Thanks to hundreds (or maybe even thousands) of years of medical studies and experimentation, never before have we had so much understanding of the human body and it’s complex processes.
One of the most thoroughly researched topics is that of hair loss, a phenomena that impacts 35 million males in the USA alone. Advances in medicine have significantly increased our understanding of the hair loss process, and led to the development of a number of successful remedies.
That’s good news for most guys. 9 out of 10 balding men report that losing their hair is their number one concern in life! Although that may seem a little drastic, hair loss can significantly impact one’s self esteem, potentially leading to anxiety and depression.
In this article we’ll look at the main science backed remedies to male pattern hair loss, and help you decide which course of action is the most suitable…
Why Do Men Experience Hair Loss?
Although we still can’t quite explain the reasons why we sleep, or how gravity exactly works, over the past few years research has allowed scientists to establish the main mechanism behind most male pattern balding.
It works a little something like this…
The enzyme 5 alpha-reductase (5-AR) present in the body converts testosterone into the hormone dihydrotestosterone (also known as DHT). DHT then shrinks the hair follicles in men with who already have a genetic predisposition to balding. Over a prolonged time period, the smaller follicles produce shorter and thinner hair.
The same process does in fact occur in women. However, as men typically have much higher testosterone levels, the effects are amplified, therefore hair thinning and baldness is more common and more apparent.
Modern medications are designed to stop the 5-AR enzyme acting on testosterone, subsequently reducing DHT production and slowing the rate of hair loss.
These 5-alpha-reductace inhibitors are sometimes combined with surgical hair restoration, and 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.
That being said, with so many treatments available on the market, it can sometimes be difficult to decide which one is best…
Guidelines to Consider
There are a few things that you should keep in mind when on the look for medications or hair loss treatments.
- Firstly, only go for products that have been approved by the FDA or recommended by the American Hair Loss Association. There are many products on the market posing as hair loss aids that may actually do more harm than good…
- Secondly, it is critical to begin treatment with an effective product as soon as you notice the first symptoms of hair loss. If left untreated for a long time period, you may still be able to salvage your locks, but it will be much more difficult.
- Thirdly – look at the potential side effects, and weigh up the pros and the cons.
Potential Hair Loss Treatments
Here are some of the most popular hair loss treatments that have been clinically proven to prevent and reverse hair loss to varying degrees.
1. Minoxidil (aka Rogaine)
Minoxidil was the first drug approved by the FDA for the treatment of male pattern baldness. It is also commonly used alongside other medications to treat high blood pressure.
One study suggested that 40% men experience hair regrowth after 3–6 months of taking the medication. The drug acts as a vasodilator, increasing blood flow around the body and to the hair. Increased blood flow means improved availability of micronutrients and amino acids needed for healthy growth.
Although 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.
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.
The drug does not come without its side effects. The most common include irritation of the eyes, irritation at the treated area, and even unwanted hair growth elsewhere on the body. Some even experience worsening of hair loss…
Finasteride is the brand name for the drugs Proscar and Propecia. It was originally developed as a treatment for prostate issues, but during research studies scientists discovered an intriguing side effect: improved hair growth.
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).
Again, the drug does not come without it’s side effects. Common ones include a reduced sex drive, dizziness, cold sweats and confusion.
3. Laser Light Therapy
Hand held laser light treatments are now available worldwide, and show some promising results. The lights are thought to help stimulate blood flow to the scalp, increasing nutrient availability and improving hair strength.
It is not, however, a long term remedy to baldness. Laser light therapy may help to delay the onset of hair loss, but it is unlikely that to be effective in the regrowth of hair that is already lost.
It is a reasonably affordable solution approved by the FDA, and it comes with no known side effects, so it may be worth a try! Experts suggest three 15-minute sessions per week for several months to invoke results.
Dutasteride is another 5-alpha-reductace inhibitor that was originally developed as a treatment for an enlarged prostate.
Like Finasteride, Dutasteride inhibits the effects of the enzyme 5 alpha-reductase on testosterone, reducing the production of DHT. Finasteride typically acts on only the Type II form of the 5 alpha-reductase enzyme, Dutasteride blocks both the Type I and Type II forms. This means it is a much more potent treatment.
Some claim that the medication not only slows down the rate of hair loss, it can also regrow hair that was previously thought to be lost.
However, the potency of the drug also increases the risk of experiencing adverse side effects, which include impotency, enlarged breast tissues, and decreased libido.
Although it was approved by the FDA in 2002 for the treatment of prostate issues, Dutasteride has yet to be accepted as a remedy for hair loss.
5. Follicular Unit Transplantation
Follicular Unit Transplantation (FUT) is a procedure in which a patient’s hair is transplanted in follicular units, which are naturally occurring groups of 1 to 4 hairs (along with vellus hairs, nerves, glands and muscles).
As opposed to older hair transplant operations, the procedure allows the surgeon to successfully transplant a large number of hairs (thousands) in a single session. When done successfully, the FUT mimics the way in which hairs grow naturally, minimising scarring making it very hard to detect.
Which Treatment is Right for You?
Although hair loss can give you a knock to your self-confidence, it’s nice to know that there are treatment options available. At the end of the day, which one to take is down to you.
Do your research, weigh up the pros and cons, and speak to a medical professional before going ahead.
And if you find that the pharmaceutical route is not for you, don’t despair. There are also several natural remedies out there that have also been proven to be effective, so why not check them out too?
What is your experience with hair loss medications and treatments? Have they worked for you?