Azelaic acid is a chemical involved in a variety of industrial and pharmaceutical uses. From a chemical standpoint, it is a saturated dicarboxylic acid and normally a solid that resembles flour in appearance. This organic compound is found naturally in wheat and rye.
What is it used for?
Azelaic acid cream is a very effective treatment for acne due to its anti-microbial properties (kills bacteria and clears blocked pores). It is also used to treat rosacea – permanent face redness usually accompanied by spots and tiny blood vessels that become visible.
Azelaic acid and hair loss
It has been speculated that azelaic acid may help stop hair loss – particularly in combination with saw palmetto berry extract, which contains phytosterols (steroid compounds with a similar structure to that of cholesterol). The mixture is applied directly on the scalp, or may be found in certain types of shampoo and topical hair loss treatments. According to a study conducted by the Department of Dermatology at the Kahramanmaras Sutcuimam University in Turkey, azelaic acid is more effective than anthralin in the treatment of patchy alopecia areata.
How does azelaic acid help stop hair loss?
Azelaic acid is a very effective anti-fungal, anti-microbial compound. As male pattern baldness is sometimes caused by fungal infections, azelaic acid may reverse the symptoms by killing the parasites that interfere with the proper nutrition of the hair follicle.
For the same reason shampoos that contain ketoconazole have been found effective at reducing hair loss and people have even see improvements in their hair when using the anti-fungal treatment “Miconazole Nitrate“.
According to the Massachusetts Medical Society, inflammation in the hair follicle is one of the most frequent causes of male pattern baldness. Azelaic acid has anti-inflammatory properties, which means it targets the source of inflammation and gradually alleviates it by releasing histamines (organic compounds involved in the inflammatory response that also act as neurotransmitters).
Moreover, azelaic acid is a 5-alpha reductase inhibitor. 5-alpha reductase stimulates testosterone metabolism, which increases the amount of DHT (dihydrotestosterone, also known as androstanolone) produced in the testes, prostate, adrenal glands and – last, but not least – hair follicles. While DHT is essential to the development of the male body, hair follicles can shrink (miniaturize) in case of sensitivity to DHT, hormone-related changes in the hair growth cycle, or if excessive amounts of the hormone interfere with their nutrition, “suffocating” them.
Both men and women produce dihydrotestosterone in different amounts (in the same way some female hormones are present in the male body, but in very low quantities). However, women are less likely to experience hair thinning caused by DHT.
Should you try it?
Is azelaic acid an effective treatment for all types of alopecia? Is it worth trying, or likely to waste your time? In spite of the positive evidence in scientific studies and clinical trials, more research is needed for a definite conclusion. While it is generally very safe to try and see if azelaic acid works for you, speak to a doctor first to rule out any allergies or other conditions/risks that possibly outweigh the benefits. Unlike most remedies that are very popular online, azelaic acid is a clinically tested drug with proven benefits in a variety of skin conditions. However, keep in mind not all human bodies work exactly the same, and people may react differently to the same treatment!