Anthralin for Alopecia areata

What is anthralin? Can it be used for Alopecia areata?

Anthralin is a prescription medication that is applied at home by individuals with alopecia areata (AA). A dermatologist will prescribe anthralin.  The patient picks it up at the pharmacy and brings it home to apply. 

Generally, the prescription is for 1% anthralin in petrolatum and is applied to the scalp for 10-15 minutes and then washed off with zinc pyrithione shampoos. Provided there is no itching or burning (or the itching/burning is only mild), the patient goes up to 20 minutes the next day.... and then 25 minutes and then 30 minutes and so on. 

The patient controls how long the anthralin is kept on the scalp. The longer the better but it must not be so long that the itching and burning is unbearable. Many patients get to applying it overnight and washing out the morning. 


The main message I give my patients is to go slow. Side effects including itching, burning, blisters, swollen lymph nodes, staining of towels and bed sheets and the bath tub. 

Anrthralin can be used in children and adults. It helps 30-40 % of those with alopecia areata. It is less effective in alopecia totalis.

Dr. Jeff Donovan is a Canadian and US board certified dermatologist specializing exclusively in hair loss. To schedule a consultation, please call the Whistler office at 604.283.1887

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