In the past few years, medicine has made tremendous strides in the treatment
of men's hair loss. With the advent of 5-alpha-reductace inhibitors such as
Propecia and the evolution of surgical hair restoration, living with noticeable
hair loss is no longer inevitable. For the first time in the history it is now
possible to stop or slow the progression of hair loss and to replace lost hair
through surgery with completely natural results.
However, with that said, the vast majority of hair loss treatments being
marketed today are still nothing but "snake oils."
By age 30, half of men start to lose the thick mop of hair they had as a teen and throughout their 20s. The hairline begins a steady backward march, and more of the scalp shows through on the top of the head.
Your genes largely determine whether you'll be one of these men. But Adam Penstein, MD, chief dermatologist at North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health System in Lake Success, N.Y., says your genes don't necessarily get the final word. You can save what you've got and (at least in some cases)...
You may have seen the ads in the back of men's magazines, you've heard the
commercials on the radio, and you've seen the infomercials promoting miracle
treatments for hair loss. The bottom line is that most advertised "treatments"
do not work for the prevention and treatment of hair loss. If a hair loss
treatment is not approved by the FDA or recommended by the American Hair Loss
Association, chances are you are wasting your time and money.
Remember that successful treatment of hair loss is greatly dependent on
early intervention. It is critical to begin treatment with an effective product
as soon as you notice the onset of hair loss.
The following two treatments have been clinically proven to successfully
treat hair loss in men to varying degrees.
Finasteride (Proscar, Propecia)
Finasteride is the generic name for the brand name drugs Proscar and
Propecia. Finasteride was originally developed by the pharmaceutical company
Merck as a drug (Proscar) to treat enlarged prostate glands.
During the trials on men with prostate problems, researchers noted an
intriguing side effect: hair growth. Since finasteride had already been
approved by the FDA to treat enlarged prostates in men, Merck decided to pursue
the possibility of developing finasteride as the first pill to treat male
pattern baldness. Minoxidil, a topical liquid solution, was already on the
market (see below).
In December 1997, the FDA approved a 1mg dose of finasteride for the
treatment of androgenetic alopecia (male pattern baldness) in men. Propecia is
the first drug in history to effectively treat male pattern baldness in the
majority of men who use it.
How Finasteride Works
Finasteride's hair-raising success is due to its ability to specifically
inhibit 5-alpha-reductase, the enzyme that converts testosterone into a more
potent androgen dihydrotestosterone (DHT).
Propecia's 1 mg dose of finasteride can effectively lower DHT levels in the
scalp by as much as 60% when taken daily. It is DHT that shrinks or
miniaturizes the hair follicle, which eventually leads to baldness. This 60%
reduction in DHT has proven to stop the progression of hair loss in 86% of men
taking the drug during clinical trials. 65% of trial participants had what was
considered a substantial increase of hair growth.
At this point, the only truly effective medically proven way to arrest the
hair loss process is to lower DHT levels. The American Hair Loss Association
recommends finasteride as the first line of attack for all men interested in
treating their male pattern baldness.