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Azelaic Acid and Hair Loss

Azelaic acid hair loss treatment - azelaic (pronounced az-uh-LAY-ic) is a simple molecule ( HOOC(CH2)7COOH, CAS Number 123-99-9, also known as 1,9-Nonanedioic acid) that is found in some whole grains and in trace amounts in human bodies. Although it is an acid, it is an extremely weak acid - much weaker than vinegar. It's current use in medicine is in Azelex or Skinoren, which is a cream base containing azelaic acid as 20% of its weight. Azelex is available by prescription in the USA and is used in the treatment of acne. Skinoren is available outside USA.

Azelaic Acid Hair Growth Stimulant?

Azelaic acid may be useful as a hair growth stimulant. A research report by Stamatiadis in 1988 suggested that azelaic acid (and combinations of it and zinc ion and vitamin B6) was a strong type I 5-alpha reductase (5-AR) inhibitor. The enzyme 5-AR (both types I and II) convert testosterone to dihydrotestosterone (DHT). DHT has been shown to contribute to male prostate enlargement (benign prostatic hyperplasia, BPH) and to damage hair follicles.

Abstract of Stamatiadis' 1988 Azelaic Acid Hair Loss study:

Br J Dermatol 1988 Nov;119(5):627-632 Inhibition of 5 alpha-reductase activity in human skin by zinc and azelaic acid.

Stamatiadis D, Bulteau-Portois MC, Mowszowicz I

Laboratoire de Biochimie B, Hopital Necker-Enfants-Malades, Paris, France.

The effects of zinc sulphate and azelaic acid on 5 alpha-reductase activity in human skin were studied using an in vitro assay with 1,2[3H]-testosterone as substrate. When added at concentrations of 3 or 9 mmol/l, zinc was a potent inhibitor of 5 alpha-reductase activity. At high concentrations, zinc could completely inhibit the enzyme activity. Azelaic acid was also a potent inhibitor of 5 alpha-reductase; inhibition was detectable at concentrations as low as 0.2 mmol/l and was complete at 3 mmol/l. An additive effect of the two inhibitors was observed. Vitamin B6 potentiated the inhibitory effect of zinc, but not of azelaic acid, suggesting that two different mechanisms are involved. When the three substances were added together at very low concentrations which had been shown to be ineffective alone, 90% inhibition of 5 alpha-reductase activity was obtained. If this inhibition is confirmed in vivo, zinc sulphate combined with azelaic acid could be an effective agent in the treatment of androgen related pathology of human skin.

PMID: 3207614, UI: 89087983

Some Reservations

The reservations one might have regarding the Stamatiadis study are (1) that the study was done on rats, (2) that is was done on prostate tissue (and not on hair tissue) and (3) that it was done "in vitro" (essentially means, "not in a living organism"). Cells in living tissue generally show a considerable ability to protect themselves from invasion. Treating pure 5-AR directly with azelaic acid in a lab flask is somewhat different from exposing the living cell to azelaic acid. Nevertheless, what happens "in vitro" often reveals clues as to what might happen "in vivo" (in a living organism).

Azelaic Acid Side Effects

Side effects: Some of the possible side effects associated with azelaic acid are white spots or lightening of treated areas of dark skin or patients with dark complexions. However it is usually not lightened beyond normal skin color. Other side effects include burning, stinging, or tingling of skin, dryness of skin, itching, peeling, redness of skin. Results from the U.S. clinical trials with AZELEX® show that adverse reactions were generally mild and temporary in nature. The most common adverse reactions occurring in approximately 1-5% of patients were pruritus, burning, stinging and tingling. Other such as erythema, dryness, rash, peeling, irritation, dermatitis, and contact dermatitis were reported in less than 1% of test subjects.

Products that Contain Azelaic Acid

For products that containt Azelaic Acid such as azelaic acid with zinc and B6 topical, azelaic acid 20% cream or topical minoxidil formulated with azelaic acid, please fill out the inquiry form on this page and we will assist you further.