The goal of an anti-aging regimen is to increase life-span by promoting a youthful physiology on the inside, but for most, a vibrant outward appearance is equally important. Avoiding excess weight, keeping in shape, and discouraging wrinkles by maintaining skin quality are all essential for a years-younger exterior, and, as we will discuss in this article, so is reducing or eliminating hair loss. Hair ─ its style, color, condition, and amount ─ is a central component to one’s overall appearance and even one’s self-esteem. Thinning hair and a balding head do not have to be inevitable consequences of aging! IAS now introduces a unique spray-on product called Hair Pro, a synergistic blend of multiple active ingredients that short-circuit major biological mechanisms of hair loss while at the same time encouraging the growth of new hair.
Shedding up to a few dozen hairs a day is normal, but excessive loss, known as alopecia, is a cause for concern. There are many types of hair loss, the most common of which is androgenetic alopecia, which exhibits as male-pattern baldness in men (a receding hairline at the temples and balding at the top of the head) and female-pattern hair loss in women (a general diffuse thinning of the hair). As the name implies, androgenetic alopecia is androgen-dependent and heriditary, resulting in the atrophy or miniaturization of predisposed hair follicles and progressive decline in hair density. (1, 2)
Before we discuss how Hair Pro can block the cascade of processes leading to alopecia, let’s examine the micro-anatomy of the hair follicle and its key component, the dermal papilla.
The dermis, the second layer of the skin just under the outer layer, the epidermis, contains tens of thousands of tiny and complex structures, the hair follicles, which enclose the hair root. At the base of each follicle is a bulb-like projection, the dermal papilla, surrounded by the hair matrix, a group of cells which divide to form the major structures of the hair fiber and root.
The dermal papilla regulates the growth of hair, which in humans occurs in unsynchronized cycles, with each hair entering a phase of the cycle at a different time. Anagen is the stage of active hair growth; catagen is a short resting phase until telogen, when the hair falls out. Under normal circumstances, the cycle then repeats.
During the anagen growth phase, stem cells migrate to the hair matrix and divide and differentiate in a process controlled by numerous cytokines produced by the dermal papillae. (3) (Cytokines are regulatory proteins involved in intercellular communication.) The synthesis and release of these cytokines is influenced by androgens which bind to receptors of the dermal papillae. (1, 3) Most released cytokines stimulate cell proliferation and hair growth; however, in response to particular androgens, and in certain areas, such as the sides and top of the head, some cytokines induce follicle atrophy, leading to hair thinning and eventual loss. (3)
Of all androgens, the one that most negatively influences dermal papilla cells to produce follicle-shrinking cytokines is 5-α-dihydrotestosterone (DHT), which is synthesized from testosterone by the enzyme 5-α-reductase. (1, 3)
Hair Pro contains the FDA-approved drug finasteride (brand name Propecia®) which inhibits a form of this enzyme, type 2 5-α-reductase, and prevents the conversion of testosterone to DHT. Daily oral administration of finasteride has been shown to be effective in the prevention and treatment of hair loss in men. (1, 3-5)
Hair Pro is also formulated with three polypeptide growth factors, crucial to the regulation of the hair cycle: insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1), vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), and basic fibroblast growth factor (bFGF).
Both bFGF and IGF-1 potentiate the growth of hair follicles. (3, 6-10) In addition, IGF-1 prevents cell death (apoptosis) in many cell types, which may be important in promoting the anagen growth phase and delaying the catagen (apoptosis-driven) phase. (6) In a few fascinating studies, hair growth in humans with alopecia was promoted by inducing IGF-1 production. (7, 11) Interestingly, another way DHT impacts hair loss besides stimulating the production of alopecia-inducing cytokines is by inhibiting IGF-1 production at the dermal papillae. In an animal study, mice administered DHT exhibited reduced expression of IGF-1, which resulted in a lower number of proliferating cells in hair follicles and decreased hair growth. (12)
A third growth factor, VEGF, is essential for establishing a highly developed blood vessel network around the hair follicle dermal papillae during the anagen growth phase. Research has demonstrated that improved follicle vascularization, or formation of blood vessels, induces hair growth by increasing the size of follicles and hair shafts. (13-15) In fact, stimulation of VEGF expression to promote follicle vascularization is a likely mechanism of action of the hair-growth drug minoxidil. (15)
In addition to DHT-blocking finasteride and three hair-promoting growth factors, Hair Pro is also formulated with ingredients of the product TRX2™ a molecular hair growth supplement, manufactured by Oxford BioLabs Ltd. According to the manufacturer, the product, which contains nicotinic acid (niacin) and L-carnitine, stimulates potassium ion channels within the dermal papillae of hair follicles to induce hair growth. Potassium channels are pore-forming proteins that control the flow of potassium ions across the cell membrane and are essential to the follicle’s function. Nicotinic acid bears a structural resemblance to minoxidil, and another mechanism by which minoxidil positively impacts follicles besides stimulating VEGF production, as we have just seen, is through activation of their potassium channels. (2, 15-18)
Another TRX2™component contained in Hair Pro, L-carnitine, is an amino acid that transports long-chain fatty acids across the mitochondrial membrane where they undergo oxidation to produce energy. Researchers have shown that L-carnitine promotes hair growth in humans by increasing energy production in proliferating anagen hair matrix cells and down-regulating apoptosis. (19)
The final two ingredients, while not directly influencing hair growth, insure the condition and quality of the follicle-containing scalp, promoting the health of the new hair.
Hyaluronic acid (HA) is a carbohydrate polysaccharide that occurs naturally throughout the body, predominantly in skin, but also in joints, tendons, connective tissue, and eyes, among other locations. HA has the remarkable ability to bind large quantities of water, forming a thick, gelatinous substance that lubricates movable parts of the body, while also keeping skin and follicle-containing dermal layer of the scalp hydrated. A nourished, moisturized scalp encourages the production of healthy, lustrous hair.
Dexpanthenol, the alcohol analog of the B vitamin pantothenic acid, is important in stimulating skin regeneration. When used topically, dexpanthenol has been shown to penetrate the skin, reduce water loss, moisturize, and maintain skin softness and elasticity. (20) Like HA, dexpanthenol is a common ingredient in cosmetics and moisturizers, and also promotes the health and condition of the hair.
The processes involved in hair growth ─ and hair loss ─ are anatomically and physiologically complex, involving a long chain of factors and control mechanisms. Thankfully, on-going research has revealed opportunities to intervene in the biological chain of events that lead to alopecia as well as positively activate factors that promote a healthy head of hair. Hair Pro acts on both fronts: it is formulated to combat hair loss by blocking the lethal effects of DHT on follicles, while at the same time encouraging new growth through the action of three biological growth factors, a potassium ion channel activator, and a cellular energy booster ─ all this while also fostering the health of the new hair that does grow. There are hundreds of single-ingredient hair-growth products and drugs on the market that only target one mechanism of hair loss, but multi-acting Hair Pro is truly a breakthrough product!
Figure: Structure of Hair Follicle, from Gray’s Anatomy