Topical Retinol (Vitamin A) for Hair Growth: A Break-through Hair Loss Treatment?

Research shows topical retinol, or vitamin A, improves scalp blood circulation, encourages new blood vessel formation and reduces scalp inflammation. Since male pattern baldness and other forms of hair loss are often characterized by inflammation and poor blood ciculation in the scalp, retinol is an effective and affordable hair loss treatment.

Topical Retinol for Hair Loss

Retinol, also known as Vitamin A and trentinoin, is essential for the growth of and maintenance of skin and hair (Ehrlich, 2011). It is thought that retinol regulates hair follicle growth through biological manipulation of the immune system (Everts, Sundberg, King, & Ong, 2007).

Yoo et al. showed in a study that a mixture of minoxidil and retinol increased hair growth significantly in alopecia areata patients

Topical retinol has also been shown to increase blood flow to hair follicles and encourage new blood vessel formation (Rogers & Avram, 2008, p. 552). The anti-inflammation capabilities seen in topical retinol have made it widely accepted by the scientific community as a potential treatment for hair loss (Rahman & Bagchi, 2014).

In a study focusing on the benefits of the topical application of 0.025% retinol, on average, test subjects saw moderate increases in hair growth and some saw extreme increases in hair growth. The combination of minoxidil and topical retinol saw even more statistically significant hair growth (Bazzano, Terezakis, & Galen, 1986).

Minoxidil and Retinol Shown to Increase Hair Growth

Supporting this assertion, Yoo et al. showed in a study that a mixture of minoxidil and retinol increased hair growth significantly in alopecia areata patients (2007). Bazzano, Terezakis, & Galen state in their study that the combination of minoxidil and retinol should be studied more than just topical retinol alone, as the two medications together seem to stimulate the biological effects the other lacks (1986). In addition, larger controlled studies need to be done to confirm these hair growth effects in hair growth patients, according to scientists, as most controlled studies done on both topical retinol and topical retinol combined with minoxidil (Terezakis & Bazzano, 1988). This need for further research is backed by recent studies on aging, where it is stated that topical retinol needs to be studied on hair loss due to aging to conclusively prove the hair growth properties of topical retinol (Rahman & Bagchi, 2014, p. 240).

Hair Growth Products That Contain Retinol

  • DS Labs Spectral DNC N

    DS Labs Spectral DNC N

    Around $35 for 2oz

    • Gingseng extract may promote blood circulation in the scalp
    • “Nanoxidil” (a new form of Minoxidil, developed by DS Labs) increases blood circulation in the scalp and is thought to penetrate the scalp skin better than normal Minoxidil
    • Aminexil is thought to improve blood circulation in the scalp and may help reduce perifollicular fibrosis
    • Arginine may help improve blood circulation in the scalp
    • Uses nanosomes to improve delivery of ingredients
    • Contains copper peptides, which may help reduce inflammation
    • Contains Adenosine, which has been shown to be effective in reducing hair loss in several major hair loss studies
    • Contains polyphenols, which are thought to help improve blood circulation in the scalp and according to DS Labs help regrowth along the hair line
    • Citrulline is a precursor to arginine, which helps improve blood circulation
    • Contains natural plant stem cells, which may help increase cell growth in the scalp
    • Contains Biotin, which supports healthy hair
    • Contains oleanolic acid, which may increase growth factors in the scalp, increasing hair growth
    • Retinol is an antioxidant, which is thought by some to reduce hair loss

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  1. Bazzano, G. S., Terezakis, N., & Galen, W. (1986). Topical tretinoin for hair growth promotion. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, 15(4), 880-893. doi:10.1016/s0190-9622(86)80024-x
  2. Ehrlich, S. D. (2011, June 21). Vitamin A (Retinol). Retrieved June 16, 2015, from
  3. Everts, H. B., Sundberg, J. P., King, L. E., & Ong, D. E. (2007). Immunolocalization of Enzymes, Binding Proteins, and Receptors Sufficient for Retinoic Acid Synthesis and Signaling During the Hair Cycle. J Investig Dermatol Journal of Investigative Dermatology, 127(7), 1593-1604. doi:10.1038/sj.jid.5700753
  4. Rahman, I., & Bagchi, D. (2014). Aging and Anti-Aging in Hair and Hair Loss. In Inflammation, advancing age and nutrition: Research and clinical interventions (pp. 231-246). Academic Press. doi:10.1016/B978-0-12-397803-5.00019-8
  5. Rogers, N. E., & Avram, M. R. (2008). Medical treatments for male and female pattern hair loss. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, 59(4), 547-566. doi:10.1016/j.jaad.2008.07.001
  6. Terezakis, N. K., & Bazzano, G. S. (1988). Retinoids: Compounds important to hair growth. Clinics in Dermatology, 6(4), 129-131. doi:10.1016/0738-081x(88)90077-6
  7. Yoo, H. G., Chang, I., Pyo, H. K., Kang, Y. J., Lee, S. H., Kwon, O. S., . . . Kim, K. H. (2007). The Additive Effects of Minoxidil and Retinol on Human Hair Growth in Vitro [Abstract]. Biological & Pharmaceutical Bulletin Biol. Pharm. Bull., 30(1), 21-26. doi:10.1248/bpb.30.21