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Non-surgical treatments

People with thinning hair now have more options available to them than ever before.

  • Effective medical treatments are now offered in the form of a pill (finasteride) and a topical liquid (minoxidil). They require life-long treatment to maintain their effect.
  • Cosmetic enhancers include colored creams, sprays, and powders that, when applied to the thinning scalp, help to camouflage thinning areas, as long as there is still some hair present in the area. They do not treat the hair loss process.
  • Hairpieces are a non-surgical means to restore hair by covering bald areas of the scalp. There is a large variety of means for attaching these. The most common are glue adhesives, “weave” attachment, and clips.

What are the current medical treatments available?

Finasteride (Propecia®), an oral medication available by prescription only, has been introduced to the market in the past decade. Finasteride is approved only for use by men. Through scientific studies, it has been shown to re-grow hair in a significant number of 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. Finasteride has been available for over 10 years and has been shown to be safe and effective. Finasteride (Propecia) works best for early or moderate hair loss, but it may also help patients with more advanced hair loss to preserve their remaining hair, and 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 complementary 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, and if discontinued, the process of balding resumes. These medications may not work for everyone, but they have a proven track record that shows a significant benefit to many people. In addition, combination treatment with minoxidil solution and finasteride may provide added benefit for men with androgenetic alopecia.

 

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