Skip to content
My WebMD Sign In, Sign Up

Men's Health

Font Size
A
A
A

Men and Hair Loss: What Are the Options?

From rugs to transplants to laser combs, the bald truth about hair loss products

Liquid hair loss treatment -- There's the rub

Initially used to treat high blood pressure, minoxidil was the first medication approved by the FDA to treat male pattern baldness. By applying Rogaine (or a generic version) directly to the scalp twice a day, a man in the early stages of hair loss can often stimulate growth. The American Hair Loss Association points out that results of treatment with minoxidil are limited, but it still endorses using it in combination with other treatments or as an alternative if finasteride doesn't work.

"I caution patients to try it for a limited time," Bernstein says. "Because it's not as simple [to use] as a pill, use isn't always regular, and you end up losing whatever you gained."

Side effects of minoxidil are limited to occasional itchiness and dry scalp.

Hair transplants

The good news: Hair transplants don't look like dolls' hair anymore. The bad news: You won't be able to go anywhere to show off your new 'do because you'll be broke. The average recipient of a follicle transplant receives several thousand grafts -- strips of hair removed from bushier parts of the head -- at a cost of several thousand dollars. The cost continues to mount when patients come back for added thickness over the years.

The hair transplant is an expensive procedure that, as with other options, rarely leaves you with a Fabio-like mane. Still, the science has improved dramatically in recent years, and more than a few lusciously locked movie stars are rumored to have gone under the tweezers.

Toupee or not toupee

As with transplants, the word toupee conjures an outdated and disagreeable image. The 70s-style rugs have mostly been traded in for spiffier "hair replacement systems." But the basic concept -- a foreign object atop your head -- can only evolve so far. Of course, the effectiveness of hairpieces is tough to evaluate. You may spot an awful one now and then, but the ones you do spot are just the awful ones. Who knows how many masterpieces slip undetected under the radar?

Barring a hair-tugging spree, there aren't many opportunities to admire the toupee's invisible art. But among those clients willing to own up, the American Hair Loss Association reports that over 70% are ultimately dissatisfied with their experience at hair replacement salons.

Alternative hair loss remedies

One word: boondoggle. From saw palmetto to zinc, a vast array of tinctures, supplements, and shampoos promise to do what the FDA-approved treatments do -- only cheaper and perhaps even better because of some “little-known ancient wisdom.” Turns out that FDA approval isn't for nothing.

"There's never been a single study to show they work," Bernstein says of the alternative remedies. "It's conceivable that some might have some minor impact. But the real problem is that people waste valuable time experimenting with them when they'd be much better off spending their money on something proven to work. The window for Propecia passes, and if you've spent two years with this herbal thing instead, that can make a big difference in the results you ultimately get."

George Cotserelis, MD, is director of the University of Pennsylvania's Hair and Scalp Clinic. He agrees that there's no evidence these alternative hair loss treatments have any effect. "If any of it did work," he says, "I'd be very worried about using that product. The fact that it’s working would mean it's doing something to the testosterone and could be having adverse effects."

Today on WebMD

Life Cycle of a Penis
Slideshow
Preacher Curl
Slideshow
 
testosterone molecule
Article
Xray of foot highlighting gout
Slideshow
 
Food Men 10 Foods Boost Male Health
Slideshow
Thoughtful man sitting on bed
Quiz
 
Man taking blood pressure
Slideshow
doctor holding syringe
Slideshow
 
Condom Quiz
Quiz
thumbnail_angry_couple_in_bed
Slideshow
 
man running
Quiz
woman holding hand to ear
Slideshow