Hair replacement, what does that mean? Truthfully it can mean different things to different people affected by hair loss. For some people, nothing short of growing the hair back on their head will make them happy. These are some of the most vulnerable, they search for tonics, shampoos that promise hair growth, meds, laser, surgical options, and can be taken in quite easily by unscrupulous vendors. The unfortunate truth for these people is that 99% of the options thrown at them do not work, or work in a very limited way.
Lets take the list from the top, tonics and shampoos are off the list. Period. No shampoo or tonic will grow hair. You can try Nioxin, onion juice, miracle herbs, essentail oils, but all are a waste of time and money. They will not give you back the head of hair you want.
Medications are the next step up, and as of today only two have been approved for hair growth by the FDA. Minoxidil(Rogaine) and Finasteride (Propecia).
Finasteride (Propecia, Proscar) is an oral medication approved for hair loss in men, but not for women. That, says Mirmirani, is because it affects the hormone, testosterone.
If a woman takes it and gets pregnant, it can cause birth defects in male children. The risk is so high that women of childbearing age aren’t even supposed to touch the drug. But some doctors do prescribe it to women when minoxidil doesn’t work or when they are past menopause.
Spironolactone ( Aldactone) is used to treat high blood pressure, and some women take it to stop hair loss. It can cause high levels of potassium to build up in the body, so it’s not the first thing a doctor would use for hair loss.
Like Propecia, spironolactone can cause birth defects in male children. Women of childbearing age either shouldn’t take it or must use birth control.
Minoxidil ( Rogaine, Ronoxidil) can stop hairs from getting thinner. It also can help some women regrow hair on the top of their head, says Paradi Mirmirani, MD. She’s a dermatologist with the Permanente Medical Group in Vallejo, Calif.. “Very good studies show that it’s effective and gets the hair root or follicle to become larger.”
Minoxidil 5% is considered safe for most women, and you can buy it without a prescription. It’s the only hair loss treatment for women approved by the FDA. You put it on your scalp once daily. A 3-month supply is about $50.
Cons: It doesn’t work for everybody. “About half of the people who use it do well and see new hair growth,” says Mirmirani. “Another 40% or so hold steady, not growing new hair but not losing more either. And about 10% find that it doesn’t help at all.”
Regrowth can take a while. It may be 12 weeks or longer before new hair starts growing, says Sonia Badreshia-Bansal, MD. She’s a clinical instructor in dermatology at the University of California, San Francisco, and a dermatologist who specializes in hair loss. She suggests using Minoxidil for 6 months and seeing what happens.
The most common side effect is scalp irritation. Some women may have unwanted hair growth on their forehead or face. The other downside: You have to keep using it or your hair will start thinning again.
Our next article will focus on laser treatments for hair loss.