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Ketoconazole & Hair Loss: Uses, Benefits & Side Effects
Dr Ahmad Moussa (FRCS)
Medically reviewed by
Dr Ahmad Moussa (FRCS)
Updated on November 24, 2022

Over 35 million men and 21 million women are affected by hair loss globally [1] and not everyone wants to sit back and watch their hair continue to fall out. This is why there’s such a large range of treatment options out there that promise to restore hair growth.

If you’ve found yourself as one of the millions of people who are experiencing hair loss, chances are that you’ve done quite a lot of research yourself into what you can do to stop it.

Most people with hair loss will start with over-the-counter medication and treatments and, if you’ve looked into these, you’ve probably already come across something called ketoconazole.

Ketoconazole is an anti-fungal medicine that you’ll normally find treating skin infections however, there have been some early studies that have suggested it may help to treat men who are suffering from male pattern baldness.

Below, you’ll find information on what ketoconazole is, how you can use it to prevent hair loss and any potential benefits or side effects.

What is Ketoconazole?

Ketoconazole is an over-the-counter medication that is most commonly used to treat fungal infections like athlete’s foot and ringworm.

It comes in either a tablet or cream and is currently only used when other, more effective, antifungal medicines can’t be used in certain cases.

You can also find ketoconazole in shampoo form, marketed to help treat fungal scalp infections, seborrheic dermatitis or dandruff. 

One common brand of ketoconazole shampoo that you may already be familiar with is Nizoral®.

Can you use Ketoconazole for Hair Loss?

Whether you’re suffering from alopecia areata or telogen effluvium, hair loss can be a real hit to your confidence. If you are starting to notice your hair falling out, it’s only natural to want to find a solution as soon as possible.

There have been a few studies that have started to look into ketoconazole’s ability to help people who are experiencing hair loss, and most of these studies have yielded some promising results.

For example, one study [2] compared ketoconazole to another popular topical hair loss treatment, Minoxidil. The study found that when 2% ketoconazole was used, it produced very similar results to Minoxidil in improving hair density and increasing the size and proportion of anagen hair follicles.

In a systematic review of seven studies [3], which included both animal and human test subjects, they also found that ketoconazole can result in improvements in hair density and proves to be a promising option for treating male pattern hair loss.

How does ketoconazole work?

Because the research on ketoconazole is still being recorded, many experts are still deciding on how it actually interacts with the body to prevent hair loss.

One paper [5] has suggested that ketoconazole works by disrupting the Dihydrotestosterone (DHT) pathways to the scalp to prevent DHT-related hair loss.

Ketoconazole also has anti-inflammatory properties, which is why it’s commonly used to treat fungal infections [4]. By reducing inflammation on the scalp, it is also able to reduce hair loss.

However, without more research, it’s hard to say exactly how ketoconazole works. If you are looking for treatments that will lower the DHT in your body, we’d recommend using treatments like finasteride which has a lot more science-backed claims.

Can women use Ketoconazole for hair loss?

Typically, because of the effect ketoconazole is thought to have on DHT, it’s not normally used by women who are experiencing female pattern hair loss. However, in one small study of 20 patients [4], 2% topical ketoconazole was administered and was found to effectively treat hair loss, but at a much slower rate than in male patients.

Many of these early-stage studies of ketoconazole are very promising and show the treatment to be effective at treating both male and female pattern hair loss due to the anti-inflammatory properties it contains. However, the research on this treatment is still very much in its early stages.

There still needs to be more firm research to back up some of these initial claims before this treatment is able to be a widely-administered hair loss treatment.

What are the side effects of ketoconazole?

When taking ketoconazole, there is a small chance that you may experience some side effects. The most common side effect is skin irritation, which can cause either oiliness or dryness on the scalp or abnormal hair texture.

There is also a chance that you may experience an allergic reaction to ketoconazole which could appear as severe itching, rashes, dizziness, or swelling of the face, tongue or throat.

If you do think you have the signs of an allergic reaction, we’d recommend visiting your GP as soon as you can.

Alternative treatments for hair loss

If you don’t think ketoconazole would work for you, or you’d just like to do some more research on the different options that are available to you, there’s plenty to choose from.

For some causes of hair loss, like mineral deficiency, you could start taking hair loss vitamins for hair growth or a caffeine shampoo to prevent your hair from continuing to fall out. 

Alternatively, some of the most popular treatments for hair loss include Finasteride and Dutasteride which are both oral tablets that can be taken daily and have plenty of studies that prove how effective they are at reversing the effects of hair loss.

Similar to ketoconazole is Minoxidil, which is a topical treatment that can be applied to areas of the scalp where hair is falling out, daily.

However, if your hair has fallen out considerably, or you want a more long-term solution to your hair loss, you may want to consider getting a hair transplant.

A hair transplant is a simple procedure where healthy hair is reimplanted into areas of your scalp where you’re experiencing hair loss. It’s extremely effective and, when carried out by professionals, can result in an extremely natural appearance.

At Wimpole Clinic, we’ve helped hundreds of men and women get the full head of hair they’ve always wanted. If you want to achieve the same, get in touch with a member of our team today.

Ketoconazole & Hair Loss: Uses, Benefits & Side Effects, Wimpole Clinic

References:

[1] https://www.statisticbrain.com/hair-loss-statistics/ 

[2] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/9669136/ 

[3] https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/dth.13202 

[4] https://biomeddermatol.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s41702-019-0046-y 

[5] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/14729013/ 

Dr Ahmad Moussa (FRCS)
Medically reviewed by Dr Ahmad Moussa (FRCS)Updated on November 24, 2022
The Wimpole Clinic offers FUE Hair, Beard & Eyebrow Transplants & Trichology.
Talk to a specialist ☎ 020 7935 1861.
Dr Ahmad Moussa (FRCS)
Medically reviewed by
Dr Ahmad Moussa (FRCS)
Updated on November 24, 2022

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