The Causes of Hair Loss and How Modern Treatments Work
An estimated two-thirds of all men will experience significant hair loss by the age of sixty. Of this number, more than nine out of ten will be due to male pattern baldness. This type of balding begins at the temples and on the crown with the hair gradually thinning and disappearing over time.
It isn’t unusual for men to feel as though their hair loss is a normal act of nature that they have few options to change. Decades of research have failed to produce proof that a single factor is to blame for the hair loss so many men experience. This is because there are multiple contributing factors that need to be addressed before thinning hair can be stopped and reversed.
What Research Has Shown
What is known is that male pattern baldness is associated with the aging process. The scalp ages twelve times faster than the skin on the body and six times faster than that on the face. The aging process results in a reduction in hair follicles, leading to a loss of hair. The number of blood vessels in the outer layer of the skin is also reduced, resulting in a loss of hair color.
Another known cause of hair loss is from the presence of male sex hormones, called androgens. Research has shown that dihydrotestosterone (DHT), a byproduct of testosterone production, is present in the hair follicles of men with hair loss. Other causes that are often overlooked when formulating products to treat hair loss are genetics and inflammation.
Hair Loss Products on the Market Today
Finasteride and minoxidil are two FDA-approved drugs that are available today to treat male pattern baldness. Both of these drugs were originally used to treat other conditions when they were discovered to increase hair growth as a side-effect. They may be given as a prescription tablet or be purchased over-the-counter in shampoos.
Finasteride is marketed under the brand names of Proscar and Propecia. It is used to treat enlarged prostate and to slow down and reverse hair loss in men. Treatment is needed for more than six months before any significant improvement is seen in. Fewer than half of the men who use it will achieve these results. When the product is effective, the results will usually last only as long as the product is used. Once the person stops using finasteride, their condition will return to its previous state.
The theory behind finasteride in the treatment of hair loss and for treating enlarged prostate is that it reduces the amount of DHT that is converted from testosterone. The fact that the drug only works in fewer than half of the men who use it indicates that the presence of DHT does not entirely explain the cause of hair loss in men.
Another problem with finasteride is that it has produced a large number of sexual side effects. The phrase “post finasteride syndrome” has been coined to describe the various psychological and physical symptoms commonly experienced from the drug, often even after its use has been stopped.
Minoxidil is a vasodilator used to treat high blood pressure. It is manufactured under the name of Rogaine. Unlike finasteride, this drug is not related to androgens and it can be used to treat hair loss in both men and women. Minoxidil has proven to be about 38% effective in men in reducing hair loss and re-growth. Most of those it has had the greatest results in are young and have only experienced significant hair loss for fewer than five years. The treatment is only used for central balding and it must be used indefinitely to maintain any hair regrowth.
The side effects with Rogaine are usually nominal but they do exist. They may include burning or irritation of the eyes or redness and irritation of the scalp. Some individuals also experience increased hair growth on other areas of the body. Some men have experienced severe allergic reactions with the use of minoxidil. Users should also note that temporary hair loss is a common side-effect that occurs during the initial phase of use.