Lysine: What is the role for hair loss?
L-lysine (or “lysine”) is a supplement commonly found in health food stores. Lysine is classified as an amino acid. Lysine is found in many sources including meat, fish and eggs. Strangely enough, it is one of the more difficult amino acids to get through dietary means, especially in those individuals who do not consume these products. L-lysine plays an important role in how iron and zinc get absorbed bythe body and lysine may have a role in helping hair stay in the growing phase and become less likely to shed.
Basic knowledge of lysine is important for hair specialists.
There is actually not alot of information about lysine in the medical literature. However, one should be aware of studies in 2002 by D.H. Rushton. Rushton showed that l-lysine could help increase iron and zinc levels and could help some people slightly reduce their hair shedding. Not surprisingly, I often recommend lysine in 2 situations: 1) for patients with low iron or zinc that won’t increase after 4 months of iron or zinc supplements and 2) patients with telogen effluvium that won’t improve after 4 months attempting to correct the “trigger” thought to be causing the TE in the first place.
Rushton’s studies were small in size but nevertheless important. Rushton reported 14 zinc deficient women who used L-lysine at doses 1000-1500 mg daily. This use was associated with an increase in zinc levels from 9.7 to 14.6 umol/L even without these women consuming a single zinc pill. With respect to iron levels and iron absorption, Rushton showed that iron pills (100 mg per day) in 7 women with chronic telogen effluvium (“CTE”) did not change ferritin levels at all. However, when combined with L-lysine (again at doses ranging from 1000-1500 mg per day), ferritin levels increased from 27.4 to 58.6 ug/L. This increase in ferritin was associated with the proportion of hairs in the so called telogen phase (the shedding phase) to decrease from 19.5 to 11.3 per cent.
If I do recommend L-lysine, the dosing in our clinic is typically 500 mg twice daily, and rarely three times daily for short periods.
DH Rushton. Nutritional factors in hair loss. Clin Exp Dermatol 2002
Dr. Jeff Donovan is a Canadian and US board certified dermatologist specializing exclusively in hair loss. To schedule a consultation, please call the Whistler office at 604.283.1887