Understanding Hair Loss -- Treatment

Medically Reviewed by Stephanie S. Gardner, MD on July 12, 2022
4 min read

Although remedies promising to restore hair to balding heads have been around since ancient times, most men and women with thinning hair can do little to reverse the process. For cosmetic purposes, or after hair loss from surgical or drug treatments, many people turn to wigs, hairpieces, and hair weaving. Some people get tattoos to simulate lost eyebrows and eyelashes. Certain drugs may slow hair loss, and alternative treatments may bolster the health of remaining hair, but no treatment is likely to replace a full head of hair. Learn more about what you can do to help stop a receding hairline.

Some people may benefit from the following hair loss treatments:

  • Minoxidil (Rogaine). Under certain circumstances, this topical (applied to the skin) preparation appears to provide modest regrowth of hair on areas of the scalp that have gone bald. Rogaine works on hair follicles to reverse their shrinking process to stimulate new hair growth. The effects are most promising in younger people who are just beginning to show signs of balding or who have small bald patches. The medication is a solution or foam that is applied to balding spots twice a day and must be continued indefinitely; hair loss will recur if the application is stopped. More than 50% of users claim that it can thicken hair and slow hair loss, but it is not considered effective in men who already have extensive male pattern baldness. Side effects appear to be minimal, but in some users the medication may cause skin irritation. The drug is approved for use in men and women. It's available over-the-counter at a pharmacy or drugstore. A low-dose Minoxidil pill is sometimes prescribed.
  • Finasteride (Propecia). Originally used in higher doses for the treatment of prostate problems, Propecia is now being used for male pattern baldness. Propecia works by blocking the more active male hormone in the skin that can cause hair loss. Propecia is available by prescription and is taken once a day to three times weekly in pill form. As with most drugs, there are side effects. Be sure to talk to your doctor about Propecia to see if it is right for you. Propecia cannot be used by women of childbearing potential because the drug can cause birth defects. Also, it may not be effective in older women. A stronger drug in this same class is dutasteride (Avodart). Learn more: Does health insurance cover this and other hair loss treatments?
  • Spironolactone. This is also a pill taken once to twice daily to block the male hormones in the skin that can cause hair loss. This is sometimes used for female pattern hair loss.
  • Hair transplantation. Hair transplantation involves the relocation of plugs of skin from parts of the scalp containing active hair follicles to bald areas. A person may need several hundred plugs -- implanted 10 to 60 per session. The transplanted hair may drop out, but new hair usually begins to grow from the transplanted follicles within several months. Newer hair transplantation procedures called follicular unit hair transplants can transplant one to four hair follicles very close together, for a more natural look. In addition to follicular unit transplantation (FUT), follicular unit extraction (FUE), which involves harvesting finer hair from the nape of the neck to be used at the hairline or for eyebrows, is also available.
  • Corticosteroids. Most cases of alopecia areata, an autoimmune disorder that causes hair to fall out in clumps, resolve spontaneously. Some doctors try to speed recovery with topical corticosteroid drops or steroid shots directly into the areas of hair loss on the scalp. The treatment may be somewhat painful and may cause skin thinning in the injected sites. Prednisone, an oral steroid, may be an effective treatment for alopecia areata, but its potential side effects include weight gain, metabolic abnormalities, acne, and menstrual problems. Its positive effects are often only temporary.
  • Drithocreme (Anthralin). This is a topical medication used to control inflammation at the base of the hair follicles. It is used in conditions such as alopecia areata.
  • Diphencyprone. Though not FDA approved, this is a topical sensitizing agent used occasionally to stimulate hair regrowth in alopecia areata.
  • Lasers. Office and home based laser-basedlaser r-based devices for hair regrowth come as hats, helmets, caps, combs, and headbands. Most use low level laser technology to stimulate the scalp and hair follicles, promoting hair growth and blood flow.
  • Janus Kinase Inhibitors. a class of immunomodulators, are showing promise in clinical studies to treat alopecia areata. The FDA has approved baricitinib (Olumiant) in this class for treatment.
  • Supplements. The hair supplements like Viviscal or Nutrafol has shown success in stimulating hair growth.