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Effects on Hair Growth of Drugs

05.10.2009 in HAIR LOSS SCIENCE


Many drugs or medicines, whether taken for treatment of ailments or taken for pleasure have a harmful effect on the growth cycle of hair. A few such as Tetracyclines which are a group of antibiotics may actually slightly increase hair growth but not enough to be worthwhile.

Amphetamines may cause diffuse hair thinning by upsetting the metabolism. Boric acid which is sometimes used in mouthwashes may if used too often cause a gradually increasing diffuse hair loss due to high levels of boron in the system.

Excessive intake of Vitamin A can cause severe hair loss as well as symptoms similar to arthritis in the joints. For this reason most countries now restrict the maximum concentration of Vitamin A which may be brought from health food stores or pharmacies without medical prescription.

Nicotine from cigarette smoking and Marajuana can cause hair loss by their effects on blood circulation and yellowing of grey hair. Excessive alcohol intake may cause loss of hair by lowering mineral and vitamin levels. A build up in the system of toxic minerals such as lead, cadmium, arsenic, aluminium, boron, barium, antimony, mercury and silver will also adversely affect hair growth causing other and more serious systemic effects at the same time. Fortunately high concentrations of these are rare and usually affect those people working continuously with these minerals without the necessary safeguards which are covered by Health and Safety Regulations in most countries.

Apart from the list of known and proven toxic reactions from drug or mineral intake, a very large number of medications may in certain circumstances cause adverse effects including hair loss, skin rashes and reactions upon various organs of the body. No drug or medicine is completely without risk or side effect. Many drugs particularly those mentioned above may cause the hair to change colour either to grey or in the case of some minerals such as copper salts, blond hair may turn green. Since these salts are frequently used to prevent algae growth in swimming pools, immersion of blond hair plus the oxidising effects of sunlight can produce a very disagreeable khaki-green colour which is very difficult to remove.

A number of drugs applied to the skin surface (topical drugs) may also cause hair colour changes by staining. Dithranol (Anthracene) for treating Psoriasis and Alopecia Areata may often stain dark brown. Minoxidil may darken hair if being regularly applied to improve hair growth. Hydroquinone which is sometimes used for skin lightening in pigment disorders may cause lightening or hair as a side effect.

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Hormone levels correlated with androgenic alopecia



Men with androgenic alopecia typically have lower levels of total testosterone, higher levels of unbound/free testosterone, and higher levels of total free androgens including DHT.

5-alpha-reductase is responsible for converting free testosterone into DHT. The genes for 5-alpha-reductase are known. The enzymes are present predominantly in the scalp and prostate. Levels of 5alpha-reductase are one factor in determining levels of DHT in the scalp and drugs which interfere with 5alpha-reductase (such as finasteride, which inhibits the predominant type 2 isoform) have been approved by the FDA as treatments for hair loss.

Sex hormone binding globulin (SHBG), which is responsible for binding testosterone and preventing its bioavailability and conversion to DHT, is typically lower in individuals with high DHT. SHBG is downregulated by insulin.

Increased levels of Insulin Growth Factor-1 (IGF-1) have been correlated to vertex balding.

High insulin levels seem the likely link between metabolic syndrome and baldness. Low levels of SHBG in men and non-pregnant women are also correlated with glucose intolerance and diabetes risk, though this correlation disappears during pregnancy.

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Hair loss and genetics


Much research has gone into the genetic component of male pattern baldness, or androgenic alopecia (AGA). Research indicates that susceptibility to premature male pattern baldness is largely X-linked. Other genes that aren’t sex linked are also involved.


Large studies in 2005 and 2007 stress the importance of the maternal line in the inheritance of male pattern baldness. German researchers name the androgen receptor gene as the cardinal prerequisite for balding. They conclude that a certain variant of the androgen receptor is needed for AGA to develop. In the same year the results of this study were confirmed by other researchers. This gene is recessive and a female would need two X chromosomes with the defect to show typical male pattern alopecia. Seeing that androgens and their interaction with the androgen receptor are the cause of AGA it seems logical that the androgen receptor gene plays an important part in its development.

Other research in 2007 suggests another gene on the X chromosome, that lies close to the androgen receptor gene, is an important gene in male pattern baldness. They found the region Xq11-q12 on the X-chromosome to be strongly associated with AGA in males. They point at the EDA2R gene as the gene that is mostly associated with AGA.

Other genes involved with hair loss have been found. One of them being a gene on chromosome 3. The gene is located at 3q26. This gene is recessive.

Another gene that might be involved in hair loss is the P2RY5. This gene is linked to hair structure. Certain variants can lead to baldness at birth, while another variant causes “wooly hair.”


In May 2009, researchers in Japan identified a gene, Sox21, that appears to be responsible for hair loss in people.


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Can Lasers Stimulate a Hair-Growth Spurt?

29.09.2009 in HAIR LOSS SCIENCE

Losing your hair? Just glide a handheld laser over your scalp three times a week and you’ll see a benefit, say the companies selling the products. Many doctors are skeptical of claims made for the lasers, but a study found that one product did spur hair growth.

Hereditary hair loss is a medical condition that affects some 50 million American men, according to the American Academy of Dermatology. Medications, including the oral drug Propecia and the topical Rogaine, are often used to treat it. But the drugs don’t work for everyone and can have side effects, according to dermatologists.

A number of companies sell handheld, low-intensity lasers for home use that are intended to stimulate hair follicles, typically three times a week for 10 to 15 minutes. The lasers, which aren’t covered by insurance, are available online, at some doctors offices and at some retailers. The HairMax LaserComb by Lexington International LLC, Boca Raton, Fla.—which looks like a hairbrush with a cord—costs $495, with a $25 discount available online. The X-5 is a $299 rechargeable hockey-puck-shaped device sold by Spencer Forrest Inc., Westport, Conn.


Scientists say that low-level lasers are safe and likely do act on cellular compounds that can spur hair growth. One major published study showed an average 7% increase in hair density with the HairMax after 26 weeks. But many doctors are skeptical of the claims made by the companies, particularly those that promise fast results and show clients with full heads of hair. “I think it is an expensive tool for very little difference,” says Amy McMichael, an associate professor of dermatology at Wake Forest University School of Medicine in Winston-Salem, N.C.

Eric S. Schweiger, a clinical instructor of dermatology at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York, says the LaserComb helps grow hair, but adds that effects are often modest, typically take at least six months and aren’t seen in all patients.

It’s best to try the laser before your hair follicles are too damaged, doctors say. “If you’ve got a shiny bald head it won’t do anything,” says Michael Hamblin, associate professor of dermatology at Harvard Medical School.

The only home laser device cleared for hair growth by the Food and Drug Administration is the LaserComb, which claims to increase hair growth in men. While used by Dr. Schweiger and others for women, the device isn’t FDA cleared for them; a clinical trial is continuing, the company says.

Other companies that don’t have FDA clearance for their devices avoid making medical claims. Spencer Forrest claims the X-5 makes hair “visibly thicker,” but doesn’t promise to actually grow it. The company says it is performing trials and plans to apply for FDA clearance.

So far, Lexington International is the only company with a major published clinical study. In a 110-patient company-funded study published in the April issue of “Clinical Drug Investigation,” researchers found subjects using the LaserComb for 26 weeks saw an average increase of 17 hairs per square centimeter, or 7%, compared with a decrease of nine hairs in a control group using a sham device. Independent trials are needed to replicate the results, says Marc R. Avram, an associate professor of dermatology at Weill Cornell Medical Center in New York. A small pilot study at Weill failed to replicate the findings but larger, controlled studies are needed, he adds.

In May 2008, Lexington received an FDA warning letter alleging it was selling a different device than the one cleared for sale in 2007. Company owner David Michaels says the company did substitute a similar laser with an equivalent output and thought the change was permissible based on “legal advice,” but switched back to the original when it got the warning letter. The FDA says the issues from the warning letter, which included marketing to women on the company’s Web site, have been resolved.

So far the only side effects reported with the lasers have been itching and tingling of the scalp.

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Hair loss attributed to vitamin A

24.09.2009 in HAIR LOSS SCIENCE

Question: I found out recently that the hair loss I’ve been experiencing during the past couple of years was directly attributable to vitamin A. I was taking 25,000 IU a day of vitamin A in my daily vitamin pill. Apparently that is toxic and causes hair loss. I just wanted to warn others.

Answer: Too much vitamin A can cause hair loss, along with loss of appetite, skin problems, headache, fatigue and many other problems. The usual recommended intake is 5,000 IU daily for adults, so you were definitely getting far too much.

Joe Graedon is a pharmacologist and Teresa Graedon is an expert in medical anthropology and nutrition.

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