Lysine or L-Lysine is an essential amino-acid.
A lysine deficiency is linked to a multitude of health problems; from anemia to hair loss.
One of the main arguments that Lysine is a suitable treatment for hair loss is due to its restorative properties on the hair follicle. Research shows that people with insufficient lysine in their diet might be at risk of hair breakage, reduced hair growth and, ultimately, hair loss.
Blocking 5-alpha Reductase
fewer cases of male pattern baldness in Asians might be due to their diet being rich in L-Lysine
It seems that Lysine is associated with blocking the enzyme 5-alpha reductase — an enzyme which converts testosterone to DHT, which causes male-patterned baldness. Lysine also helps strengthen hair cells due to its role in the absorption of calcium, which has an essential role in creating collagen for hair, skin, or nails.
Rushton et al. (2002) reports that a major cause of hair loss before the age of 50 in women is related to nutrition, which may cause baldness in 30% of women. This is mostly due to the lack of iron combined with low levels of L-lysine and correcting these imbalances may stop excessive hair loss and even regrow hair that has been lost.
One of the studies that spiked interest in using Lysine for hair loss was when researchers (Anwar et al. 1997) observed that male pattern baldness was less common in Asians than Americans. They analysed the standard diets of American men and compared it with the standard diet of Asian men and concluded that the fewer cases of male pattern baldness in Asians might be due to their diet being rich in L-Lysine, which affected 5-alpha-reductase.
Reducing Cortisol (Stress Hormone) Levels
Another way Lysine may be connected with hair loss is by reducing cortisol levels. (Smriga et al.,2007) Many of the people experiencing hair loss, might not be genetically predisposed to it because one of the main causes of hair loss is experiencing stress and anxiety. People who deal with stress badly may have low levels of Lysine and high levels of cortisol, both of which may accelerate hair loss.
A study on males from Japan showed that people can decrease their stress and anxiety by taking L-lysine and L-arginine orally. The supplementation worked by decreasing the levels of salivary cortisol and chromogranin.
People who are experiencing hormonal hair loss have high levels of cortisol. Due to the fact that Lysine appears to lower cortisol there seems to be another link between Lysine levels in the human body and hair loss.
A Clear Link Between Lysine and Hair Growth
Studies on animals showed that lysine may be the key to better hair. Wool follicles and fibres of pre-ruminant lambs that were fed a diet containing little lysine experienced abnormalities such as: incomplete keratinisation, distortion of fibres and partial degradation in the distal parts of the follicles. When the animals were returned on a diet rich in lysine, their hair structure improved rapidly, but abnormalities were still observed in older fibres. (Chapman et al., 1983)
Strong Indications Lysine Prevents Female Hair Loss
subjects receiving treatment experienced a 31% reduction in the amount of hair shed
One of the most important studies on the effects of lysine on hair loss was a double blind and placebo controlled study on 12 women suffering from chronic telogen effluvium. 7 of the women participating in the study received 72 mg of iron and 1.5 g of L-lysine daily for a 6 months treatment while 5 of the women received placebo.
The results showed that the women receiving a treatment of iron and L-lysine had their serum ferritin concentration increased. Also, subjects receiving treatment experienced a 31% reduction in the amount of hair shed compared with a 9% increase in the placebo group (Kantor et al., 2003).
Lysine Lengthens the Hair Growth Stage
Rushton et al. studied 22 women who were given a treatment of 72 mg of iron and 1.5 grams of L-lysine. The women were followed for 6 months and the study showed that the telogen phase of their hair significantly decreased from 19.5% to 11.3%. The telogen phase of the hair is when the hair stops growing, rests and then falls. This phase is significantly longer in people who are experiencing hair loss. The authors concluded that L-lysine and iron supplements seem to correct alopecia that is caused by iron and lysine, especially in the case of women who suddenly suffer from hair loss, and this is sometimes due to a nutrient deficiency caused by hormonal change.
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Lysine for Male Pattern Baldness
There were statistically significant differences between the groups receiving treatment and the placebo group
In a study showing the efficacy of a Complex of 5-Aminolevulinic Acid and Glycyl-Histidyl-Lysine Peptide on male pattern hair loss was conducted on 45 patients. The first group was treated with ALAVAX 100mg, the substance mentioned earlier, the second group was treated with ALAVAX 50mg while the third group received a placebo. The treatment lasted for 6 months and the patients were evaluated with the following results: hair count was 52.6 (p<0.05) in group A, 71.5 (p<0.05) in group B, and 9.6 in group C. There were statistically significant differences between the groups receiving treatment and the placebo group. The authors believe that the results are due to the tripeptidecopper complex glycyl-L-histidyl-L-lysine-Cu2+, which can activate wound healing processes and has anti-inflammatory actions. Together with the 5-aminolevulinic acid (5-ALA) it may be available as treatment for patients with male pattern baldness under the name of ALAVAX. (Lee et al., 2016)
A new topical treatment for androgenetic alopecia was studied in 2013 (Buonocore et al.). The drug is called Crescina and contains a mix of different substances known to prevent hair loss and promote hair growth. Crescina contains cysteine, lysine, a glycoprotein, hydrolysed rice protein, and corosolic acid.
there was a statistically significant increment of the mean anagen rate
The study was performed on male volunteers suffering from alopecia on a Hamilton-Norwood scale of 2 to 4. The participants were divided into a placebo group and a trial group and had to follow a procedure for 4 months: topically apply one vial of product on a clean and dry scalp and concentrate on areas where the thinning was more pronounced. This treatment was to be applied for 5 consecutive days with 2 days break in between the applications for 4 months.
After 4 months the groups were evaluated and there was a statistically significant increment of the mean anagen rate in the group receiving treatment. It was observed in 95.7% at 2 months and in 100% of the subjects at 4 months. In the placebo group the anagen rate was seen in 56.5% at 2 months and 69.6% at 4 months.
Another benefit of the topical treatment was seen in the pull test where hair resistance to traction in the group receiving treatment was 89.5% at 2 months and 100% at 4 months while the placebo group only had 56.6% at 2 months and 78.9% at 4 months improvement of hair resistance to traction.
The authors concluded that Crescina works for promoting hair growth and inhibiting hair loss. The active ingredients in the treatment may be significantly useful in the treatment of hair loss.
The researchers based their ingredients on their effects as follows: the hydrolysed rice protein and corosolic acid were used in the treatment for stem cell and dermal papilla stem cell proliferation while ingredients such as lysine, cysteine and glycoprotein were used for keratinisation, thus, increasing the strength of hair to mechanical and internal damage.
It’s great news that researchers are also studying the nutritional aspects of hair loss and lysine may be the starting point of a whole new approach to alopecia treatment. Although there are studies linking lysine to hair growth, it needs more clinical trials to see how the amino acid can be made more effective.
References and further reading
- Rushton, D. H. (2002), Nutritional factors and hair loss. Clinical and Experimental Dermatology, 27: 396–404. doi:10.1046/j.1365-2230.2002.01076.x
- Anwar R, Gilbey S, New J, et. al. Male pseudohemaphroiditism resulting from a novel mutation in the human steroid 5 alpha-reductase type 2 gene (SRD5A2). Mol Pathol 1997:50:51–52.
- Chapman, R.E., Colebrook, W.F. and Black, J.L. (1983) ‘Influence of dietary lysine content on wool follicle function in pre-ruminant lambs’, The Journal of Agricultural Science, 101(1), pp. 139–145. doi: 10.1017/S0021859600036467.
- Smriga M, Ando T, Akutsu M, Furukawa Y, Miwa K, Morinaga Y.
Biomed Res. 2007 Apr;28(2):85-90. Oral treatment with L-lysine and L-arginine reduces anxiety and basal cortisol levels in healthy humans. Institute of Life Sciences, Ajimoto Co. Inc, 1-1 Suzuki-cho, 210-8681 Kawasaki-ku, Kawasaki-shi, Japan.
- Kantor, J., Kessler, L.J., Brooks, D.G., and Cotsarelis, G. Decreased serum ferritin is associated with alopecia in women. J Invest Dermatol. 2003; 121: 985–988
- Rushton, D. H., Norris, M. J., Dover, R. and Busuttil, N. (2002), Causes of hair loss and the developments in hair rejuvenation. International Journal of Cosmetic Science, 24: 17–23. doi:10.1046/j.0412-5463.2001.00110.x
- Lee WJ, Sim HB, Jang YH, Lee SJ, Kim DW, Yim SH. Efficacy of a Complex of 5-Aminolevulinic Acid and Glycyl-Histidyl-Lysine Peptide on Hair Growth. Ann Dermatol. 2016 Aug;28(4):438-443. https://doi.org/10.5021/ad.2016.28.4.438
- Buonocore, D., Nobile, V., Michelotti, A. et al. Clinical Efficacy of a Cosmetic Treatment by Crescina® Human Follicle Stem Cell on Healthy Males with Androgenetic Alopecia Dermatol Ther (Heidelb) (2013) 3: 53. doi:10.1007/s13555-013-0021-2