Avacor® Hair Regrowth Blog

Stress and Hair Loss

In general, people are stressed.  We stress about work, we stress about relationships, we stress about money, we stress about family and friends and traffic and long lines at the grocery store.  We stress about getting married, having kids, and the importance of a proper work-life balance.

Photo from Synchealth.com

We stress about what to make for dinner.  Stress is a part of daily life for nearly everyone. Many media sources do their best to remind us that stress is bad for our health and could lead to premature signs of aging, increased risk of disease, and an untimely demise.  Not to mention wrinkles and thinning hair.

Wait – Thinning Hair? Can Stress Really Do That?

In a word, yes.  In a few more words, it’s not that simple.  There is an important distinction between emotional stress and physiological stress.  Working against an unexpected deadline at work, fighting with a friend or family member, and having to stand in line at the grocery store can cause you stress, but these are relatively short-lived emotional stressors.  Bigger stressors, such as the stress of getting married, having a child, losing a loved one, losing or gaining a large amount of weight, living in an abusive situation, or getting divorced can cause deeper physiological stress on your body, which can manifest in poor health and impact your body – including your hormones, mental functioning, skin, nails, and hair.  There is indeed some truth to the belief that stress can cause hair loss.

Hair loss can often be a consequence of excessive physiological stress, which can be brought on by a variety of sources, such as:

  • Crash diets and malnutrition
  • Chronic stress
  • Eating disorders
  • Pregnancy and childbirth
  • Rapid weight gain or loss
  • Starting or stopping a medication
  • Surgery, illness (especially with a high fever), or injury

Note that these aren’t the small-picture emotional stressors of daily life, like running late or waiting in a long line.  Physiological stressors have a deeper reach and impact on your health.

When stress-related hair loss strikes, it isn't necessarily permanent.  Mayo Clinic psychiatrist Dr. Daniel Hall-Flavin purports that there are three types of hair loss typically associated with high levels of physiological stress: Alopecia areata, Telogen effluvium, and Trichotillomania.

Alopecia areata is a condition in which the white blood cells, or leukocytes, of the body’s immune system attack the body’s hair follicles, leading to bald spots on the scalp.  Alopecia totalis is hair loss of this type on the entirety of the scalp, and Alopecia universalis is the autoimmune loss of hair from the entire body.

Telogen effluvium refers to the telogen phase, also called the resting phase, of the hair follicle.  Severe stress can interrupt the hair’s growth cycle and cause mass shedding of hairs that have entered the telogen phase.

According to a featured article on medical website WebMD, the average head has 120,000 to 150,000 strands of hair, around 100 of which are naturally shed every day.  Approximately 90% of hairs growing on your head are in a growing phase for two to three years at a time before entering the resting (telogen) stage for up to four months before falling out so a new hair can replace it.  Telogen effluvium occurs when a physiological stressor interrupts the hair’s natural schedule, causing a large amount of hairs to rest at once, which then fall out three to four months later according to the hair cycle’s regular schedule.  This type of hair loss will correct itself provided the stressor causing the effect is removed.

Trichotillomania, or trichotillosis, is an impulse control disorder characterized by the uncontrollable urge to pull out one’s own hair, from the scalp, face, or other areas.  In many cases, trichotillomania is triggered by stress or depression.  Trichotillomania in young adults and adults can be treated with behavior therapy, psychiatric intervention, and medication if needed.  Often the hair-pulling behavior ceases when other underlying issues are treated.

Besides these three conditions that cause hair loss, your body may simply be taking a break from hair growth.  It is not uncommon to experience hair loss after a major surgery, recovery from an illness or high fever, or childbirth – because your body is paying more attention to your recovery from the medical trauma instead of growing your hair.  Since hair is not necessary to survival, the body may shut down hair production in times of excessive stress.  Though this is normal, it may still be beneficial to check with your doctor to rule out any other causes of hair loss that might be medically relevant.

Many women experiencing postpartum hair loss, and others experiencing temporary hair loss, benefit from some cosmetic styling tips to reduce the appearance of thinning hair.  Headbands and scarves can camouflage thinning hair, as can changing your style and switching to a side-part or using volumizing mousse to add fullness and texture.  The appearance of thinning hair can be hidden with a new haircut that focuses on volume and fullness to your hairstyle.

While some hair loss may be unavoidable as the body’s response to serious physiological stress, you can take steps to reduce the impact stress has on your life.  The following tips can help you manage your overall stress so that big events don’t have such a profound effect on your body.

Take care of your physical needs

  • Sleep: Lack of sleep leads to fatigue and increased stress levels.  Getting a full night’s sleep on a regular basis will help prevent and manage stress.
  • Eat: Eat a healthy, balanced diet.  Don’t skip breakfast, and make sure you are getting all the necessary nutrients you need, from whole foods and vitamin supplements if needed.  Avoid refined sugars and excess caffeine, which can disturb your sleep patterns.
  • Move: Regular exercise helps to reduce the effects of stress on the body and will help you feel more healthy.   Aim for thirty minutes each day; even exercise as simple as walking will make an impact on your health and stress levels.
  • Avoid toxins: Don’t overindulge in toxic substances like alcohol, cigarettes, and other drugs.  Taking care of your body with a balanced diet, exercise, and adequate sleep will do a better job of reducing stress levels in the long-term than drinking or smoking.
  • Know your warning signs: Knowing the small signs of stress, such as migraine headaches, restless sleep, or fluctuations in appetite, can give you a clue that it might be a good idea to check in with your doctor or take steps to improve your stress reduction techniques.

Take care of your emotional needs

  • Relax: Set aside regular time every day to focus on yourself and not worry about outside worries.  Whether this is part of your daily walk, shower, or bedtime ritual, it is important to spend time relaxing and focusing on your own needs.  This will help you stay in touch with yourself in regard to the stressors in your life.
  • Have fun: Incorporate your hobbies and favorite leisuretime activities into your regular schedule.  A major cause of chronic stress that can take a toll on your body is feeling like you are overwhelmed with obligations.  Taking time to do something you enjoy will help you stay connected to your own needs.
  • Talk about it: Identify people in your social circle, like a friend, relative, or coworker, who is able to listen to you when you need to talk about stress.  Having someone to talk to about your stress can help manage it so it doesn’t get out of hand and negatively affect your health.

Reduce stressors

  • Say no: If you are overwhelmed with obligations and commitments, turn some down to reclaim some of your time and energy for yourself.
  • Manage time: If your to-do list gets out of hand, devise a new time management strategy that can improve your efficiency and help you keep better track of your commitments.  Often, this small bit of organization can go a long way to managing daily stress levels.
  • Cut ties: If people in your life are detracting value or adding stress, take a break from them, or remove them from your life entirely.
  • Avoid triggers: If you know that a certain topic or activity triggers stress or anxiety, whether it is talking about politics or playing cards, do your best to avoid that particular activity in order to reduce the stress that is attached to it.

Stress happens to everyone, every day.  The difference between each person is how they manage the stressors in their life.  Stress and its physiological manifestations can often be a circular problem: excessive worry and stress may cause you to pay less attention to your diet, which may lead to nutrient deficiency, which leads to stress, which can manifest in poor sleep or exercise habits, creating more and more stress until you want to pull your hair out – or your body does it for you.  Take control of your stress before it controls you, and you will be much better prepared to handle the profound stresses life brings your way.

Written by Caitlin - Follow Caitlin on


Beating Work Stress

Emotional stress is an everyday problem for millions of working adults worldwide. In a recent article on self inflicted hair loss, we mentioned the negative side effects of emotional stress on your hair. The graphic below points out some of signs of work stress and the positive things you can do to help relieve stress and help regrow hair.

Graphic by Betterworks.com


Telogen Effluvium

A number of different hair and scalp disorders and conditions exist that affect your ability to grow a healthy head of hair. Some conditions are inherited, while others are caused by a variety of factors, including hair and head maintenance, stress, medications, or hormonal levels.

Telogen Effluvium is a scalp condition that happens when hair follicles prematurely enter the telogen phase of the hair follicle growth cycle. The telogen phase is the third of the three major phases in the hair follicle growth cycle. During this phase, the hair remains attached to the follicle but does not grow. It essentially rests within the follicle until the end of the phase, at which point the hair naturally sheds or falls out.

Telogen Effluvium

Image courtesy of Webmd.com

The word “effluvium” means “outflow,” so the condition’s name refers to an outflow of hair that occurs following the telogen phase.

All three phases of the hair regrowth cycle are important to growing hair on your head. However, if hair follicles enter the telogen phase early, it can result in shedding or hair loss that occurs at a more rapid rate than hair growth. As such, telogen effluvium typically results in hair thinning or shedding.

Telogen effluvium can occur for a number of reasons. Metabolic or hormonal stress, hormonal shifts, or medication can all lead to the onset of telogen effluvium. Emotional or physical stress, or stressful events in life, can also cause this scalp condition. Telogen effluvium can also occur in conjunction with giving birth, eating disorders, major surgery, anemia, fever, chronic illness, crash diets, emotional disorders, drugs, or hypothyroidism, a condition in which the thyroid gland does not function properly.

To diagnose telogen effluvium, a doctor may perform a biopsy, trichogram, or trichoscopy, which is a hair and scalp evaluation.

Temporary telogen effluvium often is over within 6 months. However, longer term conditions are possible, and in some cases, can lead to permanent hair thinning or hair loss.

According to WebMD, telogen effluvium is the second most common type of hair loss seen by dermatologists. At any given time, a healthy head of hair has between 80 and 90 percent of its hair follicles growing or producing hair. That means the other 10 or 20 percent are resting or shedding (in the telogen phase). However, when an increased amount of hair follicles are in the telogen phase, telogen effluvium is usually the reason.

In most cases, people with telogen effluvium do not lose all of their hair, though the hair thinning or hair loss can be significant, and can happen quickly. If your hair does not grow back, or if you wish to help regrow a full and healthy head of hair, consider beginning treatment with Avacor® hair regrowth products. Avacor Physicians Formulation® is designed for both men and women, and is an FDA-Approved product proven to help regrow hair in as little as 2 months. Avacor® All Natural Nutricaps are a completely natural product that improve and maintain hair follicle health using organic ingredients. Healthy hair follicles and a well-maintained scalp can help avoid the onset of telogen effluvium.


Exercise and Hair

Exercise and eating the right foods are the keys to a healthy lifestyle. We all know that. But how does exercise affect your hair health, hair loss, or hair regrowth? The answer might surprise you.

In general, exercise can help you maintain a healthy head of hair, and even help your body regrow hair. Regular exercise increases general health and circulation in your body. Increased circulation can stimulate growth in hair follicles. Also, exercise helps reduce stress in your life, and reduced stress helps with overall scalp health, according to Livestrong.com. So, if you exercise regularly, you are doing yourself—and your hair—a favor, right?

The answer might not be so simple.

Too much exercise, or overexertion, is actually bad for your hair. Excessive exercise causes a state of chronic stress in your body, according to author and nutritionist Ann Louise Gittleman. Chronic stress is a leading cause of telogen effluvium (TE), a condition that causes premature resting and shedding in hair follicles, according to the American Hair Loss Association. In addition, eHow.com explains that extreme bodybuilding and other extreme exercise activities can produce more dihydrotestosterone (DHT), which causes baldness in men. Conversely, mild exercise, like regular jogging or cardio, can help reduce DHT.

However, there is one form of mild exercise or cardio to think twice about if you are conscious about your hair health: swimming in pools. Most pools contain chlorine. The chlorine is there to keep the pools clean, but it can cause your hair to become dry and eventually break or shed. If swimming is your favorite form of exercise, you can avoid chlorine damage by wetting your hair with non-chlorinated water before getting in the pool (i.e., a locker room shower), so your hair absorbs the normal water, rather than the chlorinated water. Also, get out every 30 minutes or so and rinse the chlorinated water out of your hair. Wear a swim cap, and wash your hair after swimming with proper hair care products.

Another thing to keep in mind about exercise is that it causes you to sweat. Salty, heavy sweat build up on your head can cause faster shedding or other damage to your hair. The Harvard School of Public Health advises that you can combat this damage by using mild, pH-balanced shampoo and moisturizing protein conditioner at least once a week. Avacor offers both Thickening Shampoo and Volumizing Conditioner to help combat hair loss and stimulate hair regrowth. Avoid using hot hair tools as well, such as blow driers and curling irons.

The bottom line: exercise regularly, but avoid over-exercising or extreme exercise activities, and take good care of your hair with the proper hair care products. If you are eating healthy and exercising regularly, but still experiencing hair loss, consider using Avacor Physician's Formulation, an FDA-Approved hair re-growth product clinically proven to revitalize hair follicles and help you grow back hair.

Photo courtesy of Menscosmo.com


Sexual Side Effects of Propecia

Many people experience hair loss, thinning hair, or baldness at some point in life, and seek some form of treatment to help stop or reverse hair loss. Several different products are available, from "snake oils" to FDA-Approved products like Avacor Physician's Formulation®. Finasteride, which has the brand name "Propecia," is another treatment option. Avacor Physician's Formulation does not use Propecia as an ingredient for a variety of reasons. One of those reasons is because Propecia usage often leads to some negative sexual side effects for men. The drug is not FDA-Approved for women to use, though women who do use it are also putting their health (and the health of future children) at risk.

Loss of Libido. Some men who have taken Propecia have reported a reduced sex drive. Propecia blocks androgen, a hormone similar to testosterone. Androgen is needed for men to have a healthy sex drive.

Erectile Dysfunction. Propecia might also cause erectile dysfunction in men. Again, this is due to reduced androgen levels caused by Propecia.

Lower Sperm Count. A study by Dr. Ray Sahelian, M.D., concluded that Propecia can result in a lower sperm count in men than before they began using the drug. This can also lead to lower ejaculate levels. The study indicated that the sperm count decreased when Propecia treatment began, then increased in the months immediately after the test subject stopped taking the drug.

Depression. Depression is typically caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain. While it is not a sexual side effect, some people that have taken Propecia have reported increased symptoms or signs of depression. People who have already been diagnosed with depression should be especially careful with Propecia.

Some men who have taken Propecia also indicate that additional side effects include weight gain and muscle damage.

Side Effects for Women. Although the FDA does not allow prescribing Propecia to women to treat hair loss, some women still manage to get the drug to combat female pattern baldness or excess body and facial hair. However, the side effects can be even worse for women than men. Pregnant women should especially avoid Propecia; even touching the drug can be dangerous to the woman and child. Women who might become pregnant (i.e., most adult women) should use the same caution.

Professor Abdulmaged M. Traish from Boston University, who specializes in biochemistry and urology, indicated that almost everyone who uses Propecia to treat hair loss experiences some of these side effects, though the symptoms are more drastic for some than in others.

Perhaps the worst part about these side effects is that for some people, the side effects continue, even after Propecia treatment stops. Professor Traish called these prolonged side effects "a life sentence." With risks like these, you should consider seeking other treatment options than Propecia, such as Avacor Physician's Formulation.


FDA Approved Hair Products

We've all seen the term "FDA Approved." But, do you know what it means?

The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is a federal government agency in charge of keeping the American public safe by regulating food, drugs, and medical devices. When a product or item is FDA-Approved, it has been rigorously tested and thoroughly inspected, and found to be both effective and completely safe for people to use or consume.

So, how does this relate to your hair?

Well, if you are experiencing hair loss, interested in hair restoration, or just curious about the process, you will undoubtedly encounter a wide variety of products to help stimulate hair growth. Many of these products are not FDA-Approved, which should be an automatic red flag. In other words, if a product is advertised to treat a medical condition, such as hair loss, but it does not indicate anywhere that it is FDA-Approved, then you should avoid using that product. You may be taking a major health risk using a product that is not FDA-Approved to treat any medical condition.

Avacor Physician's Formulation® is an FDA-Approved hair restoration product clinically proven to revitalize hair follicles and help you grow back your very own hair. The FDA has carefully tested and inspected how the product is manufactured, what ingredients are used, how much of each ingredient is used, how the product is stored and packaged, and how the product is administered. In other words, all aspects of Avacor Physician's Formulation production, including each ingredient, the bottling process, and the recommended dosage, have been deemed completely safe and effective for consumers to use for the treatment of hair loss, according to the FDA.

Unfortunately, some consumers continue to be tricked into buying "snake oil" products, or hair loss treatments not approved by the FDA. These products can cause unhealthy and unwanted side effects, such as acne, scalp hair loss, menstrual irregularities in women, irritability, and aggression, according to Dr. Ray Sahelian. The FDA also indicates other side effects of hair growth products that are not FDA-Approved include low blood pressure, heart palpitations and other cardiac symptoms, hair discoloration, sensitivity to sunburn, itching, rash, irritation, or stinging skin. "Snake oil" products are a waste of time and money. They also taint consumer's opinions of the entire industry, making consumers skeptical of all hair loss products, including the legitimate ones. Additionally, they can add more emotional stress in your life when you buy the product and it doesn’t work, and/or causes health problems.

The good news is that the FDA is starting to crack down more on snake oil salesmen and punishing people with fines and/or jail time for trying to sell hair regrowth products to consumers that are not FDA-Approved. However, consumers still need to be aware of the product they are buying.

The active ingredient found in Avacor Physician's Formulation is Minoxidil. Currently, the FDA has approved Minoxidil in two different strengths: 5% for men and 2% for women. The Avacor product has Minoxidil levels that adhere to these requirements. If the levels were anything different than the 2% and 5% required by the FDA, the product could not be advertised as FDA-Approved, and could be recalled by the FDA at anytime.

In January of 2012, the FDA issued a press release announcing the recall of some hair regrowth products because they were unapproved new drugs, and had high levels of Minoxidil that could cause health hazards to consumers. These products had Minoxidil levels between 10 and 15%. If you are currently using a hair regrowth product, be sure to check the Minoxidil level, and consider switching to Avacor's FDA-Approved Physician's Formulation, as well as other hair care products: the Avacor® All Natural Nutricap containing the active ingredient Saw Palmetto, which is widely thought to be a DHT inhibitor; Boost! by Avacor®, which is specially formulated to thicken hair from the very first application; and our Scalp Detoxifying Shampoo, which removes dirt and oil from the scalp, ensuring effective delivery of the Minoxidil to the scalp when applied after using the shampoo. Rest assured that all our products are manufactured in facilities that meet the highest safety and quality standards today. Furthermore, all our products are safe to use, and have been formulated to either help you grow a natural, full, healthy head of hair, or to maintain healthy, clean, and stylish hair.


Minoxidil and Pregnancy: What You Should Know

Women Pregnant

Photo from Womenshealthcaretopics.com on Pinterest

We were recently asked a question about whether women who are experiencing hair loss can use minoxidil when they are pregnant or breast-feeding.

When it comes to medications and your child, don't take any chances. It is very important to check with your doctor before using any medications while pregnant or breast-feeding.

First, we should mention that the FDA has not approved minoxidil for any indications other than pattern hair loss. According to a regulatory compliance guidance document from the FDA,1 minoxidil should not be used for hair loss associated with child birth. (“Do not use if… hair loss is associated with childbirth.”)

Information from both the FDA and the National Institutes of Health recommend speaking with a doctor or health professional before using minoxidil if you are pregnant or breast-feeding.

The FDA guidance document mentioned above states: “if pregnant or breast-feeding, ask a health professional before use.” The NIH's MedlinePlus website2 provides a similar recommendation: “Before using minoxidil… tell your doctor if you are pregnant, plan to become pregnant, or are breast-feeding. If you become pregnant while using minoxidil, call your doctor.”

While we are not aware of any large, systematic studies of minoxidil use during pregnancy, a group of physicians from the Università di Firenze in Italy reported a case of a woman who used 2% topical minoxidil during her pregnancy and whose fetus developed abnormally.3 While no causal effect was established, the authors conclude: “Further knowledge on minoxidil-induced fetal toxicity would be beneficial before allowing its use in pregnant women.”

Remember - if you are pregnant or breast-feeding, talk to your doctor before using any products that contain minoxidil. And please keep the questions coming!


1. FDA Guidance: "Example Drug Facts Label for Minoxidil Topical Solution 2% for Men and Women". Link to FDA website

2. MedlinePlus drug information: Minoxidil Topical. http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/druginfo/meds/a689003.html

3. Smorlesi C, Caldarella A, Caramelli L, Di Lollo S, Moroni F. Topically applied minoxidil may cause fetal malformation: a case report. Birth Defects Res A Clin Mol Teratol. 2003 Dec;67(12):997-1001. Link to PubMed


High Dose Minoxidil Products

Lack of Evidence for Safety and Efficacy?

Several online distributors now offer products that contain minoxidil in higher doses than have been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) or that contain minoxidil in combination with additional active pharmaceutical ingredients.

Although the FDA has only approved minoxidil at concentrations of two percent (2%) for women or five percent (5%) for men in the treatment of hair loss, some products available over the internet contain minoxidil at concentrations as high as 15%. Many are formulated with additional ingredients such as azelaic acid, retinoic acid, caffeine, and even finasteride (the active ingredient in Propecia®), in combinations that have not been reviewed by the FDA.

The FDA evaluates two major concerns when considering new drug applications – safety and efficacy. Until these products are tested in clinical trials, there is no way to ensure that they are safe or to know whether high doses of minoxidil even provide any benefit over products that have been approved by the FDA.

Misleading Marketing?

Some consumers may find the marketing of these products to be misleading because of references to the FDA or to claims based on FDA-approved products containing 2% or 5% minoxidil.

The website for MinoxidilMax claims to offer “effective hair regrowth products... for male pattern baldness (alopecia androgenetica)” with “unmatched effectiveness.” Their products are manufactured “by an FDA registered cGMP compliant facility,” contain “the only effective ingredient approved by FDA in topical hair regrowth solution,” and have “the maximum strength of FDA approved hair growth stimulator (15% minoxidil).”

Consumers who read further on the company's website may be surprised to find that their products are not FDA-approved and that “the statement on this website has not been evaluated by the FDA. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.”

Another manufacturer, Perfect Image Solutions, offers high dose minoxidil products “specifically formulated to treat conditions associated with male pattern baldness (Androgenetic Aloepicia).”

The FAQ section of the website relies on the long history of FDA-approved minoxidil products like Rogaine® to imply that high dose minoxidil products must also be safe:

How do I know using a high concentration of minoxidil isn’t an overdose?
Minoxidil has been on the market for over 20 years with an extremely low incidence of side effects, especially from topical application.”

Although claiming that the products are “clinically proven to yield unparalleled results in the field of hair loss,” manufactured in an “FDA registered cGMP compliant facility,” and that all ingredients, “including Minoxidil must meet all FDA guidelines,” the website does not provide any evidence of clinical trials demonstrating the safety or efficacy of its products.

FDA Takes Action

Earlier this year, Regrowth LLC, a well known distributor of high dose "specialty" minoxidil formulations (formerly sold under the name Xandrox), released the following statement on its website:

“We're very sorry to inform you that Regrowth LLC has to suspend all operations at this time. In an ongoing audit, the U.S. FDA has deemed our medications to be 'unapproved illegal drugs'.”

Regrowth LLC had been selling minoxidil formulations containing 15% minoxidil (three times the FDA-approved dose contained in products such as Rogaine® and Avacor Physicians Formulation®).

On May 25, 2011, the FDA initiated a recall of 57,999 bottles of Regrowth LLC's products, stating that “[t]hese products are unapproved drugs and may present potential health hazards.”1 Based on this recall, it would not be surprising if the FDA takes action to stop other distributors of high dose minoxidil formulations/combinations from selling unapproved drugs in the future.


At the time of posting this article, we are unaware of any clinical trials proving that products containing higher concentrations of minoxidil than 5% are safe or more effective than FDA-approved products containing 5% minoxidil.

In January, Dr. Glenn Charles, a member of the International Alliance of Hair Restoration Surgeons, commented:

“I have not seen any studies comparing 5% Minoxidil with higher % Minoxidil concentrations. I would imagine that the incidence of side effects might be higher with greater % of Minoxidil. However, many of the reported side effects might actually be caused by the other ingredients in these hair loss products containing Minoxidil.”

If you are still interested in experimenting with formulations containing high dose minoxidil or combinations with other active ingredients, it may be a good idea to consult with a physician before you begin using any such products.


1. Enforcement Report for May 25, 2011: RECALLS AND FIELD CORRECTIONS: DRUGS - CLASS II. FDA.gov (accessed September 8, 2011).

2. Photo above from Occupycorporatism.com


The Ghost of Hair Regrowth Past: Outdated Treatments for Hair Loss

Hair loss has been an unwelcome fact of human existence for the duration of recorded history and probably much longer. Many ancient civilizations, from the Egyptians and Greeks to the Aborigines and Native Americans, developed their own remedies for baldness. While some treatments like grape seed extract (which contains resveratrol) and emu oil have made a comeback in recent years,1 other concoctions made from less palatable items like dog toes and bird dung may seem barbaric to us today.

Even as recently as the 20th century, options for treating hair loss were crude and often dangerous. Looking in the archives of U.S. patents during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, we found some particularly hair-raising (in a bad way) “inventions.” Tonics made from unpleasant ingredients and hazardous heavy metals seem to have dominated the field of hair regrowth treatments. Here are a few examples:

Unsavory Ingredients

US Patent No. 578,632: Hot Bear’s Grease

Michael J. Fleming of Portland, Oregon graced the public in 1897 with his invention of “a new and useful composition... for the restoration of hair upon the heads of persons who have become bald,” which he made from month-old rusty water, the best Jamaican rum, and pure hot melted bear’s grease. The ingredients were boiled together for six hours, cooled for two days, and left to set for a week before use.

US Patent No. 112,632: Pukeweed Extract

In 1871, Sarah Amanda Reybert of New Jersey revealed a vegetable hair-tonic that she claimed was useful for “promoting the growth of the hair and preventing it from falling out,” as well as restoring gray hair to its original color, removing dandruff, and serving as a “beautiful hair-dressing.” The main ingredient, made by steeping Pukeweed (also known as Vomitwort, Asthma Weed, or Lobelia) in alcohol for about a week, was supplemented with castor oil and Spanish fly (tincture of cantharides).

Toxic Metals

US Patent No. 885,073: Mercury

A Texas hair-tonic from Annie and Jennie Newcom, patented in 1908, featured an aqueous extract of the quince seed, which is still used in the Middle East as a remedy for sore throat, cough, and pneumonia. Perfumed with oils of citronella and rose geranium, the tonic was likely fragrant and pleasant smelling, but it unfortunately also contained the highly toxic heavy metal salt mercuric chloride.

US Patent No. 126,591: Lead

A “new and Improved Hair-Restorative” patented in 1872 by Phillip Trautwein of Brooklyn, NY, was made from gall nuts, abnormal plant growths caused by insect larvae. The creamy substance, which claimed to strengthen the nerves and materially increase the growth of hair, was probably sweet tasting due to a high content of sugar-of-lead (lead acetate). Users would likely have wanted to avoid ingestion though, since this lead compound has been blamed for the poisoning death of Pope Clement II and possibly also the composer Ludwig van Beethoven.2

Modern Treatments for Hair Regrowth

The last two decades of the 20th century brought two significant advancements in the treatment of hair loss: minoxidil, the first FDA-approved hair loss treatment for both men and women, and finasteride, an effective hormone-modulating treatment which is only approved for men.

These two medications have proven effective for thousands of men and women in slowing their hair loss and regrowing hair, but there is still no miracle cure for completely reversing or preventing hair loss. Recent discoveries like hair follicle stem cells and gene therapy have raised hopes for new treatments in the coming decades.

Keep an eye out in the coming weeks for the Avacor® Hair Regrowth Blog’s new series on the “Future of Hair Regrowth,” featuring several of the hottest prospects for hair regrowth in the 21st century.


1. Batchelder, T. “The anthropology of hair loss - Medical Anthropology.” Townsend Letter for Doctors and Patients. May, 2003. (accessed August 8, 2011)

2. Gensthaler, B. M. “Beethoven und Blei - Tödliches Zusammenspiel [Beethoven and Lead - Deadly combination].” Pharmazeutische Zeitung. July 23, 2001. (accessed August 9, 2011)


Brazilian Hair Straightening – FDA Action

An Associated Press article1 published today on numerous news sites is further raising public awareness about the potential problems with formaldehyde (methylene glycol) in keratin hair smoothing treatments.

Many government agencies in the U.S. and abroad have received adverse event reports from consumers about health issues with these products, notably including hair loss.2,3

Just two days ago, an Oregon woman who broke out in boils and lost her hair after receiving a Brazilian Blowout treatment filed a lawsuit against both the product's manufacturer and the owner of the salon where the treatment was performed.4

In response to these reports, several Members of Congress have signed a letter5 to the Commissioner of Food and Drugs expressing their concern about the safety of workers and consumers.

Citing reports to the FDA of “adverse reactions and injuries (including hair loss...),” the letter urged the administration to regulate the formaldehyde content and labeling of keratin hair treatments and to take action against manufacturers who misbrand their products as “Formaldehyde Free.”

The article quotes the letter's author, Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., as saying: “It came to my attention that people were getting very sick, that there was hair fall, there were respiratory issues, there were all kinds of problems with Brazilian Blowout.”

The FDA is currently “still evaluating the data” on methylene glycol-containing hair straightening products.

Despite formaldehyde being classified as a known carcinogen by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services,6 an FDA spokeswoman told the article’s author:

“The use of formaldehyde in hair straighteners is not prohibited, and there are no limits on the level in our regulations.”

Keep checking back here on the Avacor® Hair Regrowth Blog for follow-up on the reports of hair loss, updates on the FDA's response, and any actions the administration takes to regulate formaldehyde exposure from keratin-based hair straightening products.


1. “Call for Regulation of Hair-Smoothing Products.” Associated Press, via NY Times website. July 8, 2011. (Accessed July 8, 2011)

2. “Several Professional Hair Smoothing Solutions Contain Excess Levels of Formaldehyde.” Health Canada. April 12, 2011. (Accessed July 8, 2011)

3. “‘Keratin-Based’ Hair Smoothing Products and the Presence of Formaldehyde.” Oregon OSHA and CROET/OHSU. October 29, 2010. (Accessed July 8, 2011)

4. Terry, Lynne. “Bend woman files lawsuit against manufacturer of Brazilian Blowout.” The Oregonian. July 6, 2011. (Accessed July 8, 2011)

5. Reps. Jan Schakowsky, Ed Markey, Tammy Baldwin, Earl Blumenauer, John Conyers, Nita Lowey, Jim Moran, Barbara Lee, Judy Chu, Ted Deutch. “Letter to FDA on Dangerous Chemicals in Brazilian Blowout Hair Treatments.” May 6, 2011. (Accessed July 8, 2011)

6. “Formaldehyde - Substance Profile” from the 12th Report on Carcinogens, National Toxicology Program, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. June 10, 2011.