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By the age of fifty, approximately 40% of women and 85% of men experience some degree of hair loss. Extrapolate this to the size of the U.S. population – it means 85 million women and 144 million men in the U.S. are affected!
There are several treatment options available for hair loss. However, in this article, we will look at a novel medication for treating hair loss – nanoxidil.
What is nanoxidil?
In August 2011, a cosmeceutical company – Divine Skin Inc., released a new molecule into the market for the treatment of hair loss, called nanoxidil. It contains a cocktail of medications designed to be more effective than the popular minoxidil, minus the side effects.
Although it turns out to be popular among users, there are very limited studies that elaborate on its use, efficacy, and potential side effects. Patient use reports indicate that nanoxidil treatment is advantageous because it has an excellent absorptive potential and the side effects are minimal.
Nanoxidil was initially tested on mice. According to a 2009 KoreMed study, a topical 5% nanoxidil solution was used. Mice that had nanoxidil applied to their dorsal skin showed a significantly higher hair regrowth rate, compared to mice in other groups. However, there are no studies with a direct comparison to minoxidil to validate this.
Nanoxidil vs. Minoxidil
Of all the medications for hair loss, minoxidil is perhaps the most well-known. It has been in use for almost 40 years.
The brains behind the discovery of using minoxidil for baldness were Drs Chidsey, Kahn, and Grant. They observed that patients using oral minoxidil for the management of hypertension, showed unexpected hair growth!
They soon realized that it could be a treatment for baldness and started experimenting with minoxidil solution. Subsequently, topical minoxidil was approved by the FDA as a remedy for hair loss in 1988.
Getting back to the present day, how does minoxidil compare to nanoxidil?
There is only one product in the market marketed with nanoxidil, and it is called Spectral.DNC-N. It contains a cocktail of various ingredients in a nanosome delivery water-based formulation, called nanoxidil complex.
The most important of which is a chemical called pyrrolidinyl diaminopyrimidine oxide (PDPO). If you compare the chemical structure of minoxidil and PDPO, you will find that they are almost identical. So it works as a potassium channel opener and improves blood flow and nutrition to the hair follicle, just like minoxidil.
PDPO contains one carbon molecule and two hydrogen molecules less compared to minoxidil. As a result, minoxidil’s molecular weight is 209.25 g/mol, while PDPO is 195.22 g/mol. This should theoretically lead to a better penetration and absorption rate, as claimed by the company. However, more robust scientific studies are required to confirm this.
The other key ingredients of Spectral.DNC-N® lotion include:
These ingredients act in unison to promote the penetration of the nanoxidil and improve hair regrowth. Some ingredients like azelaic acid and caffeine have mild anti-DHT properties. Retinol enhances the absorption potential of the solution. Adenosine and copper tripeptide-1 have anti-inflammatory properties.
Minoxidil lotion usually does not contain any supporting ingredients. There are only a few products in the market that combine minoxidil with aminexil, tretinoin, or azelaic acid.
Minoxidil is poorly soluble in water, so it has to be used in an alcohol-based solution. This leads to some undesirable side effects such as headache and skin irritation. Nanoxidil is based on nanosome technology and in a water-based solution, leading to fewer side effects.
Market trials and patient data have revealed that nanoxidil has fewer to no side effects compared to minoxidil, but these are company-sponsored trials. More robust studies are essential to get the correct picture.
SUMMARYNanoxidil has additional anti-inflammatory and hair growth ingredients, and the key ingredient is structurally similar to minoxidil with a lower molecular weight. The combination of all these ingredients should theoretically lead to a better penetration rate and fewer side effects. However, only minoxidil is currently FDA-approved as there are very limited studies on nanoxidil..
Is nanoxidil effective?
Nanoxidil is a recent innovation and there are only a few studies, all manufacturer-sponsored. For instance, the phase II study from DS Healthcare Group Inc. evaluated the efficacy and safety of twice daily application of nanoxidil solution for the treatment of mild to moderate androgenic alopecia in 8 women and 19 men. The participants were asked to apply the solution twice daily for 6 months.
After the 6-month period, the hair density increased by 21.7% (men 19.75%, women 23.79%), and the total target area hair count increased by 21.1% (men 18.57%, women 23.85%). Dermoscopic data revealed significant improvement in inflammation scores after 6 months of treatment in comparison to baseline.
Results of nanoxidil lotion (Spectral.DNC-N®) in 6 months:
A recent study on 49 women with female pattern hair loss revealed that 47% of participants had increased hair density after three months, observed by global photographic assessment. There was also a significant increase in hair mass index, and a significant decrease in the hair shedding score, compared to the baseline.
The researchers concluded that nanoxidil not only boosts hair count and density but also reduces any inflammatory processes in the scalp. The additional ingredients in nanoxidil lotion also ensure a multifocal approach to the management of hair loss.
For instance, one of the most common factors that promote androgenetic alopecia is perifollicular fibrosis (premature aging of the hair root due to the overproduction of collagen, loss of moisture, and/or scarring that occurs near the hair shaft).
Copper peptides are anti-inflammatory because they can block the actions of inflammatory cytokines such as interleukin-1 and transforming growth factor-beta (TGF-beta). The addition of this ingredient explains the anti-inflammatory effects of nanoxidil solution.
The majority of subjects in the study experienced noticeably good results, and only 3 % of women saw no change after a 6-month treatment period. More than 20% of patients rated their overall satisfaction as 10 (highest on a scale of 1 to 10).
Change in global hair density from baseline after 6 months of Spectral.DNC-N treatment (patients self-evaluation)
Studies about nanoxidil are limited. It is worth remembering that independent trials may be more accurate, as the manufacturer may have a conflict of interest.
Nevertheless, preliminary studies conclude that this medication has fewer side effects than minoxidil. You could try nanoxidil if you have experienced any headache or irritation when using minoxidil. However, as the chemical structure is quite similar, you should avoid using nanoxidil if you are already allergic to minoxidil.
Price and availability of nanoxidil
One fact about medications for human use is that the FDA will only approve them after extensive clinical trials have been done. For this reason, it will take some time before nanoxidil is approved by the FDA. Therefore, this product is in limited supply in major online stores like Amazon.com.
Nanoxidil currently costs around $38 for 60ml. If you would like to try it, you can always make a purchase from one of the major drugstores, or online stores.
Spectral.DNC-N® 5% Nanoxidil, 60ml
Is it worth the cost?
The arguments for using nanoxidil as a hair loss treatment are quite compelling. You will likely experience a similar or better response when compared to minoxidil, but with fewer side effects. You could try the foam formulation of minoxidil before giving this a try, as it does not contain propylene glycol (which causes headaches).
As much as nanoxidil appears to be very effective and a preferable choice to minoxidil, you should be wary about starting or changing medications without your doctor’s approval. If minoxidil is working well for you and you can tolerate the side effects, then there is no need to shift to nanoxidil.
However, if you are already using minoxidil and experiencing side effects, you can always try nanoxidil and see if you tolerate it better.
Finally, your safety is almost always guaranteed if you consult a qualified dermatologist or trichologist before considering any of these medications for hair loss.