Also known as alopecia, or in the case of pattern baldness, androgenetic alopecia is a very serious problem, affecting 35 million men, and 21 million women in America. 45% of men suffer noticeable loss by age 35, 60% by age 60. We must, given the regularity and embarrassing nature of the condition, consider the treatments–but also their side effects, as a man desperate to cure such a problem might act foolishly, ignoring the potential consequences of the treatments.
Hair loss is, generally, considered to be a slowly-occurring disease–and, usually, hair does disappear in small patches over long periods of time–but the form known as Telogen Effluvium is a rapid one, causing clumps of hair to be pulled out through tugging, combing, or washing, resulting in overall loss, rather than bald spots. Prevention may be simpler than many men assume, as certain hairstyles, such as cornrows, pigtails, braids, or the use of tight rollers can contribute to future hair loss. Poor diet may, also, cause hair loss, as lack of iron, or protein can damage hair growth. Hair loss may, unfortunately, be permanent, as in the case of Cicatrical Alopecia, a condition where the follicles become inflamed, or scarred, and cannot be regrown.
Hair loss due to illness, medication, child birth, or menopause, fortunately, tends to reverse itself, naturally, over time, thus those who suffer loss due to those conditions may not need to seek treatment.
Hair loss treatment has become a large, but dubious industry: The American Hair Loss Association says that victims spend more than 3.5 billion dollars to treat their conditions, but 99% of treatments are useless for most users. Scams can be exposed by looking for arguments such as:
1. A wondrous shampoo will unclog anyone’s blocked follicles, because a blockage is the, only, thing that stands between hair loss, and hair growth!
2.Your scalp lacks blood, even though bald scalps bleed as well as hairy ones!
3. Your follicles lack vitamins–sorry, but though malnutrition can cause hair loss, vitamins will not cure it.
4. It comes from a foreign country, even though that proves nothing!
5. An old medicine, because why trust a multibillion dollar medical industry, or expertly-trained scientists, when anecdotal evidence is available?
6. This medicine won an award, but do not ask what award.
7. Anecdotal evidence from an unnamed source, because no one should put faith in trustworthy sources?
8. Bugs, ones that fill the body, yet, somehow, the hair loss is restricted the head!
9. Hypnosis: This one was an old scam, destroyed by the F.D.A, but it, occasionally, reappears.
10. A tricky method: Presenting detailed, well-researched information regarding hair loss, followed by a lie. Use discretion to avoid such scams.
These scams have been banned by the F.D.A, prohibited by the F.T.C, and can be taken to the State Attorney’s office. Go to the Consumer Gateway to find information about exposed frauds.
Adhesive hair replacements can be effective at treating hair loss, but they have some caveats: The user should use medical adhesives because, unlike industrial and commercial ones, they are distilled, and will not irritate the skin. A potential user must, therefore, search for a treatment that has been approved by the F.D.A. Soft adhesives, being more pliable, are more comfortable for the patient. Acrylics are preferable to latex, as latex can be irritating, and trigger allergies, and silicone is strongest–but it is expensive. Hard bonds are less comfortable, and must be cut off the head when replaced, but they are better for active men. Fungus, and infections can occur, as the area under the hairpiece perspires, and the resultant conditions encourage such unpleasant growth. Hairpieces should, therefore, be replaced regularly. Haircuts are, still, required because the hair under the hairpiece continues growing, and may, if unchecked, produce itching, odors, and loose hairpieces.
Finasteride, a drug that inhibits 5-alpha reductase–a substance that changes testosterone to Dihydrotestosterone–is used to treat hair loss, and prostate cancer, and is the, only, treatment the F.D.A. accepts for male pattern baldness on the vertex, or middle front of the head. It may cause erectile dysfunction, and gynecomastia, but, thankfully, these symptoms occur in less than 0.5% of patients.
Dutasteride inhibits both types of 5-alpha reductase, but studies have not shown it to be more effective than Finasteride–although some patients claim to see a greater amount of hair gain. Side effects are widely-varied, and some patients must stop taking the drug due to those effects.
Minoxidil is the major ingredient in Rogaine, an F.D.A-approved treatment for hair loss. Many producers add other drugs to the mix, so users might want to consider what, exactly; they are taking before using Rogaine. Rogaine may be more effective when mixed with Finasteride.
Ketoconazole, the major ingredient in Nizoral Shampoo, has been found to be as effective as Minoxidil when in a 2% concentration. Its best form is topical foam, and it can be used to treat dandruff, and an irritated scalp.
Aminexil, similar to Minoxidil, is used in a 1.5% concentration, and requires six week treatments twice a year. It has the advantage of not irritating the skin.
Fluridil blocks the Androgen receptors that produce 5-alpha reductase, and though it has not been approved in America, it is accepted in Czechoslovakia.
Superoxide Dismutase and Copper Peptides are added to cosmetics to stimulate the growth of skin, and hair. Copper Peptides, however, are highly dubious: They, supposedly, “thicken vellus hair into thick terminal hairs, increase hair follicle size and regenerate scalp skin, creating a healthier environment for scalp hair growth, [but] there is neither sufficient nor convincing scientific evidence to prove that copper peptides are an efficient new hair growth stimulant.” Copper Peptides are the major ingredients in Tricomin, and Folligen, thus, one might wish to exercise discretion regarding whether to use those drugs.
Alfatradiol, though commonly prescribed in Germany, is a very weak drug, and not recommended to treat hair loss. Patients should use stronger drugs.
Sprironolactone, marketed as Aldactone, has a variety of use, including being a diuretic, lowering blood pressure, and treating excessive hair. It has severe side effects: Hyperkalemia, feminization, even death! This drug has not been shown to be an effective hair loss treatment, and is not recommended.
Flutamide, being a powerful antiAndrogen, is believed to be an effective drug, but it has severe side effects, such as sexual dysfunction, and the growth of female facial hair. Patients should wait for further studies before considering this drug.
Hair transplants can be quite useful for producing long-term results, but they have side effects, and the patient must exercise discretion. Transplant technology has advanced over the years, as doctors, now, have ultra refined grafts that produce significant hair density, minimal trauma, few blemishes, and a more natural appearance in the new hair. Patients should consult, both, doctors and other patients when considering what transplant to receive. Surgeon, and their levels on competence, and success, vary widely, thus, patients must consider the treatment, and the doctor. This treatment, unfortunately, may be temporary, as the hair is placed over existing follicles, and as new hair grows, it may push away the transplanted hair, causing the transplanted hair to fall. Swelling may occur in the eyes, scalp, and forehead may occur, but should end within a few days. Itching, sometimes quite severe, may occur. Shampoo, or water sprayed from a bottle may relieve the itching; other treatments should be discussed with a doctor. Hiccups may, also, occur.
Laser treatment has been cleared, but not approved by the F.D.A. Doctors have mixed opinions regarding whether it is an appropriate method of treating hair loss. Lexington International funded a study that gave the F.D.A. information regarding laser treatment, but, suspiciously, it never released the study to the public. We do not know how much faith the F.D.A. has in this type of treatment, and the evidence is rather insufficient. Patients may want to avoid this until most is known.
Hair treatments seem to vary widely, have no guarantees, and though the results can be quite effective, there are some side effects, especially with certain methods. I would recommend care, and discretion when deciding upon a course of treatment–although hair loss might cause panic, do not rush to judgment.