Autophagy and Hair Growth

Autophagy Hair Growth
Hair growth via small molecule autophagy inducers. Source: Cell Reports.

Autophagy has been in the news a lot in recent years. The word is derived from Greek and means “self-devouring” or “self-eating”. Autophagy is used to describe the human body’s process of reusing old and damaged cell parts. i.e., it is your body’s cellular recycling system.

The main reason for the increasing visibility of this word is because of the surge in popularity of caloric restriction, intermittent fasting and low carbohydrate diets. All of these can induce autophagy, as can exercise and hypoxia.

Autophagy and Hair Growth

Interestingly, autophagy can also affect hair growth positively. Perhaps not too surprising considering the number of health conditions that are impacted by inflammation and dysregulation of autophagy (and the related issue of senescent cells).

  • An interesting 2019 study from University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) found that hair growth can be initiated by small molecules that activate autophagy. The scientists found that:

“Quiescent (telogen) hair follicles can be stimulated to initiate anagen and hair growth by small molecules that activate autophagy. Including the metabolites α-ketoglutarate (α-KG) and α-ketobutyrate (α-KB), and the prescription drugs rapamycin and metformin.”

  • Another more recent study from 2021 found that impairment of autophagy could be a potential mechanism in androgenetic alopecia. Interestingly, RIKEN (Japan) was involved in this research.
  • Yet another study from 2018 concluded that autophagy plays an essential role in human hair growth. Monasterium Laboratory was involved in this work.

Metformin, Rapamycin and Autophagy

In the first of the studies I listed on top, it is mentioned that metformin and rapamycin both impact autophagy via inhibiting mTOR and AMPK signaling. I have covered both these well known drugs in some of my past posts related to longevity and anti-aging.

While metformin is taken by diabetics, a large number of non-diabetics (including Dr. David Sinclair) who are trying to increase their healthy lifespan also take the drug. One major observational study of 200,000 patients from 2014 found that diabetics who take metformin actually outlived non-diabetics. However, this study does not imply causation. Therefore, longevity experts are eagerly awaiting results of the Targeting Aging with Metformin (TAME) trials.

Rapamycin is a potent inducer of autophagy. Many people take the drug in the belief that it counters aging in humans. Of more immediate interest is the major “Dog Aging Project“, also known as The Test of Rapamycin In Aging Dogs (TRIAD). Also of note, topical rapamycin could reverse hair greying and benefit hair growth. Perhaps even more so via microneedle delivery.


You might have no interest in such esoteric findings that are usually only tested in mouse hair initially. However, caloric restriction (under professional guidance) and exercise are almost certainly going to improve your overall health. And caloric restriction even grows hair/fur in mice (of course).

Even if you see no reduction in hair loss, experimenting with such longevity related strategies is not a bad idea. I am very averse to taking drugs, but there is a good chance that I will get on metformin in the coming years. Not yet sure about rapamycin.

25 thoughts on “Autophagy and Hair Growth”

  1. This is extremely interesting timing because I’ve been fasting on and off for a few weeks (maybe two months?) now and my hair has never been (or felt) thinner. Could be a million other things (what I’m eating, stress etc), I’m sure, or maybe my body isn’t yet used to fasting. Maybe I’ll see a hair related benefit if I continue.

    I will say, physically, I do feel better.

    1. As far as 16:8 type intermittent fasting goes, I am very skeptical that it can ever cause hair loss. For one, I never hear people who fast say that they lost beard hair or body hair! Nor do I ever hear people say their nails stopped growing after fasting.

      Also, many religious groups undertake even harder types of fasting. You just do not hear of large-scale balding amongst those people due to food deprivation. At least not permanent balding.

  2. That’s very true. I think if it goes on for too long, or if it’s too extreme, one can become malnourished and vitamin deficiency may have an impact on hair (amongst other things). But done right, you’re likely correct. I had covid not long ago so I’m contributing everything to that right now. I don’t plan on stopping my fasting routine.

    1. Admin, I was curious if you had any scalp itch/inflammation previous to using the laser device and if it improved after? Just a side note, two months is not enough time to see any progress with hair loss, you need at least six month to see that it does nothing. ;-)

      1. Hi Yoda, I tend to get scalp inflammation and dandruff episodes on and off. I doubt that the laser made any difference in that regard.

        Moreover, ever since I started taking oral Minoxidil last year, dandruff episodes also seem to have declined… though there might be no connection betwen the two.

        1. Thanks Admin, that’s good to know. Also, appreciate you letting me rant about Musley, they are very misleading with their “3 months supply” and I wanted to alert the community. $90 for a 60ML bottle is a rip off for common ingredients you can get elsewhere for less. It will last 90 days if you use .5 ml 1X per day, who does that? I was under the impression it was $90 for 3x 60 ML, they do everything they can to cover the details and I fell for it!

    1. The study has an estimated completion date in Q1 2024, he was never supposed to release anything in July, July was just the primary completion point. The collected data needs to be sorted and evaluated before it’s getting released first. So we have to be a bit more patient.

  3. I had mentioned previously that I was going to try Musley for their topical treatment, Minox with Dut and Spironolactone. They didn’t send the version I ordered, plus they say 3 months supply and only send 60 ML. I raised the issue with them, they refunded my money, however I wanted to alert readers that I wouldn’t order from them, below is my post to the BBB website.
    Musley is unethical, I ordered a topical minoxidil hair loss product, they sent me something different than what I ordered and also put notes on my intake form, which apparently they didn’t read. Once it’s in your cart and ordered, you can’t check to make sure it’s what you ordered until you receive the product. Their FAQ states they will notify you if they can’t prescribe what you ordered and possibly suggest a substitute product. They didn’t do that, just shipped the product they felt I should have that I didn’t want. I also question their knowledge op topical hair loss products with their explanation, that men can’t use TOPICAL spironolactone, it’s been used for years without side effects. Furthermore, Musley advertises that you get 3 months of product. It’s 60 ML like every other minoxidil product I’ve used which is a one month supply twice a day, 60 day supply at most once a day. Their ingredients are not proprietary or special that one would apply less, they are simply misleading the public. One star is required, I’d give none or negative stars if I could.

  4. Whatever happened to that guy on Reddit that was in that trial? I know he stopped posting because someone complained to the folks conducting the trial, but if he’s to be believed, he was getting massive gains and he was like a Norwood 400. I can’t remember what product that was. I’d like to see if there are any updates on that one. His posts seemed genuine (which I know means nada).

  5. The guy on Reddit said about a month ago that “I am happy with how it looks.” but I don’t follow him so maybe others have more detail. He was getting slammed on both Discord and Reddit claiming he was a liar…….the last I saw. But I don’t put much stock in many of the half baked conclusions drawn by a lot of those posters. Admin updated us back in March that Hope was beginning Phase 2 in China which I took as a good sign because they could surely have seen a lot of good visible progress at that point had HMI worked anything like in the monkey trials. Yet they still do not appear to have started the US phase 2 trial. Admittedly, I am a little disappointed we don’t have any sort of update but Arves is probably right that we need to be more patient.

    1. Apparently he won’t say anything specific which is disappointing. Especially disappointing because his girlfriend is also in the study so he could end our speculation.

    2. The reddit guy decided not post any further because some crazy guys from some discord planned on stalking him & his girlfriend in real life. He generally gets bad mouthed a lot for no reason but some very desperate people so I’d be careful with the claims about him… He decided to dip from sharing anything for the most part out of concern.
      There were some pics posted on Reddit a few weeks ago, which were supposed leaked images from him, which he sent to someone in private, which looked very decent for only 6 month’s progress (monkey’s had the most progress between 1-2 years) but it was never confirmed those were his.

  6. Ah thanks for the info. I recall him saying there is a lot he can’t say due to the study etc (they knew he was posting and some things they wouldn’t allow him to disclose). I’m a skeptic, always, but he seemed legit to me (wasn’t making overly fantastic claims and didn’t seem to be selling anything). It’s not surprising he couldn’t share photos while the trial was ongoing. Still, I know many get off on messing with people so who knows for sure. I just remember that it sounded better than anything else that was coming out and it was shots, I believe, vs lotion/ointment.

  7. In regards to the “Reddit Guy”, he could be legit and the baldie stalkers sound spooky an all, but take it all with a grain of salt would be my advice – until you see hard evidence to the contrary. Hearsay never holds up in a court of law…same applies here.
    *on a side note Admin. Does your laser helmet come with earphones and any strobe lights attached? I’m looking for something a little sci fi to scare random door knockers with.
    (You’re not going to print this are you?)

    1. Very true. I never believe anything so I’m with you. It just seemed more legit and promising than the snake oil stuff we keep seeing, but maybe the fact it’s a shot is what made me think maybe it’s something. I mean, anyone can come up with a topical and say it’ll do wonders but to ask people to inject themselves (or likely a local hair doc)? That’s something else entirely. I’m not injecting anything without quite a bit of evidence and assurances. They have to know this.

  8. I do a 41 hour fast twice per week (every Monday and Wednesday)… I can attest that autophagy is happening and my hair loss HAS improved greatly. I’ve been on Finasteride 5mg, Dutasteride (twice a week), microneedling, PRP for 15 years now.. but have noticed more observable increases for the last few years I’ve been doing fasting.

    No doubt in my mind that inflammation & AGA are linked. I believe this is another tool in the toolbox (with added longevity benefits). I implement both carb cycling and time restricted eating and it’s had a major effect on my health/inflammation in general.

    My job requires me to get annual blood screenings and not only do I see clear benefit from those screenings but I have lost over 50 pounds from my peak weight. I’ve made this lifestyle change and I’m never going back. I feel like I’m in the best shape of my life at 36.

    I plan to call into the show (TBT) to share my updates with the guys but I’m thankful for you and this platform that are consistently keeping up with the research.

    Hope you’re still doing well with the Oral Minoxidil!.. I have yet to implement that.. but I will consider it in the future if my hairloss progresses or as more research/anecdotal observations are released.

    1. Thanks and congrats on the major weight loss! Btw your comment went to spam, but luckily I caught it.

      My oral Minoxidil results are weaker ever since I crossed the 6 month mark. They also switched my generic brand, though hopefully that makes little difference.

      1. Need to up your anti-androgen game Admin, your follicles are getting strangled. I understand that’s a personal choice and maybe not something you want to do.

          1. Possibly, but Dutasteride is also dose dependent and we ain’t getting any younger. You “go bald” genes are ramping up, why men have prostrate issues later in life. Dut everyday, topically and orally, same with minox. No sides for me, everyone is different though from a sides and results standpoint.

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