Survey: Most Baldness Treatments Don't Work

More Than Half of Men Say Hair Loss Treatments Not Effective

From the WebMD Archives


Close to 60% of women and 67% of men said they sought treatment for their hair loss because they had nothing to lose, but that may not be true, according to the survey.

For example, Propecia needs to be taken for at least three months, and when you stop using it, it may stop working. It can only be used by men, and infrequent side effects may include depression and impotence. Minoxidil also stops working after you stop taking it, and side effects include dry, itchy, or irritated scalp and increased facial hair. Hair transplants can be pricey, and sometimes the procedure must be repeated.

So what is a balding man or woman to do?

Men were also asked about ways to help mask their baldness, and 65% said wearing a wig or toupee was a very or somewhat effective technique. In addition, 46% said shaving their head works, 46% said dressing better was a good strategy, and 44% said exercising to improve their body helped keep eyes off of their heads.

For now, “the best advice is to use proven entities for hair loss,” Neil Sadick, MD, a dermatologist in private practice at Sadick Dermatology in New York City, tells WebMD. “This includes Propecia, minoxidil, and hair transplantation.”

Advances in Hair Loss Treatment

Stay tuned, Sadick says. Basic science is revealing new ways to address -- and potentially reverse -- hair loss. Some research is pointing toward an inflammatory process that underlies hair loss, suggesting that anti-inflammatory therapies such as steroids may help.

Sadick wrote a book on this topic 10 years ago: Your Hair: Helping to Keep It. What has changed since then?

“Propecia was introduced along with advances in hair transplantation and the use of light sources to stimulate hair growth,” he says. Today’s hair transplants are much more natural looking than the bulky hair plugs of yesteryear, he says. Surgeons can now use individual hair micrografts as opposed to clumps of hair.

“Some men are also looking more positively at baldness,” he says.

Then and now, “the best bet to prevent getting taken advantage of is to see a doctor who specializes in hair loss, and who will do a thorough evaluation to determine the cause of the hair loss before recommending a treatment,” he says.

Some doctors who are on the front lines of the war against hair loss are surprised by the survey results.

“Our experience continues to show minoxidil to be the most effective medication,” says Robert V. Mandraccia, MD, a plastic surgeon in Fort Myers, Fla.

It is not a quick fix, he says. “It takes time; we suggest nine months to a year to see if it works.”