Minoxidil (Rogaine): This topical medication is available over the counter, and no prescription is required. Men and women can use it. It works best on the crown, less on the frontal region. Minoxidil is available as a 2% solution, 4% solution, an extra-strength 5% solution, and a new foam or mousse preparation. Rogaine may grow a little hair, but it's better at holding onto what's still there. There are few side effects with Rogaine. The main problem with this treatment is the need to keep applying it once or twice daily, and most men get tired of it after a while. In addition, minoxidil tends to work less well on the front of the head, which is where baldness bothers most men. Inadvertent application to the face or neck skin can cause unwanted hair growth in those areas.
Herbal hair supplements are designed to “supplement,” or work together with, a healthy diet, not replace it. However, it’s also important to recognize that the fast pace of life doesn’t always allow for making meals from scratch every day. If you find it hard to meet the recommended daily amounts nutrients because of a tight schedule, you’re definitely not alone.
Hair pieces and wigs. One of the most traditional answers to hair loss, wigs and toupees are perfect for severe cases where full coverage is needed. Wigs can be made either from real human hair, animal hair or synthetic fiber. The materials are sewn together into certain hair styles and are worn on top of the real hair. For those who want to cover up only bald spots or add volume to thinning hair, hair pieces and hair extensions are also available. These are balls of hair that can be attached at the base or clipped to portions of the head.
Research is looking into connections between hair loss and other health issues. While there has been speculation about a connection between early-onset male pattern hair loss and heart disease, a review of articles from 1954 to 1999 found no conclusive connection between baldness and coronary artery disease. The dermatologists who conducted the review suggested further study was needed.
Pregnancy may cause many changes in the scalp hair. As the hormones fluctuate during pregnancy, a large number of women feel their hair thickens and becomes fuller. This may be related to change in the number of hairs cycling in the growth phase of hair growth, but the exact reason is unknown. Quite often, there may be a loss of hair (telogen effluvium) after delivery or a few months later which will eventually normalize.
Finally, if these tests come back normal, your dermatologist may suggest a scalp biopsy of a couple of two-millimeter sections taken from your scalp under local anesthesia ($400 and up). It can determine whether genetic hair loss, telogen effluvium (a condition in which hair falls out from stress or rapid weight gain), or a disease (such as lupus) is the cause of your shedding, and your dermatologist can treat you accordingly.
With those pinned down, it wasn’t hard to determine which don’t actually work. Pretty much all the “active” ingredients listed in ineffective treatments — from biotin and zinc to emu oil and saw palmetto — have never been proven, and are instead marketed based on logical-seeming correlations. It would make sense that biotin, a B vitamin readily found in hair, skin, and nails, could help hair grow more quickly. And caffeine is a stimulant that works in coffee, so rubbing some on your scalp might wake some of those sleepy follicles… right?
One hard truth: Hair loss is mostly out of your control. “Baldness comes down to your genes,” says Frederick Joyce, M.D., founder of Rejuvenate! Med Spa and a member of the International Society for Hair Restoration Surgery. “If you have the baldness gene, there are some natural remedies that may make your hair stronger and healthier to slow your hair loss slightly—but they won’t prevent you from going bald. Still, maintaining hair health by eating well and using the right products—combined with medical-grade treatments—can really work all together to help you have a fuller, thicker head of hair.”
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.
Another method is to wear a hat or a hairpiece—a wig or toupee. The wig is a layer of artificial or natural hair made to resemble a typical hair style. In most cases the hair is artificial. Wigs vary widely in quality and cost. In the United States, the best wigs—those that look like real hair—cost up to tens of thousands of dollars. Organizations also collect individuals' donations of their own natural hair to be made into wigs for young cancer patients who have lost their hair due to chemotherapy or other cancer treatment in addition to any type of hair loss.
Thyroid blood tests determine the adequacy of the levels of thyroid hormones in in a patient. The blood tests can determine if the thyroid gland's hormone production is normal, overactive, or underactive. The level of thyroid hormones may help to diagnose hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism. The test may also point to other diseases of conditions of the thyroid gland.
The truth is, the amount of propylene glycol in hair loss treatments is not likely to cause any real harm and the FDA has given the chemical approval for many uses. But even though it is safe, we wanted to ensure that our top picks would be as comfortable to use as possible. So when Dr. Khadavi told us that “a third of my patients get irritated from minoxidil products because of propylene glycol,” we decided to cut any treatments with it. In any case, it’s the minoxidil that helps curb hair loss and not the propylene glycol.