Billions of dollars are spent annually on hair removal products to treat unwanted facial hair and hirsutism, the excessive growth of unwanted hair in women.
There are prescription topical agents on the market in the US, however these are currently for women only and have a variable success rate.
Now, scientists have discovered the antiviral agent cidofovir, which was reported to induce local alopecia when applied topically, could be a safe and effective solution to preventing hair growth.
Facial hair growth prevention
The study, published in peer-reviewed journal Archives of Dermatology, took healthy men with dense or very dense beard growth and gave them a gel containing cidofovir, either one per cent or the three per cent strength,to rub on a small circle on one side of the face every day, with a placebo applied to the other.
The men were told to carry on shaving every day but to stop 48 hours before their scheduled visit to the clinic for assessment, so doctors could see the effects on hair growth.
The results showed little effect using the one percent mixture, however there was a significant reduction in hair growth where the three percent gel was used.
“The negative trend in hair count with use of cidofovir, 3 percent, suggests a dose-response relationship and that the 3 percent concentration may be promising for preventing hair growth,” concluded the scientists.
Further studies hold promise
“We did not observe induction of total alopecia as was previously reported when topical cidofovir was applied… Treatment dose and duration may have been insufficient to trigger cidofovir's effect in normal skin. Nevertheless, topical cidofovir was well tolerated and showed an incidence of local skin reactions similar to that of eflornithine [a prescription drug currently available].”
It is thought that as well as preventing facial hair growth, in both men and women, the drug could have applications in other skin care products where unwanted hair is a problem, however further studies will be needed.
“In conclusion, topical cidofovir was safe and well tolerated, and the 3 percent concentration may be promising for further studies of hair growth prevention. Future trials evaluating higher concentrations, longer treatment durations, and use in women are warranted,” concluded the researcher.