A little farther up the follicle is the mysterious feature called the bulge. That's where follicle stem cells live. When they get the right set of chemical signals, these self-renewing cells divide. They don't divide like normal cells, in which both halves become new cells that keep splitting and developing. Only one half of the follicle stem cell does that. The other half becomes a new stem cell, and stays put for future regeneration.
Under normal conditions, scalp hairs live for about three years (the anagen, or growing, phase); they then enter the telogen, or resting, phase. During the three-month telogen period, the hair root shrivels up into a small "club," then the hair falls out. It is therefore normal to lose about 100 hairs every day, more of them on days when shampooing loosens the hairs that are ready to fall out. The body then replaces the hairs.
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.
“Many prescription drugs, often those that affect hormones, can lead to changes in the hair. One frequent culprit is anti-acne medications, specifically those that involve types of retinol (vitamin A),” explains Burg. “There are also reports of some anti-aging creams containing retinols causing hair loss.” It is unclear how these medications interfere with hair growth, but disruption of the hair cycle is a common issue, he adds. Learn about skin-care ingredients you should never mix.
The finding occurred after doctors prescribed a 25-year-old man with alopecia universalis the drug because they had heard it had treated a similar condition in mice, according to a statement from Yale University. After three months of treatment, the man had completely regrown the hair on his scalp, and he had visible eyebrows, eyelashes, facial hair, as well as hair elsewhere on his body.
Hormonal changes and medical conditions. A variety of conditions can cause permanent or temporary hair loss, including hormonal changes due to pregnancy, childbirth, menopause and thyroid problems. Medical conditions include alopecia areata (al-o-PEE-she-uh ar-e-A-tuh), which causes patchy hair loss, scalp infections such as ringworm and a hair-pulling disorder called trichotillomania (trik-o-til-o-MAY-nee-uh).
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.
Harsh hairstyles or treatments: Hairstyles that consistently use rubber bands, rollers or barrettes, or pull hair into tight styles such as cornrows, can inflame and scar hair follicles. So can incorrectly used chemical products such as dyes, bleaches, straighteners or permanent wave solutions. Depending on the degree of damage, resulting hair loss can be permanent.
The only nonchemical option offered up by the dermatologists I spoke with — short of a surgical hair transplant or platelet-rich plasma therapy, which is like Kim Kardashian’s vampire facial but for your scalp — was the laser comb. First cleared by the FDA in 2009, the HairMax LaserComb is a handheld laser device that is designed to promote hair growth. As the manufacturer explains in a letter to the FDA, “The device provides distributed laser light to the scalp while the comb teeth simultaneously part the user’s hair to ensure the laser light reaches the user’s scalp,” which, in turn, stimulates the hair follicles.
One is how much emphasis the company places on compliance, the major stumbling block in the efficacy of any treatment, said Dr. Senna, an author of studies on the subject. Prospective users are questioned about their ability to stick to a regimen because the extract must be applied every day, and they are told that the more conscientious they are, the better. Users are also reminded and encouraged with regular check-ins.
If a pregnant woman comes in contact with crushed or broken Finasteride tablets, wash the contact area right away with soap and water. If a woman who is pregnant comes into contact with the active ingredient in Finasteride, a healthcare provider should be consulted. If a woman who is pregnant with a male baby swallows or comes in contact with the medicine in Finasteride, the male baby may be born with sex organs that are not normal.
Alopecia mucinosa - also known as follicular mucinosis is an autoimmune disorder. It causes inflammation of the hair follicles which can result in scarring or non-scarring hair loss. This condition can affect any part of the body and can affect both children and adults. If treated early, the hair will grow back. If the condition is too severe, the hair will not grow back.
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.
3. Nutriceuticals. Rogers recommends that her patients try Viviscal Dietary Supplements ($50 for a one-month supply) or Nutrafol ($88 for a one-month supply), both of which can often be picked up in a salon. The former contains marine-based proteins meant to beef up thinning hair. The latter is packed with antioxidants, like ashwagandha and curcumin, and boasts impressive clinical results.