If you are one of the more than 80 million men and women who have experienced hair loss or hair thinning due to common male or female pattern baldness, you can understand the frustration that goes hand-in-hand with hair loss or thinning. The need to treat hair loss or thinning runs deeper than sheer physical appearance; hair follicles also help to transmit sensory information.
Hair loss can cause deep-seeded emotions in those experiencing it. Of patients using two medical treatments to help generate hair regrowth and prevent hair loss, 47 percent said they would spend their life savings to regrow a full head of hair, and 60 percent stated that they would rather have more hair than money or friends.
What causes Male or Female Pattern Baldness?
Androgenic Alopecia, also known as male or female pattern baldness, accounts for most cases of hair loss or thinning. In men, this condition can cause noticeable hair loss in 66 percent of men by the time they are 35 years old. By 50 years old, about 85 percent of men have thinning hair. Altogether, male pattern baldness is the cause of more than 95 percent of hair loss in men.
Additionally, more than 40 percent of individuals experiencing hair loss are women - almost half of all women will notice definite hair thinning by the time they are 50 years old.
A variety of factors can affect temporary hair loss during the growth cycle: : medication, radiation, chemotherapy, hormonal and nutritional factors, diseases or stress. Androgenetic alopecia, however, is an inherited condition that affects the balance between testosterone and estrogen. Men affected by male pattern baldness have inherited a genetic sensitivity to dihydrotestosterone, or DHT. DHT is a byproduct of testosterone, converted and created by the enzyme Type II 5-alpha-reductase.
The enzyme 5a-reductase, which synthesizes DHT, creates DHT at the hair follicle base, which can cause miniaturization of the follicles. These follicles then become weaker and are have a shorter lifespan. As the strands of hair fall out, the new follicles come in thinner than the previous, eventually causing them to stop producing hair.
It doesn’t help that the hair most frequently affected by male pattern baldness, on the crown and hairline, is already more sensitive to DHT.
There are many options for hair restoration that do not require invasive procedures or surgery. Individuals have used one or combined several treatment options to achieve varying levels of hair regrowth and prevention of further hair loss. It’s important to act quickly upon discovering hair thinning and hair loss, as the earlier you begin treating the condition, the better results you will see. Making an informed decision about the treatments available on the market can be overwhelming, but consulting with a medical professional about your particular situation can point you in the right direction.
Hairpieces or Extensions
For individuals experiencing hair loss, a custom-made hairpiece may be a preferred option. These can include hair weaves, extensions, fusions, pieces, prostheses or wigs made from human hair, synthetic materials or a combination.
A professional can design a piece that is specifically shaped to your head and is made up of the right volume and density for you. Each piece should last around 18 months.
This anti-inflammatory medication is typically applied to the affected area in one of three ways:
- Between two and 50 injections, depending on the size of the area
- Creams and lotions applied to the skin’s surface
- Pills taken by mouth
Most commonly, patients receive monthly injections from a dermatologist, and within four weeks, some patients report seeing hair growth. Others apply various topical creams and lotions on the areas affected by hair loss. This treatment is effective in reducing and stopping inflammation that can cause many different kinds of hair loss.
There are many shampoos available that contain ingredients that could help prevent hair loss; it is more likely, though, that these shampoos can do more to improve your scalp health to maintain existing hair. About 14 percent of patients use a specialized shampoo as part of their hair loss treatment plan.
Moisturizing shampoos are designed to help users overcome dry scalp, which can exacerbate hair loss. Some shampoo options contain more natural ingredients like argan oil, essential oils, caffeine or capsaicin to stimulate hair growth through increased blood circulation. Others contain ingredients that serve as DHT blockers, or synthetic ingredients to treat bacterial or fungal causes of dandruff, dry scalp or other conditions that can contribute to hair loss.
Typically, a shampoo designed for hair loss needs to be used for at least six to ten weeks before results are observed, and can be combined with other treatment options to maximize results.
Fewer than four percent of individuals try low-level laser therapy in their efforts to slow or reverse their hair loss. This tool uses laser and LED devices that operate below a specific energy threshold and within a wavelength of between 650 and 670 nm stimulate cellular activity. This increase can generate an increase in the cells’ hair growth efficiency.
Most patients visit a doctor weekly or biweekly for the treatment, but some at-home options on the market combine multiple light sources to create an even broader area of the scalp, increasing the effectiveness. Laser therapy can be combined with other hair loss remedies to increase results, and each session lasts around 20 minutes depending on the device, but can take as few as ten or as many as 25 minutes.
About eight percent of individuals working to combat their hair loss have used Biotin and other vitamins or herbs. Biotin is known as vitamin H, vitamin B7 or coenzyme R. Essentially, biotin is a vitamin B complex that can be found in certain foods, like eggs, peanuts, carrots, salmon and sweet potatoes. Not only can this vitamin help to stabilize blood sugar levels, but biotin can also be an essential ingredient in healthy skin, nails, and hair.
Biotin metabolizes carbohydrates, amino acids, and fats, all of which are crucial ingredients in protein and can help strengthen hair.
Increasing the amount of biotin through dietary supplements has given some individuals an improvement in their hair growth and texture; others have achieved some success when combining biotin with selenium and zinc. Both of these latter nutrients can work within your body to give your hair what it needs to grow properly. Deficiencies in certain vitamins and minerals can inhibit or compromise bodily systems and hair growth. These specific elements can improve your body’s immune system, strengthen your existing hair follicles, and help spark hair re-growth.
While these are all available as supplements, some patients have begun concentrating their diets around foods that contain these ingredients to make a more natural difference in their hair loss.
Non-surgical hair replacement
One option is non-surgical hair replacement, in which a trained professional matches real human hair to your hair, and uses a series of fibers to hold hairs in place for weeks at a time. The hair technicians analyze the structure, shape and growth patterns of your natural hair, and places each strand of replacement hair individually to best match the new hair to your existing hair. Applying this technique can be completed all at once, or can be done gradually for a more subtle change.
This hair replacement typically costs less than surgical hair replacement and requires monthly maintenance to ensure that the new hair continues to meet your needs. Non-surgical hair replacement options often need special styling products designed to protect the new hair.
Only two medical treatments are FDA-approved and clinically-proven to help stimulate hair regrowth. Both work to lower DHT levels that can cause the hair follicles to shrink and increase hair loss. Of men using these two options, about 85 percent choose a minoxidil formulation, and about 15 percent choose finasteride.
Finasteride was initially designed to treat enlarged prostate glands, but men taking the medication found that they were also experiencing hair growth. The drug inhibits the Type II 5-alpha-reductase enzyme, which converts testosterone into DHT. In 1992, the FDA approved Finasteride to treat male pattern baldness.
This oral medication is indicated for men and helps improve the hair loss condition in about 30 percent of men after about six months of use. To maintain the hair regrowth, men must continue taking finasteride, as gains in hair quantity will be slowly lost over time without regularly taking the medication. About 27.5 percent of patients overall use a form of Finasteride to treat hair loss.
The daily pill has been proven to reduce DHT levels by about 60 percent, and 65 percent of clinical trial participants saw a significant hair growth. It is especially useful for hair re-growth and slowing hair loss at the crown or in the middle of the scalp.
Minoxidil was first used to treat high blood pressure, but when patients consumed the medication tablet, they experienced excessive hair growth. Extensive research proved that topically applying Minoxidil also sparked hair regrowth, and Minoxidil was approved to treat male pattern baldness in 1988 - the first drug the FDA approved to treat male pattern baldness.
More than 40 years of peer-reviewed research have shown that Minoxidil encourages hair growth through increasing blood flow to the scalp and opening potassium channels. Almost half of men saw hair regrowth in three to six months.
As a potassium channel opener, Minoxidil expands blood vessels and potassium channels, allowing for an increase in oxygen, blood and nutrients to the follicle. As the new hair follicles grow, they come in thicker. For the best results, Minoxidil should be on the scalp for at least four hours without getting wet.
Individuals in the early stages of hair loss should begin with a five percent minoxidil solution-a very common concentration among formulas. However, some men who haven’t seen the desired results with other hair replacement options, or those with late-stage hair loss, have found that a higher concentration may be necessary.
Higher concentrations of Minoxidil can rapidly increase hair regrowth, with the most common side effect being a dry scalp. A 10 percent concentration may be just the amount needed for individuals experiencing late-stage hair loss, and a 15 percent formulation can even help men who are completely bald regrow hair.
Minoxidil is especially effective when combined with ingredients like azelaic acid, retinol, and caffeine, a formula designed for men who have been disappointed with the results from other products.
Many Minoxidil formulations on the market do nothing to treat DHT, which can cause the hair growth to stop once an individual stops using the treatment. A solution without DHT blockers will help regrow hair, but may not treat the root issue of hair loss.
The preferred Minoxidil formulation includes DHT blockers, which, when used correctly, not only stimulates hair growth but also help to prevent further losses by countering the effects of DHT, which causes most male and female pattern hair loss. Customers who have used minoxidil formulations that include DHT blockers have seen slight results within several weeks, with many reporting noticeable and significant hair re-growth within several months.
The FDA notes that an individual using a two percent concentration may need to use the program twice a day for at least four months before seeing results. Maintaining the growth requires regular, continued application of the product.
Of course, it’s a good idea to consult a physician before beginning any treatment and to stay alert to possible allergic reactions or side effects that could accompany treatment. With any treatment option, patience is a virtue. Starting a treatment regimen should begin at the earliest signs of hair loss to ensure the best results. Encouraging and stimulating hair regrowth is a process that can take weeks to months to see results, but can leave you with the full head of hair you’ve desired.