New treatments introduced in the past few years to regrow hair lost from male pattern baldness might be a better choice if you're on the fence about the old standby treatments or you haven't gotten the results from them you were hoping for.
Pills and lotions don't work for everyone. If they do work for you, you have to keep using them.
With a hair transplant, you won't end up with more hair; what you have is spread out more evenly. It may mean more than one surgery, cost a bundle, and the moved hair doesn't always take.
So what are these new methods, and what can you expect?
Platelet-Rich Plasma (PRP)
To make PRP, your doctor takes some of your blood, spins it to separate the platelets from the other cells, and then puts the platelets back into the liquid part of your blood (the plasma). Why does that matter? Because platelets have hundreds of specialized proteins called growth factors that aid healing.
Since PRP is concentrated with many more platelets than normal blood, it's often used to treat wounds, tendon tears, and arthritis pain.
Now, some doctors are using it to regrow hair. They inject PRP into your scalp with a small needle. The idea is that the growth factors help to create or stimulate new hair follicles.
There's no standard process yet. Your doctor may start with three treatments. After a few months, your hair could seem thicker and fuller than before. In one study, a large majority of people were happy with the results and said their hair improved. You might need a booster treatment 6 months later, when hair growth starts to slow down.
There aren't any side effects, though some people say the shots hurt, even with numbing medicine.
Some doctors use PRP during hair transplants to kick-start hair growth or to help other treatments.
Tests of PRP as a treatment for hair loss are promising, but we don't know yet how long its benefits last.
Low-Level Laser Therapy (LLLT)
We're not sure exactly how this safe type of light therapy works to put the brakes on hair loss. It may encourage more hair follicles to grow, speed up how fast cells reproduce, or improve how well cells work.
Low-level lasers don't get hot, hurt, or burn tissue. What they do is boost blood flow to your hair roots, bringing nutrients and energy that your hair needs to grow.
You can get laser hair treatments in your doctor's office or do them at home, using a laser comb, headband, or a small helmet that fits under a baseball cap.
Most people like home treatments. You can do them whenever you want (for about 15 minutes, three times a week), and they cost less than doctor visits.
When LLLT works, you should see thicker, fuller hair in about 6 months -- the same amount of time other treatments take. But LLLT won't help if you're completely bald.
We still need more research to figure out the best way to use it and how long the effects last.