Young man with nice hair in front of saw palmetto

What Does Saw Palmetto Do for Your Hair?

Published: November 2021 | Updated: November 2021

Saw palmetto is an herbal extract that many men may already be familiar with; it's the main ingredient in prostate supplements. Maintaining normal urinary patterns is important to men as they age—but, it's not their only concern; many also worry about keeping that full head of hair.

Fortunately, some new research suggests that the same nutrient that supports prostate health may help men (and women, too!) maintain youthful, healthy tresses long into their golden years.

What is saw palmetto?

Man in mirron considering saw palmetto for maintaining hair

Saw palmetto is an herb that comes from a small, fan-shaped plant called Serenoa repens, which you'll find all over the southeastern United States. Its cholesterol-like-compounds (such as beta-sitosterol, which functions as a structural component to the cell membranes in plants) serve a purpose in humans as well.

The health benefits of saw palmetto really do make it man's best friend and a top supplement choice: in addition to promoting urinary and prostate health, it also may support healthy testosterone levels. Saw palmetto also contains antioxidants that promote a healthy inflammatory response.

What are the benefits of saw palmetto for hair?

Four stages of normal hair growth cycle

To describe the hair benefits of saw palmetto you first must understand how the hair growth cycle works. There are four phases:

  • Anagen

    : The growth phase, which can last for many years.
  • Catagen

    : When the hair becomes unattached from the root of the hair follicle.
  • Telogen

    : This is the resting phase, in which the hair follicle lies dormant for a few months.
  • Exogen

    : Next comes the shedding phase, when hairs fall out—after which the anagen phase restarts with a new hair.

But sometimes these phases don't happen like clockwork. The anagen or growth phase can get shorter, while the telogen phase or resting phase can get longer. If you want to keep your hair healthy and youthful looking, you can't let that growth phase take too long of a break. Research shows that saw palmetto can support healthy levels of the hormone dihydrotestosterone (DHT), the hormone involved in the exogen phase—so, your hair growth cycle won't "slack off" for too long.

Put simply, saw palmetto is like a parent that provides space for its kids (our head hair) to grow up, but also kicks them out of bed when they're sleeping in too late!

Testosterone and hair growth: What is the connection?

Man thinking about testosterone, DHT and hair growth

Why does hair get a little "sleepy" during the growth phase? It may be due to levels of DHT, a derivative of testosterone that is created when an enzyme called 5-alpha reductase acts upon it. Saw palmetto helps inhibit levels of 5-alpha reductase, which can in turn promote healthy DHT levels. As a result, you can end up with longer hair growth phases (anagen) and shorter hair resting (telogen) phases.

DHT blood testing is a great way to check in on your levels of this type of testosterone—conveniently, it also will let you know how your prostate is functioning.

Q & A: Saw palmetto supplements

Q: How much saw palmetto should I take to maintain my hair growth?

A: Research suggests that a dose of 320 mg of saw palmetto is ideal for maintaining a full head of hair. This can be taken all at once or divided up in the morning and evening.

Q: How long does saw palmetto take to work?

A: The earliest benefits could be seen at 10 weeks, but results should be monitored over the course of 25 weeks.

Q: Is saw palmetto safe?

A: Yes, it is! A review of scientific research finds that saw palmetto is well tolerated and has a high safety threshold. It's important to speak to your primary care physician about any concerns you might have, though.

Q: Who should not take saw palmetto?

A: Saw palmetto is generally safe for everyone.

Q. Can women take saw palmetto?

A. Anyone who wants to maintain a healthy hair growth cycle can take saw palmetto, including women.

Q. Are there other benefits of saw palmetto supplements?

A. Yes! In fact, saw palmetto is most well-known for its ability to support sexual, urinary and prostate health. Impressively, a study found that 320 mg of saw palmetto daily helped maintain a prostate health score of elderly men by 52% and a sexual health score by 40%.

Saw palmetto: Topical vs oral supplements

Man rinsing hair in shower after using saw palmetto shampoo

Should you take saw palmetto supplement, or apply it to your hair directly? Oral saw palmetto was shown in a small randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial to have an improvement in head hair quality in 60% of the trial participants over the course of 25 weeks—in addition to other benefits to men's health. Looking at hair health alone, topical application had even more impressive results: in a study on men, there was a 74.1% increase in thick, long head hair at 24 weeks. But, there weren't any other health benefits found in this study.

References

By: Chancellor Faloon, Health & Wellness Author

Chancellor Faloon is a graduate of Florida State University with a bachelor’s degree in Biological Sciences. He is dedicated to disseminating guidance on achieving better health and wellness. He has had various roles in the company, but scientific writing has always been his top priority. Chance has also raced in multiple full and half marathons.

Scientifically Reviewed By: Michael A. Smith, MD