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Bioessays. 2017 Aug;39(8). doi: 10.1002/bies.201700029. Epub 2017 Jul 7.

Oxidative stress management in the hair follicle: Could targeting NRF2 counter age-related hair disorders and beyond?

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Centre for Dermatology Research, School of Biological Sciences, University of Manchester, Manchester, UK.
Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, MD, USA.
Department of Biology, Institute of Molecular Health Sciences, Swiss Institute of Technology (ETH), Zürich, Switzerland.
Division of Cancer Research, School of Medicine, Jacqui Wood Cancer Centre, Ninewells Hospital and Medical School, University of Dundee, Dundee, UK.
Department of Dermatology, University of Münster, Münster, Germany.
Department of Biological Sciences, School of Applied Science, University of Huddersfield, Huddersfield, UK.


Widespread expression of the transcription factor, nuclear factor (erythroid-derived 2)-like 2 (NRF2), which maintains redox homeostasis, has recently been identified in the hair follicle (HF). Small molecule activators of NRF2 may therefore be useful in the management of HF pathologies associated with redox imbalance, ranging from HF greying and HF ageing via androgenetic alopecia and alopecia areata to chemotherapy-induced hair loss. Indeed, NRF2 activation has been shown to prevent peroxide-induced hair growth inhibition. Multiple parameters can increase the levels of reactive oxygen species in the HF, for example melanogenesis, depilation-induced trauma, neurogenic and autoimmune inflammation, toxic drugs, environmental stressors such as UV irradiation, genetic defects and aging-associated mitochondrial dysfunction. In this review, the potential mechanisms whereby NRF2 activation could prove beneficial in treatment of redox-associated HF disorders are therefore discussed.


NRF2; alopecia; chemotherapy and hair follicle; hair greying; inflammation; oxidative stress

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