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Survey: Most Baldness Treatments Don't Work

More Than Half of Men Say Hair Loss Treatments Not Effective
By
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD

April 6, 2010 -- Most baldness cures just don’t cut it, according to a new Consumer Reports magazine survey of more than 8,000 men and women who have personal experience with hair loss.

Of the respondents, nearly 40% of women and 27% of men said they had tried a treatment or product to help stop or reverse their hair loss. More than half of the men polled said that the benefits of the baldness remedies were overplayed. Most of them said they reached for over-the-counter baldness remedies, but 20% of men opted for Propecia, a prescription pill for men only.

In the survey, 27% of the men who used Propecia said it was “very” effective. Propecia is a member of the class of medications called 5-alpha reductase inhibitors, which block the body's production of a male hormone. This drug is also used to treat enlarged prostate glands.

Alternatives to Propecia for Hair Loss

Other remedies did not fare quite as well. Over-the-counter minoxidil (Rogaine) is applied directly to the scalp and is the only hair regrowth drug approved for use by women.

Just 4% of respondents said it was very effective, with 43% of users saying it was not effective at all.

Dietary and herbal supplements touted as baldness cures were rated very effective by 6% of those polled. When medications that target the underlying cause of the hair loss were used, 12% of the respondents thought they were very effective.

Only 2% of men surveyed underwent hair transplants; but of these, 49% were either very or completely satisfied with the results of their surgery, the poll shows.

Accepting Hair Loss

It may be time to adopt the mantra that bald is beautiful, the editors say. The available treatments -- even those that were viewed as very effective -- do have pronounced downsides.

“It’s a deeply personal, devastating issue to many who desperately want to believe that there’s a panacea out there. Sadly, there is no magic bullet.  At the end of the day, the best remedy may actually be acceptance,” Tod Marks, senior editor at Consumer Reports, says in a news release.

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.

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