Male pattern baldness is extremely common and millions of women in the US and worldwide suffer similar problems with hair getting thinner all over the head.
Not surprisingly – most people dislike the changes in their appearance – offered a lotion or shampoo that would restore thinning hair who would refuse?
For that reason – trichologists and pharmaceutical companies have long seen an over the counter hair restoration product that works as a licence to print money. The difficulty is what works?
Hair follicle resting
The problem was past science seemed to show that when hair did not grow back it was because some hair follicles had died. Short of a major intervention like a hair transplant – nothing could bring them back.
This view has been challenged by L’Oreal in an announcement last month claiming that their research showed some hair follicles to be in a prolonged state of resting – a bit like an out of work actor or Sleeping Beauty. These follicles were far from dead and could be awoken to grow again.
The L’Oreal approach focuses on the fact that all hair goes through resting and growing states throughout our lives.
Key signals stimulate follicles in the resting stage to wake up and grow – for men and women with thinning hair the normal growth cycle is interrupted by the failure of these signals. Some hair stays in the resting stage and the result is thinner hair or patchy baldness typical of the condition.
Low oxygen the key to growth
Low oxygen levels around hair stem cells are vital for the follicle to start into growth – L’Oreal believe they have developed a molecule (stemoxydine) that will fool the stem cells into believing that conditions are right for growth.
As described by Dr Bernard who is leading the project: “We have identified a compound that can be applied to the scalp to wake the follicle up from its sleeping state to the active state.”
L’Oreal has already formulated and tested an over the counter product based on stemoxydine which is aimed at increasing hair density – similar to existing products like Rogaine.
New product launches September 2012
The brand name will be “Neogenic” and the line will go on sale in September 2012 – to start with in lotion form although there are plans for other hair care products to follow.
Further details are likely to be released nearer to launch date and at the moment it is not clear what markets will get the new product line to begin with.
At the moment hair care experts are urging caution – with some casting doubt on the science behind the hype. Of course it is in L’Oreal’s interests to talk up the results they have seen in lab results and on human testing.
If you suffer from thinning hair you may be desperate to try something new – but it may be sensible to wait and see what feedback the product gets from the first paying customers rather than from clinical sponsored trials.