Hair loss is embarrassing. More than that, it can affect your self-esteem. The comments, the pictures, the family gatherings. Some people truly don’t know when to keep their mouth shut.
Yet hair loss isn’t without irony. Roughly two-thirds of American men experience noticeable hair loss by age 35, and a full 85% at 50. Androgenic alopecia, or male pattern baldness, will statistically hit most men at some point in their lives. As the saying goes, it’s fun and games, til it happens to you.
While a variety of factors can contribute to hair loss, including stress, diet and some medications, the vast majority of hair loss in men is genetic. Specifically it’s a hormone called dehydrotestosterone, or DHT, that shrinks hair follicles, until they shrivel up and die. When the follicles are dead, the process is complete, and baldness occurs.
Fortunately, solutions to male pattern baldness are readily available. Future technologies show even greater potential, as research closes in on the genes responsible for hair loss. While in the future it may be possible to eliminate baldness completely, let’s take a look at some of the solutions available now, and how to choose the best hair loss treatment for your particular needs.
One of the oldest hair loss treatments, wigs are an unintrusive solution to hair loss. While they don’t halt hair loss or grow new hair, wigs hide baldness and can help to restore confidence. Wigs generally run between $600 and $2,500.
Drugs and Lotions
Two hair loss treatments are approved by the FDA. Minoxidil, or Rogaine, is an over-the-counter lotion that shows some promise in reducing hair loss. While it doesn’t address the leading cause of hair loss in men, excessive DHT, Rogaine can stimulate dormant follicles and appears reasonably effective, although its effects have been studied primarily in younger men and how it works with men over 50 is largely unproven.
Finasteride, marketed as Propecia, appears to hold more potential for hair loss in men of all ages. Propecia does address DHT levels and depending who you ask, grows new hair in between forty to eighty per cent of users. Propecia is particularly effective for hair on the top of the head, as opposed to a receding hairline.
But a word of caution with both treatments. While side effects with Rogaine are generally limited to itching sensations and irritation of the eyes, Propecia is now linked to elevated levels of impotence and erectile dysfunction (between 1% to 18%), and in some cases, the effects are permanent, even after discontinued use.
A safer and alternative may be Profollica. A relatively new arrival, and not yet approved by the FDA, Profollica blocks formulation of DHT, and in doing so shows some promising numbers. According to its website, 90% of users reduce hair loss. Further studies are needed, and as with Rogaine and Propecia, ongoing use of Profollica is required to preserve hair. Time will tell.
Hair transplants have come a long way since hair plugs and sloppy surgeries. While they’re the most intrusive hair loss treatment – surgeries can take upwards of 10 hours and 10 days to heal – hair transplants offer a permanent solution to hair loss and generally produce satisfactory results. In this process, a surgical team takes a strip from an area that isn’t vulnerable to hair loss (usually the back of the head, just above the neck). The team then divides these hairs into grafts of one to three hairs, and transplants them into the bald areas.
Hair transplants cost between $4,000 and $15,000 and results depend on the skill of the team and the amount of donor hair taken. Not all men with hair loss have enough donor hair to make this a viable option, but for those who do, hair transplants appear to be one of the more effective solutions to hair loss.
What’s the Best Solution?
While emerging technologies like laser therapy, anti-stress hormones and stem-cell research may provide even more effective hair loss treatments in the future, the best treatment for hair loss at this time depends on the degree of your hair loss, your finances, and the time and commitment you’re willing to give.
As a general rule, when you notice hair loss, deal with it quick. Thinning hair means the follicles are shrinking, but still active. Once an area is bald, the process is complete, and the follicles are dead.
Rogaine, Propecia and perhaps Profollica are good options for men looking to preserve hair but would prefer to skip surgery. For men with enough donor hair and who are willing to spend a little, hair transplants produce some of the most satisfactory results.
You can also swallow your pride and embrace your baldness. Some men really pull it off. Vin Diesel, Jason Statham and Patrick Stewart come to mind as guys who make it cool to be bald.
In the end, it’s your health, happiness and quality of life that matters. The best hair loss treatment is the one that makes you feel good about being you, whether that’s a wig, an ongoing solution, hair transplants or making the best of what you have.