Many people have told me that they have had good results with Nioxin's hair growth products. Since Nioxin Intensive Therapy Follicle Booster ($20) is comparable in price to Folligen Cream, it seemed high time that I gave the two a side by side comparison (Folligen on my right temple, Nioxin on the left). Two weeks into my test, Nioxin has produced noticeable new hair growth, but so far the hairs are the merest baby wisps.

It takes longer - at least three weeks - to see results with Folligen. But, in my experience, the new hair Folligen stimulates is thicker and, well, like proper hair. I will have to give Nioxin longer to see what ultimately happens. In the meantime, it is worth noting that they work in very different ways.

Folligen's active ingredient is copper peptides. Copper is a wound healer and its ability to assist in hair growth was discovered when it was noticed that the hair follicles around treated wounds were exceptionally large. It seems to work on the follicle in two ways: increasing follicle cell proliferation increased follicle size; and copper also decreases programmed follicle cell death, which results in smaller follicles. Nioxin, on the hand, uses a panoply of different ingredients, most of which are vitamins. Nioxin's vitamins are all coenzymes, which means that the vitamin has been bound to a protein. I believe that this makes the vitamins easier for the body absorb - important in the case of the B vitamins because usually they do not do a good job of penetrating the skin.

For Nioxin, the real star of the show is the first ingredient after water, phospholipids. Fairly recently, scientists discovered that they play an important role in cellular regulation. A Japanese study shows that phosphatidic acid has an "intensive" effect on hair growth by targeting the epithelial cells and epidermal keratinocytes. Furthermore, it induces the anagen (growth) phase of the hair cycle, perhaps by having a protective action on transforming-growth-factor-beta1-induced apoptosis.

Most of the rest of the ingredients are not directly related to hair growth, although many of them are useful antioxidants such as alga and yeast. It seems some of the ingredients have been selected to protect hair (and head) from UV damage. These would include the plant extracts, ginkgo and silybum. Humulus lupulus are common hops and the extracts have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, according to at least one study.

Serenoa Serrulata is saw palmetto and is a herbal remedy for a type of hair loss and baldness called androgenic alopecia, or male- and female-pattern baldness. This type of hair loss is typically the greatest at the top of the head or around the temples. No one is sure how it works and there isn’t any convincing research, but it’s believed that it may block an enzyme (5-alpha-reductase) from allowing the hormone testosterone from being converted to another hormone, dihydrotestosterone. Dihydrotestosterone is considered a key contributing factor to the onset and progression of androgenic alopecia. Saw palmetto is in Ookisa's hair thickening shampoo.

I'll report back on how I get on with Nioxin in a few weeks.

Ingredients:

Water (Aqua), Phospholipids, Hydrolyzed Algin, Saccharomyces Lysate Extract, Propylene Glycol, Ginkgo Biloba, Humulus Lupulus, Panax Ginseng, Serenoa Serrulata, Silybum Maranium, Wheat Amino Acids, Soy Amino Acids, Ethoxydiglycol, Coenzyme A, Coenzyme B5, Coenzyme B6, Coenzyme B12, Coenzyme Biotin, Coenzyme Folate, Coenzyme Nicotinate, Coenzyme Q6-10, Coenzyme R, Coenzyme Riboflavin, Coenzyme Thiamine, Panthenol, PEG-12 Dimethicone, Acetamide MEA, Tocopheryl Nicotinate, Hydrolyzed Keratin, Saccharomyces/Silicon Ferment, Saccharomyces/Magnesium Ferment, Saccharomyces/Copper Ferment, Saccharomyces/Iron Ferment, Saccharomyces/Zinc Ferment, Mentha Piperita, Rosmarinus Officinalis, Swertia Japonica, Polysorbate-60, Polysorbate-80, Diazolidinyl Urea, Methylparaben, Propylparaben, Triethanolamine, Sodium Acrylates/C10-30 Alkyl Acrylates Crosspolymer, Methyl Nicotinate, Parfum (Fragrance).