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Vaniqa (Eflornithine)

Is a Solution for:
Thinning Hair & Shedding
Reviewed by SarahK November 5, 2010 4 Comments
Sometimes it seems like women have to do a lot more than men do in order to keep up with society’s standards of beauty. But while your nails might look prettier if they are painted and your hair might look better if it is blow-dried and you may feel more confident with a bit of makeup on, these are less beauty requirements and more options or preferences that enhance beauty.

Hair removal, though, is absolutely a beauty requirement in terms of Western (and many other) cultural and societal norms. Which is why you won’t get gawked at for having unpainted nails, but you will probably get a stare or two if your legs look like your husband’s cheeks after he goes sans razor for a week, or your face exhibits the remarkable ability to grow whiskers. There are many products that claim to keep you hairless in places that you want smooth, but one product in particular, Vaniqa, seems to be especially promising.

Hirsutism, or excessive hair, is a serious problem for men but especially for women, given the real or perceived ostracizing that comes along with unwanted hair growth. Excessive hair can be caused by heredity, increased amount of male hormones called androgens, or high levels of insulin, which is theorized to stimulate the production of androgens.

So, what is Vaniqa and how does it work? Vaniqa is the brand name for Eflornithine, a prescription drug that has been found to effectively treat hirsutism. According to the company’s website, Vaniqa is the only FDA approved prescription product that is clinically proven to reduce the rate of unwanted hair growth on women’s faces. It is applied to the skin in topical cream form, and many women begin to see results in about 8 weeks.

Vaniqa works by interfering with ornithine decarboxylase, an enzyme found in hair follicles that plays a major role in hair growth. Studies have shown that the product can be used in conjunction with hair removal treatments like laser and intense pulsed light techniques, and causes minimal adverse affects and reactions (the most common being redness and stinging). In a repeated patch test on 230 women, it was demonstrated that the Eflornithine cream does not have “contact sensitizing, photocontact allergic or phototoxic properties,” and has “a favorable dermal safety profile.”

Another study presented at the 58th Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Dermatology found that after 8 weeks of using Vaniqa regularly, 58% of 594 women demonstrated great results, while 32% experienced at least some improvement. This study is particularly noteworthy because it was randomized and double-blind.

Still, that same study found that decrease in hair growth was temporary and essentially stopped after discontinuing use of the product. Vaniqa’s website confirms this, noting that in order to retard hair growth, one must apply the cream twice a day, everyday, indefinitely. Other limitations include the fact that the cream does not remove hair; it only decreases hair growth, which means that waxing, shaving, and plucking are still necessary. In addition, the FDA has only approved Vaniqa for use on the face, and not anywhere else on the body.

Even more limiting is the fact that the product is only for women (and not pregnant women, either, as tests haven’t been conducted to see how Eflornithine effects the fetus), is prescription only, and is quite expensive. In fact, on one website, the majority of approximately one hundred people claimed that they were at least somewhat satisfied with Vaniqa’s results, but many of them complained about the drug’s price tag, which falls somewhere between $50 and $75 for a 30 gram tube. Plus, insurance doesn’t tend to cover the cost, as Vaniqa is considered a cosmetic product.

Still, if you’re already spending hundreds or even thousands of dollars each year on hair removal techniques, then Vaniqa might be a good investment, as you will not need to wax or get laser treatments as often. That benefit in conjunction with the product’s minimal side effects and the troubles that accompany women suffering from hirsutism may make Vaniqa worth its disadvantages in some cases.

Active Ingredient: Eflornithine hydrochloride

Vaniqa also contains:  ceteareth-20, cetearyl alcohol, dimethicone, glyceryl stearate, methylparaben, mineral oil, PEG- 100 stearate, phenoxyethanol, propylparaben, stearyl alcohol and water.
  • May 27, 2013

    by Ann Thompson

    My doctor put me on this for fine lines and wrinkles, now I read that its for hair removal, did he make a mistake on my prescription? please help

  • December 2, 2010

    by Naja

    Hi Jaysie,

    Sorry for the late response.

    To answer your question, there is no random hair loss associated with the use Aldactone/IC Spironolactone. Because it's an androgen blocker, it targets hormonal-based excess hair growth, which is what occurs on the lip and chin/jaw area.

    It has no effect on hair growth elsewhere. In more than ten years, I have never had a problem with this medication.

    N

  • November 8, 2010

    by Jaysie

    Naja - Do you know if random hair loss is a side effect of the Rx you mentioned? I.e, can you lose hair on places other than the face?

  • November 8, 2010

    by Naja

    I tried this way back when the product first hit the market. It's a good idea, but I did not find the results to be significant enough to justify the cost and add it to my daily routine.

    Honestly, you can get the same hair reduction by taking IC Spironolactone (aldactone), a prespcription drug (androgen blocker), which is covered by insurance. Because this medication is primarily prescribed for high blood pressure, covering the cost is generally not an issue for insurance companies.

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