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Excessive hair loss, medically known as telogen effluvium, is a common problem among people, especially in old age.
The condition affects people of all ages, gender, and race, but it is more prevalent in some groups. For example, androgenetic alopecia is most common in Caucasians, followed by African-Americans and Asians.
As mentioned, the incidence of hair loss increases with age, affecting around 50% of Caucasian males at 50 years old and around 80% by age 70 years. The condition is also more prevalent among women after menopause. (1)(2)(3)
With such a high incidence, androgenetic alopecia is a problem for many, and several treatment modalities are being tried to treat this hair loss problem.
One such recently introduced and easily available drug is nanoxidil. This article discusses the nature, efficacy, and different scientific literature available on nanoxidil.
Minoxidil: The Predecessor of Nanoxidil
Minoxidil is a potassium channel opener that is commonly used in the treatment of high blood pressure (hypertension). This drug works by enlarging a few blood vessels in the body to help increase blood flow.
However, the use of minoxidil can cause side effects, including nausea, salt and water retention, chest pain, and poor heart function.
Additionally, minoxidil was observed to cause thickening and darkening of hair, which could be employed as a potential treatment for hair loss.
A foam or liquid topical medication was then developed in 1988 under the name Rogaine, which was approved by the FDA as a topical treatment for hair growth, specifically for the vertex on the top of the head, which can be easily seen in balding men.
Currently, Rogaine is available as an aerosol or liquid for both male-pattern and female-pattern baldness. Rogaine works by increasing the size of hair follicles and boosting blood circulation in the papillae. It also helps shorten the telogen phase, thus extending the hair growth phase.
All of these effects together contribute to the thickening, lengthening, and darkening of hair.
Also, it can only be successfully employed in certain cases of androgenetic alopecia, and it is not useful for receding hairlines or frontal hair loss.
Moreover, Rogaine treatment may be required for several months before it shows any results.
The Introduction of Nanoxidil
In various studies, it was observed that minoxidil, while being a potent treatment for some cases of androgenetic alopecia, was not effective for or well tolerated by everyone. Women were found to be more sensitive to the treatment than men.
Moreover, the use of minoxidil can have side effects such as allergies and contact dermatitis due to the use of propylene glycol as a dissolving agent. (6) This can further cause scalp itching and inflammation, among other symptoms.
To correct these shortcomings of minoxidil, Divine Skin Inc., a cosmeceutical company, released an alternative called Spectral DNC-N. It contains 5% nanoxidil and compounds such as caffeine, adenosine, azelaic acid, copper tripeptide, and retinol, which have a synergistic effect with nanoxidil.
This medication is said to be more effective, tolerable, and safer than minoxidil. Moreover, it has a high absorption rate due to its low molecular mass. (7)
Claims About Nanoxidil
Market research, trials, patient data, and user reports suggested that nanoxidil, in comparison with minoxidil, has fewer or no side effects.
Moreover, minoxidil is limited to the treatment of vertex area hair loss, whereas nanoxidil also improves receding hairlines or front line hair loss.
However, the time it takes for both medications to show results was observed to be similar, while some users reported zero efficacy.
What Research Has to Say
Nanoxidil, being a fairly new treatment, has not been widely studied yet. Only limited research is available on the efficacy and safety of nanoxidil or its usefulness in comparison with minoxidil.
An animal-based trial conducted in 2009 demonstrated that the topical use of 5% nanoxidil was effective in promoting hair growth in the dorsal area of mice. (8)
Another trial in 2016 evaluated the efficacy of Spectral DNC-N in treating androgenetic alopecia. It was found that this medication helped improve the symptoms of scalp inflammation and hair loss. (6) However, the study had many limitations and possible conflicts of interest, warranting further research.
The most recent study on nanoxidil was an uncontrolled clinical trial conducted in 2018. This trial found that the topical use of nanoxidil for 3 months, twice daily, had significant effects in reducing hair shedding and in increasing hair density and mass. Moreover, the treatment was well tolerated and provided high user satisfaction. (9)
Nevertheless, the study had various limitations, such as the absence of a placebo or control group to which the results could be compared. Moreover, no follow-up studies were done to evaluate the long-term effects of nanoxidil.
Does Nanoxidil Have Any Side Effects?
Since nanoxidil was primarily developed to substitute minoxidil by overcoming its drawbacks, the former is expected to have very few to zero side effects.
However, due to the limited number of clinical trials and user feedbacks, no definite conclusion can be drawn on its safety and efficiency with respect to all patients.
That being said, the small amount of research that has been conducted signals that nanoxidil is effective and is safe for use.
What Conclusions Can Be Drawn
Minoxidil, being an old drug, has been evaluated and studied in various trials. Although a few side effects are associated with the drug, most research supports its use for the treatment of hair loss.
Minoxidil has also been approved by the FDA for the treatment of androgenetic alopecia and can thus be used without prescription.
Nanoxidil, on the other hand, has not been studied widely, and therefore, no conclusions can be drawn on its efficacy. However, the limited research available supported the claims made by users and manufacturers.
It has been reported that nanoxidil has fewer side effects and higher efficacy. However, the drug will only be approved by FDA for the treatment of androgenetic alopecia after its long-term effects have been studied.
Regardless, nanoxidil is readily available in stores as it is considered to be more of a cosmeceutical agent than a pharmaceutical drug. In any case, it is best to consult a doctor before trying this treatment.
A full head of strong, thick hair is considered a symbol of good health. Therefore, hair loss is often a source of concern, stress, and social anxiety among people.
To overcome this problem, people often try different treatments that are claimed to reverse hair loss. It is vital to be careful of such treatments to prevent further damage.
You can rely on medical treatments that have been specially formulated for hair loss, such as minoxidil.
You can also use nanoxidil, a newer cosmeceutical, which has been reported to have higher efficacy and safety by users. However, there is limited scientific evidence of the efficacy of nanoxidil. It is best to consult your doctor before committing to the treatment.