There’s no cure for baldness, but there are ways to hold on to what you've got. The six dermatologists and the clinical studies point to three methods: minoxidil, laser treatments, and prescription finasteride. The key is finding the combination and hair loss regimen that works for you. A doctor is your best bet for that kind of guidance — but we found a few trustworthy products that will work for most people.
First things first: If you're struggling with hair loss or thinning, you're far from alone. It's extremely common, with American women accounting for 40 percent of Americans struggling with hair thinning or loss. It also tends to be most prevalent in your 40s and 50s. This can occur for a laundry list of reasons, including hormonal changes, Alopecia, and stress, so it's always best to visit your doctor to determine what's going on. Regardless of the reason, losing your hair can be extremely devastating for some — make that most — people, seeing as hair is an external factor that can greatly impact a person's self-image and confidence. (Thanks for that, societal pressure.)
The Ultrax Labs Hair Lush treatment is an effective serum that can instantly thicken hair by up to 150%. Breakthrough caffeine innovation technology can minimize hair loss and jump-start the hair follicles to grow healthy hair more quickly. The highly effective advanced thickening treatment serum adds fullness and body to thinning hair for a fuller, thicker looking head of hair, while speeding up the production of new hair. It will leave your hair immediately thicker, fuller, and softer, and the results will get better with time.
If you think over-the-counter hair loss shampoos are for you or just want to promote growth and strength, Dr. Schwieger recommends formulas with antioxidants such as vitamin E and ginseng, amino acids, and B-vitamins to help rebuild hair and reduce environmental damage. She cautions against those with parabens, sulfates, and fragrances, which can irritate hair and reduce moisture. Ahead, eight vetted hair loss shampoos to try.
Blow dryers, flat irons, and other devices: Frequent use of a blow dryer tends to damage hair. The high heat from a blow dryer can boil the water in the hair shaft leaving the hair brittle and prone to breakage. Dermatologists recommend that you allow your hair to air dry. Then style your hair when it is dry. Dermatologists also recommend limiting the use of flat irons (these straighten hair by using high heat) and curling irons.
George Cotserelis, MD, is director of the University of Pennsylvania's Hair and Scalp Clinic. He agrees that there's no evidence these alternative hair loss treatments have any effect. "If any of it did work," he says, "I'd be very worried about using that product. The fact that it’s working would mean it's doing something to the testosterone and could be having adverse effects."
This hair regrowth product is a one of a kind organic shampoo formulated with plant stem cells. The rare stem cells from Switzerland help to combat hair loss in an innovative and effective new way by encouraging cells that regrow to be stronger than ever. This shampoo has a mild formula which is gentle on the scalp, making it a perfect option for men who want to steer clear of topical chemical treatments while getting the same results.
The most common kind of hair loss is pattern baldness. It happens when hair follicles shrink and stop working. The first sign is the appearance of strands that are thinner and more fragile. Then the scalp becomes more visible as fewer hairs grow to replace those that shed. That’s because the anagen phase becomes too short for the hair to grow out of the scalp. Plus, the hairs that remain aren’t securely anchored. And this condition happens to both men and women.
In our research and our conversations with experts, one name kept popping up repeatedly: Rogaine. As the first topical brand FDA-approved to help regrow hair (all the way back in 1988), Rogaine benefits from more than 20 years of clinical trials and consumer feedback. Rogaine was the first brand to offer a 5 percent minoxidil foam solution when it debuted Men’s Rogaine Unscented Foam in 2006, and virtually every treatment developed since (for both men and women) has been an imitation or derivation of that formula.
The easy-to-use spray bottle allows you to apply the serum directly to your scalp, or you can spray it onto your hands to rub into parts of your scalp. Each bottle offers a three month supply and should be used twice daily. It has outstanding reviews online, partly because it does not leave a sticky residue or cause preliminary hair shedding like most other regrowth treatments.
The only nonchemical option offered up by the dermatologists I spoke with — short of a surgical hair transplant or platelet-rich plasma therapy, which is like Kim Kardashian’s vampire facial but for your scalp — was the laser comb. First cleared by the FDA in 2009, the HairMax LaserComb is a handheld laser device that is designed to promote hair growth. As the manufacturer explains in a letter to the FDA, “The device provides distributed laser light to the scalp while the comb teeth simultaneously part the user’s hair to ensure the laser light reaches the user’s scalp,” which, in turn, stimulates the hair follicles.
"Castor oil will not grow hair," says cosmetic chemist and author Perry Romanowski matter-of-factly. "There is no evidence for it and no scientific theory supporting that it would work, so yes, it's a total myth." In better news, he says that castor oil is not damaging to the hair and can provide some conditioning that improves the flexibility of the hair fiber.
If you’re a gentleman who’s been noticing a receding hairline or is worried about balding, the first step is to schedule a visit with a doctor or dermatologist and make sure your hair loss isn’t a sign of a more serious health issue. “Not all hair loss is male-pattern hair loss,” explains Dr. Marc Glashofer, a board-certified dermatologist specializing in hair loss and practicing in northern New Jersey. A thyroid disorder, an autoimmune disease, or even a scalp issue could be making you look like Bruce Willis in Die Hard 2. But most hair loss is androgenetic alopecia, also known as male-pattern baldness, and fortunately (or not, depending on your perspective), it’s just a symptom of getting older.
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The trick about all of these hair-loss products and treatments is that they’ll stop working as soon as you stop using them. “They have to be ready for a lifetime commitment,” says Rieder. But, just like brushing your teeth, as long you keep on keeping on with the scientifically proven preventative treatments, those hairs on your head should be just fine.
Adam Friedman, a program director at The George Washington University School of Medicine & Health Sciences, is on the same page as Romanowski. "While it does have antimicrobial properties which may be useful in terms of fighting off bacterial or fungal overgrowth on the scalp that can lead to hair-damaging inflammation, there is zero evidence [showing] it is helpful for hair growth," he says, adding that some people can actually be allergic to castor oil and experience inflammation, ultimately doing more damage than good to the scalp. "To propose that castor oil accelerates hair growth, a tightly regulated process (one centimeter per month) for which FDA approved medications for hair loss do not impact, is ridiculous," he states.
It works quite well to prevent hair loss and trigger regrowth for most men, and it may work for some women, although women must not take it if they are pregnant. Also, women should not get pregnant while on the drug because of the risk of birth defects in a male infant. Less than 2% of men have transient sexual side effects, including erectile and libido difficulties, while taking finasteride. However, in women these side effects do not occur.
However, ketoconazole is still not FDA approved for hair loss treatment, which means it cannot be endorsed or marketed as such. Put simply, ketoconazole likely curbs hair loss, but additional research is needed for the FDA to give it approval. While it is safe to use as a supplement to our top picks, we wanted to recommend products with as much scientific backing as possible. So, we stuck with FDA approved minoxidil or FDA cleared laser treatments. But we’ll keep a close eye on products like ketoconazole shampoos and update as new research appears.
When it comes to a hair growth shampoo, you have two options: prescriptions or over-the-counter treatments. Prescription shampoos like ketoconazole are anti-androgenetic, meaning they prevent testosterone and dihydrotestosterone (DHT), two hormones associated with hair loss by targeting hair growth at the site of the follicle and helping to interrupt the hormone cycle locally that causes thinning,” explains Dr. Schweiger. “Over-the-counter growth shampoos typically contain amino acids and antioxidants to provide the components to rebuild hair as well as reduce damage and inflammation.”
Your hair is said to be your crowning glory, and it’s normal to want to improve your hair if it’s not to your satisfaction. If you’re trying to regrow hair that you’ve lost or would simply like to improve the hair that you have, try some of these natural remedies. Their proven benefits can help to stimulate growth and enhance the hair that you have.
Eat hair-loss fighting power foods. Nutritional imbalances are often the cause for hair loss. Poor diet can lead to macronutrient (proteins, fats, carbohydrates) and micronutrient (vitamins and minerals) deficiencies which in turn can make your body unhealthy and cause hair loss. To support the health of your hair and your overall well-being, add some or all of the foods listed below to your diet:
The follicles on the sides of the scalp are more genetically resistant to DHT, which is why male pattern baldness often results in a “crown” of hair. But its downsides are serious. “With women, finasteride is not an option,” says Dr. Wolfeld. “It’s not FDA-approved for women to take, so we don’t prescribe it.” In fact, due to the drug’s effect on hormone levels, pregnant women are advised to not even touch broken or crushed tablets.
Minoxidil (Rogaine). This is an over-the-counter (nonprescription) medication approved for men and women. It comes as a liquid or foam that you rub into your scalp daily. Wash your hands after application. At first it may cause you to shed hair as hair follicles. New hair may be shorter and thinner than previous hair. At least six months of treatment is required to prevent further hair loss and to start hair regrowth. You need to keep applying the medication to retain benefits.
Green tea is rich in antioxidants that prevent hair loss and boost hair growth (25). Many other herbal teas possess similar properties and can be used just like green tea to rinse your hair. Tea rinses have been tested and tried by many people for hair growth, and the results have been positive. Some of the other teas that you can use are bamboo tea, nettle tea, sage tea, or even regular black tea. Just steep the tea bag or a tablespoon of the dried herb in hot water and use it as described above.
A separate study, published in Skin Therapy Letter — a professional reference site for dermatologists — found that women also benefit from using the more potent 5 percent minoxidil treatment. “Patient-reported improvement in hair volume and coverage appears to be greater with 5 percent minoxidil foam,” reads the report. Plus, because the 5 percent treatment is stronger, women only have to apply it once a day to get the same results as they would with the 2 percent treatment applied twice daily.
It can cause unwanted hair growth. Some women may experience facial hair growth when they use minoxidil. That can happen if the medication trickles down onto your face or simply as a side effect when you apply it only to your scalp. The risk is lower for women who use the 2 percent concentration of the drug, as opposed to the 5 percent concentration that’s designed for men.
Men may also experience some sexual and emotional side effects while taking it: In a study published in the June 2011 issue of The Journal of Sexual Medicine, Dr. Michael Irwig of George Washington University found as many as 92 percent of test subjects reporting problems in the bedroom. The study also reported that “the mean duration of finasteride use was 28 months and the mean duration of persistent sexual side effects was 40 months,” meaning that side effects lingered long after subjects stopped taking the pill.
Like the long-suffering friend who inspired her to undergo the procedure, Ms. Telford quickly saw an improvement in her hair. New hair growth usually take at least four months, but at the two-month mark, she has already spotted some baby hairs. “Not a gazillion,” she said, “but it’s a start.” She’s planning to return for follow-up treatments every six months, and has high hopes of ditching the wigs and wearing her hair in a pixie.
As with transplants, the word toupee conjures an outdated and disagreeable image. The 70s-style rugs have mostly been traded in for spiffier "hair replacement systems." But the basic concept -- a foreign object atop your head -- can only evolve so far. Of course, the effectiveness of hairpieces is tough to evaluate. You may spot an awful one now and then, but the ones you do spot are just the awful ones. Who knows how many masterpieces slip undetected under the radar?
"This is an oral, prescription-only medication with the brand name Propecia that’s also FDA approved to treat hair loss," says Spencer. Male pattern hair loss occurs when a hormone called dihydrotestosterone (DHT) prevents hair follicles from getting the nutrients they need. Finasteride works by blocking the production of DHT, which protects the follicles.
That meant new products like Hims and Keeps were out.Hims and Keeps are relatively new companies that allow you to set up a subscription for hair loss treatments. Both offer finasteride (after an online consultation with a doctor) or 5 percent minoxidil. However, their minoxidil solutions contain propylene glycol, so we cut them from consideration.