According to The Washington Post, American hair loss suffers spend more than 3.5 billion dollars a year in an attempt to treat their hair loss. Unfortunately 99% of all products being marketed in the less than ethical hair loss treatment industry are completely ineffective for the majority of those who use them.
The American Hair Loss Association recognizes that hair loss is an extremely emotionally distressing disease that can make those afflicted particularly vulnerable. For this reason, The AHLA recommends against purchasing any hair loss product that is not approved by the FDA or recommended by The American Hair Loss Association.
In the past few years, medicine has made tremendous strides in the treatment of men’s hair loss. With the advent of 5-alpha-reductace inhibitors such as Propecia and the evolution of surgical hair restoration, living with noticeable hair loss is no longer inevitable. For the first time in the history it is now possible to stop or slow the progression of hair loss and to replace lost hair through surgery with completely natural results.
However, with that said, the vast majority of hair loss treatments being marketed today are still nothing but “snake oils.”
You may have seen the ads in the back of men’s magazines, you’ve heard the commercials on the radio, and you’ve seen the infomercials promoting miracle treatments for hair loss. The bottom line is that most advertised “treatments” do not work for the prevention and treatment of hair loss. If a hair loss treatment is not approved by the FDA or recommended by the American Hair Loss Association, chances are you are wasting your time and money.
Remember that successful treatment of hair loss is greatly dependent on early intervention. It is critical to begin treatment with an effective product as soon as you notice the onset of hair loss.
The following two treatments have been clinically proven to successfully treat hair loss in men to varying degrees:
Finasteride (Proscar, Propecia)
Finasteride is the generic name for the brand name drugs Proscar and Propecia. Finasteride was originally developed by the pharmaceutical company Merck as a drug (Proscar) to treat enlarged prostate glands.
During the trials on men with prostate problems, researchers noted an intriguing side effect: hair growth. Since finasteride had already been approved by the FDA to treat enlarged prostates in men, Merck decided to pursue the possibility of developing finasteride as the first pill to treat male pattern baldness. Minoxidil, a topical liquid solution, was already on the market (see below).
In December 1997, the FDA approved a 1mg dose of finasteride for the treatment of androgenetic alopecia (male pattern baldness) in men. Propecia is the first drug in history to effectively treat male pattern baldness in the majority of men who use it.
How Finasteride Works
Finasteride’s hair-raising success is due to its ability to specifically inhibit 5-alpha-reductase, the enzyme that converts testosterone into a more potent androgen dihydrotestosterone (DHT).
Propecia’s 1 mg dose of finasteride can effectively lower DHT levels in the scalp by as much as 60% when taken daily. It is DHT that shrinks or miniaturizes the hair follicle, which eventually leads to baldness. This 60% reduction in DHT has proven to stop the progression of hair loss in 86% of men taking the drug during clinical trials. 65% of trial participants had what was considered a substantial increase of hair growth.
At this point, the only truly effective medically proven way to arrest the hair loss process is to lower DHT levels. The American Hair Loss Association recommends finasteride as the first line of attack for all men interested in treating their male pattern baldness.
Minoxidil was the first drug approved by the FDA for the treatment of male pattern baldness. For many years, minoxidil, in pill form (brand name Loniten), was widely used to treat high blood pressure. Just like finasteride, researchers discovered a very interesting side effect of the drug. People taking the medication were growing hair in unexpected places, such as on their cheeks and the back of their hands. Some people grew hair on their foreheads.
Some enterprising researchers had the notion that applying minoxidil topically, directly on the head, might grow hair on balding areas. It did, to varying degrees depending on the extent of the hair loss, but at the time it was revolutionary.
While minoxidil has been clinically proven to slow the progression of hair loss and regrow some hair, most experts see it as a relatively marginally effective drug in the fight against hair loss. Since minoxidil has no effect on the hormonal process of hair loss, its positive effects are at best temporary and usually yield somewhat disappointing results.
The American Hair Loss Association still recommends the drug for those who have not responded favorably to finasteride treatment or for those who would like to add another product to their regimen. The AHLA does not recommend minoxidil as the first line of attack for men suffering with male pattern baldness, but does recognize it as an effective treatment for a small percentage of its users.
Hair loss is something most men secretly ‘fear’ but hope it may never actually occur. After all, thinning hair and baldness is something that kids use to identify the elderly, despite the fact that the process can begin before 20 years of age! A good head of hair is associated with youth, virility and attractiveness, so when hair loss occurs it can come as something of a shock.
Since records began, men have documented their attempts to reverse the process of hair loss and cure baldness. The bible tells the story of how when Samson’s hair was cut he lost his strength and power. The unspoken agenda for men is that to be hairless, or for the hair to be depleted, equates with a loss of power and virility, something that is clearly not the case.
Some creative but ultimately fruitless concoctions have been devised in an attempt to get the thatch back. Cleopatra used a mixture of horse teeth, bear grease, burnt mice and deer marrow in her attempt to cure Julius Caesar’s baldness (it didn’t work). Hedgehog urine was also thought to be beneficial. The smell in the heat of the Egyptian sun must have been something very special!
Facts About Cures for Baldness
There is currently no cure for baldness. There are some lotions that can help slow down the process but there is no cure for male pattern baldness. There are, however, a number of things that you should consider.
Surgical Intervention for male hair loss
In the case of hair transplants very small plugs of hair are taken from the side or back of the scalp and transplanted onto the bald patches. The procedure has improved over the years but it still takes a number of months to give a good effect.
Tissue expansion for male hair loss Tiny balloons are inserted under the scalp between the areas of dense hair and gradually inflated over a number of months. This makes the area up to one third larger and it is this area that is surgically removed and the sides are pulled up to the top of the head.
Scalp reduction for male hair loss Loose skin on the scalp is surgically removed pulling the hair on the sides of the head up. As the skin on the forehead is also sometimes slightly lifted it lessens wrinkles.
Beware of Baldness treatment Rip-offs
There are plenty of sharks around just waiting to get their hands on your money by offering false hope of a cure for baldness. Some may even guarantee success for their pills, potions, scalp cleansers and stimulators or diets. These companies or so called tricologists rely on their ability to change company address or names at the drop of a hat. They also rely on people being too embarrassed to follow up complaints through legal channels. The words they use to describe their products often incorporate ambiguous phrases that basically say, if it does not work, you will be one of the unfortunate few. The words barge-pole and steer-clear come to mind.