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The Hype On IGF-1 And Hair Loss
Hair loss forums often tout a connection between hair loss and a protein called IGF-1 (insulin-like growth factor 1). The belief: if we increase IGF-1, maybe we can slow, stop, or reverse pattern hair loss.
Unfortunately, forums never clarify exactly what “increasing IGF-1 for hair loss” means.
For instance, IGF-1 is expressed all over our bodies – our skin, blood, and saliva… But blood (serum) IGF-1 exerts different effects than skin IGF-1, and that exerts different effects than salivary IGF-1.
So which kind of IGF-1 is connected to hair growth? Which kind should we increase to stop hair loss? And most importantly — is there even a scientific consensus behind the IGF-1 and hair loss connection?
The answers aren’t straightforward.
In fact, IGF-1 is associated with both hair growth and pattern hair loss – depending on its “place” of influence. And if we go about increasing the wrong kind of IGF-1, we can do more harm than good.
The article reveals why. We’ll uncover what IGF-1 is, why it’s connected to hair loss, which kinds of IGF-1 to avoid, and how to increase IGF-1 the right way – to target hair growth.
What is IGF-1?
IGF-1 (insulin-like growth factor 1) is a protein / hormone resembling insulin. Our bodies make most of our IGF-1 in our livers. From there IGF-1 enters the blood stream where it either binds to other proteins or attaches to other tissues (like the skin or our organs).
IGF-1 is critical for hundreds of cell functions… from cell growth to bodily development to anabolic function. And when it comes to hair health, IGF-1 levels can influence hair strength, hair growth cycle, and even pattern hair loss.
IGF1 And Hair Health: The Evidence
Studies show that low IGF levels are associated with inhibited hair shaft elongation and hair follicle regression. Specifically, lower IGF1 is connected to weaker, brittler hair.
IGF-1, Laron Syndrome, And Hair Recession
Have you heard of a condition called Laron syndrome?
Sufferers of this disease have a mutation in a gene that codes for IGF-1. Specifically, Laron syndrome sufferers can’t produce much (or any) IGF-1. IGF-1 is critical for growth and development, so typically those Laron syndrome are shorter with weaker musculature. But in terms of hair health, Laron syndrome appears to impair hair growth and weaken hair.
For instance, Laron syndrome children often experience frontal hair recession and abnormal hair growth. Their hair is thin and easy-to-pluck. And young adults sufferers – especially males – often develop alopecia (hair loss) later in life.
What can we glean from this? In the absence of IGF-1, hair can’t grow as strong or healthy.
That’s some major evidence in favor of the IGF-1 hair loss connection. And here’s another.
IGF-1 And The Hair Growth Cycle
What is the hair growth cycle? A naturally occurring phenomenon describing when our hair follicles either shed, start growing, or continue to grow hair.
Hair growth cycles change based on stress, diet, genetics, and seasonality. But now, new research shows that our hair growth cycle might even be dependent on the levels of IGF-1 in our scalp tissues.
Research shows that human hair follicle cells produce IGF-binding proteins – and that these proteins fluctuate in relation to the hair growth cycle.
With that said, we can’t extrapolate this study and say, “If IGF-1 controls the hair growth cycle, then increasing IGF-1 will regrow our hair.”
Why? Because hair loss due to interruptions in the hair growth cycle is different from hair loss due to androgenic alopecia (male and female pattern hair loss). Hair growth cycle-related hair loss is usually the result of too many hairs entering a “resting” phase simultaneously. This is when someone undergoes a massive hair shed — or a condition known as telogen effluvium.
Telogen effluvium is not pattern hair loss. Why? Because telogen effluvium is just a hair shed, while pattern hair loss is a symptom of scarring.
So, is there evidence that IGF-1 is connected to scarring forms of hair loss… like male and female pattern baldness?
IGF-1 & Pattern Hair Loss
IGF-1 is closely connected to three scalp conditions which precede pattern hair loss:
- Chronic inflammation
- Elevated DHT
And by diving into IGF-1’s connection to each hair loss trigger, we can uncover which kinds of IGF-1 we should increase, and which kinds of IGF-1 might make our hair loss worse.
#1: IGF-1 And Chronic inflammation
The Chronic Inflammation-Hair Loss Connection
While the sources of inflammation aren’t entirely clear, chronic scalp inflammation – via muscular tension, genetics, or even skull bone growth – tends to kickstart the hair loss cascade.
Inflammation activates signaling proteins. And certain signaling proteins – when turned on for too long – lead to the development of scar tissue at the inflammatory sites (the scalp). This is typically called fibrosis (or perifollicular fibrosis — scar tissue surrounding the hair follicles). And unfortunately, fibrosis reduces blood flow to the scalp skin tissues. This reduces oxygen levels (hypoxia) and nutrients to the hair follicles, which in turn miniaturizes the hair follicles. The end-result: pattern baldness.
So in this inflammatory process, how is IGF-1 involved?
IGF-1 Helps Counteract Inflammation
Studies show that IGF-1 is produced locally by cells in response to inflammation. IGF-1 also appears to have protective anti-inflammatory properties. In other words, IGF-1 reduces inflammation by influencing the production and actions of inflammatory signals.
There is also evidence that pro-inflammatory signaling proteins – like TNF (tumor necrosis factor) and interleukins – reduce the activity of IGF-1. Unsurprisingly, these TNF and interleukins are associated with the inflammation that precedes pattern hair loss.
The bottom line is this: IGF-1 and inflammation share a complex relationship. But research shows that IGF-1 is anti-inflammatory — and that IGF-1 may even help fight against the chronic inflammation that creates scar tissue and precedes hair thinning.
#2: IGF-1 And DHT (Dihydrotestosterone)
The DHT-Hair Loss Connection
While there’s no consensus that DHT directly causes hair loss, the following is clear:
- DHT is elevated in balding regions of the scalp.
- Men who can’t produce DHT never suffer from pattern hair loss.
The net: if we want to reduce our risk of pattern hair loss, we probably need to keep an eye on our scalp tissue DHT.
DHT Decreases IGF-1 Production
In skin cells (dermal papillae), DHT decreases IGF-1 production – which researchers directly attribute to a longer dormancy of hair follicles and impaired hair growth. In fact, the same researchers go so far as to suggest that increased DHT leads to hair loss because of DHT’s effects on lowering IGF-1.
While the research is limited, the evidence is clear: there’s a relationship between skin tissue IGF-1 and skin tissue DHT. Where skin tissue DHT increases, skin tissue IGF-1 decreases. And in rat models, this decrease leads to hair loss.
#3: IGF-1 And Calcification
The Calcification-Hair Loss Connection
Chronic inflammation doesn’t only lead to scarring… it also leads to something known as calcification.
This is when — as a result of inflammation — calcium deposits build up inside the blood vessels. If this happens in the vessels supporting our hair follicles, it reduces blood, oxygen, and nutrients to those follicles — which can lead to hair follicle miniaturization and pattern hair thinning.
IGF-1 May Protect Against Calcification
While the evidence is still mounting, IGF-1 may have a protective role against calcification.
Researchers recently published a study about a potential remedy for calcified heart valves. After discovering that calcified heart valves have significantly higher IGF-1 levels in the valvular tissue, they formed a hypothesis…
Maybe IGF-1 levels increased in these calcified valves as a protective mechanism against calcification.
To test their idea, the scientists evaluated rabbits treated with a medication called Sitagliptin. This medication increases blood (serum) levels of IGF-1. They discovered that rabbits receiving Sitagliptin had significant increased blood (serum) IGF-1 levels… and more importantly, improvements in heart valve calcification.
While this study isn’t directly related to scalp calcification or hair loss, it suggests something important: that blood (serum) IGF-1 may protect against calcification in other parts of the body (like our scalps)… and that high levels of serum IGF-1 may indicate that the body is fighting off heart valve calcification (or other forms of inflammation).
Should We Increase All Kinds Of IGF-1 To Reverse Hair Loss?
Unfortunately, it’s not that simple.
Let’s recap: we know IGF-1 is important for hair health. Why? Because complete absence of it – as in Laron syndrome – results in hair recession and thinner, weaker hair. We also know that DHT decreases skin tissue IGF-1, and that if we have higher blood (serum) IGF-1, this suggests we either 1) have calcification, or 2) are actively fighting it off.
So does that mean that increasing all kinds of IGF-1 will lead to hair regrowth?
In mice, yes! In humans, probably not.
In Mice: Most Kinds Of IGF-1 Increase Hair Growth
Studies show that mice given IGF-1 stimulate hair follicle growth in a dose-dependent manner.
Another study evaluated the effect of giving mice a local injection of IGF-1. The investigators discovered that IGF-1 injections increased hair follicle number and prolonged the growing phase of the hair cycle. The study concluded that IGF-1 is an effective stimulator of hair follicle development and that IGF-1 may hold promise as a hair loss treatment!
But don’t get too excited. If there’s one thing we know about hair loss research, it’s that almost everything regrows hair on mice… but that these effects rarely carry over to humans.
In Humans: Some Kinds Of IGF-1 Increase Hair Loss!
That’s right. Elevated blood (serum) IGF-1 might also be associated with vertex balding!
Remember: IGF-1’s effects are dependent on the tissue it influences. For example, IGF-1 promotes growth in muscle and fat tissues… but when IGF-1 is in our blood (serum), it influences metabolism (by altering blood glucose levels). These site-dependent effects carry over into human hair. The gist: in humans, high levels of blood (serum) IGF-1 aren’t linked to hair growth. Rather, they’re linked to vertex hair loss.
The More Blood (Serum) IGF-1, The More Vertex Balding
In 1999, a group of investigators published a study evaluating the relationship between serum IGF-1 levels and hair loss in men age >65. They determined that incremental increases in serum IGF-1 levels are associated with an increased risk of vertex balding.
At first, this seems paradoxical. But when we take a step back, this sort of makes sense.
Remember: we know from that heart valve study that blood (serum) IGF-1 increases to possibly protect against calcification.
And since calcification likely contributes to pattern baldness, it wouldn’t be surprising to see that men with vertex balding also have higher blood (serum) IGF-1 levels. In fact, high levels of blood (serum) IGF-1 is also associated with diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and several other conditions that all stem from chronic inflammation.
Knowing this, here’s a plausible theory: maybe these men with vertex balding have higher serum IGF-1 levels because serum IGF-1 is a response to inflammation. Therefore, we’d expect balding men (who are suffering from inflammatory conditions like scalp calcification) to have higher serum IGF-1 levels.
And just like with those rabbits – maybe if those balding men were given drugs to increase their serum IGF-1 even higher, they might see a decrease in calcification… and maybe even a partial reversal of vertex hair loss.
But then things get more complicated…
Bound Serum IGF-1 Versus Unbound Serum IGF-1
A separate group of researchers carried out a follow-up study on 45+ year-old men to measure vertex balding, serum IGF-1 levels, and a protein known as IGF binding protein 3 (IGFBP-3).
This study sought to clarify if it was really all blood (serum) IGF-1 that was correlated with vertex hair loss, or maybe just one type of serum IGF-1.
For reference, blood (serum) IGF-1 comes in two varieties: unbound and bound. Unbound serum IGF-1 isn’t attached to any other molecule or protein. Is free to navigate our bloodstream to any tissue site, then attach to that site and exert its effects on the cells.
However, unbound IGF-1 only makes up about 1% of the IGF-1 in our blood. The other 99% of blood (serum) IGF-1 is bound. This means it’s attached, or complexed, to other proteins… proteins like IGF binding protein 3 (IGFB-3).
So this leaves an important question… Is all blood (serum) IGF-1 correlated with pattern hair loss… Or maybe just one type of blood (serum) IGF-1?
One research team attempted to (sort of) answer this question when they discovered that older men with vertex balding express lower serum IGFBP-3… and higher serum IGF-1.
What’s the implication? A better predictor of vertex hair loss might not be the amount of serum IGF-1 in your body. Rather, it might be the amount of serum IGF-1 in relation to serum IGFB-3… or to extrapolate, the amount of unbound serum IGF-1 versus bound serum IGF-1.
Unfortunately, there aren’t more follow-up studies, so we can’t say much more than that.
Any Other Evidence That IGF-1 Might Increase Hair Loss?
At a first glance, yes. There’s evidence that IGF-1 can increase DHT in certain tissues. But when we dive deeper into the data, it becomes clear why we can’t extrapolate these findings as evidence that IGF-1 “causes” pattern hair loss.
IGF-1 Might Increase 5-Alpha Reductase (And Thereby DHT)
Remember: DHT is a hormone associated with pattern hair loss. DHT is higher in balding scalp regions. And in the absence of DHT, men don’t suffer from pattern hair loss.
DHT is made from testosterone. Our bodies convert testosterone into DHT by using an enzyme called 5-alpha reductase. In fact, this very enzyme is how hair loss drugs like Propecia fight hair loss: they reduce the activity of 5-alpha reductase, and in doing so, reduce the amount of DHT in the body and scalp.
Ironically, there’s evidence that IGF-1 actually increases 5-alpha reductase (and maybe even encourages DHT conversion).
This study found that IGF-1 increases the activity of 5-alpha reductase in the skin. But before we panic, please keep this in mind:
- This study was conducted in a test tube (in vitro), not in live subjects
- The investigators used human and rat skin cells
- They evaluated scrotal skin cells, not skin cells in the scalp
On top of that, the relationship between DHT and hair loss is complicated, and paradoxical.
Why? Because tissue DHT is associated with both scalp hair loss… and facial and pubertal hair growth.
So let’s put this study into context.
If DHT increases hair growth in pubertal regions, and this study was done in scrotal cells… Then in a way, it’s consistent for IGF-1 to increase 5-alpha reductase (and thereby DHT) in scrotal cells. Why? Because scrotal skin cells develop hair during puberty, and increased DHT in this region actually increases hair growth.
So maybe skin tissue IGF-1 is still correlated with hair growth – despite what appears to be conflicting evidence here.
Which leads us back to our original question…
Should We Increase IGF1 For Hair Growth?
Yes. But we need to get specific about which type of IGF1, and why.
Which Kind Of IGF-1 Should We Increase To Support Hair Growth?
The evidence suggests that blood (serum) IGF-1 is elevated in those with vertex balding. This makes sense, because high serum IGF-1 levels are correlated with several inflammatory diseases, and high serum IGF-1 is also indicative of the body trying to fight against calcification (inflammation and calcification are two triggers of hair loss).
We also know that when we account for the DHT paradox, skin tissue IGF-1 is consistently associated with early hair development and healthy hair growth.
So what’s the takeaway?
If we want to increase IGF-1 to fight against hair loss, we should focus on increasing skin tissue IGF-1. And if we have high blood (serum) IGF-1, evidence suggests we’re probably inflamed.
So when using IGF-1 to fight hair loss, we need to do two things: 1) increase scalp skin IGF-1 levels, and 2) get blood (serum) IGF-1 levels down to normal levels.
How Do We Increase Skin Tissue IGF-1?
Research here is still ongoing. But interestingly, if we stimulate neurons that sense pain and heat sensitivity in our gastrointestinal tract and skin, these neurons release compounds that then signal for IGF-1 to arrive at the “stimulated” sites.
That means if we apply heat or induce pain in our scalp skin, we can signal these neurons to send more IGF-1 to our scalp skin and maybe even promote hair growth.
Sound crazy? This is exactly how researchers at Japan’s Anti-Aging Solutions are approaching a cure for hair loss. Their belief is that by simultaneously decreasing DHT and increasing skin-level IGF-1, hair follicles will reactivate and lost hair will regrow.
If true, this would explain the incredible hair regrowth results one reader experienced from doing years of intense massages + rosemary oil. The intense massages stimulated pain receptors to send more IGF-1 to the scalp. The rosemary oil decreased scalp tissue DHT. The result: major hair recovery.
How Do We Decrease Blood (Serum) IGF-1 To Normal Levels?
One of the most common causes of serum IGF-1 overstimulation is our diet.
The western diet is high in carbohydrates (grains and sugar) as well as dairy products. Unfortunately, westernized carb-heavy foods are also considered hyperglycemic since they can elevate blood glucose levels.
The problem with dairy and high-carb, hyperglycemic foods is that these both lead to the overstimulation of blood (serum) IGF-1. Over time, chronically elevated blood glucose and serum IGF-1 levels are associated with several chronic diseases – specifically, diabetes.
This isn’t necessarily to the fault of IGF-1 alone. Remember, it’s more likely that these food choices contribute to chronic systemic inflammation… and as a response to that inflammation, our bodies increase IGF-1 to “protect” against its consequences (like fibrosis and calcification).
To put it simply, our goal shouldn’t be just to lower serum IGF-1. It should be to lower systemic inflammation – and to gauge our progress by measuring if our serum IGF-1 levels are within normal ranges.
The bottom line: if you’re suffering from hair loss and you have high serum IGF-1 levels, you should probably reevaluate your dairy intake and high-glycemic food consumption. Doing so might help improve your hair health.
What Diet Is Best For Bringing Serum IGF-1 Down To Normal Ranges?
Studies show that a paleolithic diet can help prevent high glucose levels and the conditions that precede increased serum IGF-1. This is because this diet excludes hyperglycemic carbs like white breads, pastas, and processed sugars. Paleo-based diets also typically include a higher-than-average protein intake. And in people who have low serum IGF-1 levels to protein malnutrition, a high-protein diet tends to also help bring serum IGF-1 back up to normal.
With that said, I don’t want to the “diet” police. Everyone’s different, and some people trying vegetarian or vegan diets also tend to have perfectly normal levels of serum IGF-1.
With that said, I do have one warning: be careful about going ketogenic (very low carb). Ketogenic dieters are often prone to hair loss due to their propensity to under-eat — and consistent under-eating can trigger hypothyroidism and a host of other ailments. Interestingly, ketogenic dieters have lower serum IGF-1 levels. So, if you can do ketosis correctly (and avoid a calorie deficit – which is hard!), you might be just fine.
Realistically, our objective isn’t to skyrocket your IGF-1 levels… It’s to get serum IGF-1 within healthy ranges – like what JD Moyer does (one of this site’s success stories) — and to simultaneously increase skin tissue IGF-1 in the scalp skin. That combination is probably our best bet towards utilizing IGF-1 for hair growth.
Any Downsides To Greatly Increasing IGF-1?
Our bodies make IGF-1 on an as-needed basis — starting with our pituitary gland. When our pituitary gland releases growth hormone, that growth hormone reaches the liver and then, through a series of mechanisms, stimulates IGF-1 production.
That IGF-1 then enters into our blood stream, where 99% of it gets complexed to binding proteins (like IGFBP-3)… leaving the remaining 1% to exert effects on other tissues.
The net: if we produce excessive growth hormone, we’ll also likely produce excessive IGF-1. This is the exact opposite of Laron syndrome, and if we want to know what this does to our body… look no further than Andre The Giant.
Andre The Giant was a famous wrestler who suffered from a pituitary gland tumor that made him produce excessive amounts of growth hormone all throughout life. This led him to develop a disorder called gigantism.
While the disease eventually led to complications that resulted in Andre The Giant’s death… it’s important to note: Andre had great hair! Just look at him here:
With that said, don’t go wishing for a pituitary tumor in hopes of preserving your hair. The detriments of the disease outweigh the benefits of keeping your hair into your later years (in fact, with gigantism, you’ll likely never see “later” years — as most sufferers never make it to the age of fifty).
Summary: IGF-1 And Hair Loss
IGF-1 is a protein / hormone that is necessary for hair growth and hair development.
When it comes to increasing IGF-1 to fight hair loss, evidence suggests it’s better to increase scalp skin tissue IGF-1 and decrease excess serum IGF-1.
We can increase scalp skin IGF-1 by invoke inflammation (or pain) in the scalp – like with intense massaging, or dermarolling.
We can decrease excess serum IGF-1 by minimizing our intake of dairy and high-glycemic foods. In fact, serum IGF-1 seems to be more closely associated with chronic, systemic inflammation — which is why it tends to increase on diets that are pro-inflammatory. So eat an anti-inflammatory diet to help get those levels back to normal.
Finally, some researchers believe the key to reversing hair loss is to simultaneously decrease scalp DHT while increasing scalp skin IGF-1. If true, this might explain the hair regrowth results of a past reader who did intense massages + a rosemary oil topical. The massages increased scalp skin IGF-1, while the rosemary oil topical decreased scalp skin DHT.
That’s it! Questions? Please reach out in the comments.
Rob English is a researcher, medical editor, and the founder of perfecthairhealth.com. He acts as a peer reviewer for scholarly journals and has published five peer-reviewed papers on androgenic alopecia. He writes regularly about the science behind hair loss (and hair growth). Feel free to browse his long-form articles and publications throughout this site.
48 thoughts on “Increasing IGF-1 For Hair Loss? Think Twice”
Apropos of diets: I’m seeing some great results, practicing your technique, right now… on prolonged water fasting!
It has to be said, however, that technically water fasting isn’t your typical caloric restriction.
Never fared that well on the latter.
That’s great to hear, Alberto! Congrats on your progress.
I’ve experimented with water fasting in the past, but the longest I went was three days. Some health practitioners treat hashimotos and hypothyroidism with water fasts until the patient’s temperature climbs back to 98.6 Fahrenheit (typically, it dips during the fast before it normalizes). This can take anywhere from a few days to two weeks. Of the people I’ve talked to who’ve tried this, they all mentioned that their hair shedding stopped during this period.
I’d love to hear more about your fast – if you’re tracking anything, how long you’ve been fasting, and anything else you’re doing for results.
I thought fasting was always catabolic, it seems counterintuitive that temperature would rise to a higher level post-fast than pre-fast? Even more counterintuitive would be the stop of shedding during the fast ? What’s happening here 🙂 ?
Dante – I agree! I’ll try to track down that clinic and their case studies on fasting + body temperature. I found the opposite happened to me during my water fasts, but then again, maybe I didn’t fast long enough to see my temperature begin to climb.
Just a quick question, with fat erosion on the scalp, is there any solutions? For diffuse rather than pattern loss, but I do understand that erosion happens on pattern loss, so are the mechanisms in the book the same? Also is there any dietary changes that should be put into place that can have an effect on reversing this? Such as not being underweight + caloric surplus?
Nevermind I understand it, but if you still feel its worth answering then go ahead
Hey Finn! Thanks. I saw your note about finding your answer, but in case anyone else is interested, I wrote an article about this here:
The gist is that in most cases of typical male pattern hair loss versus diffuse pattern hair loss – the mechanisms are all the same. However, in typical male pattern hair loss, it seems skull expansion might express itself more so than subcutaneous fat erosion — and vice-versa for diffuse thinning.
By identifying the dominant pattern of your hair loss, you can better treat it (since different treatments target different mechanisms).
RE: dietary changes to address this–
In general, the book’s dietary advice is the best I can offer in terms of stopping the factors that contribute to both diffuse and pattern thinning. But above all, you should absolutely avoid consistently under-eating.
This study for cryotherapy mentions the increase of IGF-1 mRNA levels after the treatment . Also mentions changes in collagen production,but the study was done in animals . So cryotherapy may be a beneficial factor in hair loss i guess. Maybe you can interpret it better than me 🙂
I’m a fan of cold water therapy – and for many more reasons than just an increase in IGF-1. Cryotherapy is an extension of cold water submersion, albeit a bit more intense. The gist: exposure to cold temperatures helps regulate the endocrine system, increase immune response, modulate IGF-1 levels, and in doing so, possible increase our resistance to stress. It also may have a protective effect against heat exposure.
I get my dose of cold water therapy by doing a lot of ocean wading (in the Northern Pacific – where temperatures fluctuate between 48-56 degrees Fahrenheit). If cryotherapy is more accessible to you, I’d go for it!
I would like your opinion on these two points.
– Will having filters in our showers that reduce chlorine reduce hair loss?
– What is your opinion on the relationship between TMJ and hair loss. I think there is some correlation on here (maybe by blocking some of the blood flow that is supposed to be going to the scalp)although I have only seen one anecdotal evidence and is not even MPB http://dramir.com/blog/categories/93-Alopecia-areata
In his main page he also puts in there that he treats hair loss as well http://dramir.com/index.php
You can certainly try a shower filter to reduce your exposure to chlorine. In high amounts, chlorine is considered endocrine disrupting. With that said, a shower filter is more likely a “small” versus “big” win in fighting hair loss. It definitely won’t hurt, but it likely won’t be the thing that stops or reverses your hair loss.
As far as TMJ and hair loss, it’s possible there’s a connection. I think TMJ troubles begin as a result of humans not correctly using the jaw throughout development and into adulthood. We were meant to chew hard things, and often. But today’s cereals and mashed potatoes take away the necessity to break down our food using our teeth and jaw. This lacking mechanical pressure can lead to malformations in jaw bone development, and eventually, TMJ problems. DHT is correlated with bone growth, and so it would be no surprise to find some sort of relationship between TMJ and pattern hair loss since pattern hair loss is also often associated with skull expansion.
With that said, I’m not sure if fixing a TMJ issue will help stop or reverse hair loss. The two issues are more likely associative than they are causative.
Can anyone give any advice on how to treat itchy eczema dandruff that seems to be getting worse during the hot summer weather? The top of my forehead near my hairline becomes very itchy and there is skin flaking and it just looks bad. I have medium length hair so it covers the flaking and redness but it still feels uncomfortable.
I don’t want to use anti-dandruff shampoos because I’ve heard they’re really harsh on the hair.
I was thinking of using argan or coconut oil on the scalp to reduce the itchiness but I don’t know if that’s effective or good for the follicles.
Do you think maybe I should consult a professional and get an expert opinion instead?
Ive just finished Month 7 of the regimen, and today begins Month 8.
Ive noticed and felt increased thickness on my vertex and regrowth !
My hair in general has continued to thicken and make progress.
The scalp has also become much more elastic. I cant beleive that 8 months ago I was suffering from diffused thining, which meant me using hair on my sides like a comb over for my vertex. Was distressing indeed. Also the hair looked greasy and curly at the ends.
Im happy to say that I no longer need to cover my vertex. Its recovered well and hopefully continues to regrow and thicken in the next 4 months or so.
My hairline is the funniest one…. Ive noticed regressions and progression at the same time on both temples. I noticed my left filling in , and the coming to a halt , and then right filling in ect.
However the thining hair between my vertex and hairline has thickend.
Hair quality has literally reversed , no more greasy sebum or diffused hair.
Shedding was in the normal ranges, changing during months, as per cycle. Sometimes more than usual , sometimes hardly any.
I think my Hairline will take the longest , around 12 months maybe more after seeing other responder stories.
Ive continued a general healthy diet consisting of more vitimins and mineral rich foods.
Ive continued washing my hair with cold water and NO shampoo for the last 7 months.
As its summer here, Im trying to get more vitimin D.
Ive continued using natural methods of DHT blocking, and K2.
In general Rob, Im amazed and so emotionally releived. Where i was 7 months ago, until now where i can feel thicker hair on my head. Overall I beleive its going to take longer than 10 months to see full results, which is expected.
How come vertex recovers quicker than hairline ?
My hair seems to also go into one direction , ie towards left temple.
Paz — Congrats on all your progress! You’ve worked hard at this. You’ve also been diligent in your multi-faceted approach (mechanical stimulation + scalp tissue DHT reduction). I’m excited to see where you net at the 12-month mark.
To answer your questions, we’re still not sure why the vertex, on average, regrows faster than the hairline. This seems to be the case with the majority of responders. I think it might have something to do with the location of the temples relative to the end-points of the galea. The vertex is entirely surrounded by the galea. The temples are at its very edge. I’m still researching this and will know more as new studies continue to confirm the mechanical tension theory of baldness.
As far as your hair going in one direction — that’s something I haven’t experienced. I actually regrew my cowlicks at the vertex — so the hair (in my case) returned in the exact direction that it had left.
Keep us posted! And thank you for sharing your success so far. Do you have any progress photos? I’m sure everyone (myself included) would love to see them.
It is encouraging to read about your progress. Thanks for sharing. I’m adding natto as a natural K2 supplement and omega 3 as well. I wonder what else do you take as natural Dht blockers? Are you dermarolling or just massages?
What would you suggest for hot weather. Right now there is a heat wave and hair feels more like due to sweat. Is hair expected to become more thinner and shed due to season.
Great question! I’m writing an article on this right now. The gist: there’s conflicting evidence on whether hair sheds more and looks thinner in the summer versus winter. Different studies give different results for men versus women versus rats, mice, and dogs. In general, density changes to your hair within +/- 5% throughout the year are normal — so long as long as you’re fluctuating within that range, you should be okay (regardless of the weather).
I couldn’t find a post that relates closely to the following questions and some old posts are closed for comments. So I’ll just post this here…
I’m now over 2 months into the massages. No changes yet. Except maybe that it seems the tight scalp “cap” has got smaller, and around it there’s loose skin that I can actually get hold of. I still can’t properly pinch the tight skin on the majority of the scalp, the fingertips tend to slide on top of the hair (but when I try hard I can avoid the sliding at least). But at any event the amount of pinchable skin seems to have increased – or then I simply have learned a good way to pinch already loose areas…
I seem to remember reading that the scalp should(?) feel a particular way after the massages but I haven’t been noticing anything unusual. My knuckles and muscles have been sore, however… but by now the muscles have adapted and the knuckle skin has visibly thickened from the massages, which is fine I guess…
Anyway, my main question is about shedding. I understand not everyone gets obvious shedding, but is there an average as to when the shedding begins, if at all? Also maybe, how long it continues..? I’m asking because I still use both minoxidil and ketoconazol. (Maybe these could prevent the shedding, too?) Be as it may, the ideal is to quit them at some point. I’m prepared to still use keto for the total of six months that you recommended but I’m wondering about the minoxidil. It seems the minox-related shed usually begins about a month after dropping minox. So I guess first I’d have to either go through a massage-related shed, or decide that there won’t be one. Then, if I wanted to play safe, I’d have to wait to see new hair growth before dropping minox.
Anyway, I suppose the use of minoxidil doesn’t alter the basic expectations as to the regrowth..?
Shedding depends on hair density, seasonality, massage intensity / duration, and recovery rates. But the only benchmark I use to determine normal versus abnormal shedding is this question: is your shedding leading to visible thinning? If the answer is “no” — then chances are you’re fine. If the answer is “yes” — then I ask more questions about diet/lifestyle/pre-existing conditions, and most importantly, consider reevaluating their massage technique.
As far as minoxidil-induced shedding — this also depends on the length of time someone’s used minoxidil + their responsiveness to minoxidil + all of the previously listed factors. This makes it impossible to tell someone how bad their shed will be if they decide to quit. I certainly shed a great deal when I quit. But I also quit and started the massages at the exact same time.
Massaging + minoxidil would likely lead to faster regrowth than massaging or minoxidil by themselves. But unfortunately, I can’t extrapolate to tell you what to expect if you decide to quit minoxidil now or later. There are just too many factors at play.
Read you article with great interest. Bare with me if you can as I give you a short history of my current hair and skin problems.
I’m 38 years and I’ve had severe to moderate acne (and sebum) since 16 and hair loss since 28 (vertex and mid-scalp).
My acne is now moderate after taking accutane about 11 years ago. But my sebum problem didn’t go away.
As for my hair loss, I’ve had 3 hair transplants since 29 and they’ve been mostly in the mid-scalp and vertex area. That has filled in about 65 percent of the area with ok coverage. But still get oil hair and scalp with sebum plugs and dandruff.
Now, three months ago, I started getting gastritis, which got really bad about three weeks ago and I had to go to the hospital where I vomited for the first time in 10 years. They said nothing major other than gastritis and told me check in with my doctor.
So, two weeks ago I went to my doctor and he put me on 40mg or Protonix, a proton pump inhibitor. It’s helping, but after 3 days, I noticed a side effect (sort of a good one).
After the 3rd day i noticed a major reduction in sebum on my face and hair. Also, I have less anxiety and can can eat more or less anything and not get a rush of sebum on my face (even on accutane this never happened). As for my hair, I noticed that I don’t have to shampoo for two or three days and my hair doesn’t get oily. THIS HAS NEVER HAPPENED. Before, if I didn’t wash my hair for one day, it would be an oil slick.
Now, I’ve some research on side effects with Protonix and other proton pump inhibitors to see if sebum or hormone changes have been studied. I couldn’t find any. But what I did find is that proton pump inhibitors are being looked for diabetics, because it does reduce IGF-1.
What do you think? I know my body pretty well, especially my acne, and to see this reduction in sebum on my face and in my hair is major. And the reduction in IGF-1 is the only thing that can effect sebum like in my opinion. What do you think?
Thanks for sharing this. It’s an interesting anecdote — and one that I’ll need to research further before I can give you any concrete answers. In general, sebaceous gland size is determined during and throughout the onset of puberty — where androgens increase in congruence with sebum production. Mainstream research suggests that sebaceous gland size and sebum production are more or less unchangeable after puberty with DHT-reducing drugs. For example, in castrate models, men castrated after puberty see a near 100% decrease in testosterone and DHT production, but much less so a decrease in sebaceous gland size and sebum production. However, men castrated before puberty tend to have significantly smaller sebaceous glands and less sebum production throughout the rest of life. Hence the androgen (DHT)-sebum production connection…
Something nobody considers is IGF-1 and its effects on sebum production. Theoretically, I think it’s plausible that your Protonix prescription reduced serum IGF-1 levels, and in doing so, reduced your sebum production. But the mechanisms of action (and interaction) between IGF-1, DHT, and their collective (and respective roles) in sebum production are largely understudied. This is especially true for IGF-1. And as a result, I don’t have much data to look into.
With that said, I do think this all circles back to inflammation. Inflammation increases serum IGF-1. Inflammation increases DHT. Both bound serum IGF-1 and tissue DHT are linked back to pattern hair loss (and possibly acne). I’ll keep digging into this and if I find anything worth sharing, I’ll let you know!
Hi Pete , I’m sure Rob will reply with a more detailed answer.
I experienced similar occurances during my first two month’s. I also used minoxodil on the vertex at this time.
My scalp was tight around the first two months, especially the vertex and ridges, which I struggled with at pinching. However by month 5 these began to loosen, and I was able to do the pinches on the ridges more easier.
I also continue to use minoxodil only on the vertex, but very very little. I’ve continued to decrease the volume of use.
With shedding.. I started minox 4 months before massages, only on the crown. I experienced quite a lot of shed, which was worrying, but apparently expected to happen with minoxodil.
I notice that their are cycles to shedding.
However I personally believe 2 months is far too early.
Hopefully Rob will correct me.
Thanks Paz for sharing your experience!
On minoxidil – I was specifically talking about the shedding after one quits using minox, which I may do only after getting results from the massages.
Do you think the use of a gh secretagogue, MK-677, which elevates IGF-1 levels would be detrimental to hair loss?
Hey Dan — it’s a tough question to answer for two reasons: 1) there’s limited data studying MK-677’s effects on tissue IGF-1 levels (as opposed to serum IGF-1), and 2) of the studies available, very few of them delineate between bound serum IGF-1, unbound serum IGF-1, and tissue IGF-1 (specifically surrounding the hair shaft and hair follicle).
MK-677 is also a select androgen receptor modulator. That doesn’t always spell disaster for our hair, but it does raise red flags (at least for me). I couldn’t find information on how MK-677 is made (typically, it matters more if it’s derived from steroids versus non-steroidal compounds).
Have you tried MK-677, or do you know of anyone else trying it who’s reported an effect on hair (positive or negative)?
So what you tell on recipe from nicehair.org
This regimen talk about using igf-1 not internally but only on scalp. What do you tykink about it?
I’ve grown increasingly skeptical of the nicehair.org regimen. My initial skepticism came from how professional all of the before-after photos looked (in reality, people take photos with their phones — not high-grade cameras, so it’s unusual to see stock photography-level before/after photos). Then my suspicions were confirmed: at least some of the photos from nicehair.org are faked. They’re edited from stock photography photos. See this thread:
For me, this sort of behavior (faking photos) undermines the validity of anything the nicehair ebook (or website) has to offer. I haven’t read that book and don’t plan to in the future.
Find out what you need to improve in yourself to become more effective!
Hey man ive beenfollowing the same massaging scalp and oil cucumber seed oil and cucumber juice as a pre poocert organic shampoo though having amazing results and baby hairs on most of my forhead have to use a flashlight to see lol but my question is what are you eating and drinking to reduce dht?
Congratulations Rishi! The reality is that the best diets vary person-to-person, and it would be reckless of me to recommend one single diet for the whole world to follow and assume it’s going to work just as well for everyone. In general, any anti-inflammatory diet is a good start — alongside the removal of foods that can trigger autoimmunity with prolonged exposure and ingestion. Reducing inflammation will likely reduce DHT activity in inflamed tissues — which is exactly what we want.
do you think its good idea to drink a lot of milk immediately after dermarooler for get igf-1?
The data suggests dairy increases serum IGF-1, which might not be as helpful. It’s still unclear how to increase scalp tissue IGF-1 surrounding the dermal papilla, but as more studies are published, I’ll continue to update this page.
This is a great article, kudos! I would just like to add, that IGF-1 upregulates Survivin, which results in resistance to anti androgen therapies. Prostate cancer eventually becomes unresponsive to antiandrogens for this reason, and finasteride/dutasteride users often report a decrease in effectiveness at about 5-10 years into treatment, not sure if the two are related, or if survivin is present in scalp tissues. Something to consider, anyway, though there’s really no way around it since anti androgens are a must for treating hair loss, and they increase IGF-1 expression.
Wow! Thanks for this study. Fascinating stuff. What’s just as interesting is survivin’s effect on TGFB-1:
I’m going to look into this more and try to turn the research into an article series. I just recently submitted a paper to an academic journal about a new hypothetical AGA pathogenesis model, and I wish I’d known about survivin’s effects on IGF-1, TGFB-1, and its encouragement of fibrosis before submitting — as all of this would’ve helped to reinforce the model!
Any other studies, please feel free to share. Thanks again.
Hi Rob, great article. May I ask your help with a question about this topic? I am taking Colostrum and it apparently raiseS IGF -1. In terms of hair loss, would this product have a positive or negative affect on hair?
Thanks so much for your time!
Thanks for reading. Colostrum is considered a natural food source of IGF-1, but what’s interesting is that IGF-1 from colostrum appears to fully breakdown in the intestines, and does not reach our blood.
This is important when we evaluate the literature. In some studies, colostrum supplementation increases IGF-1 levels. In other studies, the effects of colostrum supplementation on IGF-1 levels were negligible. In other comparative studies, colostrum supplementation appears to increase IGF-1 levels as effectively as whey protein — and any increase in protein tends to increase IGF-1. So this suggests the effects of colostrum on IGF-1 might be more from its protein content than its actual IGF-1 content — if there is any definitive effect on IGF-1 at all.
Normally I don’t like linking to secondary resource articles, but I looked into the sources (and did an additional search in the literature), and Examine.com did a great job summarizing this research and didn’t appear to exclude any accredited, relevant studies:
Here are the studies:
To answer your question — I don’t think colostrum is going to have any measurable effect on hair, any more so than whey protein supplementation would. The key here is to likely avoid consistent and excessive protein consumption — since that can upregulate a few biomarkers more closely associated with systemic inflammation and hair loss.
Awesome article! Have you seen the interesting studies regarding rice bran extract and hair growth ? I think out of a Korean lab
Thanks for the kind words. Is this the study to which you’re referring?
First, the good news: rice bran (at least in mice) appears to upregulate proteins and substances associated with anagen phases of the hair cycle. The bad news: this was done on mice, and while I wish it weren’t true, nearly all mouse model studies don’t translate to humans when it comes to hair loss.
This is mainly because the tissue environment in the scalp is completely different. I just published a manuscript on this and will report back as soon as I’m allowed to share the link!
I really liked this article. I have been fighting slight hair loss and after couple visits to the doctor I found out that I have hypothyroidism, my D3 levels are low and my IGF 1 levels are high. I am overweight and I accept that my diet is not the best. Sugar and cholesterol levels are normal… so I wonder what type of inflammatory issue I may have. Anyway, great article. Thanks for sharing.
which means you have normal sugar levels, how much do you have of blood sugar? the blood sugar to go well should have values down (80) what makes you raise the igf-1 is milk. soft dairy products and a diet rich in refined carbohydrates or high-protein / high-calorie.
Hi rob great information here obviously know a thing or two!
Firstly I’ve been on minoxidil for 9 years worked great at the start and I’ve added dutasteride about 2.5 years ago because I was getting an itchy scalp which went away when I started, about 7 months ago they sent me out a different brand of dutasteride which was a better brand than the first (a more we’ll know brand) but for some reason my scalp flared up again itching and tingling a lot and a lot of miniaturised hairs appearing. Something has changed and I’m not sure how to fix it. I’ve started ru58441 in hope it will clear my scalp of any dht but still getting the itchy scalp and tingling.. been on ru58841 for just a week now it does feel slightly better on scalp. They no longer manufacture the dutasteride I used to have so I’m really not sure what else I can do. Any ideas would be greatly appreciated
I’m sure you’re familiar with the peppermint oil hair growth study: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4289931/)
Well that study showed peppermint essential oil increased IGF-1 levels, which probably accounts for the hair growth results they saw.
I know you said in the article that “everything regrows hair on mice”, but do you have any thoughts on using peppermint oil for hair growth?
It’s certainly possible that peppermint oil might improve AGA outcomes. Rosemary oil has been shown in one clinical study to have similar efficacy to minoxidil, and interestingly, peppermint oil and rosemary oil are from the same plant family. Thus, peppermint oil may also help with AGA, and likely share overlapping mechanisms with rosemary oil.
This may or may not have anything to do with IGF-1. We’d first need 1) a study on peppermint oil for AGA, and 2) more mechanistic-specific research.
What is your opinion on Ibutamoren or MK667?
Why can’t you write in paragraphs? The articles are great and cover the topic well, but paragraphs have been created by civilization for a reason.
Pablo – you’re right! I just re-read the article and agree with you. I originally separated out the sentences to make the IGF-1 information more readable on mobile devices. However, paragraphs are certainly helpful.
Excellent article. You talk about being on an anti inflammatory diet and reducing dairy. Are u talking about conventional dairy or all dairy. I gather that raw dairy from grass fed cows is extremely anti inflammatory. Should I consume raw milk kefir or not then? Awaiting your reply. Thanks