The market is thick with products and treatments claiming to reverse hair loss. Many of the claims are unfounded and a waste of your hard-earned money. However, men with hair loss for up to 15 years have successfully beaten balding. Following are hair loss treatments proven effective for men.
Male Pattern Baldness
The most common type of hair loss in men is termed “androgenetic alopecia” or male pattern baldness. It is caused by genes and hormones. The pattern starts at the hairline and moves toward the back of the head, forming an “M” shape. As hair becomes shorter and thinner, it develops a “U” shape, resembling a horseshoe.
Shrinking of the hair follicle is the anatomical cause of balding. The follicle is a small cavity in the skin from which each hair strand sprouts. Hair becomes shorter and finer until it eventually stops growing and sheds. However, the follicle remains alive, making regeneration possible.
Hair loss can also be caused by certain medical conditions, such as a thyroid disorder. This is especially the case when hair loss is:
- sudden and rapid
- characterized by patches
- accompanied by hair breakage
- present with redness, scaling, itching, or pain
If a man has the above symptoms, he should see a doctor before starting unsupervised treatment. If an underlying medical cause is not resolved, treatments can result in wasted time, effort, and money. A doctor may perform blood tests or a skin biopsy to arrive at a diagnosis.
Other causes of hair loss that may need to be addressed are stress, medications, and poor diet, such as iron or zinc deficiency.
If a medical condition is not the cause of hair loss, an option is to make an appointment with a dermatologist or certified trichologist. This is a specialist in the treatment of the head and scalp.
The treatments described below are effective for non-medical male pattern baldness.
Six Proven Methods
There are six proven methods for treating hair loss. They are:
- platelet-rich plasma
- laser therapy
- follicular unit extraction
- follicular unit transplantation
All of these treatments are FDA-approved. Following is a discussion of each method, including the criteria for being a candidate.
1. Platelet-Rich Plasma (PRP)
This procedure has been popularized by golf champion Tiger Woods and pro athlete LeBron James.
What It Is – PRP is a technique that uses one’s blood to stimulate hair growth.
How It Works – Blood is drawn and sent through a centrifuge to extract plasma and platelets. These components contain growth factors that prompt tissue regeneration. An additive is then mixed with the platelet-rich plasma. It is typically derived from amniotic stem cells.
A local anesthetic is applied to the scalp. Then the scalp is prepared to receive injections with the use of a derma roller. This is a device that creates permeation channels in the skin. It consists of a rolling cylinder covered with fine needles attached to a plastic handle. Tiny channels are created in the scalp to maximize absorption of the PRP. Then injections are applied to the scalp, and the solution is rubbed over the head. The entire procedure takes approximately one hour. It is not considered painful. There are no side effects and no post-therapy down time.
About eight sessions are required to complete the treatment. They are typically performed every two weeks. At approximately the fourth session, fuzzy growth is expected to appear. One may also need to augment the procedure with medications, such as Minoxidil and Propecia.
Best Candidates – Men with moderate male pattern baldness. Men who are completely bald will not benefit from PRP.
Success Rate – Ranges from 40-70 percent.
Cost – The cost depends on the clinic and the number of injections needed. Average cost is $1,000 per session. The therapy is effective for one to two years.
Note – PRP is not available in all states. Currently, 38 states in the US have qualified surgeons.
What It Is – Minoxidil is an over-the-counter topical medication. The most popular brand name is Rogaine. It is available as a 2%, 4%, and extra-strength 5% solution. New on the market is a mousse. The most effective formula is the 5% solution.
How It Works – Minoxidil dilates blood vessels, enabling more oxygen and proteins to reach hair follicles and stimulate growth. The medication must be applied twice a day. The dosage recommended by dermatologists is up to 25 drops of Minoxidil. Improvement may be seen in four months. If treatment is stopped, hair loss will resume after about three months.
Minoxidil has few side effects, generally limited to itching or minor skin irritation. Over time, the hair can take on a yellowish cast, particularly with white hair. Rare side effects are rapid or irregular heart rates that abate upon stopping use.
Best Candidates – Men with recent onset of male pattern baldness. Hair loss at the crown responds better than frontal hair loss.
Success Rate – Averages 40 percent.
Cost – The cost of over-the-counter Minoxidil averages $50 for a three-month supply.
Note – If there is no response to over-the-counter Minoxidil, a prescription formula may help.
What It Is – Propecia is a prescription oral medication. It is the lower-dose version of Proscar, a drug used to treat enlarged prostate.
How It Works – Propecia inhibits the production of the male hormone testosterone, which triggers follicular shrinkage. Propecia slows the rate of hair loss. In some men, it reverses hair loss. The pill is taken once daily. Improvement may be noted after 6-12 months of use. If medication is discontinued, hair loss will resume.
Best Candidates – Men with hair loss at the crown and mid-front of the head. It is not proven effective for receding hairlines at the temples.
Success Rate – Two out of every three men reportedly benefit from Propecia. Propecia can be combined with Minoxidil to enhance results.
Cost – The cost of prescription Propecia ranges from $70-$100 per month. It is not typically covered by health insurance.
4. Low-Level Laser Therapy (LLLT)
What It Is – LLLT involves the use of a laser device that emits a visible red light. The therapy is painless and does not cause burning. The light stimulates and repairs damaged follicles.
How It Works – A low-level laser activates the mitochondria, the motors within cells. This prompts follicles to transition from a dormant to an active state. Laser therapy does not re-grow hair, but it does make existing hair thicker and stronger. It also speeds the rate of hair growth. When combined with Minoxidil or Propecia, it can slow the process of hair loss.
The HairMax LaserComb is used for 15 minutes, three times per week. Results may be seen in four months. The LaserComb is powered by four AA rechargeable alkaline batteries.
A variation of the LaserComb is the iGrow device. This is a helmet-type unit that rests on the crown. It is used for 25 minutes, three times per week. It plugs into a household outlet. The iGrow incorporates headphones for playing your own music.
Maximal results are achieved at two years. If laser use is discontinued, hair loss resumes. There are no side-effects from low-level laser therapy.
Best Candidates – Laser therapy is most suited to men with new-onset hair loss.
Success Rate – Studies show an 85 percent success rate in halting hair loss.
Cost – The HairMax Laser Comb sells for $545. The cost of the iGrow is $695.
5. Follicular Unit Extraction (FUE)
What It Is – FUE is a procedure where hair follicles are removed from a person’s donor area and transplanted to a thinning area. The follicles are extracted using a small punch and forceps. No stitches are needed, and there is no residual scar.
How It Works – Local anesthesia is applied. A small instrument is used to remove individual follicular units from an active area of the scalp. The donor area is generally the back and sides of the head. Units consist of 1 to 4 hairs. The sections are then grafted to the thinning area with the aid of a high-powered stereo microscope. The length of the procedure depends on the number of grafts performed and ranges from 5-8 hours. The maximum number of grafts that can be done in one session is 2,000. For most men, this is enough to cover a thinning area.
About four months after the surgery, new hair begins to grow. Significant growth is anticipated at six months. It takes approximately one year for the transplant to fully grow and mature.
Best Candidates – The ideal candidate is a man with a tight scalp, having minimal laxity. He should also not have severe hair loss, requiring a significant number of grafts.
Success Rate – FUE has a success rate of 95 percent.
Cost – Cost is generally based on the number of grafts, ranging from $6-$10 per graft.
6. Follicular Unit Transplantation (FUT)
What It Is – FUT is also known as the “strip procedure.” It differs from FUE in that a strip of scalp is surgically removed and dissected into individual follicular units. The sections are then transplanted. FUT is considered the gold standard in hair restoration since it generally results in a better yield and is more affordable than FUE. Larger areas can also be treated than with FUE. The maximum number of grafts that can be done in one session is 3,000.
How It Works – FUT placement is done in the same manner as FUE. However, the graft units are larger, and the excisions are more extensive than with FUE. Stitches are required and removed at about one week post-op. The donor site remains visible as a pink area for 1-3 months after the procedure. A fine linear scar forms around the back and sides of the head.
Best Candidates – Men willing to wear their hair at a minimum length of 1 inch, to hide the scar.
Success Rate – FUT has the highest success rate of all proven methods, at 95-99 percent.
Cost – FUT averages $4-$6 per graft.
Stem Cell Therapy
Stem cell therapy is in the pioneering stages. Only a few U.S. clinics are offering this procedure.
What It Is – Stem cell therapy is a surgical procedure involving the extraction of one’s fat cells for injection into the scalp. Stem cells are non-specialized cells that maintain and repair bodily tissues. They adapt to the site of injection. When transplanted to the scalp, they activate follicle stem cells. New hair growth occurs at approximately four months post-op.
How It Works – The procedure is conducted on an outpatient basis in a doctor’s office. Both general and local anesthesia are given. A mini-liposuction technique is used, extracting fat cells from the waist. The sample is then processed in a centrifuge to isolate the stem cells. Next, the cells are injected into the scalp. The entire procedure takes about three hours.
The donor site will exhibit small punch marks resembling moles. These eventually transition to scar tissue. There may be a week of soreness following the procedure.
Best Candidates – Men in the early phase of hair loss.
Cost – Fees range from $3,500 to $13,000, based on the size of the area to be treated.
Making a Decision
To make an informed decision, the best approach is to begin with a doctor visit. A physician can rule out any underlying medical causes. Then ask your doctor for a referral to a certified trichologist.
Scientists are continually striving to find effective solutions for hair loss. Stem cell research is especially promising. So maintain your vision for hair restoration. Your wish may soon come true!