Hair growth treatments can stimulate hair growth and help keep hair longer. But what products are out there and how do you decide which product is best for you? And, more importantly, do they work?
One thing’s certain: it won’t take long to find products that promise hair growth. The market is flooded with them! There are many businesses eager to capitalise on the fears of millions of people about thin and dull hair. Or worse, their fears of going bald. Especially white men develop some degree of baldness sooner or later in life. Between the ages of 30 to 40 years, approximately 45% of men start losing or have lost their hair. This percentage gets even higher as men age. In most cases, this can be chalked up to genetics. Hair loss also affects many women. Some women lose so much hair that their scalp is visible. As you can imagine, this can be very traumatic.
The question is which hair growth treatment works? Put simply, of all the so-called remedies there are only three medicines which have been scientifically proven to effectively prevent hair loss and potential baldness. These medicines are:
- Propecia (finasteride)
Before we go into details about how these products work, we will address the causes of hair loss and baldness.
What causes hair loss?
Androgenetic alopecia is the most common form of hair loss among men. In women, telogen effluvium is a very common cause of hair loss.
Androgenetic alopecia is a genetic condition that is more common in men than in women. This is because this form of hair loss is influenced by the male hormone testosterone, and women generally have lower testosterone levels than men do. The condition also affects women differently than men. For example, women lose their hair on different areas of the scalp than men. In addition, the degree of hair loss in men increases to the point of baldness. Women with androgenetic alopecia don’t go completely bald.
What is androgenetic alopecia?
It is assumed that androgenetic alopecia is influenced by the hormonal process of testosterone converting to dihydrotestosterone (DHT). DHT damages the hair follicles and shortens the life cycle of the hair, causing it to become thinner and shorter. Eventually, the hair root dies.
Androgenetic alopecia is a chronic, progressive condition, in which the hair becomes thinner and thinner. In men, a receding hairline develops and the hair at the sides becomes thinner. Gradually the hair on top of the head also begins to thin, spreading out to the rest of the scalp. Many men ultimately end up with a ring of hair around their heads. In women, there is diffuse thinning of hair on the centre of the scalp, eventually causing the scalp to become visible.
Telogen effluvium is a term used to describe different forms of sudden hair loss in both men and women caused by chronic stress, medicine use (e.g. beta blockers, certain antibiotics and antidepressants), iron deficiency and thyroid disorders. Women may also experience hair loss after giving birth or coming off the pill. However, these kinds of hair loss do not lead to baldness and are treatable.
More about effective treatments for hair loss
Clinical studies have shown that Propecia is effective in slowing and possibly stopping hair loss due to androgenetic alopecia. There’s one but: the drug’s effectiveness depends on the degree of the balding process. It was found that Propecia is most effective if you use it at the earliest possible stage of the condition. This is because the active ingredient, finasteride, lowers the production of DHT in the scalp. This, as a consequence, helps to slow down hair loss. In more than 50% of users, Propecia also leads to increased hair growth. Propecia does not produce any beneficial effects when a considerable amount of hair has already been lost. It has not been proven that Propecia is effective in men with a receding hairline at the temples.
In principle, Propecia is intended for use in men. Women should only use Propecia under medical supervision. Women who are pregnant or planning to conceive should not use this medicine or handle crushed or broken tablets as finasteride is known to cause serious birth defects in developing babies. Propecia is a prescription-only medicine.
Propecia tablets should be used daily. Propecia starts working almost immediately, but as growth of hair is a very slow process it may take some time before you notice that you are losing less hair. You will need to keep taking this medicine daily on a continuous basis for its effects to be maintained. If treatment is stopped, the beneficial effects begin to reverse and return to baseline by 9 to 12 months. If you see no results after a year of taking Propecia, there is probably no point in further treatment.
Minoxidil is a lotion that is used to stimulate hair growth. It is available in two concentrations: 2% and 5%. Minoxidil in a 2% lotion form does not require a prescription. Minoxidil in a 5% lotion form is more effective but requires a prescription. The lotion should be applied to the scalp and massaged in well. Minoxidil produces better results when applied to the crown area and has less effect on the hairline.
Ketoconazole has proven to reduce hair loss and to make existing hair thicker. Shampoos such as Nizoral and Rooscure contain the active ingredient ketoconazole and can be found at your local drugstore.
Which treatments for hair loss are not effective?
As said earlier, the market is flooded with products promising to stop hair loss, grow hair or reverse baldness. Many sellers even claim to have a miracle cure for hair loss. Unfortunately, many of these products are scams. For example, we’re told that shampoos and lotion with Vitamin B complex improve hair growth – the truth is they don’t. It’s true that certain B vitamins aid hair and nail growth if foods containing these vitamins are eaten. However, treatment with an external Vitamin B complex has no effect on hair follicles in the scalp.
Red flags to watch for
In theory, it is possible that some unproven hair growth products are indeed effective. The problem is: how do you tell the good products from the phoney ones? Here are some red flags to consider when looking for hair growth products online.
To spot a hair loss scam, watch for unsubstantiated claims that start off with…
- 90% chance of success
- Secret/ancient remedy
- Found high in the Himalaya
- Improves circulation
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Last updated on October 13, 2016.
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