Hair loss in the 80s was a much more dire circumstance. Not a single reliable treatment existed. If you experienced it you lived with it. Sure, there were ‘remedies’, of course, none worked. The minoxidil trials in the mid 1980s were a breakthrough for hair loss treatment. Suddenly there was a safe, reliable way to treat hair loss. In the mid 1990s the same thing happened with oral DHT blockers (finasteride), trials showed that oral finasteride could prevent hair loss, and better yet, it worked on a completely different mechanism than minoxidil, offering benefits to those who combined both therapies.
Finasteride works by preventing DHT (a close cousin of testosterone) from binding to and attacking the hair follicle. Since finasteride works on DHT, which is so closely tied to the fundamental male sex hormone system, many are reluctant to take it. Moreover, women experiencing hair loss are strongly advised not to take finasteride if pregnant or planning to be pregnant. Although proven safe in clinical trials, there is much anecdotal evidence that causes many to second guess treatment with finasteride (both oral and topical).
Over the last 10-15 years several new topicals have been discovered. These topicals work on a similar mechanism as finasteride, but don’t come with the same concerns.
Caffeine has been shown to help promote hair growth in its earliest phase by blocking the harmful effects of DHT on the hair follicle. It has also been shown to speed up the hair growth cycle and improve blood flow to the scalp. Several studies show similar results. See a meta study of caffeine for hair loss here for more details.
Niacin has been shown to improve blood circulation, reduce scalp inflammation, induce keratin production and repair DNA cells. In clinical trials niacin has been shown to improve hair growth. In one study statistically significant increases in hair fullness in double blind 35-mm photographic analysis were shown. Another study combining niacin and caffeine showed statistically significant increases in hair shaft diameter, read more here.
Taurine has been shown to be protective against the transforming growth factor (TGF)-beta1, an inhibitor of in vitro hair growth. Again working on the same mechanism as finasteride, preventing the negative effects of TGH-beta-1 induced follicle damage. See study for more information. Taurine also provides anti-inflammatory effects that counter DHT in tissues.
Ginseng has a stimulating effect on the hair follicle and has been shown in studies to significantly increase average hair thickness and density over a 12 week period. Study here. In another study done on bald mice, ginseng extract was shown to outperform finasteride by 20% in treating hair loss. See study here.
Adenosine has also been shown to aid in hair loss. In one 2013 study minoxidil and adenosine were compared over a 6 month trial. After 6 months there was no significant difference in subjective hair quality between the 2 groups. Further, those in the adenosine group consistently rated the effects of the treatment they received better than those in the minoxidil group. See abstract
Copper peptide, found in human plasma, has been shown to increase hair growth and enlarge hair follicle size. Although the mechanism of action for this particular molecule is unknown it has been shown to have a significant effect on the hair follicle. See study.
These 6 topicals, along with essential amino acids and b-vitamins have increasingly strong scientific evidence backing their use as topical agents to prevent hair loss, especially for those reluctant to use finasteride or minoxidil. Dermaroller Germany has taken these ingredients and compounded them into a product called Hair Lotion that can be applied daily in combination with a Dermaroller or alone. If you already use minoxidil we suggest that you use the hair lotion, in place of your evening application of minoxidil, 3 times per week.
See the product here. Should you have any questions, as always, feel free to get in touch.