Men and Hair Loss: What Are the Options?
From rugs to transplants to laser combs, the bald truth about hair loss products
Liquid hair loss treatment -- There's the rub
Initially used to treat high blood pressure, minoxidil was the first
medication approved by the FDA to treat male pattern baldness. By applying
Rogaine (or a generic version) directly to the scalp twice a day, a man in the
early stages of hair loss can often stimulate growth. The American Hair Loss
Association points out that results of treatment with minoxidil are limited,
but it still endorses using it in combination with other treatments or as an
alternative if finasteride doesn't work.
"I caution patients to try it for a limited time," Bernstein says.
"Because it's not as simple [to use] as a pill, use isn't always regular,
and you end up losing whatever you gained."
Side effects of minoxidil are limited to occasional itchiness and dry
The good news: Hair transplants don't look like dolls' hair anymore. The bad
news: You won't be able to go anywhere to show off your new 'do because you'll
be broke. The average recipient of a follicle transplant receives several
thousand grafts -- strips of hair removed from bushier parts of the head -- at
a cost of several thousand dollars. The cost continues to mount when patients
come back for added thickness over the years.
The hair transplant is an expensive procedure that, as with other options,
rarely leaves you with a Fabio-like mane. Still, the science has improved
dramatically in recent years, and more than a few lusciously locked movie stars
are rumored to have gone under the tweezers.
Toupee or not toupee
As with transplants, the word toupee conjures an outdated and disagreeable
image. The 70s-style rugs have mostly been traded in for spiffier "hair
replacement systems." But the basic concept -- a foreign object atop your
head -- can only evolve so far. Of course, the effectiveness of hairpieces is
tough to evaluate. You may spot an awful one now and then, but the ones you do
spot are just the awful ones. Who knows how many masterpieces slip undetected
under the radar?
Barring a hair-tugging spree, there aren't many opportunities to admire the
toupee's invisible art. But among those clients willing to own up, the American
Hair Loss Association reports that over 70% are ultimately dissatisfied with
their experience at hair replacement salons.
Alternative hair loss remedies
One word: boondoggle. From saw palmetto to zinc, a vast array of tinctures,
supplements, and shampoos promise to do what the FDA-approved treatments do --
only cheaper and perhaps even better because of some “little-known ancient
wisdom.” Turns out that FDA approval isn't for nothing.
"There's never been a single study to show they work," Bernstein
says of the alternative remedies. "It's conceivable that some might have
some minor impact. But the real problem is that people waste valuable time
experimenting with them when they'd be much better off spending their money on
something proven to work. The window for Propecia passes, and if you've spent
two years with this herbal thing instead, that can make a big difference in the
results you ultimately get."
George Cotserelis, MD, is director of the University of Pennsylvania's Hair
and Scalp Clinic. He agrees that there's no evidence these alternative hair
loss treatments have any effect. "If any of it did work," he says,
"I'd be very worried about using that product. The fact that it’s working
would mean it's doing something to the testosterone and could be having adverse