When faced with the prospect of losing hair, people over the ages have turned to various techniques, products, pills, and even the surgeon’s knife to remedy the problem. And while hair transplant surgery has greatly improved from the early days, it may not be preferred by some people and does have limitations (discussed more in the next chapter). The marketplace is well aware of the vulnerabilities of balding people and many unscrupulous salesmen have taken advantage of this by promoting spoofs of all kinds for a quick buck. One of the most important aspects to treating hair loss is to keep a balanced perspective and manage expectations to avoid being taken advantage of.
Therefore, this section on non-surgical options to hair loss will include a look at a number of alternatives: minoxidil (Rogaine); finasteride (Propecia); ketoconazole; scalp pigmentation; PRP (platelet rich plasma); mesotherapy; stem cell treatment; concealers such as toppik; and hair replacement systems, also known as wigs and hairpieces. Most people are surprised to find how many non-surgical possibilities are out there for them.
Before launching into the different choices, let’s take a trip through the history of non-surgical solutions, gain some perspective, and help manage expectations.
A brief history of non-surgical hair solutions
Recently, the 5000-year-old frozen body of a male from the Neolithic era was found to be sporting a finely trimmed beard and short hairstyle when he met his end. Humans have cared about their hair for quite some time.
In the first chapter of this book, some of the more famous historical references were mentioned concerning humans and hair loss – but what have men and women done to overcome such a socially embarrassing condition? Plenty, it seems.
Ancient egyptians were searching for hair loss cures as far back as 4,000 years ago. Around 1500 B .C ., one such solution involved reciting a magic spell to the sun god followed by eating a mixture of iron, red lead, onions, honey and alabaster. Perhaps it would really work if we still had that spell. Later on, in 1100 B .C. A popular cream was applied to the head – this concoction contained the fats of lions, hippopotamuses, crocodiles, ibex, serpents, and geese. Still later another preparation contained dog toes, the rotten leftovers of dates, and the hoof of an ass. No matter how unpleasant these treatments, still the hair fell out.
While that all may seem very silly, even today the call of the potion hawkers still exists and their influence can be seen in the millions of dollars spent on useless concoctions.
However, when talking about effective solutions, until the 1980s the only non-surgical option was wigs, hairpieces, or toupees. Although, with the arrival of a topical treatment called minoxidil (Rogaine), a respectable semi-solution to male pattern baldness was discovered though it was certainly not a panacea. In time this product was found to be helpful in female pattern baldness as well. It can be referred to as a semi-solution because minoxidil often only slows hair loss instead of stopping or reversing it and isn’t always successful even in this limited capacity on its own.
More than a decade later, another discovery made an impact in the fight against balding. A substance called finasteride (Propecia) was found to be useful in treating hair loss and was declared to be safe for use by the FDA. These two products are sometimes used in tandem for improved results. In the late 1990s another product in shampoo form, known as ketoconazole, was also thought to be almost as effective as Rogaine in improving hair growth. Receiving recent attention is something called Dutasteride—a medicine used traditionally for prostate issues (just like finasteride)—that may be even more effective than finasteride, but still hasn’t gone through full testing; to what extent it will help remains to be seen.
Back in the 1960s and 1970s the laser hit the scientific scene. While introduced at a high level dose for removing unwanted hair, a lower level dose has recently been found to be effective in growing hair. The gentle lower level laser therapy (LLLT) works by nourishing living tissue in hair follicles. At the same time, adult stem cell treatments (not to be confused with the controversial use of embryonic stem cells) were also found to be beneficial. Another solution using plasma-rich platelets (PRP) has also been found to nourish hair follicles and stimulate growth and since 2010 has become increasingly popular in treating hair loss.
A dramatically new trend in treatment of hair loss is known as micro Scalp Pigmentation, (also referred to as Derma Scalp Pigmentation or micro Hair tattooing). Many people now believe this is the best solution for hair loss in the modern era, although it really depends who you ask.
Since shaved heads is a popular style option for balding males, skin pigmentation can be applied to mimic the look of hair. It’s basically a fusion of medical tattooing, cosmetic pigmentation (permanent make-up) and hair restoration knowledge and in the hands of an experienced practitioner can be extremely convincing. The results: a “sexy” solution that requires very little upkeep other than washing the head.
Today, men and women can benefit from many scientific non-surgical cures without having to estrange anyone standing within six feet. Non-surgical options for treating hair loss include a number of alternatives: minoxidil (Rogaine); finasteride (Propecia); ketoconazole; scalp pigmentation; PRP (platelet rich plasma); stem cell treatment; and hair replacement systems, also known as wigs and hairpieces.