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What Is Nanoxidil?: How It Works, Studies, and Hair Growth Effects

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Nanoxidil is the name of an active ingredient that is popping up in some over-the-counter hair loss products.

This chemical ingredient is made to be almost exactly the same chemical structure as the only FDA-approved over-the-counter androgenetic alopecia medication, Minoxidil. The Nanoxidil structure is nearly identical to the Minoxidil structure aside from it having 1 fewer carbon atom and 2 fewer hydrogen atoms inside one of the carbon rings.

Clearly, the development of this molecule stemmed from the idea that maybe this too can have significant effects as Minoxidil when it comes to improved hair growth -- but what do the studies say? Is it worth it to give this look-alike a try for hair growth over the tried and true Minoxidil?

Let’s discuss.

Below, we will cover just what Nanoxidil is, the chemical name for Nanoxodil, how Nanoxidil is supposed to work for hair growth, the studies which have been done with Nanoxidil, and the differences between Minoxidil and Nanoxidil (that we know so far).

What is Nanoxidil?

Nanoxidil is a new active ingredient found in some over-the-counter hair loss products, currently always combined with other ingredients.

Structurally, Nanoxidil is almost exactly the same as Minoxidil, aside from one less carbon (and the two attached hydrogens) in one of its rings. Basically, it is clear that it is meant to function similarly (if not exactly the same) as Minoxidil in the body and on the scalp.

This slight structure adjustment means that Nanoxidil has a slightly lower molecular weight than Minoxidil. Nanoxidil weighs in at 195.22 g/mol, and Minoxidil is slightly higher at 209.25 g/mol because of this carbon ring adjustment. Hypothetically, molecules with lower molecular weights may have better penetration and absorption. Although, there are no studies yet showing that this slight weight difference plays a significant clinical role in one of these performing better over the other when it comes to hair benefits.

What is the chemical name for Nanoxidil?

The chemical name for Nanoxidil is just that, Nanoxidil. There is currently no brand name that contains just Nanoxidil, like how Rogaine is the brand name for just Minoxidil. But, there is a product that contains Nanoxidil along with a handful of other ingredients meant to target hair concerns. This over-the-counter product is called Spectral.DNC-N.

How does Nanoxidil work?

Since Nanoxidil is almost structurally identical to Minoxidil, it is likely that the mechanism behind any hair benefits is the same as Minoxidil.

With Minoxidil, we don’t know the full story behind exactly why hair growth is improved during its use, but we do know a few things. Minoxidil is a vasodilator, meaning it helps to open up some blood vessels to improve circulation in some areas. When applied to the scalp, this means better blood flow around the hair follicles. This boost of blood flow containing oxygen and nutrients may be part of the mechanism behind improved hair growth with Minoxidil use in some users.

We also know that Minoxidil can help prolong the anagen (growth phase) portion of the hair growth cycle.

Of course, it is an assumption that the very similarly structured Nanoxidil works similarly to Minoxidil, and more studies need to be done with this new ingredient to prove that these same effects hold up.

What Nanoxidil studies have been done?

One study done on mice showed hair growth stimulation with 5% Nanoxidil by an increase in the IGF-1 growth factor (which stimulates hair growth), and a decrease in the TGF-beta1 factor (which inhibits hair growth). The comparison groups were normal saline, and a 50% ethanol solution. While this study suggests that Nanoxidil may improve hair growth more than saline or ethanol, it does not show that Nanoxidil works better than Minoxidil, since Minoxidil was not compared against here.

Another study looked into 49 women using the Nanoxidil-containing product Spectral.DNC-N, and found that after 3 months and continuing into 6 months, there was a significant reduction in hair shedding as well as an increase in hair mass and density. However, this study was not controlled, used a product that had multiple active ingredients, and did not compare against Minoxidil. So, we cannot conclude that these effects were better than what we have seen with Minoxidil, or that it was the Nanoxidil that delivered all of the effects reported here. This study was supported by a grant from DS healthcare, which is the company that created Spectral.DNC-N.

Does Nanoxidil work better than Minoxidil for hair growth?

We do not currently have any studies pitting Nanoxidil and Minoxidil head to head to confirm that one works better than the other, or that one may have fewer side effects than the other. However, it will be interesting to see such a study developed since these medications are so similar structurally.

Some articles claim that Nanoxidil has no side effects, or that it may have fewer side effects than Minoxidil (which is already pretty well tolerated). But, we really do not have the data to support these claims as of right now. Many of the few studies done using products containing Nanoxidil simply had only a small number of users, and did not have a direct comparison between the two actives to confirm these claims.

The most common side effect with topical Minoxidil use is irritation of the scalp at the application site. However, this scalp irritation is thought to commonly stem from the use of propylene glycol in the formulation, and not usually the Minoxidil itself (although an allergy could also be possible). In this situation, a Minoxidil user may be able to get Minoxidil compounded without propylene glycol at a compounding pharmacy, like the ones we utilize at StrutHealth.com, instead of forgoing Minoxidil altogether.

Basically, while this Nanoxidil ingredient seems promising, more studies need to be done to prove that it can function better in practice than its close relative -- Minoxidil. While that one carbon difference does technically make a different and slightly lighter molecule, does that difference change the hair growth functionality or side effects? This is currently unclear. 

Strut Health Minoxidil combination formulas prescribed online

Here at Strut, we do not use Nanoxidil at the moment, but we do use the well-researched Minoxidil in many of our combination formulations for men and women without the potentially irritating propylene glycol ingredient found in the over-the-counter Minoxidil products.

If you are interested in seeing if a compounded Minoxidil formulation is a good direction for you, you can have a free online questionnaire and image-based consultation with our U.S. licensed doctors today. We offer Minoxidil combined with a variety of activities including Finasteride, Dutasteride, Spironolactone, Biotin, and Tretinoin, depending on your hair goals, medical history, and preferences.

If you are a good fit for treatment, your medication will be shipped to your front door with our free shipping.

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