It is established that dietary derangement of essential fatty acids and prostaglandin synthesis results in over-expressed DHT, perhaps resulting in a comparatively higher incidence of Androgen mediated disorders, ie Acne, Prostate Disorders, and Hair loss in Western cultures.

       Over the years, we have gotten an occasional anecdotal account of hair growth in response to using a Borage or Evening Primrose Oil supplement, but never paid that close of attention. The following patent application, filed many years ago, reveals some interesting information about the mechanisms of both Fish Oil (EPA) and Borage or Evening Primrose Oil (GLA), and how they would address the hormonal mechanisms of both Androgenetic Alopecia (MPB) and hirsutism (unwanted body hair growth), perhaps shedding some light on their role. 

       The patent application information presented pertains to their topical but primarily to their systemic use. As you probably already know, high quality Omega 3’s and other fatty acids are essential to optimizing human health. I personally have been taking a Fish Oil supplement along with a Borage supplement daily for many years, for their documented anti-inflammatory and anti-aging dermatologic benefits. It appears that via the mechanisms identified in this patent, they have likely been helping my hair as well. 

The invention relates to treatment of male pattern baldness and of unwanted hair growth. 


Essential fatty acid (EFAs) are known to be necessary for the maintenance of normal hair growth. In both animals and humans, dietary EFA deficiency leads to hair loss and the replenishment of EFAs will allow normal growth.

Male pattern baldness is completely different from this type of nutritional hair loss and to our knowledge it has never been shown that such baldness is attributable to a local or general EFA deficiency or that it can be treated by administration of EFAs. In fact even in people with little or no hair on their scalp hair growth on the rest of the body is frequently exuberant, something which could not occur in the presence of an EFA deficiency state. Eunuchs never show male pattern baldness, even in the presence of a strong family history for the trait, while females treated with male hormones may show it. Such baldness is, therefore, generally accepted as due to the action of male hormones (androgens) on the scalp.

The most important hormones are probably testosterone and its cutaneous metabolite dihydrotestosterone, but other androgens from the testis, the adrenal and the ovary and produced in the skin may play contributory roles, especially in older women who exhibit hair loss of the male pattern.

Paradoxically, much growth of body hair on areas other than the scalp is in both sexes stimulated rather than inhibited by the actions of androgenic hormones on the hair follicles. Growth of the beard, of pubic and axillary hair, and of hair on the rest of the body is greatly stimulated by the increase in circulating androgens which takes place around the time of puberty. This increase is greater in males than in females but occurs in both sexes. Further increases in androgen levels may occur at other times of life, notably in post-menopausal females. Reduction of the circulating androgens of antagonism of the action of androgens by drugs such as finasteride and cyprosterone acetate, are standard techniques for stopping androgen-stimulated hair loss.

Such techniques involve substantial manipulation of the hormone environment, and are wrought with side effects.

A safe method of reducing such unwanted hair growth on all parts of the body, including the face but excluding the scalp, in both males and females would have considerable value. We propose that such safe reduction of unwanted body hair growth and a concomitant increase in scalp hair growth is possible without administering hormones or using techniques which change the production of the body’s own hormones.

This phenomenon has not yet been demonstrated for testosterone or other androgenic hormones. However, in structure there are many similarities between the androgenic hormones and the female hormones and we believe that the effects of androgenic hormones at their receptors are controlled in a similar way, with the greater the degree of the unsaturation of the fatty acid, the greater the effect. The unsaturated fatty acids are thus a safe way of reducing androgen binding to hair follicles. On the scalp this has the effect of stimulating hair growth whereas on the rest of the body including the beard it has the effect of inhibiting hair growth.

Although inhibition of steroid hormone binding appears to be a general property of polyunsaturated fatty acids, influenced by the chain length and the number of double bonds, the ability of hair to grow normally will certainly be influenced by other factors. In particular, the circulation in the vicinity of the hair follicles is likely to be important, and many credible models of Androgenetic Alopecia have suggested that an androgen mediated restriction in blood flow is an important factor. Among the n-6 and n-3 EFAs, only GLA, DGLA and EPA can be converted to known vasodilator metabolites. GLA can be converted to DGLA and thence to PGE1. EPA can be converted to PGI3. We therefore propose that these three specific fatty acids, alone or in combination, are of particular value in promoting hair growth.

There is some evidence that the presence of EPA enhances conversion of GLA to PGE1 in some tissues, while the presence of GLA enhances conversion of EPA to PGI3. Preparations in which EPA is combined with either GLA or DGLA or both are therefore likely to be particularly desirable.


As clear from the above we propose broadly that essential fatty acids can be used to modulate androgen action. Specifically we provide:- (a) Method of modulating androgen action in men or women to prevent or treat male pattern baldness and/or reduce or stop unwanted hair growth in areas of the body excluding the scalp, by administering topically or systemically one or more unsaturated fatty acids selected from the 18:3 and higher acids in the n-6 series and 18:4 and higher acids in the n-3 series, in amounts of 1mg to 100g, preferably 50mg to 5g, daily with the limitation that for topical administration the acid(s) are selected from gamma-linolenic acid, acid and eicosapentaenoic acid.

Preferably n-6 (GLA) and n-3 series (EPA) acids are both present.

The acids can be administered as the free acids, triglycerides, other glycerides, phospholipids, ethyl esters, salts, amides, or indeed as any pharmaceutically acceptable derivative which can be shown to raise the levels of the fatty acid in the blood lipids and reference to the acids herein in both description and claims includes such derivatives. 

In a test of the effectiveness of the invention, four middle-aged males with rapidly progressing baldness were treated orally with either 6g of evening primrose oil or 6g of a mixture of evening primrose oil and concentrated fish oil (20%) per day. The primrose oil provided approximately 90mg of 18:3n-6 (gamma-linolenic acid, GLA) per gram and the fish oil 180mg of 20:5n-3 (eicosapentaenoic acid, EPA) and 120mg of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) per gram. After delays of 4 to 8 weeks, all four individuals reported unequivocal hair growth, with extension of hair growth to previously bald areas of the scalp, and a strengthening of growth in those areas where hair was present but thinning.

These preliminary tests indicate that both oral and topical application of unsaturated fatty acids is able to modulate the actions of androgens on the hair follicles, stimulating hair growth on the scalp and reducing it on other areas of the body.

Composition: Capsules of conventional soft gelatin containing 500 mg evening primrose oil and 500mg concentrated fish oil, taken four per day. 6. Cream of otherwise conventional cosmetic formulation containing by weight 5% evening primrose oil and 2% concentrated fish oil to be applied to the scalp or body twice daily once or twice per day in amounts of 1ml per 100 sq. cm. of skin. 

Editor’s Comment:

      There is some supporting data that would lend credence to the claims in this patent application.

      One recently published study showed Fish Oil suppressed Androgen receptor expression.

      Another showed that a metabolite of GLA inhibited 5 alpha reductase by 80%.

The unique composition of Emu Oil allows for superior penetration of anti-inflammatory fatty acids into human skin, explaining in part its established hair growth stimulation effects. The combination of oral Fish Oil, along with Borage or Evening Primrose Oil, concurrently used with topical Emu Oil, would optimize the internal and external fatty acid environment for hair growth promotion. Fish and Borage Oils can also be used internally with Coconut Oil, which contributes to health and hair growth via other mechanisms. The oral dose of GLA used in this pilot study was 540mg, the dose of EPA was 1,080 mg. For those wishing to integrate this into their existing regimes, this combination can be readily replicated by using 2 capsules a day of Mega GLA with Sesame Lignas (to enhance absorption), and 3 capsules a day of Super Omega 3 EPA/DHA with Sesame Lignans and Olive Fruit Extract.