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First the bad news
Bad news: There’s no cure for baldness. Better news: There are a few ways to keep your thinning hair from getting any thinner. According to the hair loss specialists we spoke with and the clinical studies we read, 5 percent minoxidil foam is the best hair loss treatment to start with — it’s safe for both men and women; it really works; and you don’t need a prescription to use it.
The 4 Best Hair Loss Treatments
- Minoxidil for Man. Free available
- Minoxidil for Woman. Free available
- Finasteride, only for Man. Only by prescription
- Low Level Therapie (HairMax). Free available
If you were to check your spam inbox right now, you’d probably find — among the fishy links and generous offers from Nigerian princes — at least a dozen offers for the best hair loss treatments money can buy. There’s a reason these offers tend to get clicks: A lot of people are losing their hair.
The American Hair Loss Association (AHLA)
According to the AHLA two-thirds of men will experience some degree of appreciable hair loss by the age of 35. By the age of 50, the number of men with “significantly” thinning hair shoots up to a staggering 85 percent. Women hardly have it any better. Though pop culture tends to associate hair loss with men (Julius Caesar’s hairline-hiding laurels, George Costanza’s shiny dome), women actually account for up to 40 percent of the total hair loss sufferers in the United States.
Minoxidil for Man and its sister, Minoxidil for Woman, are our top picks: they’re safe, non-prescription, and easily available. They are identical formulas in different bottles — ladies, apparently, need something with a flower on it. (Costco’s Kirkland Signature Regrowth Treatment Minoxidil Foam for Men is the cheapest generic.) The most important part of their ingredients list is minoxidil, a topical drug that has been clinically proven to slow hair loss and even regrow some hair.
Prescription finasteride (sold under the name Propecia) have also been shown to be effective, and the key to halting your hairline is finding a hair loss regimen that works for you. A doctor is your best bet for that kind of guidance — but we can definitely tell you which treatments your scalp (and your wallet) should steer clear of.
The FDA-approved HairMax low level laser
Worldwide over a million lasers sold by now. They come in different sizes and prices.
How We Found the Best Hair Loss Treatments
“The most common cause of hair loss in both men and women is androgenetic alopecia, which is genetic pattern hair loss,” explains Dr. Michael B. Wolfeld, a board-certified plastic surgeon and an assistant clinical professor of plastic surgery at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York. The root cause of this type of hair loss is dihydrotestosterone (DHT), a byproduct of testosterone that shrinks certain hair follicles until they eventually stop producing hair.
Body BuildersTreatments such as Toppik use statically charged keratin fibers that bind to existing hair shafts, which may make hair look thicker, but does nothing to prevent hair loss. You might want to consider using one of these products in addition to an actual hair loss treatment, but don’t count on it alone.
Other medical conditions
Most commonly telogen effluvium and seborrheic dermatitis — can also cause hair loss, but most people can trace their follicular woes back to androgenetic alopecia, so we focused our search there. We started with more than 200 products, including all-natural solutions and high-tech gadgets, while skipping treatments that focus only on volumizing or thickening hair. We also limited our scope to the scalp, and left out specialty products designed only for eyebrows or beards.
We dug into clinical studies and talked to experts in the field, who helped identify specific ingredients that have proven effective in combating hair loss and aren’t just snake oil. The ugly truth: The vast majority of hair loss treatments boast exaggerated claims, and a startling number have absolutely no scientific backing whatsoever.
Our first step: eliminating those snake oils.
To us, that meant any product with zero proven ingredients, case studies, or FDA clearance — which shrunk our list by a whopping 180 contenders. That’s right, there are only three treatments that have actually been cleared by the FDA and supported with clinical studies: finasteride (commonly marketed as Propecia), minoxidil, and laser treatments. And, since finasteride is prescription-only, it left us with two.
With those pinned down, it wasn’t hard to determine which don’t actually work. Pretty much all the “active” ingredients listed in ineffective treatments — from biotin and zinc to emu oil and saw palmetto — have never been proven, and are instead marketed based on logical-seeming correlations. It would make sense that biotin, a B vitamin readily found in hair, skin, and nails, could help hair grow more quickly. And caffeine is a stimulant that works in coffee, so rubbing some on your scalp might wake some of those sleepy follicles… right?
Not so fast. Dr. Alex Khadavi, a board-certified dermatologist and associate professor of dermatology at the University of Southern California, says that it’s a good idea to approach all of these products with a skeptical eye. “There’s people selling pills and creams and lotions and whatever else, and sometimes you can’t even trust what ingredients they have in there,” he warned us when we spoke to him over the phone. Key takeaway: The hair loss industry is crazy dishonest.
We favored minoxidil over laser treatments but you can double your efforts. Even if you’re taking finasteride or applying minoxidil daily, you can still use a laser treatment. In fact, all our experts say combining treatments is the way to go.
The bad news
Laser treatments tend to be expensive, progress is slow, and they don’t always produce stellar results. “I think their effectiveness is not as significant as finasteride or minoxidil,” says Dr. Wolfeld, “however, it’s something that can be used quite easily by patients at home. If they use it two or three times a week, I tell them it can help to thicken their hair.” Results can take up to 18 months to show up, so Dr. Wolfeld stresses that patience is a virtue.
Minoxidil 2% en 5%
Not surprisingly, treatments with 5 percent minoxidil work better than treatments with 2 percent minoxidil. A randomized clinical trial published in the American Journal of Clinical Dermatology in 2002 found that, in men with androgenetic alopecia, “5 percent topical minoxidil was clearly superior to 2 percent topical minoxidil and placebo in increasing hair growth.” The difference was actually pretty astounding — after 48 weeks, the men who used 5 percent minoxidil experienced 45 percent more hair growth than the men who used the 2 percent treatment.
A separate study, published in Skin Therapy Letter in 2014, found that women also benefit from using the more potent 5 percent minoxidil treatment. “Patient-reported improvement in hair volume and coverage appears to be greater with 5 percent minoxidil foam,” reads the report. Plus, because the 5 percent treatment is stronger, women only have to apply it once a day to get the same results as they would with the 2 percent treatment applied twice daily. Be aware of the possible side effect of more facial hairs with Minoxidil 5% in woman.
Haarproblemen.nl is de website van de non-profit stichting Medi-Budget. Deze stichting streeft er naar om eerlijke en onafhankelijke informatie te geven over haarproblemen met als prioriteit haaruitval en haartransplantatie. De redactie is in handen van Hans J. Diks en hij wordt bijgestaan door een adviesraad met experts op ieder gebied van haarproblemen, medisch en niet-medisch. www.haarproblemen.nl/adviesraad
Hans J. Diks, internet journalist (lid NVJ)
“Je hebt pas recht op succes als je waarde toevoegt”(Diksy)
- Gratis e-boek over meer dan 40 haarproblemen op: www.haarproblemen.nl/nieuwsbrief
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