Choosing the Best Treatment for Hair Loss
The main existing approaches to combating hair loss include a) antiandrogen treatment, which addresses the leading cause of hereditary baldness – dihydrotestosterone's (DHT) negative effects on hair follicles and b) promoting new hair growth with hair growth stimulants. Hereditary hair loss in both men and women is caused by DHT attacking our hair follicles, leading to their miniaturisation and eventual death. Propecia (generic name finasteride) is the only FDA-approved antiandrogen for treating hair loss in men and one of the only two FDA-approved hair loss treatments available today. The other FDA-approved treatment is Rogaine (generic name minoxidil) and it is a hair growth stimulant that can be used by both sexes. These two drugs are generally considered the best options for treating male hair loss at the moment and should be tried first.
Some doctors recommend fortifying the effects of these two drugs with a ketoconazole-containing shampoo such as Nizoral. Both finasteride and minoxidil are, besides their original formulations, also available in generic, and, therefore, less expensive formulations. Dutasteride is a drug similar to finasteride in its effects and also frequently prescribed to male customers. Though considered to be yet more effective than finasteride, its FDA approval for hair loss is still pending. Female alternatives to finasteride are two antiandrogens - spironolactone (trade name Aldactone) and cyproterone acetate (Diane 35, Diane 50, Ginette 35). Both of them are commonly prescribed to female hair loss patients and have demonstrated some efficacy, although none of them has been approved as a hair loss treatment by the FDA.
However, the aforementioned medicinal treatments, and particularly finasteride, are often blamed for causing negative side effects. Finasteride works by inhibiting the conversion of the male hormone testosterone into follicle-harming DHT, thus reducing its plasma levels. This can have feminising effects on some male patients. Therefore, scientists are looking for alternative antiandrogen therapies that would, instead of preventing the conversion into DHT, bind to the receptor sites in hair follicles and thus compete with DHT. This approach is expected to prevent the negative side effects resulting from the artificially low DHT levels in the male body caused by finasteride treatment.
Many herbs and naturally-derived substances are claimed to address hair loss by binding to and blocking activity in the androgen receptor sites of hair follicles. Although no relevant clinical proof exists some of those substances have demonstrated, in smaller, usually sponsored, studies, the ability to promote hair growth and can be found in numerous generic, hair loss products. A list of such substances includes extracts from saw palmetto, stinging nettle, pygeum africanum and green tea, beta-sitosterol, azelaic acid, caffeine, essential fatty acids, alfatradiol, etc.
Other promising substances that have been shown to promote hair growth but which do not seem to interfere with DHT include aminexil, a molecule similar to minoxidil, procyanidins, adenosine, copper peptides and superoxide dismutase. The HairMax laser comb, though not FDA-approved, as often misleadingly claimed by its marketers, may be considered helpful in improving the overall health of the scalp and is often used as a supportive treatment to some of the above-mentioned therapies.
When deciding on the best treatment for your current condition, you should first try the two FDA-approved remedies and start experimenting with alternative treatments only to enhance this basic regimen or if negative side effects occur, forcing you to abandon medicinal treatments. Although it is often necessary to experiment with several different treatments, avoid using them all at the same time. We are all different and, therefore, it is impossible to say what works best for everybody. Some treatments work better than others and this list mentions only the most promising hair loss remedies available today, so look out for them when deciding what to buy.