Androgenetic alopecia (AGA), or male pattern baldness, is the most common form of hair loss. It’s inherited from either one or both parents and is caused by the hormone Dihydrotestosterone (DHT), which shuts down hair follicle growth. Men with this pattern baldness tend to have the classic “horseshoe” appearance of the scalp; women usually have thinning hair concentrated on the center part or diffuse loss on their entire scalp.
There are many causes for hair loss such as medical illness (diabetes, lupus, hyperthyroidism, and hypothyroidism), medications (antidepressant, beta-blocker, and cholesterol reducer), physical/emotional stress, chemical dyes, and even wearing tight braids/ponytails (Traction Alopecia),and over-styling of the hair.
Here are a few pros and cons of FDA approved hair loss treatments:
According to clinical studies, this medication, sold as Propecia, was most successful with patients. It’s primarily prescribed for men because it can cause serious birth defects in women. Women of child bearing years may be prescribed Propecia, but special precautions must be implemented to prevent pregnancy because of teratogenic side effects in male infants. The cost is around $60 to 80 per month depending on the pharmacy.
Cons: Side effects are infrequent but may include decreased libido, impotence and depression. These symptoms typically disappear if the medicine is stopped. Patients should commit to it for at least six (6) months of therapy before evaluating treatment effectiveness. If the patient stops taking the medication any hair gained or maintained through the therapy will be lost.
This topical product is manufactured in strengths of 2% (the only version approved for women) and 5%, which also comes in a foam. Sold under the brand name Rogaine or generically, versions sell for as little as $10 per month. Minoxidil works best on patients whose hair loss is recent.
Cons: In the same study, minoxidil was ineffective in one-third of patients. Results might not be visible for 4 to 12 months, and like Finasteride (Propecia) any benefits are lost when you stop applying the product. Side effects include dry, itchy, or irritated scalp and increased facial hair.
Hair Transplant Surgery & Costs
If you want to regain a natural youthful hairline and medical therapy does not work, or your hair loss is too advance, you will most likely require hair restoration surgery. Modern hair surgery uses your own natural hair grafts which are moved from the back of the scalp, to the top or front part of your head. There are two surgery techniques used in hair surgery- FUE and Strip. The average cost per graft for the STRIP technique is $4-8, and $ 8- 12 for FUE. The average hair transplant requires 1500 to 2,000 grafts for mild hair loss. Depending on the severity of the hair loss, multiple procedures may be required with over 6000 to 8000 grafts harvested necessary to achieve the proper cosmetic outcome.
Cons: Rarely does a surgical hair transplant fail in the hands of an experienced hair surgeon. Make sure the surgeon is an active member of the ISHRS and that they actually perform the hair surgery. Some doctors lack the training and skills to perform FUE surgery. So what these doctors do is to hire hair technicians do perform the surgery, and shake your hand and leave the operating room. Not ethical or legal behavior.
Hair transplant surgeon at OC Hair Restoration of Irvine, California , Dr. Ken Williams, specializes in FUE hair restoration technique. He also not only helps patients struggling with hair loss, but he also speaks to his patients from personal experience. Dr Williams is an advocate for a daily treatment program to treat hair loss.
Williams states, “Daily treatment is key. The use of a DHT blocker, like Propecia, and topical application of minoxidil will stop further loss and maintain current hair density.” He adds, “I use Rogaine 5% foam in the morning when I am in a hurry to get to work because it acts like a muse and holds the hair in place in the morning. For the evening dose, I use the liquid Minoxidil from Costco because it is four ($4) dollars a bottle. I take a DHT inhibitor once a day, and I use the Laser Cap (low-level laser therapy) every other day. I have an aggressive approach to a daily treatment program because I had FUE hair restoration surgery, and I don’t want to be bald ever again.”