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Ketoconazole for Hair Loss

If you’ve ever used a dandruff shampoo, there’s a good chance that you’ve used ketoconazole. Ketoconazole is a synthetic antifungal ingredient that’s prescribed to treat an array of anti-dandruff products such as shampoos, topical creams, and even oral medications. It is only prescribed for skin ailments related to AIDS and chemotherapy. In the United States, ketoconazole is sold under the brand name Nizoral. Although ketoconazole or nizoral is only FDA-approved for the treatment of dandruff, some users have found that it has a few curious side effects, including hair growth. Read on to learn more about how ketoconazole may help treat hair loss and how it may be used in future medications.

Medical Uses for Ketoconazole

Ketoconazole works very well for patients with severe dandruff—the kind that is caused by a fungal infection—and helps stop the chronic itching and flaking associated with dandruff. Because ketoconazole is categorized as an antifungal drug, it is most commonly prescribed to treat fungal conditions including athlete’s foot, ringworm, candida, and jock itch. The side effects of ketoconazole are sometimes prescribed to treat non-fungal conditions: it has been shown to decrease testosterone levels in prostate cancer patients, prevent erections, and even reduce depression. Prescriptions for off-label (not FDA-approved) uses of ketoconazole are usually used as a last resort after traditional treatments have been exhausted.

How Ketoconazole Works

Ketoconazole works as an antifungal by weakening fungal cell membranes. Since ketoconazole is often prescribed for topical skin infections, topical Nizoral is a common route for treatment. If the infection is particularly severe, a doctor may prescribe ketoconazole internally to ensure that the entire infection clears up. When it comes to hair loss, the oral form of ketoconazole works most aggressively by blocking testicular and adrenal androgens. As an anti-androgen, ketoconazole is useful for the treatment of prostate cancer.

Studies on Ketoconazole and Hair Loss

After some patients taking ketoconazole noticed irregular hair growth, a study was performed to discover the efficiency of the drug on patients suffering from hair loss. A 1998 study compared 2% ketoconazole to 2% minoxidil, the active ingredient in Rogaine®. The results showed that there was a very similar effect on the hair from both ingredients: the hair follicles were larger and denser. Researchers believe that in addition to ketoconazole’s anti-androgen tendencies, it may also inhibit a scalp fungus called malassezia. Malassezia can be a culprit in inflammatory hair loss. No further studies on ketoconazole and hair loss have been performed on humans since 1998, but a 2005 study supported its hair growth effects on mice.

FDA-Approved Hair Loss Treatments

Currently, ketoconazole continues to be primarily an antifungal medication and is not FDA-approved for the treatment of balding, thinning hair, receding hairlines, or other signs of hair loss. This means that although it ketoconazole may very well have hair growth power, the FDA can’t substantiate claims that it is certainly effective. Medications like Rogaine and Propecia® are FDA-approved at treating hair loss and are available at a hair loss specialist clinic in your area. Our network of highly trained hair transplant surgeons and non-surgical hair restoration specialists can help you find the best form of treatment for your hair loss. To learn more about your hair loss treatment options or to schedule a private consultation with a hair loss specialist in your area, contact us today!

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