After 6 months of daily application of these lotions, significant hair growth was noted in the participants
Estimates report that only 30-50% of the population has the necessary intestinal bacteria to metabolize isoflavonoids into equol; these individuals are referred to as equol-producers. Note that these numbers are even lower in Western countries.
Equol has a similar structure to estradiol and can bind to estrogen receptors in the body; however, its potency is remarkably lower than steroidal estrogen.
Nevertheless, due to its estrogen-like effects, as well as the antioxidant properties, equol has been used in many medical conditions such as premenopausal syndrome, dyspareunia (vaginal pain during intercourse), prostate disease, and age-related skin deteriorations.
New evidence suggests that equol can reverse the pattern baldness seen in androgenic alopecia (AA), which is characterized by excessive amounts of dihydrotestosterone (DHT).
Research and Results
In a recent study, topical use of two lotions that contain equol as well as two other compounds were tested on 30 men and 30 women diagnosed with androgenic alopecia for a period of 6 months.
The three compounds were integrated inside liposomes to enhance their transdermal delivery.
After 6 months of daily application of these lotions, significant hair growth was noted in the participants, with more positive results seen in women.
Moreover, the treatment was widely tolerated and no serious adverse effects were noted, except for a mild burning sensation reported in one female participant.
Researchers concluded the study with the following statement:
Results of the present study show that the formulations under investigation were safe and effective to prevent and attenuate hair loss in men and women having a hair loss pattern typical of androgenetic alopecia.
(a, c) were taken the first day of the clinical trial in a man and a woman respectively. (b, d) were taken after 6 months of treatment.
While the results of the study cannot be fully attributed to equol, it’s likely to be a contributor in the results shown.
How it works
Equol works by blocking the conversion of testosterone to dihydrotestosterone. It does this by the inhibition of the enzyme 5α‐reductase, which is crucial for this metabolic pathway.
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As you may know, DHT has detrimental effects on hair follicles, as it causes their degradation and stops their regeneration, so by decreasing the levels of DHT in the hair bulbs, it makes sense that the androgenic alopecia would be reversed, and that’s exactly what equol does.
The problem with this approach
Using natural plant extracts like equol to reduce DHT sounds like a great idea — and it should reduce male pattern baldness. However, DHT is actually good for men in other respects. DHT is a more potent form of testosterone. It increases a man’s ability to build muscle and likely helps with motivation (since it’s an androgen). Therefore, while using equol may well be a great way to reduce male pattern baldness, it may also make other aspects of a man’s life worse.
A better approach?
A better approach might be to reduce androgen receptors in the scalp. DHT causes hair loss when it binds to androgen receptors in the scalp. If we can reduce the number of available androgen receptors, we can prevent DHT from binding to them and causing hair loss.
Equol represents a new potential treatment that warrants further investigation.