Other Alopecia Areata Treatments

People have been searching for effective alopecia areata treatments for as long as the disease has existed. Some treatments involve medications that have been approved for other uses. Some are complementary or alternative treatments, and some are new methods for stimulating hair growth that need more study. Nothing is 100% effective, but some people do see good results.

Please note that this list of possible alopecia areata treatments is for informational purposes only and does not represent recommendations from NAAF.

Some people try acupuncture as a treatment for alopecia areata.Acupuncture

Acupuncture is a form of complementary medicine that is a popular treatment for many conditions and some people believe it is helpful to add it to their list of alopecia areata treatments. Acupuncturists insert very fine needles into various parts of the body to relieve symptoms. There are no clinical studies that prove acupuncture works for alopecia areata however. There are some case studies of people who did have hair regrowth with acupuncture, but studies are needed to prove if this was a result of acupuncture or a coincidence.

Anthralin Cream or Ointment

This synthetic, tar-like substance has been used to treat psoriasis for over a century. Dermatologists have also used it for topical immunotherapy to treat patients with severe alopecia areata. Though it is no longer readily available in the U.S., it can be obtained from a compounding pharmacy. The cream or ointment is applied to the hairless patches once a day and then usually washed off about 30 to 60 minutes later. Some people may be told to leave it on for several hours.

New hair growth usually appears within eight to 12 weeks if it works. There are drawbacks though. Anthralin may irritate the skin where it is applied. It can also cause itching and/or a temporary, brownish discoloration in those spots. Leaving the medication on for shorter periods may reduce these side effects. Other drugs more commonly used for topical immunotherapy are squaric acid dibutyl ester (SADBE) and diphencyprone (DPCP). 

Capsaicin

Capsaicin is a topical medication from the membrane that holds the seeds in hot peppers. It is used as a pain reliever. It is believed that capsaicin can help stimulate hair follicles and hair growth so could be among effective alopecia areata treatment, but it does not appear to be very effective.

Cryotherapy

Cryotherapy is a treatment that uses low temperatures to treat some medical issues. There hasn’t been a lot of research into using cryotherapy for alopecia areata, but the few small studies do suggest that the treatment can help some people regain some hair growth.

Curcumin

Obtained from the spice turmeric, curcumin has anti-inflammatory properties that could help reduce inflammation around the hair follicles. However, when compared with a placebo, topical curcumin alone did not improve hair growth. Researchers who combined curcumin with minoxidil did see some hair growth improvement.

Cyclosporine

Cyclosporine is an immunosuppressant drug that is used to prevent organ rejection in organ transplant patients. Dermatologists use it on its own to treat alopecia areata, but it is more effective when in combination with oral corticosteroids. There are limited research studies on the effectiveness of cyclosporine on hair regrowth. One small study from 2019 found no difference in hair regrowth with cyclosporine compared to a placebo treatment in patients with alopecia areata.

Some people try essential oils as a treatment for alopecia areataEssential Oils, Aromatherapy

Some studies looked at using essential oils, such as cedarwood, lavender, thyme, rosemary, and primrose oil, applied to the patches of skin where there is no or little hair. Some of the participants had hair regrowth.

Excimer Laser Therapy

Researchers became interested in laser therapy for alopecia areata when they noticed that some people began growing hair in areas receiving laser therapy to help heal wounds. They don’t know why it happens, but one theory is that certain laser types could kill the cells that cause hair loss. Excimer laser therapy is used to treat other skin conditions like psoriasis and eczema. There are some studies that suggest that excimer laser therapy may be effective for hair regrowth in alopecia areata.

Garlic Gel

Garlic has anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties that could help with hair regrowth. In one study, garlic gel was combined with a topical corticosteroid and applied to the target areas twice a day. The results showed that the garlic gel helped with hair regrowth when combined with the corticosteroid.

Methotrexate

Methotrexate is an older drug often used in cancer treatment but is also an immunosuppressant that is still used to treat alopecia areata. Dermatologists have used it alone (monotherapy) but it is more effective when with used or with corticosteroids. According to researchers, it has a moderate effect on hair regrowth, but hair loss resumes after the drug has been tapered off.

Healing herbs, phytotherapy, could be an alternative treatment for alopecia areata.Phytotherapy

Phytotherapy involves using plants or herbs as treatment. It is often used to treat alopecia areata in Eastern Asia. About 20 herbs have been studied to see if they affected hair regrowth among people with alopecia areata. The treatments do seem to have some effect on some people, but researchers don’t yet know the right combination of herbs and the best dosages.

Korean red ginseng appears to help people regrow hair and helps make the hair thicker, but it still needs more study. One theory about why ginseng might be helpful is that it is supposed to be able to help manage the body’s stress, either physical or mental.

A combination of extracts from the roots of peony and licorice plants are used a lot in Chinese medicine because they seem to have both anti-inflammatory and immunosuppressive effects. In one small study, it seemed to help children regrow hair, but more research is needed.

Platelet-Rich Plasma (PRP)

Platelet-rich plasma contains platelets and plasma. Platelets are cells that recognize damage in the body and help the blood to clot; plasma is part of the blood that carries nutrients, hormones, and proteins throughout the body.

To perform platelet-rich plasma therapy, patients must give a blood sample. The platelets and plasma are separated from the rest of the blood. This is used to make up the solution that will be injected into the areas of hair loss. Platelet-rich plasma encourages cell growth and fights inflammation, which is why some people include it in lists of possible alopecia areata treatments. There is limited evidence that PRP is effective in treating alopecia areata. It is typically an expensive treatment, and the injections can be painful.

Topical Retinoic Acid

Retinoic acid is a vitamin A molecule that appears to play a role in hair growth. Clinical trials haven’t shown that there is much benefit to this treatment. Participants in one study applied a gel twice a day for 24 weeks on one side of the head. Researchers did not see a difference between hair that regrew spontaneously on the untreated side and hair that regrew on the treated side.

 

For additional reading on complementary and alternative therapies, see the articles linked below: