1. Hair color. Anytime you dye your hair, you’re increasing the diameter of each strand, which can help add volume when your hair is sparse and fine. As a general rule, ask your colorist to make sure highlights are finer at the top of the head, where hair is the thinnest, and more intense at the bottom, where it’s thickest, says Eva Scrivo, a hairstylist and the owner of the Eva Scrivo Salon in New York City. And beware: A color that contrasts with your scalp (blonde tones if your scalp is dark, deep brunettes if your scalp is light) will make any visible scalp more obvious.
In either sex, hair loss from androgenetic alopecia occurs because of a genetically determined shortening of anagen, a hair's growing phase, and a lengthening of the time between the shedding of a hair and the start of a new anagen phase. (See "Life cycle of a hair.") That means it takes longer for hair to start growing back after it is shed in the course of the normal growth cycle. The hair follicle itself also changes, shrinking and producing a shorter, thinner hair shaft — a process called "follicular miniaturization." As a result, thicker, pigmented, longer-lived "terminal" hairs are replaced by shorter, thinner, non-pigmented hairs called "vellus."
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.
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Minoxidil (Rogaine, generic versions). This drug was introduced as a treatment for high blood pressure, but people who took it noticed that they were growing hair in places where they had lost it. Research confirmed that a 2% solution of minoxidil applied directly to the scalp could stimulate hair growth. How it works is still not clear. Two double-blind studies of women ages 18 to 45 demonstrated its effectiveness. In one study, 13% of female minoxidil users had moderate hair growth, and 50%, minimal growth (compared with 6% and 33%, respectively, in the placebo group). In the second study, 60% of women in the minoxidil group reported new hair growth, compared with 40% in the placebo group. As a result of these studies and others, over-the-counter 2% minoxidil is FDA-approved for treating androgenetic alopecia in women.
Rogaine’s foam squirts out just like hair mousse and is applied with “cool, dry hands.” Applying means working the foam down to the scalp where you want to see thicker growth — for it to work, “it has to get into your scalp,” Dr. Wolfeld explains. “If it sits on your hair, it’s not really as effective.” Once massaged, it dissolves into a watery liquid that leaves a tingly sensation, “but no burning!” one of our balding testers was happy to discover.
Acupuncture is a form of Chinese medicine that has been practiced for thousands of years. Its applications are many, and some researchers believe that it may help with hair loss from alopecia areata. How? The needles inserted into the scalp may help stimulate hair follicles and promote regrowth. More research needs to be done in this area, but consider asking your doctor for a referral to a licensed acupuncturist if this treatment sounds appealing to you. (Learn more about acupuncture for hair loss.)