There are four commonly used non-surgical or “medical” options you may want to consider. Early, when your hair starts to thin, one or all may work to stimulate follicles that are diminished in size. The hope is that these smaller, weaker follicles will strengthen to provide better quality hairs with longer growth cycles. This could delay the way your hair goes from thinning to balding.
Minoxidil is applied as a solution directly to the scalp. It seems to help follicles survive longer by extending their growth cycle and may stimulate follicles to produce better quality hairs. It is best used in the earlier stages of thinning/balding. Once a scalp is completely bald, i.e. devoid of hair follicles, Minoxidil will be useless. It can be used in both men and women.
In my practice, I dispense an enhanced formulation that features a higher concentration of Minoxidil and an analog of Latisse®, a product that successfully grows longer eyelashes, and seems to do the same for scalp hair.
The cost of my product is $60 for a bottle that is used once daily and should last 3 months. Because it is a prescriptive product, I can only dispense it to my patients. I offer consultations for both medical and surgical treatments. While Minoxidil products are available over-the-counter, it is advisable to consult with a hair specialist before undertaking what might become long-term therapy.
Finasteride is taken orally and is best used only by men. The pharmaceutical company Merck first marketed finasteride (as Propecia®). Their initial testing demonstrated no usefulness for women. It is an anti-androgen that slows the production of DHT (dihydro-testosterone), the “bad” male hormone that facilitates genetic baldness and increases prostate growth as men age. Like minoxidil, finasteride may keep follicles functioning for longer time periods with stronger hairs.
As with minoxidil, finasteride works better on individuals who still have active hair follicles, but are thinning, especially in the crown area. Because you will probably taking finasteride for many years, a consultation with a physician specializing in hair loss is most helpful in evaluating whether or not you may benefit from taking this medication.
The cost of finasteride, 1 mg., varies from about $0.20 per tablet for the generic product to around $2.50 for the brand name product. Since the generic version is ok, you might do best by shopping online for the best price.
PRP stands for Platelet Rich Plasma. The platelets are the tiny chips present in blood that mechanically help blood to clot. They contain growth factors that are believed to enhance healing and stimulate new tissue growth. To obtain these platelets, your own blood is withdrawn, spun down in a centrifuge, and the platelets, now in a concentrated band, are removed and injected back into the area that requires treatment.
PRP is FDA approved only for orthopedic injuries. It has been used a lot for ballplayers who have damaged various joints. After one or multiple injections, there is improvement in many cases.
Over the past few years, PRP injections have been used to stimulate hair growth in a thinning scalp. There have been many enthusiastic reports about the efficacy of these treatments as a medical hair restoration procedure. Some studies have shown a significant increase in hair density and quality. It’s important to realize that PRP will not work if there are no follicles present in the scalp. The proper candidate is someone who is experiencing THINNING because, while follicles are present, they have become smaller, producing smaller, finer scalp hairs. I tell my patients that there can be no absolute guarantees that the treatments will succeed, nor can improvement be expected to last forever.
I usually treat my patients with 3 monthly sessions, followed by one every 4 to 6 months. Treatments should be continuous, about 2 to 3 times a year for as long as they are effective. While some hair transplant physicians use PRP to enhance post-operative growth, there has been no hard evidence that this works.
Laser light in low, safe energy levels, emitted in a narrow wavelength is thought to stimulate hair follicle cells, allowing them to function better over a longer time period.
Like other medical hair therapies, nothing will work if you’re trying to stimulate follicles that aren’t there. You should first consult with a physician hair specialist to properly evaluate your chances of improving your hair density with a laser or any other form of medical therapy.