It’s a little known fact that bald men have higher levels of fibrosis in their scalps. And taurine, an amino sulphonic acid found in animal tissues, has been shown to prevent and reduce fibrosis. In this article, we’ll look at the evidence for taurine as a hair loss treatment, including a trial that claims it is more effective than FDA approved hair loss drug Propecia.
Fibrosis as an overlooked factor in pattern hair loss
Taurine is an organic chemical found in meat and fish. It’s also used as an ingredient in energy drinks.
While not an amino acid as strictly defined, taurine is very similar and is essential for a wide range of processes in the body. It’s vital for cardiovascular function and development of the central nervous system. It’s also an antioxidant.
But the reason taurine may be an effective treatment for hair loss is that evidence suggests it can reduce fibrosis.
Fibrosis is an excess of collagen – the structural protein used to make skin and connective tissue. The various forms of fibrosis range from the ordinary, such as scar tissue, to life threatening conditions such as cystic fibrosis.
And fibrosis appears to be implicated in pattern hair loss too. This study found that bald men had four times as many collagen bundles (fibrosis) in their scalps compared to non-bald controls:
“It was found that collagen bundles were significantly increased in balding vertexes than in non-balding occiput scalp skin. A near 4-fold increase in elastic fibers was observed in both vertex and occiput scalp skins with MPHL versus controls.”
This link appears to be more than coincidence, too. Scleroderma is a rare condition where an excess of collagen builds up in the skin. It can occur anywhere in the body but when it occurs in the scalp one of the first symptoms is, you guessed it, hair loss.
And have you ever noticed how bald mens scalps tend to look hard, tight, and shiny? This is very similar to skin affected by scleroderma.
Finally, anyone who’s ever been cut deeply enough to leave a scar will know that hair no longer grows in the scarred area.
Now I know this appears to be at odds with the commonly accepted view that dihydrotestosterone (DHT) causes hair loss. But there are a number of glaring issues with this simplistic explanation. DHT is clearly implicated somehow – otherwise drugs like finasteride and dutasteride wouldn’t work – but DHT doesn’t explain why hair is lost from the top of the scalp only or why bald men have more collagen in their scalps.
If you’re still not convinced, check out this article on the links between collagen, fibrosis, and hair loss.
Taurine prevents fibrosis
So, if fibrosis of the scalp contributes to the development of baldness, reducing it should prevent hair loss from progressing. This is where taurine comes in.
As mentioned earlier, fibrosis is implicated in a lot of illnesses and health conditions. And taurine has been studied as a potential treatment for many of them.
In this study on rats, for example, taurine was found to prevent fibrosis of the liver as a result of alcohol consumption. The same effect was seen in this study and this study as well. Similar studies also report that taurine reduces fibrosis of the lungs as well1,2.
There’s also evidence that taurine can reduce the risk of heart disease:
“There is a wealth of experimental information and some clinical evidence available in the literature suggesting that taurine could be of benefit in cardiovascular disease of different etiologies.”
If you’ve read our article on hair loss and heart disease, you’ll know that bald men are up to 36% more likely to suffer a cardiac event compared to men with a full head of hair. So, even if you’re on the fence about taurine for hair loss, it may still be worth considering.
So how does it work? It appears that taurine reduces both inflammation and the fibrotic cytokine TGF-beta – two factors that crop up again and again in hair loss research:
“Taurine, a semi-essential amino acid, is an antioxidant, inhibits the production of proinflammatory cytokines such as IL-1 and IL-6 and also inhibits production of TGF-beta, a major fibrogenic cytokine.”
Of course, this is all very speculative: hair loss might be caused by inflammation and fibrosis and taurine prevents certain kinds of inflammation and fibrosis. But the evidence goes a little deeper. There are a few small studies that have specifically looked at the effectivenesss of taurine for hair loss.
Taurine and hair loss
First off, there is this in vitro study of the effects of taurine on hair follicles. Researchers found that taurine acted as a kind of protective shield against the negative effects of the aforementioned TGF-beta:
“We showed that taurine was taken up by the connective tissue sheath, proximal outer root sheath and hair bulb, promoted hair survival in vitro and prevented TGF-beta1-induced deleterious effects on hair follicle.”
So far so good. But this study goes even further, testing taurine against FDA approved hair loss treatment finasteride and astressin B:
“Although astressin-B and finasteride are two prominent drugs to treat alopecia, the data in this study suggest that taurine may work better than the two anti-alopecia agents against hair loss caused particularly by stresses.”
More effective than finasteride?! But before you throw out your Propecia, there are a number of serious caveats to this study.
Firstly, and most importantly, it was conducted on Caenorhabditis elegans – a kind of worm. Secondly, the study tested the ability of these three treatments to prevent alopecia as a result of chemical stress. So it’s not clear how relevant this is for sufferers of androgenetic alopecia (pattern hair loss).
Nevertheless, the findings provide further evidence in favor of taurine, even if this particular study is far from conclusive:
“In conclusion, there is strong evidence that taurine has a great potential as anti-alopecia effect especially against the one caused by the chemical stress. The present study implies that taurine might strongly work against hair loss when used in combination with other commercially available anti-alopecia agents.”
Finally, user reports online are mostly positive. For example, this user describes taurine’s effect on hair as “amazing”, with new hair growing in bald spots. Taurine is also included in this bodybuilding.com ‘ultimate hair regrowth protocol’ for its anti-fibrotic effects. While this is admittedly anecdotal, it further bolsters the case for taurine as an effective hair loss treatment.
Dietary taurine and supplementation
Unfortunately, taurine has not been extensively tested for its effects on hair loss despite showing huge promise as a potentially effective treatment.
We’ve seen that bald scalps have four times as many collagen bundles (fibrosis) as hairy scalps. And we’ve also seen that taurine can reduce fibrosis. Taurine also appears to be anti-inflammatory and an inhibitor of TGF-beta – a growth factor often implicated in hair loss. Plus, there’s the added bonus of reduced risk of heart disease.
So, how can you increase your taurine consumption?
Aside from energy drinks, taurine is most abundantly found in fish and meat. This is good news for carnivores but vegetarians and vegans may find their diet leaves them with little or no taurine intake.