N-acetylcysteine (NAC) is the most effective substance known to science to help stop hair pulling (trichotillomania). NAC is an amino acid that modulates the amount of the neurotransmitter glutamate in the brain. It is also an antioxidant. A 12-week placebo controlled double-blind study published in 2009 in the Archives of General Psychiatry showed that 56% of the 50 participants taking 2400 mg per day of NAC experienced a significant reduction in hair pulling compared to only 16% of participants who were given the placebo. This makes NAC the most effective of all substances tested scientifically, including prescription medications, against trichotillomania. Frequently prescribed medications such as SSRI antidepressants have not proven nearly as effective. Most likely NAC will also be tested against skin picking and possibly other body-focused repetitive behaviors (BFRBs).
NAC helped only slightly more than half the people in the small trichotillomania study, so there is no guarantee that it is going to help you. However, it is considered to be generally safe and is relatively inexpensive, so you may decide you would like to try it. Although widely available in health food stores and on Amazon.com, it is always advisable to consult with your doctor or pharmacist before trying supplements, particularly if you take medication. Keep in mind, it may take a few weeks to notice results. In the hair pulling study, it took nine weeks for significant improvement, although a couple of my skin picking clients reported it working for them after a shorter period of time. It is also important to supplement with vitamin C and a multivitamin, because the body likely needs much more vitamin C and possibly also more minerals when taking NAC.
The supplement is considered very safe, and even beneficial to health, without side effects. However, when I tried it, it made me very nauseous. But most people do not have as sensitive a stomach as I do!
It is unlikely this supplement will eliminate the problem completely. For a lot more helpful information, be sure to sign up for my Freedom Kit.
Love and support,
p.s. Have you downloaded my free “Freedom Kit”? It comes with a written and audio report, “Why you pick your skin and how to finally stop,” a video on “how to stop skin picking urges in two minutes flat,” and my “Live Free” newsletter in your inbox each month. Learn more here.