Traction alopecia is hair loss that occurs after persistent pulling (e.g., during cosmetic procedures) on the roots of hair over time. Unlike plucking, which is painful, persistent pulling may go unnoticed until a patient presents with either bald spots or diffuse telogen shedding. Each hair follicle in the scalp contains an arrector pili muscle that, when contracted, erects the hair. The smooth muscle in the arrector pili expresses α1 adrenergic receptors (α1 -AR). As such, we hypothesized that contraction of the arrector pili muscle via an α1 -AR agonist would increase the threshold of force required to pluck hair during cosmetic procedures. Female subjects, ages 18-40, were recruited to study the effect of topically applied phenylephrine, a selective α1 -AR agonist, on epilation force and hair shedding during cosmetic procedures. In our blinded study, 80% of subjects demonstrated reduced shedding on days using phenylephrine compared to days using a placebo solution. The average reduction in hair loss was approximately 42%. In addition, the force threshold required for epilation increased by approximately 172% following topical phenylephrine application. To our knowledge this is the first study demonstrating the utility of α1 -AR agonists in the treatment of traction alopecia and hair shedding during cosmetic procedures.
Keywords: alopecia; therapy-topical.
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