Hair Loss Treatment Options: How They Work

The treatment of hair loss has been a mainstream idea since the end of the last century when it was first noticed that minoxidil, a drug initially developed to combat heart problems, could cause hair to grow.

Over the past few years, several effective treatments for hair loss have been made available for both women and men. Nowadays, you might be able to regrow your hair significantly, depending on the cause of hair loss, or at least slow down any further thinning of your hair.

Medications

The use of medication to treat hair loss is by far the most common method. This is partly because this method is relatively cheap. Several drugs have been developed to combat hair loss, however, only two of them are currently FDA-approved:

Finasteride

Currently, the hallmark of medication treatment for hair loss is a reduction in dihydrotestosterone (DHT), which is to blame for the majority of of hair loss cases. DHT can be reduced by inhibiting the 5-alpha reductase – enzyme that converts free testosterone to DHT.

Finasteride is one of the most commonly prescribed DHT blocker used to treat male androgenetic alopecia. It effectively reduces DHT levels and is clinically proven to slow, stop, or partially reverse hair loss. 

study on oral finasteride and topical minoxidil in the treatment of male pattern hair loss concluded that both the drugs were effective in treating mild to severe male pattern hair loss – though finasteride proved to be more effective than minoxidil. 

Even though only the oral formulation of finasteride is FDA-approved to treat hair loss, there is also topical finasteride (liquid formulation) in the market, that is applied directly to your scalp and is claimed to cause less side-effects yet to treat hair loss with the same efficacy.

Minoxidil

Minoxidil was the first hair loss medication approved by the Food and Drug Administration. It also goes by the brand name Rogaine® and is sold over the counter to treat both male and female pattern hair loss. 

Topical vs. oral minoxidil in a randomized clinical trial using minoxidil 1 mg orally vs. minoxidil 5% topical solution found out that the case for oral minoxidil is less strong. Topical minoxidil was found to be more effective than oral minoxidil.

Besides, topical minoxidil is not associated with serious side effects like those seen in the oral formulation of the medication. Currently, only the topical minoxidil formulation is FDA-approved for the treatment of hair loss.

However recently there is also nanoxidil – topical hair loss treatment product that is very similar to minoxidil, it only differs by its molecular weight. According to its manufacturer (D.S. Laboratories), it may be as effective as minoxidil but has a better penetration rate and no side-effects.

Low-level light therapy 

Laser treatment for hair loss, otherwise known as low-level laser therapy (LLLT), is a procedure that exposes your scalp to infrared radiations for therapeutic outcomes.

It involves subjecting the scalp to infrared-emitting laser diodes in a therapy session that typically lasts between 90 seconds and 30 minutes. 

Even though the therapy can take place at a doctor’s office ,you can get a laser comb or laser cap that are made to be used at home.

The laser diodes used in LLLT emit infrared light in wavelengths between 630 and 670 nanometers. Studies have shown that such wavelengths have significant benefits to the human body, from enhanced wound healing to reducing hair loss.

study revealed that despite LLLT being useful in the treatment of many illnesses, parameters such as timing, power density, fluency, pulse structure, and wavelength of the applied light should be considered carefully. 

Microneedling

Microneedling is a common technique among individuals who want to slow down the aging of the skin. One of the mechanism of action for this method, which studies have also corroborated, is that it increases collagen production in the skin.

The method first gained more attention in the 1990s when it was used to treat scars. Since then, studies have been published detailing how microneedling can help in treating thinning hair and hereditary hair loss.

The idea behind this technique is that the microneedling device creates small injuries in the scalp that extend to the deep layers of the skin. As the small injuries heal, the skin produces many collagen fibers, and induces stem cells in the scalp, which stimulate hair growth.

What is more, these injuries promote uptake of topical hair regrowth products like minoxidil or nanoxidil, potentially leading to a higher efficacy of the treatment.

Nevertheless, microneedling is a procedure that has its side effects, including irritation, development of wounds, and discharge from them. However, the American Academy of Dermatology agrees that the side effects should usually resolve within 5 days after treatment. 

Hair transplant

Among the hair loss treatment options, a hair transplant could be the most expensive. The case for hair transplant dates back to about half a century ago, in 1950.

During this period, a researcher named Dr. Orentreich conducted an experiment to understand the factors influencing baldness. 

In his study that was first published in 1959, Dr. Orentreich devised a new and yet ingenious method to test his experiment. He was going to use hair transplantation.

The bottom line for his study was to find out of bald hair transplanted onto a healthy scalp could continue balding… or if healthy hair was transplanted to a balding scalp could stop the balding. 

After observing his experiment for about 2 to 3 years, he concluded that:

  • Balding hair transplanted to non-thinning regions of the scalp will continue to bald at the same rate as balding hair in the area when samples were obtained.
  • Non-thinning hair that was transplanted to balding regions of the scalp ended up growing normally.

His conclusion was summarized that scalp hairs would retain their characteristics regardless of where they are placed.

Does hair transplantation work for hair loss? Yes, it does. But is it successful? This depends on how you view successful treatment. 

There are excellent hair transplant surgeons with impressive skills in hair architecture who can help you hide your hair loss. The major downside for hair transplantation of that the surrounding hair around the site receiving a transplant will continue to bald. 

Although these surgeons will give you a thicker and fuller vertex and hairline, you should be open to the fact that there is a possibility of future hair loss in areas that have currently not started balding yet.

Conclusion

There are quite some hair loss treatment options available. The choice you make depends on the type of treatment you want and your expectations of the treatment outcome.

Finally, you should always prefer consulting a dermatologist before starting any treatment for your hair loss.

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