Selenium is a trace element that the human body requires in order to regulate antioxidants, thyroid hormones, and also has a link to human hair and bones (Masumoto et al., 2007).
The exact role that Selenium plays in hair growth has yet to be fully understood, but it seems to be linked to its role in the production and regulation of antioxidants in the hair (Hwang et al., 2011).
Selenium deficiency has been proven to cause a number of symptoms in both human infants and adults, including, but not limited to alopecia and hair loss.
The most common sufferers of selenium deficiency are people with eating disorders, people who are on long-term nutritional support (Masumoto et. al, 2007, p. 783) and people who live in areas with inadequate selenium in the soil (White et al., 2005).
In the study “Clinical features of selenium deficiency in infants receiving long term nutritional support” by Masumoto et al., it was found that alopecia in Selenium deficient infants improved after selenium supplementation by doctors (2007, p.785), thus lending credence to the idea that in Selenium deficient people, Selenium supplements could aid in hair-growth.
Another study found that in cashmere goats, maternal and dietary selenium promoted improved hair growth and skin development in the fetuses, leading to an increase in their cashmere production after birth. (Wu et al., 2011, p. 275).
Selenium has also been shown to act as a counteragent to fluorine-induced apoptosis (programmed cell death) in hair follicles (Tu, Yang, Xing, Xue, & Liu, 2007). More research needs to be done on whether topical applications of Selenium in hair deficient patients would be effective, or if only dietary Selenium has effects on hair growth.
One should take caution and consult a doctor before adding selenium supplements into their diet for hair growth, as there are negative effects to selenium excess in the diet, including alopecia, memory difficulties, dystrophic fingernail changes, and GI (gastrointestinal) tract dysfunction. There has not been evidence that selenium excess can be fatal. (Aldosary, Sutter, Schwartz, & Morgan, 2012, p. 57).
The levels of Selenium in the body must be balanced carefully, as hair loss can occur at both ends of Selenium intake. More studies need to be done on what the perfect balance of Selenium in the diet is, as there have been recent studies showing that country of origin and genetic adaptations could impact the level of Selenium needed by an individual (White et al., 2015).
- Hwang, S. W., Lee, H. J., Suh, K. S., Kim, S. T., Park, S. W., Hur, D. Y., . . . Sung, H. S. (2011). Changes in murine hair with dietary selenium excess or deficiency. Experimental Dermatology, 20(4), 367-369. doi:10.1111/j.1600-0625.2010.01207.x
- Masumoto, K., Nagata, K., Higashi, M., Nakatsuji, T., Uesugi, T., Takahashi, Y., . . . Taguchi, T. (2007). Clinical features of selenium deficiency in infants receiving long-term nutritional support. Nutrition, 23(11-12), 782-787. doi:10.1016/j.nut.2007.08.001
- Tu, J., Yang, Z., Xing, Z., Xue, Y., & Liu, X. (2007). Apoptotic study on the effect of fluorine and selenium on the human hair follicle in vitro [Abstract]. Zhonghua Zheng Xing Wai Ke Za Zhi,59-61. Retrieved June 15, 2015, from www.pubmed.gov.
- White, L., Romagne, F., Muller, E., Erlebach, E., Weihmann, A., Parra, G., . . . Castellano, S. (2015). Genetic Adaptation to Levels of Dietary Selenium in Recent Human History.Molecular Biology and Evolution. doi:10.1093/molbev/msv043
- Wu, X., Yao, J., Yang, Z., Yue, W., Ren, Y., Zhang, C., . . . Shi, L. (2011). Improved fetal hair follicle development by maternal supplement of selenium at nano size (Nano-Se). Livestock Science, 142(1-3), 270-275. doi:10.1016/j.livsci.2011.08.005