Can yeast infection creams boost hair growth?

Ninon D’s delightful question: I’ve been reading an interesting thread on the Long Hair Care Forum. It seems that some of the women there are using a cream marketed to treat thrush on their scalps to boost hair growth. The mind somewhat boggles at how anyone stumbled upon this idea, however lots of the women are reporting increased growth from creams containing miconazole nitrate such as Monistat. I’d be curious to know what your take is on this – genuinely beneficial, benign or bonkers?

The Left Brain’s skeptical response:

You’re right Ninon, the idea that miconazole nitrate (the active ingredient in Monistat) can stimulate hair growth is all over the Long Hair Forum. They make several mentions of medical studies that says miconazole works, but I was unable to find any such studies. (If anyone from the Long Hair Forum reads this, please let me know which reports you’re referring to.)

Can anti-fungals help hair growth?

The only credible research on this topic that I could find comes from a report issued by the Department of Internal Medicine, Naval Hospital, Bethesda, Maryland entitled “Ketoconazole Binds to the Human Androgen Receptor.” Ketoconazole, for those of you not up on your imidazole chemistry, is another antifungal which is a cousin of miconazole. The Bethesda report says that lab tests showed ketoconazole can interact with androgen receptors and therefore can inhibit testosterone levels.

What does all this mean?

Since androgen and testosterone levels are associated with androgenetic alopecia (male pattern baldness), it’s THEORETICALLY possible that this chemical could affect hair loss. However, this test did NOT evaluate hair growth, it only showed that this drug MIGHT be involved in PART of the metabolic pathway that leads to baldness.

Furthermore, the study also says that “ the dose of ketoconazole required for 50% occupancy of the androgen receptor is not likely to be achieved in vivo…” So even if this reaction can be observed in the laboratory it doesn’t seem very realistic to expect it would work on people.

So should I put Monistat on my scalp or not?

And what about our miconazole? The researchers said “androgen binding studies performed with other imidazoles, such as clotrimazole, miconazole, and fluconozole, revealed that in this class of compounds only ketoconazole appears to interact with the androgen receptor.” So even in lab tests at high levels, miconazole DOES NOT show any effect.

The Beauty Brains bottom line

The only report I was able to find does not support using miconazole for hair growth. Of course it’s possible that there are other studies out there showing a cause and effect. If anyone comes across them, please send them to me for review. I’ll gladly revise my position based on new data. But without some kind of study and plausible mechanism, I remain skeptical that yeast infection creams can increase hair growth.