The best treatment depends on the cause of your hair loss
Sometimes stress can cause temporary hair loss which will lead to a general thinning of the hair that affects the entire scalp. Long-term lack of nutritious food, poor sleeping quality, severe illnesses, and some drugs and chemicals all can cause such stress. This can happen to both men and women and it’s usually reversible. It mostly takes some lifestyle improvements that reduce stress on the body, including a healthier, vitamin-rich diet and regular healthy sleep.
It takes some time for the positive healing effects on the hair to become apparent, but within 6-12 months your hair should be restored to its former glory. Taking vitamin supplements, particularly Vitamins E and C, may also help you to recover from stress-related hair loss. Discuss with your doctor whether supplementation would benefit you.
We all experience some degree of stress-related hair loss in our lifetime and most often it’s moderate enough to go unnoticed. The much more obvious and life-impacting hair loss problem for many men is androgenic alopecia — also called male pattern baldness. It’s an inherited baldness that starts at the hairline (above your forehead) and slowly but surely makes you lose all hair within a decade or two. Up to 80 percent of Caucasian men will get this genetic form of baldness in later life, while for African Americans or Asians it’s “only” around 50 percent.
Medication is the only effective androgenic alopecia treatment
The scientific community still doesn’t have a full understanding of how exactly androgenic alopecia is inherited and what factors trigger its onset and when. The two things that are for certain though are that it affects the majority of men aged 40 or older and that once it starts it doesn’t stop until the entire scalp is bald.
Since pattern hair loss is such a common condition, there are millions of websites, companies and clinics that offer free or paid advice and peddle all sorts of natural remedies, lifestyle practices, and drugs that allegedly treat androgenic alopecia.
As a visit to a professional dermatologist will tell you, 99 percent of the above doesn’t stop pattern hair loss. Real, lasting protection from androgenic alopecia currently is only provided by two medications — finasteride and minoxidil. That is for the U.S. market, as they are the only two FDA approved drugs there. In a few other countries, there’s a third option: dutasteride, which essentially is a cousin of finasteride coming from the same biochemical family.
Finasteride is a generic prescription drug that was first produced by Merck and marketed as Propecia. Long-term clinical trials have concluded that finasteride is a safe and effective treatment for androgenic alopecia. In 85 percent of male users, it stopped hair loss after several months of treatment and for some 65 percent it even stimulated new hair growth. However, finasteride protects your hair only as long as you keep taking it, i.e., it’s not a permanent cure against pattern hair loss. Therefore, many men take finasteride for years and longer. 10-year studies have shown that such long-term use is relatively well tolerated by the body.
In addition to finasteride, the other treatment option in the United States is minoxidil, which comes as a spray or liquid and is put directly on your scalp. The drug is also known as Rogaine, the proprietary name used when the medication was first developed. Minoxidil increases the blood flow in hair follicle cells, which stimulates faster hair growth. But it doesn’t stop the hormonal process that drives androgenic alopecia. Because of this, minoxidil often is prescribed in combination with finasteride. In a seven-year Japanese study on nearly 19,000 men finasteride and minoxidil were given as a combined treatment. The treatment overall proved to be effective and there were no severe side effects — even minor side effects only occurred in 4.2 percent of study participants.
Racial background doesn’t matter for male hair loss treatment
Some websites make it sound like treatments against androgenic alopecia differ from race to race, suggesting for example that African American hair benefits from different hair loss treatments than let’s say Caucasian or Asian hair.
That’s not the case at all. Even though African Americans and some other ethnicities are less likely to suffer from pattern baldness than Caucasians, for the 50 percent of African Americans who get the condition the treatment options don’t differ a bit. Protecting your hairline still comes down to finasteride and minoxidil. No other remedies will be effective, regardless of your racial background.
Ask a dermatologist or your normal doctor for advice, if you think you are suffering from pattern hair loss and want to learn more about treatment options.
- Tanaka, Yohei, et al. “Androgenetic Alopecia Treatment in Asian Men.” The Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology, vol. 11, no. 7, 2018, pp. 32–35, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6057731/. Accessed 12 Dec. 2019.
- Sinclair, Rodney, et al. “Androgenetic Alopecia: New Insights into the Pathogenesis and Mechanism of Hair Loss.” F1000Research, vol. 4, 19 Aug. 2015, p. 585, https://doi.org/10.12688/f1000research.6401.1. Accessed 12 Dec. 2019.
- Severi, G, et al. “Androgenetic Alopecia in Men Aged 40-69 Years: Prevalence and Risk Factors.” The British Journal of Dermatology, vol. 149, no. 6, 2003, pp. 1207–13, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14674898, https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1365-2133.2003.05565.x. Accessed 12 Dec. 2019.