Solutions

Treatments for hair loss

Woman with thin hair female pattern baldness

Losing hair can be a difficult time, particularly if it affects your confidence and how you feel about yourself. However, treatments for hair loss have come a long way and there are lots of options available which can help slow hair loss and see regrowth. We’ve put together common treatment methods and alternative therapies so you can educate yourself on what’s out there, but also the differences within the treatments. 

In this article we'll be covering the following treatment methods for hair loss:

  • Minoxidil

  • Corticosteroid injections 

  • Vitamins

  • Hair transplant 

  • DHT blockers

  • Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP) therapy 

  • Mesotherapy  

  • Low Laser Light Therapy 

  • Hair routine: Oils, shampoos and styling 

If you think you are suffering from hair loss, the first step is to seek medical advice to determine the root cause. For some, it may be temporary hair loss due to a short period of stress, a period of sickness, or postpartum. If these are the cause, hair loss should naturally stop and hair regrowth can be seen after a few months. If your cause of hair loss is due to genetic factors such as androgenetic alopecia hair loss (gradual thinning and miniaturization of hair over time), hormone related hair loss, scalp conditions such as psoriasis, or vitamin and mineral deficiencies (as just a few to name), then different intervention paths can be taken. 

By speaking to a dermatologist as early as possible, they can examine your scalp, take blood tests, examine your lifestyle and advise on next steps. It’s important that you don’t self-diagnose and the listed treatments below are for the purposes of understanding what is available to hair loss sufferers.   

Finally, be patient. It will take several weeks or months to see changes in your hair when taking up any new treatment. 

1. Minoxidil 

Pills and Serums

Minoxidil (also known as Rogaine) is the only clinical drug approved to treat female pattern baldness, also known as androgenetic alopecia. A large proportion of women will be affected by this genetic thinning of hair over time, typically seen more prominently around the crown. 

 

It is a drug which comes in a topical or foam solution. It works by widening the blood vessels and improves the blood flow to the scalp. In addition, it also works to enlarge the hair follicles, and lengthens the hairs’ life cycle during the growth (anagen) phase. This helps the hair to stay longer on the scalp, reducing the effects of hair loss.  

Minoxidil is the only approved drug for hair loss in women and can also be used by men. It was previously referred to as Rogaine, produced by Johnson & Jonson. Now that the patent has come to an end the drug, minoxidil, is produced by a number of brands.  

Finasteride (Propecia) is another hair loss drug which is only for men and should not be used by women as it can disrupt hormone patterns.  

Minoxidil has a strong track record for hair regrowth. One of the downsides to consider is the need to continually take the drug to keep up the results. Minoxidil may be used in conjunction with other treatments. To read the pros and cons of this drug click here.

2. Corticosteroid injections 

Hair loss in scalp. Patchy hair loss

Corticosteroid injections is a steroid solution used to treat alopecia areata. This is hair loss which appears as patches on the scalp. Hair loss of this type is due to an immune response, which causes the hair follicles in small areas to fall out. The steroid injections help to suppress the immune response in this area, allowing hair to regrow without being attacked. This treatment should only be carried out by a doctor. 

Depending on the extent of the hair loss, you may need to take anything from 2-50 courses of treatment and results can be seen as early as four weeks. They will need to be repeated over several weeks as necessary. Some of the side effects of the treatment include thinning of the skin on the scalp.  

3. Vitamins

Poached Egg Sandwich

A common cause of hair loss in women is due to vitamin deficiencies. The typical minerals which women can lack can include iron, vitamin D and zinc, particularly for menstruating women. Without sufficient levels of these elements in our body, as well as other key vitamins, our body will divert vitamins to supporting key organs first. This is where people can start to see hair loss. 

Blood tests should be taken to determine if this is the cause and a treatment of supplements can be taken to help replenish your stocks. You should speak to a medical expert who can help diagnose you with the right supplements, particularly if you need a high-dosage of vitamins or iron which need to prescribed. There are also other vitamins such as C, B, E and others which support hair to growth back thicker and stronger. 

 

Improving your diet to encourage more fatty fish and fresh fruit and vegetables will help to increase your vitamin and mineral intake naturally. You should also focus on improving your intake of protein, as this is a key building block for hair. For ideas on how to incorporate the right foods into your daily routine click here. It may take one to three months to see improvement from hair loss linked to deficiencies.  

4. Hair transplant 

Patient's head close-up. Hair loss. Hair transplant. Surgery

Hair transplants, or hair restoration surgery, is the surgical route to improving the look of receding hair lines or patches of hair loss. The benefits of this procedure are that it can give more longer lasting outcome of improved appearance. It’s important to note, hair transplants do not increase your current hair volume, it redistributes the hair follicles to disguise hair loss in places.  

Unfortunately, hair transplants may only be suitable to a small group of women. Women with female pattern baldness (androgenetic alopecia) will see hair loss defused across the head which means hair follicles across the scalp are potentially unstable. This is why we see fewer women than men taking up this option.

Surgery may be suitable for those who have mechanical or traction alopecia (this is physical damage and not caused by hormones); those who have areas of the scalp not affected by miniaturization or androgenetic alopecia (unstable hair follicles); hair loss from accidents and burns; alopecia marginalis (similar to traction alopecia) seen in Black communities as a result of styling; or those who have undergone cosmetic procedures and see hair loss around the worked areas. 

Costs for surgery depend on what country you have this done in, the experience of the doctor, and the extent of your surgery. As a guide price, they may range on average from $4,000 to $20,000.  Follow this link to read more about undergoing a hair transplant.

5. DHT blockers

Hormone pills

Dihydrotestosterone (DHT) is a hormone which derives from testosterone in your body. Women, like men, have testosterone in their body but it is used for different things. DHT causes miniaturisation of hair follicles, which results in gradual genetic hair loss over time.
There are a few methods for lowering DHT levels. The first is Spironolactone, a medicated drug which reduces the production of androgen (the group of male-sex hormones from which testosterone derives). This slows down hair loss in female pattern baldness. This drug is only given where minoxidil has failed to work. It will not work for those who have any other type of hair loss.


The second is called Saw palmetto. This ingredient derives from the plant used my Native Americans as a remedy for a number of health issues. The ingredient works on the hormonal level to stop the conversion of DHT. It can come as supplements or an ingredient in hair shampoo products. 
 

The third way of reducing DHT is through anti-DHT blocking shampoo. Although evidence isn't concrete enough, there are some studies which show an improvement to hair loss when used. One of the common ingredients mentioned is ketoconazole which can come in a 1-2% form. It is thought this ingredient prevents DHT from damaging hair follicles further. 
 

Finally, for those with other hormonal issue which have a secondary impact on hair loss, such as polycystic ovary syndrome, your doctor may explore routes such as: the contraceptive pill to balance hormones; antiandrogen drugs; Metaformin to control insulin levels; weight loss programmes; and increasing iron levels. These can have an indirect benefit for improving hair loss. It can take anything from 6 to 12 months to see results. For more information about hormonal related hair loss, you can visit this page
 

Remember, any treatment related to hormone related hair loss should be discussed with a medical professional first, as manipulation of hormones can have consequences elsewhere.

6. Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP) Therapy

Young woman with hair loss problem receiving injection PRP treatment

PRP therapy for hair loss is a non-surgical procedure and can be an option for those with androgenetic alopecia, also known as female pattern baldness, depending on advice from a medical professional. There isn’t a huge body of evidence which supports this therapy, and therefore it is not fully backed by professionals, but there have been positive results documented by some journals and PRP is promoted in some hair loss clinics.

PRP takes a portion of the patient’s blood, separates the platelet rich cell from the sample, and then reinjects just the PRP cells back into the area of the scalp needed for treatment. These cells are rich in proteins, vitamins, nutrients, and electrolytes, which are important to regrowth and regeneration on the scalp.

 

You may need to take several courses of treatment to see results. It can also be used in conjunction with other treatments if advised. It is worth noting that treatments can range from $5,00 to $1,500 on average. To read more about PRP therapy for hair loss, click here.

7. Mesotherapy

Two injections, needles

Similar to PRP, mesotherapy uses microneedles to inject a mix of vitamin, minerals, enzymes, and hormones into the scalp to rejuvenate hair follicles into growth. What goes into the solution will depend on the doctor or clinic. Some can contain herbal formulas, so this solution doesn’t have a huge body of scientific evidence required to be medically backed. There have been small studies around to show a reduction in hair loss but more would be required for it to be more widely recognised.

Sessions can cost from around $200 to $650 and multiple sessions may need to be undertaken to see the desired result. It is said to be most suitable for those with androgenic alopecia but should be discussed with a medical professional first.

8. Low Level Laser Light Therapy

Dermatologist using LLLT treatment for hair loss

Low Level Laser (light) Therapy (LLLT), also known as Red Light Therapy, uses safe levels of light to improve blood flow to the scalp. The metabolic reaction improves the distribution of vitamins and minerals, as well as oxygen to the cells responsible for hair growth. It is also believed that this therapy helps to reduce the build-up of DHT which is responsible for female pattern baldness, also known as androgenetic alopecia. 

LLLT can be either done in a hair clinic or via home hand-held devices, made in the shapes of caps and combs. A few of these have been FDA approved for sale such as HairMax® LaserComb and Restore Hair Growth System.

The body of evidence is not consistent across the board but there are some limited studies which show some successes. One of the pros to this new therapy is it is relatively pain-free and it is an option which can be discussed with your dermatologist.

9. Hair routine: Oils, shampoos and styling

Cosmetic bottles for skin and hair routines

Our final treatment option is not a medicated route but can help improve the health of your scalp which can go on to improve hair growth. It’s particularly useful for those who see hair loss as a result of environmental factors such as heat styling or colouring, or traction alopecia (pulling of the hair from the root).

There are lots of hair oils and tonics which claim to restore some of the scalp's moisture and contain ingredients such as collagen, biotin, and other vitamins to improve the health of your hair. Popular carrier oils include castor oil and argon oil, and these can be mixed with rose oil and peppermint oil which have anti-inflammatory properties. Regularly massaging the scalp with these oils can help to improve blood flow to the scalp.

 

As a rule of thumb, you should always apply heat protection spray when styling and avoid the use of heat were possible. Giving your hair regular breaks from this and tight hair styles will improve hair loss in the long run. For more on this topic, see this link

Conclusion

This was a brief overview on some of the hair loss treatments out there which are being offered to hair loss patients. It's important to make an informed decision before undergoing any treatment, particularly those techniques which are relatively new, and not medically backed by a body. The above treatments listed are for reading purposes and the decision on what route to take for your hair loss should be done in conjunction with your medical professional. 

References

Please click below if you want to read the science behind this article.

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