Nanoxidil for Hair Loss: Efficacy, Side-Effects, vs. Minoxidil

Reviewed by dermatologist Dr. Suneil Gandhi, MD

is nanoxidil effective?

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By the age of 50, approximately 50% of women and 85% of men experience some degree of hair loss, which according to the size of the U.S. population translates into 84 million women and 137 million men! This is a reason to worry, as the statistics aren’t improving – the numbers continue to increase.

Many of the people suffering from hair loss would give almost anything to reverse it. Some would even spend their life savings to restore a full head of hair.

There are several treatment options but in this article, we’re going to look at a novel medication for treating hair lossnanoxidil.

What is nanoxidil?

In August 2011, a cosmeceutical company – Divine Skin Inc., released a new molecule onto the market for the treatment of hair loss. The new drug, nanoxidil, was designed to surpass the efficacy and tolerability of minoxidil.

Being a relatively new product in the field of hair loss treatment, there are, unfortunately, limited studies that elaborate on its use, efficacy, and potential side effects.

Nanoxidil was initially tested on mice. According to a 2009 KoreMed study, topical nanoxidil in a 5% solution was used. Mice that had the ointment applied to their dorsal skin showed a significantly higher hair regrowth rate compared with mice in other groups. However, more studies are required with a direct comparison to minoxidil to validate this.

Patient use reports indicate that nanoxidil treatment is advantageous because it has a good absorptive potential and the side effects are minimal.

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, Drs Kahn and Grant, initially were asked to examine patients who had used this as an oral medication for the management of their hypertension.

The doctors noticed that the patients who had been taking it had started growing hair all over their bodies. Drs Kahn and Grant realized that it could be a treatment for baldness. Subsequently, minoxidil ointment was approved by the FDA as a remedy for hair loss.

Getting back to the present day, how does minoxidil compare to nanoxidil?

comparison of minoxidil and nanoxidil chemical structures
Composed by Hairverse. The key difference is that nanoxidil has one carbon molecule less than minoxidil.

Minoxidil works well for hair loss but it has to be applied to the area twice a day. What is more, it has some undesirable side effects. These include headaches, heart problems, local irritation at the application site, and the possible development of acne.

It has also been determined that women are more sensitive to minoxidil than men; which is why it is recommended that women should use a maximum concentration of 5% just once a day.

Nanoxidil is very similar in structure to minoxidil but the key difference is that nanoxidil has a lower molecular weight. Minoxidil’s molecular weight is 209.25 g/mol while in nanoxidil it’s 195.22 g/mol. This should theoretically lead to a better penetration and absorption rate. However, more robust scientific studies are required to confirm this.

If the studies validate the claims, this treatment’s effectiveness may surpass that of minoxidil in the stimulation of hair growth. The good news is that market trials and patient data have already revealed that nanoxidil has fewer to no side effects compared to minoxidil.

Besides their molecular differences, nanoxidil lotion differs significantly from generic product brands of minoxidil like Rogaine®. This is because the Spectral.DNC-N® lotion for nanoxidil contains other ingredients besides the nanoxidil itself. These ingredients include:

  • Adenosine
  • Lysophosphatidic acid
  • Azelaic acid
  • Copper Tripeptide-1
  • Caffeine
  • Retinol
  • Piroctone olamine

These ingredients act in unison to promote the penetration of the nanoxidil and improve hair regrowth. Minoxidil lotion only contains minoxidil without other supporting ingredients.

SUMMARY

The main difference between minoxidil and nanoxidil is their molecular weights. Nanoxidil has a lower weight (nanoxidil – 195.22 g/mol; minoxidil – 209.25 g/mol) which theoretically should lead to a better penetration rate. Both solutions are proven to treat hair loss, however, only minoxidil is currently FDA approved.

Is nanoxidil effective?

Nanoxidil is a recent innovation and most of the studies on it are still underway. For instance, the phase II study from DS Healthcare Group Inc. is evaluating the efficacy and safety of nanoxidil in the treatment of mild to moderate androgenic alopecia. So far it has yielded some impressive results.

However, it is worth remembering that independent trials may be more accurate as the manufacturer probably has a conflict of interest.

Results of nanoxidil lotion (Spectral.DNC-N®) in 6 months:

nanoxidil before after for female with hair loss
Composed by Hairverse, based on Vincenzi, C., Marisaldi, B., Tosti, A., & Patel, B. (2019)

The study reveals that people who have used nanoxidil to treat hair loss can achieve up to a 28.6% increase in hair growth in just three months after the onset of treatment. The researchers concluded that nanoxidil not only boosts the hair count and density but also reduces any inflammatory processes in the scalp.

The additional ingredients in nanoxidil lotion also ensure a multifocal approach in 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 transform growth factor-beta (TGF-beta). The addition of this ingredient explains nanoxidil lotion’s anti-inflammatory effect.

Unlike minoxidil which elicits an increased sensitivity among women users, the 2019 study shows that nanoxidil is highly effective in the management of early female pattern hair loss without any worry of increased sensitivity.

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.

Change in global hair density from baseline after 6 months of Spectral.DNC-N treatment (patients self-evaluation)

Nanoxidil efficacy in hair growth
Composed by Hairverse, based on Vincenzi, C., Marisaldi, B., Tosti, A., & Patel, B. (2019)

Studies about nanoxidil are limited. Nevertheless, preliminary studies conclude that this medication has fewer side effects compared to minoxidil. You could try nanoxidil if you have experienced any adverse effects when using minoxidil. However, if you are allergic to minoxidil, you may be allergic to nanoxidil too.

Studies are still underway, and they may reveal other side effects which are currently not yet identified.

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 drug stores, online stores, or visit the DS Laboratories in 1601 Green Rd, Pompano Beach, Florida.

spectral dnc-n nanoxidil

Spectral.DNC-N® 5% Nanoxidil, 60ml

  • 5 % nanoxidil concentration
  • Other ingredients: azelaic acid, retinol, caffeine, tri-copper peptides, lecithin, adenosine, and others
  • Suitable for sensitive skin – no PG (propylene glycol)
  • For both Men and Women

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.

Final word

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 starting on hair loss treatment, then nanoxidil is a reasonable option. 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 you consider any of these medications for hair loss.

  • Park, D. H., Oh, C. H., & Chae, M. H. (2009). Correlationship between Hair Growth and IGF-1 and TGF-beta1 Levels. Journal of the Korean Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, 15(1), 64-68.
    https://e-aaps.org/journal/view.php?number=293
  • Patel, Brijesh & Velasco, Maria & Tamez, Fernando. (2016). Phase II Study to Evaluate Efficacy and Safety of SPECTRAL.DNC-N Topical Solution For the Treatment of Mild to Moderate Androgenic Alopecia.
    ResearchGate
  • Vañó-Galván, S., & Camacho, F. (2017). New treatments for hair loss. Actas Dermo-Sifiliográficas (English Edition), 108(3), 221-228. DOI:
    10.1016/j.adengl.2017.02.016
  • Vincenzi, C., Marisaldi, B., Tosti, A., & Patel, B. (2019). Effects of a New Topical Treatment Containing Several Hair Growth Promoters in Women with Early Female Pattern Hair Loss. Skin appendage disorders, 5(3), 146-151. DOI:
    10.1159/000493200

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