Human growth hormone (HGH), as the name suggests, stimulates the growth of the human body. While it’s naturally produced by a pea-sized gland, its synthetic form is also available for treating different health problems.
HGH therapies have been around for decades. Recently, however, this hormone is also being marketed as an anti-ageing and strength-building remedy. And less commonly so, as an antidote for hair loss.
But these claims are largely unproven and not even evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). There might be some supporting anecdotal evidence, but you have to take things with a grain of salt.
That is not to say that growth hormone doesn’t affect hair growth. Both its excess and deficiency can result in hair-related problems (on the face and body). In this guide, you’ll learn more about HGH for hair growth and its alternatives.
What Is HGH?
Growth hormone is a protein secreted by the pituitary gland in the brain during childhood and adulthood. This hormone helps increase your height, grow bones, cartilage, and muscles, and impacts the metabolism of protein, fat, and sugar.
Keep in mind that hormones are the body’s chemical messengers. They are secreted into the bloodstream, and from there, they travel to different tissues and organs to cause different bodily changes.
According to Medline, even a small amount of them can result in big changes in the cells or the entire body. Therefore, abnormalities in their levels can have serious consequences. This goes for the human growth hormone as well.
Normally, short bursts of it are released throughout the day (especially during sleep). But some people can have an HGH deficiency, which can be due to issues with their pituitary gland, genetic problems or a brain injury.
This can cause a slew of problems, both psychological and physical, just one of which may be impaired hair growth. On the other hand, it’s also possible to have too much growth hormone – as happens in a condition known as acromegaly.
This can also cause a wide range of symptoms, one of which is increased hair growth. For instance, acromegaly can cause hypertrichosis or werewolf syndrome, in which excessive hair growth can occur anywhere on the body.
Growth Hormone Uses & Abuses
Synthetic human growth hormones injections are prescribed to treat growth hormone deficiency in children and adults.
Initially, it was sourced from cadavers, but the practice had to be discontinued due to serious issues of contamination. However, pharmaceutical companies were eventually able to mass produce it with the help of genetically modified bacteria.
The first product was FDA-approved in 1985. And since then, its uses have been approved for different health conditions like: Turner, Prader-Willi, Noonan syndrome, chronic kidney disease, HIV-associated wasting (cachexia), etc.
But unfortunately, this hormone has also been abused because of its potential benefits. One common example of it is doping.
Because this hormone helps build muscles, some athletes use it to enhance their performance. This is even when it’s banned and may have adverse effects on the body.
Similarly, it’s touted as an elixir of youth. However, again, the research doesn’t show that to be true. On the contrary, it can have negative health consequences.
And among many other claims is the one that it can help regrow your hair. Here too, there’s not enough proof that any HGH supplements can actually do that.
Instead, HGH intake may end up causing the following:
- Carpal tunnel syndrome
- High cholesterol
- Cancer risk
This list is not exhaustive. And you also have to be careful about counterfeit products because the cost of the original drug is very high.
Does HGH Cause Hair Growth?
Research shows that the natural human growth hormone influences the growth of hair follicles.
According to a study titled “Growth Hormone and the Human Hair Follicle,” published in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences, growth hormone deficiency can cause:
On the other hand, growth hormone excess can cause hypertrichosis, hirsutism and seborrhea, among other skin problems. And the hormonal imbalances from these conditions can further contribute to hair loss.
But that’s not all. There are other ways in which this hormone indirectly influences the growth of hair.
The authors of the same research note that the growth hormone regulates another hormone: the IGF-1 or insulin-like growth factor 1.
And this hormone helps in the maintenance of the anagen phase (or active growing phase) of the hair growth cycle.
So, when the IGF-1 levels are low (which can happen due to GH deficiency or insensitivity), that can also cause hair loss.
The researchers also report the occurrence of hair loss with somatostatin (SST) therapy, which negatively impacts the secretion of growth hormones. And that can also cause hair loss, albeit reversible.
Can HGH Therapy Help Hair Growth?
Research shows that growth hormone replacement can promote hair growth in those who are deficient in the hormone.
A study published in Clinical Endocrinology found that GH therapy was able to stimulate body hair growth in growth hormone-deficient men.
Compared to the control group, those receiving this therapy had an increase in their hair scores after 6 months.
The researchers also noted a decrease in the levels of testosterone and dihydrotestosterone – a hormone that causes androgenetic alopecia – among other hormones.
Still, you should keep in mind that GH therapy is for replacing the hormone. You might not be prescribed this treatment just for your hair loss.
Can HGH Cause Hair Loss?
Low levels of growth hormone or its insensitivity in the body can cause hair loss.
This can happen in Laron syndrome, in which the hair can be thin, sparse, and loosely anchored with recession at the front.
In another Noonan syndrome too, the hair can be thin, sparse and slow growing.
Keep in mind that, in general, hormonal imbalance can also cause hair loss. For instance, this may happen if a person is given too much growth hormone.
What Are The Alternatives To HGH For Hair Growth?
Human growth hormone therapy is not FDA approved as a treatment for hair loss.
You may experience hair growth if you’re on growth hormone substitution therapy, but it may not be appropriate if your growth hormone is already optimal.
In that case, there are other non-surgical and surgical hair loss solutions that you can consider, such as minoxidil and/or finasteride.
You can, however, consider a hair transplant instead if you are suffering from permanent hair loss, since it gives permanent, natural-looking results. It’s also usually a one-time procedure.
Human growth hormone therapy has been around for many, many years now. It has been particularly helpful for those who’re deficient in this hormone.
However, its uses for muscle-building, anti-ageing or even hair regrowth still need to be substantiated. And you have to be careful before considering using its supplements or injections because it can have serious side effects.
Hair loss has many causes and many effective treatments. If you’re experiencing excessive hair loss, make sure to get in touch with a qualified and experienced medical professional.
Reviewed and Approved by Trichologist Yaprak Yazan