Finding hair loss treatments that work can be exhausting and disheartening but there are a select few you can trust. How well they help with your problem will depend on the type of hair loss you have and if they are complemented by appropriate supporting products and supplements.
FDA Approved Hair Loss Treatments
You’ll find a plethora of treatments for hair loss that will all attest to being the most effective but in fact there are only three treatments that have been approved by the FDA. This means that they have undergone extensive clinical and scientific testing in order to prove not only their efficacy but also their safety in treating hair loss.
This is known to be the single most effective treatment for male hair loss and its success has been continually demonstrated. In studies of men aged 18 to 41 with mild to moderate male pattern hair loss these results were recorded:
2 of 3 men who took Propecia regrew hair, as measured by hair count
All men who took the placebo lost hair by the end of the 5-year study
Throughout the 5-year study, the difference between the 2 groups increased. The maximum increase in hair count with Propecia occurred in the first 2 years of the study
By the end of the study, there was an average difference of 277 hairs in a test spot (1-inch circle on top of head) between men who took Propecia and men who took a placebo
Most men have to use Propecia for at least six months before seeing visible results but some men will notice results in as little as three months of starting treatment.
Propecia is most effective when taken as soon as the warning signs for male pattern hair loss appear. In a five year study, the longest controlled clinical trial of a hair loss treatment in fact, men who were treated with a placebo and then switched to Propecia one year later never caught up to the men who took Propecia for the full 5 years.
Because male pattern hair loss is an ongoing condition, if you stop taking Propecia, you will likely lose any hair you have gained during treatment because it allows the condition to continue to progress. Male pattern hair loss is the result of a genetic sensitivity toward dihydrotestosterone (DHT) which, in genetically predisposed hair follicles, causes them to shrink. This in turn results in thinning hair – the first warning sign – and if left untreated, can lead to baldness as the hair follicle eventually becomes dormant. Propecia inhibits the formation of DHT on the scalp and reduces further hair loss and helps regrow visible hair but there is not sufficient evidence that Propecia works for receding hairlines at the temples.
For optimum results, it is advised that Propecia is combined with one or more of the proven treatments, and it’s also important that any use of prescription treatment is monitored by a specialist.
Minoxidil is a topical hair restoration agent that has been approved by the FDA since 1988. When applied directly to the scalp, minoxidil encourages hair growth and hair loss stabilisation but results vary from person to person for a variety of reasons. This is why there are various strengths of minoxidil available, some with added anti-androgen agents.
Two studies of the effects of minoxidil 5% solution (the strongest available is 12.5%) in treating male-pattern hair loss found:
The 5% solution very effective in 15.9% of patients, effective in 47.8%, moderately effective in 20.6% and ineffective in 15.7%
Hair loss areas of the scalp became smaller in 67.3% of the men, unchanged by 31.9% and larger by 0.8%
Hairs lost during washing numbered a mean 69.7 at the beginning of the study, and a mean 33.8 at the end of the study
Hair density improved by 74.2% of the men, unchanged by 24.3% and worsened by 1.5%
Of the 669 men who reported when results of minoxidil treatment were first noticeable, 13.9% reported results in the first month, 52.3% during the second month, and 33.8% during the third month
Like most prescription drugs, Propecia and minoxidil can cause side effects, but for both they are very unlikely (under 2% of users for Propecia and under 4% for minoxidil), usually mild and there are no known long-term side-effects for either medication.
Side effects from Propecia were experienced by 1.8% of the study’s participants and can include allergic reactions such as rash, itching, hives, and swelling of the lips and face, problems with ejaculation, breast tenderness and enlargement, and testicular pain.
Side effects from Minoxidil, mostly dermatologic, were reported by 3.9% of patients in the study. They ranged from mild facial hair growth, headaches, rashes and palpitations. All were mild and needed no medical treatment.
Both medications’ side effects have a short half life which means their adverse effects diminish shortly after ceasing use. There are no long-term side effects.
Increasing the Treatments Potential
Various booster treatments that complement the FDA approved hair loss treatments have been recognised to produce superior results but the best results are likely to be realised when the hair loss sufferer consults a hair loss specialist. Diagnosis of the cause of hair loss, assessment of the characteristics of hair loss in the individual patient, and a treatment plan based upon individual diagnosis and assessment will ensure the best possible treatment is administered and expectations are kept individual and realistic.
A specialist can also monitor the effectiveness of treatment clinically and through use of comparison photos, as well as provide other hair loss treatment options to augment the benefits of the FDA approved treatments.