Hair loss is a common concern for many guys, and estimates show that roughly two-thirds of men will start experiencing it by their mid-30s. While some men go all in and embrace the change by shaving it all off—this is the era of the power balds, after all—others may seek out treatments to slow hair loss.
There are plenty of companies out there trying to sell you products to help you keep your hair. But does anything actually work? It depends on what you mean by “work.” While there’s no magic potion to help you regrow hair you’ve already lost, Melissa Piliang, M.D., a hair-loss expert at Cleveland Clinic, says there are a number of strategies and products that could potentially help you hold onto the hair you have.
Keep in mind that there are other reasons you might be losing hair. Stress can cause a type of temporary hair loss called telogen effluvium—in the height of pandemic stress, dermatologists saw it fairly frequently. (Find out more about this issue here.) With this, hair thins but often grows back. And there’s an autoimmune condition called alopecia areata that also causes hair loss, and there are some treatments that show promise for that. If you’re seeing or feeling thinning hair, try these strategies to help make it stop.
1. Minoxidil (Rogaine)
Rogaine won’t restore your lost hair, but it can help you hold on to what’s left. The FDA-approved topical medication increases blood flow and delivers more oxygen and nutrients to hair follicles.
Liquid Rogaine can cause irritation and leave a greasy coating on your hair, so opt for the 5 percent foam, advises Dr. Piliang. Rub it into your scalp in the morning and again at night for the most benefit. However, new hair growth is likely to be shorter and thinner, meaning your locks won’t be as full as they once were.
Another medication, finasteride (sold as Propecia), is an oral medication and may also help you hold onto hair. Some people prefer to start with minoxidil, which hasn’t been linked with erectile dysfunction or decreased libido.
“Nutrafol is a popular hair loss supplement that contains a proprietary blend of nutraceuticals that help hair grow thicker and fuller,” says dermatologist and MH advisor Corey L. Hartman, M.D. Its vitamin and herb ingredients are intended to help reduce levels of the testosterone byproduct (dihydrotestosterone) that can cause hair to thin.
Laser devices are the only other hair-loss treatment in addition to minoxidil and finasteride that have been approved by the FDA in recent years. But how well they work to keep hair loss at bay is still under question.
The devices use low levels of light and are sold as wands or helmets for $ 200 to nearly $ 900. A helmet called iGrow, for instance, costs $ 449 and needs to be worn for about 25 minutes every other day. In a large study published in 2014 in the American Journal of Clinical Dermatology, men who zapped their scalps three times a week saw an increase in hair density after 26 weeks.
That said, most of the research on laser devices has been paid for by the products’ manufacturers, so they’re not exactly unbiased. In fact, an independent review published in the Journal of Dermatological Treatment in 2014, determined these products are semi experimental and aren’t proven to work.
4. Ketoconazole shampoo
Swap your standard shampoo for a brand with 1 percent ketoconazole, such as Nizoral, or ask your doctor to prescribe the 2 percent version.
“It’s marketed as an anti-dandruff ingredient, but there’s solid research ketoconazole is an anti-androgen,” says Dr. Piliang. Anti-androgens block the conversion of testosterone to dihydrotestosterone, that hormone byproduct that shrinks hair follicles. Massage the shampoo into your scalp, step out of the shower stream, wait two to three minutes, and rinse.
5. Vitamin D
Some cases of hair loss have been linked to low levels of vitamin D. While every guy needs healthy vitamin D levels, this vitamin isn’t generally linked to the more common form of hair loss. But there is research, Dr. Hartman explains, that suggests a lack of D can be associated with alopecia areata. “Vitamin D plays a role in stimulating hair follicles, so when levels are low, new hair growth can be stunted,” he explains.
A British Journal of Dermatology study reported that people with alopecia areata were three times as likely to be D deficient as those with healthy hair. “Vitamin D helps hair reset its growth phase,” explains Dr. Piliang.
6. Corticosteroid treatments
Sometimes hair loss is caused by inflammation from medical conditions such as autoimmune disorders. In the case of alopecia, for instance, corticosteroid medications can be injected into the scalp to help stop inflammation, according to the American Academy of Dermatology. Treatments are given about once a month and help stimulate new hair growth.
7. Meditation and exercise
If you’re shedding more hair than normal or if you notice large bald patches, you may want to evaluate your stress levels. The reason? Stress essentially puts hair follicles in a resting stage, so they no longer grow—that’s what happens with telogen effluvium. “Telogen effluvium typically does not lead to baldness because by definition, only the hairs in the telogen, or resting, phase are affected,” explains Dr. Hartman. “Only 15 to 20 percent of the total hair is in the telogen phase at any given time, so theoretically it is not possible to go bald from telogen effluvium. However, there are exceptions to every rule and while I have never seen a case of baldness solely due to TE, there are patients that experience chronic TE that can cause more significant hair loss.”
Telogen effluvium or not, it’s helpful to get your stress levels down. Classic ways to manage stress include meditation and workouts.
An iron deficiency may be the cause of thinning hairline for some people who follow a plant-based diet, says Robert Anolik, M.D., a cosmetic dermatologist in New York City. That’s because the type of iron found in animal products, like shrimp and eggs, is better absorbed in the body. People who eat iron from plants, like lentils and spinach, may need to eat more of the nutrient overall. The National Institute of Health recommends that adult males get about eight milligrams of iron per day. Generally, your hair will grow back once iron levels are restored, but it may take a few months.
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