A heady mix of social media and celebrities are being used to shill hair loss supplements of extremely dubious value, and some threat. We look closer.
The Supplement Industry
It was an industry born in that most optimistic of decades. In the 1960’s Linus Pauling, at one time hailed as America’s greatest young scientist, received a letter. It came from a man, who it turned out had spent just two years studying chemistry at college, suggesting to Pauling that if he took vitamin C every day it would add 25 years to his life, maybe more. At the age of 65 you can see why Pauling was willing to forgo his usual scientific rigour and give it a go.
So convinced was Pauling of the positive effects of his daily dose of vitamin C that would become responsible, in 1970, for a book titled “Vitamin C and the Common Cold” – in it he claimed that it was possible to eradicate the common cold. It became a best-seller and set the scene for the enormous global supplement market we see today, projected to become worth $220 billion by 2023.
Ironically, at least 15 major studies since Pauling published his book have not only not been able to support his theory with evidence, they have actually
A Bizarre Blend
More recently we have seen the advent of supplements aimed at hair. Their spectacular growth has been entirely down to their modern marketing techniques which see celebrities like the ubiquitos Kim Kardashian, who started out promoting “Hairfinity vitamins” before trading to support Sugarbear Hair gummies, marketed as candy that saves your hair. While Kardashian was criticized for failing to tell that she was paid by the company those little chewy sweets now have 2 million followers. That is despite Buzzfeed reporting that independent analysis of Sugarbears found that the ingredient amounts differed by up to 20% to what was on the label, as well as 70% more biotin… compare the recommended daily amount of 30 to 100 micrograms to the 5,000 contained in the sweets and ponder on just how pointless that is… especially as biotin deficiency is actually very rare. Oh, and they also found small amounts of lead. Lead. In a candy. Quite takes your breath away doesn’t it?
Owners of other hair supplement manufacturers tell that they deliberately produce packaging and product designed to be visually shareable. Indeed, one large brand raised $5M of funding with one investor crediting their strength on social media as a major factor.
HIS Hair Clinic
First we must thank Vox.com for running this story in an excellent article by Cheryl Wischover, read it here, you really should. It seems we have moved away from efficacy being the way you sell a treatment, it’s all about the sparkle. Dubious claims made for even more dubious products. One article in the Atlantic points at no less than eight studies which had shown vitamins increase the risk of cancer and heart disease and shorten lives. You can read the article by clicking here.
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