Most people who have lost a bit of hair decide to try at least one product that promises to restore it. Of the hundreds of products on the market, only one, minoxidil, has been proved effective in reversing hair loss. "Provillus," one of the preparations that contains minoxidil, promises hair re-growth and contains an additional cocktail of ingredients. These additional ingredients make a search for side effects worthwhile.
Provillus is a product combining minoxidil, a topical chemical proven to stimulate hair growth, and a number of additional ingredients, including Azelaic acid, B vitamins and a number of herbs in gender-specific preparations. It is classified as an herbal supplement, so no testing of Provillus has been completed by the FDA. Its makers promise re-growth results for male pattern baldness and alopecia, provided the preparation is applied twice daily. No results are promised for receding hair lines or hair loss exceeding 50 percent. Details on ingredients and possible interactions and side effects are given on the company's website. See the Resources section for a link.
Minoxidil appears to stimulate hair growth in people under 40 years of age who have developed male or female pattern baldness, but not for those with receding hair lines. Different dosages are recommended for men and women due to hormones present in the compound. Applied twice a day, users report improvement within four months to a year. Applications must be repeated daily or hair loss will restart within a few months. Whether the benefits of the product outweigh the possible side effects must be determined by examining its ingredients, their purposes and possible side effects.
In addition to minoxidil, Provillus contains Azelaic acid, a dicarboxylic acid used to treat skin conditions like rosacea and acne. It kills surface bacteria. Vitamins B6 and Biotin are added to both men and women's preparations to support metabolism and hair growth. The men's preparation includes magnesium, zinc oxide and saw palmetto with a "proprietary blend" of stinging nettle, pumpkin seed, eleuthero root, uva-ursi and muira puama P. The women's formula contains magnesium and a "proprietary blend" of horsetail silica and Para-Amino Benzoic Acid (PABA). The PABA (women's formula) and zinc oxide (men's formula) may be added to protect the balding pate against ultraviolet rays in sunlight. No recommended daily values have been determined for saw palmetto or any of the ingredients in the proprietary blends of herbs but none are known to be toxic.
Documented Side Effects
According to the National Institutes of Health and National Library of Medicine, minoxidil has few side effects, including itching, dryness and irritation of the scalp. Azelaic acid may also cause these symptoms--a rash is considered a serious side effect. Certain herbs listed in the ingredients interact with blood thinners and antibiotics and should be avoided by people with heart disease. Provillus is gender-specific, and the dosage of minoxidil and saw palmetto in the men's formula would pose problems for pregnant or lactating women.
"Blogs" and amateur websites abound about baldness and hair re-growth. Many review products on the market. Some have medical experts. Some are "dummy" sites set up by manufacturers to sell their products. From a sampling of the least biased of these sources, Provillus appears to be effective with few side effects, the most notable being an itchy, red or patchy scalp that stops when use of the preparation ceases. Perhaps the Azelaic acid is added to the compound in an effort to minimize this effect.