Nobody wants to deal with hair loss. But, unfortunately, the phenomenon is a harsh reality for many people as they get older, due to underlying health conditions, hormonal changes, or nutritional deficiencies, or simply because of their genes. And, because of the wide-ranging causes of hair loss, sadly, there isn’t a single miraculous product that can fix your weakening hair woes. However, there are a lot of shampoo brands out there preying on desperate people with limp, lessening locks, patiently waiting for the opportune moment to pounce with their miracle hair loss product claiming to offer them a full, flowy mane.
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Don’t get us wrong, not all hair care products alleging thick, lustrous hair are bogus, but you still have to use them with a pinch of salt (no, not literally). The best way to make sure you aren’t duped into delving deep into your pockets by certain brands that are only interested in your money is to know what works for hair loss and what doesn’t. And it just so happens that you’ve come to the right place to become savvy about your scalp health (no sham shampoos dare come your way!)
What causes hair loss?
Before we can separate fact from fiction, we first need to get back to basics and learn what exactly causes hair to fall out. While there are many underlying reasons for hair loss, more often than not, Dihydrotestosterone (DHT) – a male sex hormone found in both men and women (although in lower amounts) – is the culprit for male or female pattern baldness. DHT travels through the bloodstream and binds to receptors on the scalp’s hair follicles, causing them to weaken and shrink and making it difficult to retain existing hair or promote new growth, thereby leading to baldness.
Do hair loss shampoos actually work?
Now that we know that male and female pattern baldness is caused by DHT, it would make sense, then, to be on the hunt for any hair loss shampoos that contain DHT blockers, right? Well, not quite. While you’ll find a countless collection of different concoctions sitting on the shelves of your local chemist claiming to miraculously cure your hair loss calamity, the majority of them haven’t been subjected to cutthroat clinical trials, so, at best, they will only leave your hair temporarily appearing fuller and thicker. Shockingly, only 2 methods are clinically proven to work – more on that in a short while.
When it comes to treating hair loss, certain shampoos may only be effective if the condition is caused by scalp disorders like psoriasis or dandruff. In such cases, your thinning hair could be a result of inflammation, which the shampoo will help to reduce and prevent. Others claim to increase blood flow to the scalp, thereby helping to nourish it with essential nutrients and proteins to stimulate hair growth. Caffeine shampoos are another apparent redeemer, and while there is much anecdotal evidence of its benefits, unfortunately, it failed to prove its effects in clinical tests.
So for male or female pattern baldness, well, let’s just say that, for the most part, you might as well be throwing your dosh down the drain. But why don’t shampoos that contain DHT blockers cure this type of hair loss, I hear you ask? Well, according to experts, it’s because the product simply doesn’t stay on the scalp long enough, or the concentration of the ingredients isn’t sufficient to work their magic on the hair follicles.
So let’s get back to what actually does work for that ever-receding hairline – the holy grail of anti-thinning hair care: finasteride and minoxidil. But what’s the science behind their success?
Minoxidil is the only FDA-approved over-the-counter product that is clinically proven to combat hair loss or thinning for both men and women. The topical medication comes in liquid or foam form and works by increasing the blood flow around shrunken hair follicles, as well as prolonging their growth cycle to stimulate new, thicker hair. Sold under the brand name, Rogaine, this treatment comes with a good safety track record, so you can use it without the stress of getting any undesired side-effects.
An oral, prescription-only medication, finasteride is specifically designed to block the production of DHT, which effectively prevents the hair follicles from getting essential nutrients. Marketed as Propecia, the treatment is only FDA-approved to treat male pattern baldness. But before your inner feminist comes out to object the apparent discrimination, be assured that there is a justified reason for this: because DHT is a by-product of the male hormone, testosterone, it is generally not effective in treating hair loss in women.
Like all drugs, finasteride comes with its fair share of side effects. Many men treating their hair loss with this medication have reported rashes, breast tenderness and enlargement, depression and anxiety, brain fog, as well as sexual dysfunction. There is also a slightly increased risk of developing prostate cancer for those taking finasteride.
Losing hair is something that is often difficult to come to terms with, and many people are willing to risk experiencing the side-effects of medications if it means that their hair will be restored to its former glory. If you’re unsure of what route to take in your hair restoration journey, speak with your doctor who will assess your health and medical history and advise you on the best course of action.
Is there anything else I can do to support hair growth?
Sorry to have burst your bubble about the claims made by the bulk of hair loss shampoo brands, but all is not lost. When it comes to these less-than-powerful potions, the key is to use them as a complementary addition to your hair loss regimen for optimum results, to help make the hair that you do have stronger and healthier. In particular, look out for ingredients such as keratin, biotin, zinc, and niacin.
The same applies to hair supplements. Even the very best ones won’t rectify the root cause of the problem but they can give your body a much-needed boost of key vitamins and minerals to accelerate the growth of lovely, luscious hair if it is a nutritional deficiency that is causing it to fall out.
Last but not least, avoid exposing your hair to excessive heat. Whether it is hot showers or styling devices, you should always proceed with caution as they can cause further damage to your already-weak tresses. Try giving your hair a blast of cool or cold water before getting out of the shower to close the cuticle and help it to look thicker and shinier. Also, think about embracing your natural hair as much as you can to give it some much-needed respite from the sweltering heat of those curling irons.
Now that we’ve debunked the myths and mysteries of hair loss shampoos, you can continue on your anti-hair loss journey with confidence and cognizance; opting for treatments that are legitimate and effective, rather than simply being exploited by shrewd shampoo brands. Good luck!