution was specifically formulated”) for this group and has two new nutraceuticals that specifically address hormonal changes during this important transition of a woman’s life, as well as ingredients that target additional oxidative stress that comes with age. Understanding that hair health is influenced by many different factors through our lifetime was key in our functionality as a brand, eventually steering us in the direction of personalization.
Our unique life exposures, biochemical individuality, our genetic predispositions – cumulatively impact our systems as they relate to hair health, calling for a unique approach that goes beyond considering just gender and age. The new GrowthPlan® which encompasses one of the three core formulations (based gender and age) along with the new supportive targeted boosters does just that.
Please note that our products have not yet been tested for safety in pregnant and nursing women, and are not recommended for people under 18.
BL: How soon can a person see results?
Dr. Sophia Kogan: Results always depend on the particular person, however, the sooner one starts from a preventative stand point, the better. A startling statistic: 50% of follicles have to be affected before one notices hair thinning with their naked eye! As hair loss and declining hair health are progressive with age, there may be follicles that are in different stages – some that are sleepy, others that are no longer viable. The goals for each may be different- for some it’s preventative, for others it’s restorative, for some it’s to improve growth and quality overall, and for others it may be really just holding on to the follicles that are still viable while letting go of the ones that are not. Therefore, success can be measured in different ways – a decrease in shedding (can’t talk about shedding as we cannot support) may be the first signs, improvement in quality and health, etc. To see growth however, it’s important to give hair enough time as it cycles slowly. We recommend taking Nutrafol for at least 6 months and beyond based on our clinical trials, though we also saw initial clinical improvement at 3 months, as also reported by many of our customers. Bottom line is, no matter what stage and what age, addressing the causes of poor hair health and hair loss during all times is important and from this perspective Nutrafol and the newGrowthPlan® is built to support that journey.