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Topical Antiandrogen Therapies for Androgenetic Alopecia and Acne Vulgaris


Androgenetic alopecia (AGA) and acne vulgaris are two conditions commonly seen by dermatologists. Androgens and the androgen receptors play an essential role in the manifestation of both conditions, and some systemic therapies function by interfering in this pathway. The use of topical antiandrogen therapies has gained traction in recent years due to their potential efficacy in treating AGA and acne vulgaris, as well as their reduced adverse effects compared with systemic drugs. This review discusses the role of androgens in skin physiology and pathology and assesses the potential efficacy and safety of three topical antiandrogen therapies in the treatment of AGA and acne vulgaris. A literature review utilizing the PubMed, US Clinical Trials, and SCOPUS databases was conducted to search for randomized clinical trials, systematic reviews, cohort studies, case reports, and other relevant published studies on the pathogenesis and treatment of each condition with topical finasteride, ketoconazole shampoo, and cortexolone 17α-propionate (C17P). The results demonstrated that topical formulations of finasteride, ketoconazole, and C17P are promising treatments for male pattern hair loss, especially topical finasteride in combination with topical minoxidil. Limited studies have shown C17P to have potential in treating acne vulgaris in both males and females. Minimal adverse effects have been reported in clinical trials for all topical therapies, although topical finasteride is still contraindicated in pregnancy. Recognizing the preliminary evidence, more peer-reviewed studies on topical antiandrogen treatments for AGA and acne vulgaris are necessary before definitive recommendations can be made regarding efficacy and safety. There is also a critical need to include more women in study populations for these treatments.

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Correspondence to Maryanne M. Senna.

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No funding was received for the conduct of this study or the preparation of this article.

Conflicts of Interest

Dr. Maryanne Senna is a member of the scientific advisory board of Cassiopea. Dustin H. Marks, Sonya Prasad, Brianna De Souza, and Laura J. Burns have no conflicts of interest to declare.

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Marks, D.H., Prasad, S., De Souza, B. et al. Topical Antiandrogen Therapies for Androgenetic Alopecia and Acne Vulgaris. Am J Clin Dermatol 21, 245–254 (2020).

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