Non-Surgical Treatment Options
Finasteride (Propecia™) is an oral medication available by prescription only, having been introduced to the market more than a decade ago. Finasteride is approved only for use by men. Through scientific studies, it has been shown to re-grow hair in some men and stop hair loss in an even higher percentage. Finasteride works by decreasing the formation of DHT, a hormone responsible in large part for male pattern hair loss, while not reducing testosterone, the overall male hormone responsible for masculinity. Therefore, any side effects that may involve male sexual function are mild and occur in less than 2% of all patients. There have been reports by the drug manufacturer that side effects may be permanent and patients need to do more research before using this medication.
Finasteride (Propecia™) works best for early and moderate hair loss, but it may also help patients with more advanced hair loss to preserve their remaining hair. Its use is suggested by hair restoration surgeons as an effective medication to slow down or reverse male pattern hair loss in many men. It is often used as a complimentary treatment for hair transplant patients.
Topical Minoxidil (Rogaine™) has been around for over 15 years and is helpful in slowing down hair loss, but less effective in helping new hair to grow. A higher concentration (5% solution) of minoxidil is now available for men and has been shown to be more effective than the 2% solution. 5% minoxidil solution is generally not recommended for use by women because it may stimulate the growth of facial hair, and also because at least one study suggests that it is not more effective than the 2% in females. Both finasteride and minoxidil must be used on a continual basis in order to sustain results. If discontinued, the process of balding resumes. These medications may not work for everyone but they have a proven track record that shows some benefit to many people. In addition, combination treatment with minoxidil solution and finasteride may provide added benefit for men with androgenetic alopecia.
Other Topical Medications are available such as Tretinoin, Diazoxide, Cyotcol, Progesterone, and topical Estrogen. These medications have been used in the past for the treatment of
Low Level Laser Treatment (LLLT) is available for treating hair loss. This device was originally used for tissue and wound healing which lead to observation of growth of hair surrounding the wound. It has been claimed by manufacturers that low level laser increases the quality and health of growing hair. It increases blood circulation to the hair follicles, stimulates protein synthesis, decreases inflammation and energizes the follicular cells, allowing the hair to grow thicker and fuller.
LLLT comes in the form of either laser combs or oscillating hoods. To see results, it must be used up to three times a week, each time for 20 minutes for about 6-12 months. These are more effective if used in conjunction with Minoxidil or Propecia™ and are considered to be safe. However, the long term effectiveness and its safety need to be further investigated before the use of the device is substantiated.
Cosmetic Products that can help treat hair loss are creams, colored sprays, and powders that help to camouflage thinning areas, as long as there is some hair present. They do not treat the hair loss process. Hairpieces have also been worn throughout time as a means of covering up bald spots and giving the appearance of fuller hair. The most common hairpieces are glue adhesive, weave attachments and clips. It is important to note that hairpieces require monthly maintenance and should be replaced regularly. For some patients, these products are the only available option as they may have a strong family history of hair loss, and aggressive male pattern hair loss that began early. Hair transplantation may never be an option for such a patient, who will eventually have no hair from which to transplant.
It is important to research these products thoroughly before using them. There are many undocumented “miracle cures” that have circulated the market since the 19th century. You can either blindly accept the claims these products make and purchase them or you can approach them with some skepticism to discern the product’s reliability. It is always good to look for documented proof on products such as FDA approval to discern whether the product has, in fact, stimulated hair growth in a majority of persons using it in a safe manner with minimal