Every year, more than 800,000 people undergo treatment for hair loss, some with better results than others. The surgical industry surrounding hair loss alone is worth $1.2 billion, not including pills and topical applications that promise hair regrowth. With all the hair loss treatments out there, how can you know which solutions are medically based and which are simply snake oils? Here’s a rundown of the best documented solutions for hair loss:
- Medical Options
There are two drugs currently approved by the FDA as hair loss treatments, mostly used in response to androgenetic alopecia (which typically causes balding in men and thinning in women). These are finasteride, better known by the brand name Propecia, and minoxidil, or Rogaine. Both of these options are recommended as early responses, as soon as hair loss is documented.
- Surgical Options
Once balding has occurred, the only true hair replacement options are surgical transplants performed by a specialized hair transplant surgeon. There are two main types of surgical treatment: follicular unit transplantation and follicular unit extraction. Both of these surgeries implant grafts from other places on the head into recipient sites at the hairline or in a bald spot, where the follicles produce new hairs. Since these are your own hair follicles growing hair as they usually would, the result is generally permanent and looks completely natural. The difference lies in how these donor grafts are harvested: in FUT, a strip is taken from the back of the head and divided into grafts, whereas in FUE procedures, grafts are extracted individually from many sites on the head.
The downside of surgery is that it can be very expensive. And, like all surgeries, there are risks and a certain amount of scarring (generally hidden by the new hair) involved. The quality of the surgeon is paramount in the overall success of such surgeries.
- Laser Therapies
There are other treatments that can take place either at a hair loss doctor’s office or at home. The most notable of these is laser hair restoration. This process, called low level laser therapy or LLLT, uses lasers to stimulate the hair follicles, causing them to produce thicker hairs.
However, even the doctors who offer LLLT and associated therapies as part of their practices should be honest and realistic about their use as hair loss treatments. There do not appear to be negative side effects, and some patients see good results. But overall, more research needs to be done on the topic before any conclusive claims are made as to laser therapies’ general effectiveness.
Do any of these treatment options sound like they might work for you? Have you tried any before? Share your experiences in the comments.
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