Topical application of the Wnt/β-catenin activator methyl vanillate increases hair count and hair mass index in women with androgenetic alopecia

J Cosmet Dermatol. 2016 Dec;15(4):469-474. doi: 10.1111/jocd.12225. Epub 2016 Apr 27.


Background: Activation of the WNT/β-catenin pathway has emerged as a potential therapeutic target in androgenetic alopecia (AGA). Methyl vanillate (MV) - a safe plant-derived ingredient - has been recently shown to activate the WNT/β-catenin signaling. Objectives Two distinct substudies were conducted. First, we designed a 6-month, uncontrolled, open-label clinical study to investigate whether topically applied MV may increase hair count and hair mass index (HMI) in female AGA. Second, we conducted a molecular study on the effect of MV on WNT10B mRNA expression in scalp biopsies of women with AGA.

Methods: A total of 20 Caucasian women (age range: 25-57 years) with AGA (Sinclair grade 1-2) were included. The research product was an alcohol-free formulation supplied in the form of a spray containing 0.2% MV as the active ingredient.

Results: In the clinical study, hair count and HMI were found to increase at 6 months by 6% (P < 0.01) and 12% (P < 0.001), respectively, compared with baseline. No participant discontinued treatment due to adverse effects, and the overall patient satisfaction was good. At the molecular level, the topical application of the research product resulted in a 32% increase in WNT10B mRNA expression levels in the temporal scalp area (P < 0.001).

Conclusion: Our pilot data suggest that topical MV can increase hair count and HMI by inducing WNT10B expression in the scalp, potentially serving as a novel treatment strategy for female AGA.

Keywords: WNT/β-catenin; androgenetic alopecia; female pattern hair loss; hair count; hair mass index; women.

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Cutaneous
  • Adult
  • Alopecia / drug therapy*
  • Female
  • Gene Expression / drug effects*
  • Hair / drug effects*
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Pilot Projects
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins / genetics*
  • RNA, Messenger / metabolism
  • Vanillic Acid / administration & dosage
  • Vanillic Acid / analogs & derivatives*
  • Wnt Proteins / genetics*
  • Wnt Signaling Pathway
  • beta Catenin / metabolism


  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins
  • RNA, Messenger
  • WNT10B protein, human
  • Wnt Proteins
  • beta Catenin
  • methyl vanillate
  • Vanillic Acid