Monistat is a cream formula FDA-approved for the treatment of vaginal yeast infections. However, it has received much attention in recent years for its unapproved – yet seemingly widespread – use as a remedy for various forms of hair loss.
This post will discuss the possible merits of using Monistat 7 for hair growth.
What is in Monistat 7?
Monistat 7 is an over-the-counter cream that is licensed for the treatment of vaginal yeast infections. The active ingredient is miconazole nitrate, a drug that has been on the market since the 1970s. As miconazole’s patent has long expired, the drug is now available in a number of generic formulations, though Monistat remains the more popular brand.
Miconazole is an effectively and relatively safe antifungal (1). Apart from vaginal fungal overgrowths known as thrush, the drug is also used for athlete’s foot, as well as skin and nail infections by other species of fungi.
Miconazole nitrate operates by compromising the cell membrane of the fungus, which eventually kills the organism. There is some concern that fungi are developing resistance to treatment by miconazole (2).
There are various versions of Monistat, conveniently labeled with a numeral at the end. For example, Monistat 1 and Monistat 3 come in the form of an ovule that is inserted intravaginally, whereas the standard cream version is Monistat 7.
It is this latter version of the drug that has gained traction among the general public as a hair loss treatment.
What is the evidence for Monistat 7 as a hair growth agent?
To date, there has been no scientific study on the effects of miconazole on hair growth.
Not only has the drug never been clinically trialed for this indication, but a search of any scientific portal will turn up exactly zero research papers that have studied a potential link. The enthusiasm among segments of the general public notwithstanding, the medical and scientific community have turned their backs to miconazole as a hair growth agent.
The only piece of indirect evidence that miconazole could work – even in principle – against hair loss comes from a related drug, ketoconazole (3).
Ketoconazole is a well-known antifungal medication that is sold as a shampoo for the treatment of dandruff, under the brand name Nizoral. Dandruff is believed to be caused by an overgrowth of a fungus called malassezia.
Ketoconazole shampoo suppresses Malassezia on the scalp, leading to an amelioration of dandruff symptoms (4).
Interestingly, an old study was published in 1998 found that regular use of ketoconazole 2% shampoo can arrest or reverse the progression of male pattern baldness (5). The study also found that the hair-growth effects of ketoconazole shampoo are of a similar magnitude to those obtained with minoxidil.
In that study, ketoconazole achieved these results by increasing hair density and size, as well as increasing the proportion of anagen hair follicles. Some researchers have suggested that ketoconazole achieves these reported effects due to its mild antiandrogenic effects, by topically disrupting the synthesis of DHT (6).
While encouraging, the evidence for ketoconazole as a hair growth agent is thin, especially when considering that it has now been on the market for over 40 years.
Having said that, the drug has gained a following among some members of the hair loss community, who use it instead of their regular shampoo.
Miconazole and ketoconazole belong in the same class of drugs, called azoles. So they are chemically similar and share similar antifungal properties. For whatever it’s worth, miconazole has also been found to have anti-dandruff properties (7).
So the best case one could make for miconazole as a hair growth agent is that, by virtue of its similarity to ketoconazole, it might also exhibit some of the same hair growth properties. Not a very impressive case, at least not on paper.
Monistat 7 Success Stories
While there is essentially zero scientific evidence for the efficacy of miconazole against any form of hair loss, an online search of the terms “monistat hair loss” tells a very different story.
While being sold as a vaginal cream only, many consumers – especially women – are applying the cream on their scalp as part of their hair care routine.
The topic is very popular among many female bloggers, and a recurring theme in hair growth forums. There are also hundreds of YouTubers, especially women, promoting the use of Monistat for increasing hair density and accelerating hair growth.
Many of these users suffer from common forms of hair loss that affect women, like traction alopecia or female pattern hair loss. But others have no hair loss problems, and simply want to grow out their hair in the shortest amount of time.
Since the medication is harsh on the skin, users typically mix it with carrier oils like coconut oil or castor oil and spray it on the head with a spray bottle.
Is Monistat 7 a Viable Option?
Predictably, doctors warn that Monistat 7 is not designed for use on the hair and it should only be used as intended: an antifungal cream, and specifically for vaginal application.
Dr. Gervaise Gerstner, who is a consultant dermatologist for cosmetic company L’Oreal Paris gave his opinion to the question posed to him about the effectiveness of Monistat 7 via the beauty blog, StyleCaster.
He believes the anti-fungal and anti-yeast properties of Monistat 7 work effectively for treating dandruff, however, he is not convinced that it works for treating hair problems. He believes that supplements such as biotin and steroid scalp injections are a better solution.
Possible Side Effects of Miconazole Nitrate
Miconazole is considered a generally safe medication with mild side effects. The most common ones are dermatological, including itching, burning, stinging, and general irritation. On some occasions, you may notice hives or skin rash at the site of application. If that is the case, it is best to discontinue use and speak with your doctor.
Monistat 7 cream can exacerbate some medical conditions and interact with certain medications. Before using the cream, it is best to first consult with a doctor or pharmacist if you have any preexisting medical condition. Also consult with your doctor prior to use if you are pregnant or breastfeeding, as well as if you on anticoagulants like warfarin.
There are many drugs on the market that, while not initially intended for hair growth, have at least some scientific evidence to support their use in this regard. Minoxidil is a drug that comes to mind in this respect.
The drug started its life as an anti-hypertensive for the treatment of high blood pressure. Once users started reporting unexpected hair growth, doctors started studying its use as a potential hair loss treatment. It is now a FDA-approved treatment for male and female pattern hair loss.
Ketoconazole is another medication that started its life for another indication (dandruff) before being studied as a possible hair loss treatment. While the evidence for this indication is still thin, there is at least something to indicate potential efficacy.
With Monistat 7, though, there is no evidence. While the drug has now gained many fans in the hair loss community, there is not a single scientific study that has examined its effects on hair loss.
If you don’t want to take a prescription medication like minoxidil or finasteride, there are many other treatments backed by hard evidence in the form of peer-reviewed, scientific research.